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College of Arts & Sciences
Linguistics Program


MA Comprehensive exam policies

Timetable for the M.A. Comprehensive Exam

During the third, regular semester:

  • Student develops a reading list and a formal thesis proposal which will be defended during the oral exam. The specific requirements of the formal thesis proposal are determined by the thesis advisor, so students must consult with their advisor as often as necessary to understand what is expected. Students must submit a prepared reading list to their advisor for final approval.
  • Student submits a draft of the thesis proposal to the director for comments and approval. As soon as the advisor/director approves, student, in consultation with the advisor and reader, sets a date for the oral (comprehensive) exam and gives a copy of the approved proposal and reading list to the reader. Student must give the approved proposal and reading list to the reader and advisor at least one week in advance of the scheduled exam.

By the end of the third, regular semester:

  • Student completes (oral) M.A. Comprehensive Exam.
  • Upon successful completion of the M.A. Comprehensive Exam, thesis-option students may register for thesis credits, i.e., LING. 799 Thesis Preparation (3), for the fourth, final semester.

Design of the Thesis/Exam Committee

The student's thesis committee is the same as the exam committee. The thesis/exam committee consists of two faculty members in the Linguistics Program - a thesis advisor/director (must be core faculty) and a reader. It is the student's responsibility to choose his/her committee members and to make explicit the chosen topic area and schedule for completion of the M.A. thesis so that the potential committee members know what to expect. The committee should be formed by the beginning of the student's third semester.

Format of the M.A. Comprehensive Exam

The M.A. Comprehensive Exam consists of

1)      a formal presentation of the thesis proposal by the student, and

2)      a comprehensive oral examination of the proposal and general linguistic questions related to the thesis topic posed by the committee.

Details of the formal presentation of the thesis proposal are determined by the director/advisor.

Format of the Thesis Proposal (thesis option)

The student will write a detailed thesis proposal in consultation with the thesis advisor. Although the exact specifications of the thesis proposal must be determined in consultation with the thesis advisor, it generally includes the following:

1)      A precise statement of the research problem;

2)      A thorough review of the relevant literature and argument for the importance of student's topic and methodology;

3)      A detailed presentation of the hypotheses;

4)      A detailed discussion of proposed methodology for data collection

  • Students who will be collecting data from human subjects must include a copy of a completed application for review of research on human subjects submitted to the Institutional Review Board (Office of Research Compliance). 
  • Students who are working with students from specific institutions (e.g., foreign language departments, local schools, the English Program for Internationals) must have evidence of the institution's approval for conducting the proposed research.

5)      A detailed discussion of proposed methodology for data analyses

  • Students who will be doing statistical analyses should consult with the Statistical Laboratory (Stat Lab) to determine (1) exactly which statistics are appropriate for the research design and questions, and (2) if the research design or methodology should be modified to allow appropriate statistical analyses for the hypotheses/research question.
  • Students must consult with their director before going to the Stat Lab with questions.

6)      A discussion of the relevance and significance of the proposed study.

Scheduling of the M.A. Comprehensive Exam:

The exam may be held at any time agreed upon by all parties (student and thesis committee members). This exam is normally held late in the student's third semester in the M.A. program or early in the fourth semester. The approved thesis proposal must be submitted to the thesis advisor and reader no less than one week in advance of the oral exam.