9.1. The Examination, Prospectus, Reading List, and First-Chapter Conference

At the appropriate time in their careers here – that is, no later than the tenth quarter – students will sit down with their dissertation committee for a ninety-minute conference on the dissertation project based on prospectus of 3000 to 5000 words, and a bibliography of at least fifty works to be constructed by the candidate in consultation with her/his committee and pre-approved by the Graduate Committee (see 9.2). The prospectus should define the dissertation topic, its initial critical questions, and its relationship to existing scholarship and may also describe likely chapter divisions. The readings lists will include works most immediately germane to the dissertation but will also represent the wider professional area within which the dissertation is likely to be received or in which it seeks to make an intervention. Depending on the nature of the project, this wider area may take the form of a literary period or genre (including, in both cases, secondary criticism), theoretical field, or other construct that reflects an existing or emergent professional field. Whatever field the student chooses for the wider area, it should not simply be a list of works she or he would be reading anyway for the dissertation. Rather, it should be a list of works that constitute a larger and distinct field within which the dissertation might be placed and interpreted. (To facilitate review by both the examination committee and the Graduate Committee, students should identify with separate section headings the various parts of the bibliography – e.g., “primary works related directly to the dissertation,” “secondary works related directly to the dissertation,” “the wider area.”) The bulk of the dissertation conference will consist of a conversation about the dissertation in which faculty help the student to think through the concept of the project, probe problems with its structure or materials, and understand its relation to other issues and methods of current professional interest. The reading lists will be designed to help with this conversation. Rather than pose questions designed to test “coverage” of the bibliography, faculty will use a portion of the conference to ask students to think about their dissertation topic or approach in relation to adjacent or contrasting works in their field.

The dissertation conference will not be primarily an event that a student “passes” or “fails,” though its completion will mark official advancement to candidacy. Instead, it will figure most importantly as the beginning of an ongoing process of supervising the development of the dissertation. In some cases, the conversation at the conference will lead to suggestions for a revised prospectus or additional readings that are significant enough to warrant a second dissertation conference sometime later. Whether there is a follow-up conference or not, all students will subsequently be expected to meet for a “first-chapter” conference with their dissertation committee. This is a conference that will occur after a first chapter (any chapter) in the dissertation is written. The purpose of the “first-chapter” conference is to provide a means for the faculty and student to focus on how the project is actually taking shape and any difficulties that have emerged.

9.2. Steps Leading Up to the Exam

At the student’s request, the committee may include one faculty member from another UCSB department or from another UC campus, though not as chair. The memo should be addressed to the Chair of the Graduate Council and include the Graduate Advisor’s endorsement. Affiliated faculty are considered to be in the department. A faculty person from outside the UC system may be included without petition on the dissertation committee as an extra, fourth member. Arrangements for a non-UCSB faculty member’s attendance at the oral exam are the student’s responsibility.

  1. After the first qualifying exam, students should enroll in Engl. 591, the Doctoral Colloquium (see 5.3), and begin thinking about their dissertation topic and the areas of specialization appropriate to it. Early in the quarter after passing the first qualifying exam the student should meet with his or her advisor to discuss these plans, what courses would facilitate defining more precisely the dissertation topic, and what professors might offer most helpful guidance as chair and committee members of the student’s second qualifying examination. Students might look over the department’s library of representative past prospectuses and bibliographies before preparing their own materials. In consultation with the Graduate Advisor, the student chooses the three members (including chair) of the examining committee, who are selected on the basis of the student’s areas of specialization. (A fourth member may be added when beneficial). The first-chapter conference committee usually serves as the subsequent dissertation committee, which requires at least three faculty members, though changes can be made as the dissertation evolves.
  2. The dissertation prospectus and reading list must first be approved by the examining committee, and then be submitted to the Graduate Committee for approval. Under normal circumstances, prospectuses will not be read during very late spring or summer. The prospectus and bibliography must be accompanied by an approval form bearing the signatures of the examining committee. These materials should be transmitted to the Graduate Committee via the Staff Graduate Advisor, and they should be submitted by the end of ninth quarter (third year) in the program.
  3. Consideration of the prospectus and bibliography by the Graduate Committee is coordinated quarterly. Students should be aware of the posted prospectus submission and advancement deadlines. The primary function of the Graduate Committee in this circumstance is to ensure that a student’s prospectus and list fall within certain, flexible norms making them at once intellectually sound and generally comparable to those of other students. Besides asking for any required revisions, the Committee may also suggest other elaborations in a non-binding way. The Graduate Advisor will communicate the Committee’s decision and suggestions to the student as soon as possible and the student may request a meeting with the Advisor for further discussion.
  4. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule the second qualifying exam in consultation with the examining committee. Students should also provide the necessary advancement paperwork: Doctoral Forms I and II, as well as the UCSB Graduate Student Conflict of Interest Form, to be signed by the examining committee following the exam. The forms are available on the Graduate Division website. Students are advised to consult in advance with the members of their examining committee to gain a feel for the nature and structure of a PhD oral exam.