Friday, 6 May 2005

Comprehensive Exams Questions

Designing Comprehensive Exam Questions

The following posting is for those of you who are interested in how Comprehensive Exam questions get designed by a committee. In my programme, the candidate proposes the questions, and then their committee chooses and crafts the final questions, which are given to the candidate at the exam.

A draft of my proposed questions are as follows belows. To note, sections with "****" are excised for privacy concerns or because the material is a part of my future research:

Suggested Doctoral Comprehensive Exam Questions
March 6th, 2005 – Draft II
Peter Ryan

Personal Writing Option: Take Home Exam, in Two Parts.

Tentative Dates of the Exam:

1. Major: Monday, May 16th, 2005 (or Monday, May 31st, 2005)
2. Minor: Thursday, May 19th, 2005 (or Monday, June 7th, 2005)


Exam Questions Suggested Guidelines:

“In both formats, students will be given a choice of questions to answer: 2 of 5 for the major (which would normally be divided into 3 general questions and 2 questions specific to the major field) and 1 of 3 for the minor.”


1) I have provided more questions here just to get feedback at this point.
2) The Major General Questions are based on the PhD Core Course ****, the Core Course in Communication Studies ****, and the Core Course in Cultural Studies ****.
3) The Major Specific Questions are based on the PhD Foundation Course in Technology and Practice ****.
4) The Minor Questions are based on my Media and Culture foundation courses and electives.

I. MAJOR (Five Questions in Total – 48 hours to complete)

A. General -- 3 Questions --

Please answer one of the three following questions within 10 – 15 pages maximum. Use MLA style for citations, formatting, and works cited.

Suggested Reading List: Approximately 25 Texts for the Major.

1. If a Canadian canon of Communication Theory was to be formed for the last half of the 20th century and it had to contain the work of at least 10 core scholars, what theorists and texts would you argue should be included on the list? Why would you choose those theorists and their representative texts? Please support your choices and define key terms where necessary.

2. What materials would you choose to teach in an introductory Communications course geared towards first-year graduate students? Specifically, why would you choose those materials and how would you organize them for study?

3. The domain of Cultural Studies is often generalized to research concerning how meaning is constituted within various texts, practices, and ideologies. What roles do consensus and dissensus play in forming understandings of the definition of Culture from a Cultural Studies perspective? How do Cultural Studies theorists define Culture differently from other disciplines such as Communications, Literary Theory, Political Economy, and Sociology, which are often associated with Cultural Studies in interdisciplinary projects?

4. How does Habermas take up the work of the earlier members of the Frankfurt School in his definition of communicative action? Please define key terms where necessary and provide a structured, well-researched chronological response to this question based on various readings of Habermas’s public sphere and modernity.

B. Specific (to Field): Technology and Practice – 2 Questions --

Please answer one of the following questions within 10 – 15 pages maximum.
Use MLA style for citations, formatting, and works cited.

Suggested Reading List: Approximately 25 Texts for the Major.

1. In many Political Economy critiques of technological shifts a recent distinction from previous communication technology epochs is that of “the network society.” How does neo-liberal Political Economy structure technological practices in the 21st century? Further, how does “the progress narrative” figure in neo-liberal ideology concerning technological changes in the twentieth century?

2. How would you characterize the present technological epoch given that some theorists describe the information age sometimes as 1) a continuation of modern formations, 2) postmodern in the terms of Frederic Jameson, or 3) hypermodern as an extension of modernity just at a faster pace? Please fully explain what these terms signify for differing theorists in the 20th century.

II. MINOR (Three Questions in Total – 24 hours to complete)
Media and Culture: 20th Century North American Literature

Please answer one of the following questions within 10 – 15 pages maximum. Use MLA style for citations, formatting, and works cited.

Suggested Reading List: Approximately 20 Texts for the Minor.

1. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is often described as an influential work in both the areas of contemporary art and technology. How does Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow provide a critique of modern reason during World War II in comparison with, and contrast to, such early works of Science Fiction as Dracula or Frankenstein from the Romantic period? The texts that you choose to explicate your interpretations of Gravity’s Rainbow are entirely based on your own selection criteria; however, you must use at least five other texts of literary theory from the latter half of the twentieth century in your answer.

2. How does Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle challenge traditional definitions of the Science Fiction genre (or speculative fiction genre)? Critiques of strict genre boundaries often demonstrate challenges to modern academic disciplinary categories. Do you believe that Science Fiction is a market construction or a useful term of critical analysis? Please use examples of contemporary literary theory to explicate your position.

3. In the area of North American Literary Studies, what positions have North American authors occupied in challenging cultural, economic, and political hegemonic powers? Do you view North American Literary Studies a colonial creation within the academy that represent US domination on the continent within a NAFTA context? If not, what other factors do you see contributing to such a field as “North American Literary Studies”?

4. Broadly, how is technology used as a theme in Canadian and American Fiction of the latter half of the twentieth century?

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