Comprehensive Exam and ISP

Students entering the program with a BA or MA will take the AMST H/T/M exam before the beginning of their 3rd semester. All students should have completed AMST 601 and 603 as necessary coursework in preparation for this exam.

American Studies History, Theory, Methods Exam Procedures

  • The exam will be administered the 3rd or 4th weekend of August.

  • To prepare, students will be given a reading list by May 15.

  • The AMST H/T/M faculty exam committee will prepare the reading list. It will include readings from AMST 601 and 603, as well as other books and articles we consider basic to the field.

  • Students will be given a set of questions from which to choose.

  • All students in the cohort will take the same exam in a given year. This is a written take-home examination that students have 72 hours to complete. The exam will be sent via email by the DGS, Chair of the Department, or designated faculty member on Friday morning and must be returned within 72 hours the following Monday to both the DGS (amst-dgs@umd.edu) and the Chair.

  • The committee will take 3 weeks to read and evaluate the exams. Exam grades will be pass or fail. Once the evaluations are received by the DGS, students and their advisors will be notified.

  • In the event that a student does not pass this exam, the student will be required to meet with the committee for oral feedback and to establish a date to re-take the exam. This retake exam must be undertaken by the start of the spring semester (January).

  • If a student fails the exam the second time, he/she will be dismissed from the program.


American Studies Interdisciplinary Synthesis Paper Procedures

In order to make the comprehensive exam experience more useful to your overall graduate experience and particularly to writing your proposal and dissertation, the second exam will be in the form of an Interdisciplinary Synthesis Paper.

  • All students will be required to produce an (7000-9000 word content) interdisciplinary synthesis paper and a reference list by the student’s 3rd year (MA) or 4th year (BA).

  • Students are expected to examine a topic and illustrate their knowledge of multiple disciplinary perspectives. They are expected to arrive at a central question(s) that places their research interests in conversation with major dialogues. Students should critically interrogate these perspectives to arrive at a more informed and profound lens of understanding of a topic(s) significant in the field of American Studies.

  • Students must notify the DGS of their intention to write the essay and identify the essay committee by the dates indicated below. All submissions are due by 4:30 p.m. via email.

  • Students should work with an essay committee to draft a bibliography/reading list by the dates listed below.
  • The essay committee should be comprised of two faculty members. Affiliate faculty who are asked to administer the exam are encouraged to work with an AMST faculty member in serving on the student’s committee. Students may, with the permission of their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, ask a faculty member from outside the university also to serve on the committee, if there is no one available on campus with the appropriate expertise.

  • Students should craft an analytical synthesis that

  1. engages with existing literature from multiple fields that will likely bear on the dissertation topic (literature review)
  2. identifies and engages significant questions that drive the field AND
  3. identifies and discusses the various methods you might employ to engage those questions.

  • Students should work with essay reader(s) to submit a draft of the essay by the dates listed below.

  • Essay committee must respond to students within two weeks of the draft being submitted.

  • Students should submit final essay to the essay committee by the dates listed below.

  • The essay committee will have 3 weeks to read and evaluate the essay and will issue an evaluation of pass, pass with revisions (*see below), or fail. The chair or his/her designee will weigh in on the essay in the event that consensus is not reached.

  • Once the evaluations are received by the DGS, students will be notified.

  • **If a student marginally passes the exam but will be successful with revisions, the student will be required to complete the revisions within a two-week period (see schedule below).

  • In the event that a student does not pass this exam, the student will be required to meet with the committee for oral feedback and to establish a date to re-take the exam. This retake exam must be undertaken in the immediate subsequent semester following the same procedure.

  • If a student fails the exam the second time, he/she will be dismissed from the program.

Exam Dates – Fall

  • Notify the DGS of the intention to take the exam and identify essay committee – Aug. 1
  • Bibliography/Reading list due – Aug. 15
  • ISP Questions – Sept. 15
  1. Provide a detailed overview of the literature that you anticipate conversing with in your dissertation. (You should focus on selecting the texts that you identify as essential and are working in a similar territory to your research or that inform the theoretical framework or methodological structure of your research). Determine, too, both what the literature says and what is absent and/or undeveloped.
  2. From this literature–and your thinking about your interests–identify what you see as probable research questions that may drive your dissertation project. These questions should be considered a frame for your current thinking, and are not necessarily a commitment to a future direction.
  3. Identify the sources and methods you anticipate using to explore answers to the research questions.
  4. How will the application of these methods to these sources enable you to answer your research questions?

Depending upon the extent to which the answers to these questions are developed, your adviser(s) will inform you if you are ready to proceed with completing the ISP.  If not, you will be given the opportunity to write the paper in the immediate subsequent semester.

  • Draft essay due – Oct. 15
  • Final essay due – Dec. 1
  • Final essay (With Revisions) due – Jan. 15 

Exam Dates – Spring

  • Notify the DGS of the intention to take the exam and identify essay committee – 1st Monday in January
  • Bibliography/Reading list due – Jan. 15
  • ISP Questions – Feb. 15
  1. Provide a detailed overview of the literature that you anticipate conversing with in your dissertation. (You should focus on selecting the texts that you identify as essential and are working in a similar territory to your research or that inform the theoretical framework or methodological structure of your research). Determine, too, both what the literature says and what is absent and/or undeveloped.
  2. From this literature–and your thinking about your interests–identify what you see as probable research questions that may drive your dissertation project. These questions should be considered a frame for your current thinking, and are not necessarily a commitment to a future direction.
  3. Identify the sources and methods you anticipate using to explore answers to the research questions.
  4. How will the application of these methods to these sources enable you to answer your research questions?

Depending upon the extent to which the answers to these questions are developed, your adviser(s) will inform you if you are ready to proceed with completing the ISP.  If not, you will be given the opportunity to write the paper in the immediate subsequent semester.

  • Draft essay due – the Monday following Spring Break
  • Final essay due– May 1
  • Final essay (With Revisions) due – June 15
Admission to Candidacy
Successful completion of the Ph.D. examinations is one of three requirements for admission to candidacy. In addition, students must satisfactorily complete all course work (except for 12 credits of AMST 899) and successfully defend their dissertation proposal in a meeting with their committee members. (See also the section on Admission to Candidacy in Ph.D. Program Requirements.)
Revised 11/3/11