Comprehensive Exams and Dissertation Proposal Tips

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Comprehensive Exams and
Dissertation Proposal Tips
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams
Fill out PhD Degree Checklist
When am I going to take my exams (Spring of
Fall)?
What am I taking my exams in?
What do I want to gain from this experience?
“Get it over with”, dissertation, research project
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Start of Summer (June)
Sign up for Proposal Hours
Set up meeting with comps chair
Date of exams?
Comps committee?
Type of exams?
Words of wisdom?
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Creating Reading List (June-July)
Meet/email grad students who have already
taken exams (list, advice, etc.)
Previous class notes
Endnote
PRC shared folders
Send list to committee members
Less is more
Organize, organize, organize!
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
EXAMPLE BLUEPRINT
[citation]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Theoretical Argument/Hypoth:
Key Issues:
Data:
Cross-sectional or Longitudinal –
National or Regional –
Age range:
Methods/Measures:
DV:
IVs:
Major Findings:
Limitations:
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Reading (August-October)
Create a comps reading calendar
Give yourself enough time for each section
2.5 weeks per section (Mortality, Fertility,
Migration, Specialization)
Organize, organize, organize!
The world will keep spinning while you are
preparing for your exams.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Countdown to Exams (1st week of October)
Aim to be done reading by this time.
Make reviewing your #1 priority at this point.
Go over your notes.
Read, then read again, then reread that.
Begin to have conversations with yourself on
each topic.
How do these ideas connect? What are the general
debates in my field? What is the evidence for each
argument?
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Countdown to Exams (2nd week of October)
Start taking practice exams.
First few practice exams should be with your notes.
Then reread the practice exams you took.
Read them in the bathroom, bus, while working out,
everywhere.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Countdown to Exams (4 days before
exam)
Take practice exams with no notes.
Compare to your previous ones.
Coffee talk with no someone not in your field.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Countdown to Exams (day before)
Listen to music.
Go for a walk.
Meditate.
Talk to your family.
Sleep.
Get a massage.
Review a little or not at all.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Comprehensive Exams: Example
for Fall Exams
Show up to computer lab early (both days).
Pack food (nothing loud and crunchy).
Water (remember additional breaks are on your
clock).
Pens/pencils/calculator.
Results
Pass with distinction, pass, rewrite, fail.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Proposal
Take a “comps break”.
Meet with advisor.
Discuss potential ideas, research method,
committee members.
Write a pre-proposal (5 pages).
Topic or two you are interested in.
Literature review and theories.
A few questions you are interested in.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Proposal
Expand on pre-proposal.
Read more articles/books.
Proposal calendar.
Don’t write everything at once: turn in
excerpts that can be discussed with advisor.
Ask senior grad students for proposal
formatting tips.
Write draft after draft after draft.
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Proposal: Letter to
Committee
Good afternoon __________,
I am currently working on my dissertation proposal and would like
for you to be a part of my dissertation committee. My dissertation is
tentatively titled "Green Famine": Mother's Education and
Children's Nutrition in East and Central Africa. I hope to complete
and defend my proposal at the beginning of the fall semester.
_______ has agreed to serve as Chair.
If you are willing and able to be a part of the committee, ______
and I have identified several target dates for the proposal defense:
______, ______, and September ______. Please let me know if
any of these dates are impossible for you.
I've attached the beginning of the proposal. If you would like to
meet to discuss further, please let me know.
I am excited about the dissertation process and I really hope that
you are able to be a part of it.
Thank you,
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Proposal
Ready to defend
Settle on one date and book a room ASAP
Notify committee of date, time, place
Send them reminder emails and proposal in hard
copy and through email.
Presentation is 5-7 minutes long
Meet with advisor on last minute tips and logistics
Overall objective, research question, significance,
hypotheses, data and methods, timeline
Food (optional)
Practice presentation
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation Proposal
Day of Proposal Defense
Dress up
Relax
Show up at the room 30 minutes before
presentation
Make sure equipment works 
Do it!!
Population Research Center
The University of Texas at Austin

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