Preliminary Exams

The preliminary examination process for the Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program has three parts: a written General Examination based on a required reading list, a Specialized Portfolio Examination, and an Oral Examination taken after successful completion of the first two components. The following highlights some information explained in more detail in the Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program Handbook.

General Preliminary Examination

This is a written examination based on the General Exam Reading List. Typically, students write on three questions, selected from a number of options, in the course of a weekend (Friday AM to Monday AM). The General Exam Reading List can be found here.

Specialized Portfolio Examination 

The specialized element of the Preliminary Examination is a portfolio developed by the student and evaluated by the student's Committee. The Specialized Portfolio consists of four sections:

A. Professional Revising Project. This section will include three parts:

  1. The original of a R&W Program seminar paper.
  2. One or more substantial revisions of that paper intended for conference delivery or for submission to a journal or book editor.
  3. An Afterword (1000-1500 words) that discusses and illustrates the nature of the revision--and the reasons for changes during revision. The final version should, ideally, reflect a present-tense vision of the project--within a few months of finishing the portfolio--rather than revision completed some time in the past--and it should represent the student’s strongest writing.

B. Professional Curriculum Project. This section will include two parts:

  1. The syllabus, including major assignments, for a writing course (either taught or anticipated).
  2. An Afterword (1000-1500 words) that discusses, in light of General Exam Reading List and other sources, the principles that ground and shape the syllabus.

C. Initial Dissertation Reading List. With an eye toward future dissertation research, the student will work with the Committee Chair to develop an Initial Reading List of 30-40 works, not duplicating any works on the Core Prelim List. A version of this list will be reviewed by the whole Committee at the prelim planning meeting, and the final version will be approved by the Chair before work begins on the Bibliographic Essay. This initial list must be included in the portfolio.  

D. Bibliographic Essay. Working with the approved Initial Reading List, the student will develop a bibliographic essay (2000-2500 words) showing understanding of individual works in the list, key relationships and differences among works, and important issues, questions, and needed research in the area of the future dissertation. The essay need not deal with every item in the Initial Reading List, but should work with a substantial number of those works (e.g. 15-20 sources).

Oral Examination

The Oral Exam is typically held within two weeks of the submission of the core exam and the specialized portfolio. The oral lasts for 90 minutes and typically begins with the student briefly reviewing the process of taking prelims and the products submitted, followed by questions and discussion with the committee members. Prelim orals are private meetings of a student with their chair and committee members.