General Exam Policy and Procedure
The purpose of the general examination is to assess the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge and critical analysis of major areas in the information field. The examination is also used to evaluate the student’s potential to complete a doctoral dissertation successfully, including the development of the student’s independent intellectual voice.
To take a General Examination, a student must:
- Complete the coursework of the Ph.D. in Information Science;
- Complete at least one of the two required teaching practica;
- Complete at least one of the two required research practica;
- Complete 60 credits; and
- Register as a graduate student for the quarter that the oral portion of the Examination occurs and candidacy is conferred.
Preparation for the Examination includes the construction of reading lists for the Examination, as well as reading, reflection, and discussions with colleagues and faculty members.
For the General Examination, the student is required to develop a specific area of interest that is approved by the Supervisory Committee. The specific area of interest will be articulated in the student’s statement of interest (see Section 6) as well as the submitted reading list. The specific area of interest will likely form the basis for the student’s dissertation.
In the General Examination, the student will demonstrate an ability (1) to discuss theoretical, methodological, and technological aspects of the student’s specific area of interest and (2) to integrate and synthesize knowledge.
The general examination is to be completed by the candidate in conformance with the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code and the Student Academic Responsibility Statement. In brief: do not ask for or accept help on any general exam question. Those taking the general examination should refrain from sharing general examination questions or answers until after the examination is completed.
The Examination includes both a written and oral component. The written component is a take-home examination and consists of 1-3 questions prepared by the Supervisory Committee. The questions are relevant to the student’s specific area of interest. The questions should test the student’s knowledge and provide the student with the opportunity to articulate the specific area of interest and its relation to the information field. One or more questions should be constructed to demonstrate the student’s ability to successfully scope, design, and execute a dissertation. In response to the question(s), the student writes a paper(s) that reflect knowledge and analysis that are typical of a scholarly paper. The student completes this component of the Examination in 2 weeks.
A PDF copy of the written component (inclusive of answers to the questions) is submitted separately to Student Services by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. This PDF copy of the written component is lodged in the student’s file and is not open to the public for viewing.
Three sets of sample questions from the written component, anonymous and without answers, are made available to the iSchool community as examples of general exam questions. They will be available for viewing upon request.
The oral component takes place no longer than 4 weeks after the student has submitted the written component of the Examination. It consists of a 2-hour session with only the Supervisory Committee.
Immediately Prior to the start of the Examination:
- The Candidate must be physically present at the exam.
- The Chair (or at least one Co-Chair), the GSR, and one general committee member must be physically present at the exam.
o If the Candidate is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled.
o If the Chair is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled.
o If the GSR is not physically present at the time of the exam, a substitute GSR may be secured subject to Graduate School rules. If no GSR can be found, then the exam must be rescheduled.
o If a general member is not physically present then, the exam should be adjourned and rescheduled to a later time/date.
- A majority of the Supervisory Committee must be physically present at the exam. E.g. a Supervisory Committee with the minimum 4 required members (Chair, GSR, and 2 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam. A Supervisory Committee with 5 members (Chair, GSR, and 3 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam. The remaining general member may be ‘present’ via the use of audio/visual technology
Once the Exam Starts:
The student briefly presents the main arguments in the paper. For the presentation, the student may use audiovisual aids. The presentation is followed by a question and discussion with the student and the members of the Supervisory Committee. During the discussion, Supervisory Committee members may ask the student questions about the paper, its relationship to the student’s statement of interest, and its relationship to a potential dissertation proposal and dissertation.
After the questioning and discussion, the Supervisory Committee, meets without the student to complete the assessment. The options available to the Supervisory Committee are:
- Satisfactory; the student is awarded an MSIS degree; and the Committee recommends to the Graduate School that the student be advanced to candidacy.
- Satisfactory; the student is awarded an MSIS degree but is not advanced to candidacy (this option does not appear on the Graduate School Warrant for the exam and the Committee must write this option on the exam).
- Unsatisfactory with reexamination required in one or more areas specified (see Section 6).
If a student is judged (4) unsatisfactory, a recommendation will be made to the Graduate School that the student be dropped from the Ph.D. Program and not receive the MSIS degree.
The chairperson of the Supervisory Committee informs the student of the recommendation that will be made to the Graduate School after the oral component is completed.
Prior to beginning this procedure the student must establish a Supervisory Committee.
The student, in consultation with the Supervisory Committee, selects the area of interest at least 15 weeks (4 months or 1.5 quarters) prior to the oral examination portion of General Examination. This is 10 weeks before the student would receive the questions for the written portion of the General Examination.
Concurrently, the student submits to the Supervisory Committee a draft, 1-2 page statement explaining the area of interest and draft reading lists for the area. The student revises and submits to the Supervisory Committee the statement and completes the reading lists 10 weeks prior to the oral examination (5 weeks before receiving the written portion of the General Examination). During the preparation for the Examination, the student is encouraged to consult with members of the Supervisory Committee and with other faculty members.
At least 3 weeks prior to the proposed Examination date, the student submits to the Graduate School a “Request for General Examination” through the online form in MyGrad linked from Graduate School web page. This means that, in the opinion of the committee, the student's background of study and preparation is sufficient to justify the undertaking of the General Examination. The Graduate School will then determine if the Candidate has met the minimum requirements and will electronically notify the Office of Student Services that a General Exam request has been made. The Ph.D. Program Advisor or Ph.D. Program Assistant will confirm the General Exam date with the student’s Supervisory Committee Chair and approve the request. Once the request is approved, the Ph.D. Program Advisor or Ph.D. Program Assistant will print a Warrant and give it to the Supervisory Committee Chair. During the oral examination, the chairperson, the Graduate School Representative (GSR), and at least 2 additional examining committee members are present.
The Chairperson of the Supervisory Committee informs the student of the recommendation that will be made regarding the General Examination immediately after the oral component is completed. If the student's performance is judged by the Supervisory Committee to be satisfactory, the signed Warrant certifying successful completion of the General Examination is given to the Ph.D. Program Advisor or Ph.D. Program Assistant. If the outcome of the General Examination is “(3) unsatisfactory with re-examination required in one or more areas specified,” the Supervisory Committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit up to a maximum of two additional reexaminations, after a further period of study. Only the areas judged to be unsatisfactory will require re-examination. Any members of the Supervisory Committee who do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School.
Upon successful completion of the General Examination based on only the first three criteria listed in Section 5, the student is awarded an MSIS degree and is not advanced to candidacy.
Upon successful completion of the General Examination based on all four criteria listed in Section 5, the student is awarded an MSIS degree, is identified and designated as a “Candidate for the Ph.D. in Information Science,” and is awarded the Candidate's Certificate by the Graduate School. Copies of the signed warrant are given to the Ph.D. Program Advisor or Program Assistant who will notify the Graduate School of the results and place the signed warrant in the student’s file. After achieving Candidate status, the student devotes his or her time primarily to formulating a dissertation proposal, preparing for the dissertation proposal defense, executing and writing the dissertation, and preparing for the Final Examination of the dissertation.
Timeline to the General Exam (relative to the Oral Examination)
15 weeks prior (four months; 1.5 quarters) (minimally)
- The student and faculty advisor establish the Supervisory Committee
- The student selects the specific area of interest
- The student submits a 1-2 page statement about specific area of interest
- The student registers for INSC 600
- The student submits draft reading lists for the specific area
- The student, with approval of Chair of the Supervisory Committee and the Ph.D. Committee, sets tentative General Examination date and informs the Program Advisor
10 Weeks Prior (minimally)
The student submits to the Supervisory Committee a revised version of the description of the area of interest and the reading list.
7 Weeks Prior
The Supervisory Committee prepares the questions for the written component of the examination, taking into consideration the revised student statement and the reading lists.
5 Weeks Prior (minimally)
The student submits to the Graduate School a request for general examination.
4 Weeks Prior
The student receives the written examination. The student is expected to complete the written exam in 2 weeks.
2 Weeks Prior
The student submits the written examination.
The oral examination is held. The oral examination is formally considered the General Examination date. The student must register for credits in the quarter that the oral examination is held.