Here’s the outline of my doctoral program requirements:
- Three years of coursework, with qualifying reviews at the end of years two and three.
- In the semester after that, submit a problem statement and take an oral exam based on it.
- After passing orals, get a dissertation proposal approved.
- Write and defend a dissertation.
So, no comprehensive exams or anything like that (just distributional coursework requirements). Since I started part-time, I’m a semester out of sync — I have another semester of classes to go and my second qualifying review isn’t until November — but I try not to let these big requirements sneak up on me. For example, I always want to have an idea of what I would propose for my dissertation, if I had to do it today. So this semester I started working on my problem statement.
This is not a genre that was familiar to me. I asked around a little, and the general format in my concentration seems to be state a research question, explain your approach to it, identify four broader areas of existing research that will be important for you, and cite lots of sources. Here’s my outline:
So far this amounts to a two-page document that cites all of my favorite sources. Yesterday I got a first round of feedback on my first draft, which was exciting, encouraging, and helpful, and I spent some time this morning making edits. (I should have been doing other things at that time, but that’s the danger: I’m more interested in this, which is why I picked it in the first place.)
I’m calling it a first-and-a-half draft because there’s still more to do before I show it to someone else.