PhD students must pass a Field of Study (FoS) examination prior to their Thesis Proposal Oral Examination and within 20 months of first registration. The FoS examination is intended to test the student’s knowledge of, and competence to work in, their chosen areas of philosophy. Students are expected to show understanding of the central positions and important lines of debate in the chosen area, and to demonstrate general intellectual and philosophical ability at the PhD level.
C.1 Format and process of field of study examinations
At first registration, the Graduate Office informs students of their FoS Paper Submission Deadline and the suggested timelines for completion of Candidacy Requirements. The Deadline is normally set to the first day of the 14th month in program, or the first day of the 26th month for students entering without an MA.
The Field of Study Examination is an oral examination in a major and a minor field, chosen by the student in consultation with the supervisor and approved by the Graduate Program Director five months before the student’s Paper Submission Deadline. One area should be the student’s proposed area of specialization, i.e., the broad area of their chosen dissertation; the second area is the student’s minor field. Students should discuss their plans for FoS areas and the paper topics with the GDP and their supervisor well in advance.
Four months before the Paper Submission Deadline, the student submits two 300-word abstracts and bibliographies for two papers, one in each of the major and minor areas, to the GPD for approval. The two papers submitted by the student will form the basis of the FoS Oral Examination. The GPD approves the paper topics if (1) they are in the approved areas, (2) required faculty expertise is available, and (3) the topics of the major and minor area papers are not closely related. The minor and major papers will normally engage distinct bodies of literature. The GPD will take into account the range of courses available to the student in preparation for the Field of Study Papers.
If approved, the GPD strikes a Committee for the evaluation of the Field of Study Papers and the Field of Study Oral Exam, normally consisting of the Supervisory Committee and two other members of the permanent faculty, and names a Chair. Two members should be experts in the student’s minor field.
The student prepares two papers of between 5,000 and 7,500 words, excluding bibliography, one for each area. The bibliography need only include works cited in the papers and can be distinct from the approved reading lists for the FoS Oral Exam. Students are encouraged to work with department faculty to polish their papers, in particular, with their Supervisory Committee. It is explicitly allowed to revise papers previously used to satisfy course requirements as FoS Papers, with the understanding that FoS Papers must be more polished than typical term papers.
The student draws up two reading lists that cover the areas of the papers or are related to them and submits them to the committee three months before the Paper Submission Deadline. The Committee reviews the reading lists and may make modifications or additions, and approves final reading lists within two weeks. The Chair communicates the revised reading lists to the student.
On or before the Paper Submission Deadline, the student submits both papers together to the Graduate Office, which will distribute the papers to the Committee for evaluation. Papers submitted before the Deadline may but need not be evaluated before the two week period after the Deadline has passed. Early evaluation of FoS Papers is at the discretion of the Committee.
C.2 Evaluation of field of study papers
The examination committee will evaluate both the form and quality of the papers.
Formally, a passing Field of Study Paper must take the form of a professional philosophical article. The paper must address a question in one of the approved areas of philosophy, and engage with the literature in that area. It should state the question the paper is attempting to answer or the philosophical objective it is pursuing. For instance, a paper may critically assess a philosophical view or argument, it may compare philosophical views, it may interpret the writings of a historical figure, it may analyze a result or practice (say, in one of the sciences) philosophically, or draw out implications of a philosophical position. In doing so, it must describe relevant views or arguments in the literature. Positions proposed must be supported by arguments or evidence. The paper’s arguments must be presented explicitly, with explanations of why certain assumptions are made or not, what justifies the inferences in the argument, how the assumptions and conclusion relate to the views being discussed. When a reading of a historical figure is offered, the paper must articulate reasons for why the reading is appropriate. If a philosophical concept is applied to an example, it must be explained why the concept applies to the example. The paper must also, at least in outline, survey related views in the literature. It must appropriately cite relevant work using a standard and uniform bibliographic reference format. It must offer a novel contribution, be it positive, interpretative, or critical; mere surveys of the literature are unacceptable. It must be proofread and free of spelling and grammatical mistakes.
In addition to the formal criteria above, the examination committee will also evaluate the quality of the argumentation, and the philosophical acumen and skill displayed in the paper. In order for a paper to receive a pass, the description of others' views and arguments must be clear, accurate, and charitable. The paper must be well-organized. When new terminology is introduced, it must be defined precisely; and when existing technical terms are used, they must be used in accordance with their commonly accepted definitions, or, if competing definitions are available, the definition adopted must be given and used appropriately. Arguments offered must be cogent, and justifications must be applicable. Discussion of related literature must include relevant works from the reading list.
After a student submits their FoS papers, the members of the Committee will evaluate the papers individually and communicate their evaluation to the Chair. If at least one Committee member votes to fail a submitted paper, or if one of the members of the Committee requests it, the Chair arranges a meeting of the Committee to discuss the papers. At the end of the discussion in that meeting, the Committee members vote again. If all but at most one member of the Committee vote to pass, the paper is passed.
The Chair will inform the student and the Graduate Program Director immediately after the Committee meeting, and in any case within two weeks of the Submission Deadline, which of the submitted papers passes. If one or both papers fail, the Committee will provide the student with written comments and suggestions for improving the paper, and set a new submission deadline for re-evaluation of the paper or papers, no sooner than two months and no later than six months from the original submission deadline (fail date).
If the Committee does not make a decision within two weeks of the Paper Submission Deadline, the Graduate Program Director will ensure that the Committee comes to a decision without further delay.
Only one resubmission of each paper is permitted. If the Committee determines a resubmitted paper is a fail, the student will be required to withdraw (see the Graduate Calendar, Academic Regulations – Candidacy – Candidacy Examination Outcomes). The graduate program must send the Recommendation of Required Withdrawal from Graduate Program for Failure to Maintain Academic Progress to email@example.com.