Departmental Oral Examinations

These are the instructions which guide the conduct of the Department M.A. and Ph.D. oral examinations, in each case chaired by an appointee of the Sociology Graduate Studies Committee (SGSC). Students preparing for such examinations should be aware of these procedures and are advised to attend other students’ examinations as preparation.

The Department oral examinations for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are public and therefore open to any faculty member or graduate student in the Department. It is the responsibility of the chair of the candidate’s advisory committee to ensure that a quorum will be present at an examination. In addition, the SGSC assumes that in calling the examination, the advisory committee has assured itself that the candidate has fulfilled all requirements for the degree.

The examination generally lasts two hours. A quorum must be present for the examination to begin. The quorum consists of the chair of the examining committee (an SGSC representative) and at least two advisory committee members. If a quorum is not present, the chair may delay the examination, postponing it until a later date. The SGSC representative is a non-voting member of the examining committee.

The following procedure is suggested for the examination chair (SGSC representative):

  1. Announce that the meeting has been called for the public examination of (name of candidate) for the (M.A. or Ph.D.) degree;
  2. Request the candidate to present a synopsis of his or her work (the candidate may speak from notes and/or use a blackboard or audio/visual equipment, but should not read the synopsis; time 20 to 30 minutes);
  3. Call upon members of assigned examining committee (the supervisor last) to question the candidate;
  4. Call for questions by any visitors in attendance;
  5. Call for further questioning from the committee, and question the candidate him/herself.
  6. Request the candidate and persons not on the examining committee to withdraw.
  7. Call for discussion of the examination (quality of the presentation, answers, and thesis) and poll each committee member. The examining committee will act in one of the following ways: (a) approval of the thesis for transmission to external examiner; or (b) approval of the thesis as above, subject to minor revisions to be approved by the thesis supervisor by a specified date, before the thesis is submitted to the external examiner; or (c) approval of the thesis as above, subject to substantial revision to be approved by the examining committee as a whole by a specified date, before the thesis is to be submitted to the external examiner; or (d) adjourn the examination and set the date and conditions for re-examination, which may include a requirement for revision, reconstitution of the examining committee or whatever other measures seem appropriate*; or (e) fail the candidate.
  8. Call back the candidate and, in the presence of the examining committee, inform him or here of the examining committee’s decision.
  9. Compose a brief written report, which should indicate the examining committee’s decision concerning approval of the thesis and any dates for changes. In addition, the report should note attendance, and comment on any unusual circumstances related to the examination. The report is to be submitted to the SGSC within a few days.

*It is suggested that particular consideration be given to the use of this category in cases where substantial revision of the thesis is required and where there is reasonable doubt that the candidate will satisfactorily complete such revisions within a specified period of time.