Skip to main content

Comprehensive Examination Guidelines

Note: See the academic calendar for the Academic Regulations of Comprehensive Requirement.  

SK893 is the course code for the comprehensive examination. Students are to maintain registration in that course until all of the comprehensive examination requirements are met.

The PhD comprehensive examination is an important stepping-stone in students’ dissertation research. It provides students with the opportunity to develop deep knowledge of the theory and knowledge/research related to their area of interest, which both informs and frames their dissertation research. In many instances, the work created for the comprehensive examination becomes part of the student’s dissertation. The comprehensive examination is comprised of two parts. One part addresses the theoretical framing for the student’s dissertation and the other part is a review of the relevant literature that supports the proposed dissertation research. Together, the parts serve to assess the student’s ability to

  1. Integrate social work knowledge, theory and practice
  2. Analyze the implications of knowledge-building/research and theory for social work practice
  3. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the selected interventive area.

Students complete two comprehensive papers, one addressing each part noted above. A defense of both papers/parts occurs after the second paper is completed. The two papers developed in the comprehensive examination are envisioned to become two chapters of the dissertation.

The two-paper comprehensive model was developed in 2019-2020 following a curriculum review of the PhD Program, which included consultation with students, graduates, and faculty, and a scan of other PhD programs’ curriculum and requirements. This model was created to facilitate students’ timely progression through the comprehensive examination phase and to effectively prepare them to move on to the dissertation phase.

The intention is that all students will complete the two-paper comprehensive examination model outlined here. In some extremely rare, exceptional cases, where a student’s Comprehensive Examination Committee has unanimously agreed, a student may choose to write and defend one paper (~ 70 pages) that incorporates elements of the two papers/parts (a and b) described herein. In such cases, the timeframe for writing and defending a two-paper model will apply, as will the process for submission and defence of the paper. A rationale for selecting this option is to be included in the comprehensive examination proposal.

Any deviation from the procedures and steps outlined below would require specific consideration by the PhD Admissions, Curriculum and Student Affairs Committee.