Doctor of Philosophy in Social Policy

Comprehensive Exam

As part of the degree requirements, PhD students must successfully complete a comprehensive exam. This consists of an original, scholarly analysis written at the completion of coursework. Students choose from a faculty-prepared list of topics and draw upon core competencies and knowledge of their chosen concentration. Students are expected to demonstrate through this exam:

  • An ability to relate theoretical approaches to the assigned topic based on either one or multiple disciplines or areas of knowledge.
  • Knowledge of the history, developments, and issues in the substantive aspect of the topic.
  • An ability to apply an analytic approach to the assigned question.
  • An ability to argue points clearly and to write at a level suitable for publication in professional journals.

The comprehensive exam requires students to apply knowledge and skills in a manner similar to the demands required to write a dissertation and to carry out research and writing in professional life. Successful completion of the comprehensive exam and all coursework allows students to proceed to the dissertation.

Student interest areas explored in comprehensive exams:

  • Recruitment and hiring process of Black women faculty
  • Immigrant issues and social policy
  • Health care access for undocumented immigrants and people of color during the Trump administration
  • Mental health courts and incarceration
  • Inequities in opioid use disorder treatment
  • Social policy for Native American populations