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Guidelines for Preparation for Comparative Politics Comprehensive Examinations,

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Comparative Politics Exam Guidelines Page 1To: Comparative Politics Students in Department of GovernmentFrom: Comparative Politics FacultyDate: Effective 1 January 2005Subject: Guidelines for Preparation for Comparative Politics ComprehensiveExaminations, both Master’s and Doctoral In preparing for comprehensive examinations students should begin by reviewing theircourse notes, by re-reading important books and journal articles assigned during thecourses, and by consulting with the Comparative Politics faculty. Students are expected to develop a broad view of the Comparative Politics field, inaddition to the specific courses they have taken, and are expected to engage withimportant works in the field of Comparative Politics even if those works were notexplicitly assigned as required reading in course syllabi.The goal of the comprehensive examinations is to give the student opportunity tosummarize, expand, and consolidate her or his knowledge of the Comparative field, andto be able to apply that knowledge effectively to specific issues, both conceptual andpractical. In addition students should take into account the following more specificpoints.1. The chosen question should be answered specifically, analyzing the central ideasinvolved and bringing rigorous logic and appropriate literature to bear on theresponse. This advice may sound obvious, yet students sometimes prepare‘generic’ answers to questions they hope will be on the examination, and fail totailor their answer to the actual question rather than the predicted question. Faculty readers, whatever their various approaches, all emphasize the importanceof direct, detailed answers to the question asked.2. The best answers are those in which the student takes a position on the issueraised by the question, demonstrates understanding of both sides of the debate,and effectively marshals evidence in support of his or her position.3. Literature citation should be ample. A graduate education is designed to makestudents into members of an academic community, and familiarity with the majorand important books in the field is the litmus test for this familiarity. Studentsneed not give complete citations, but should provide enough information so thatComparative Politics Exam Guidelines Page 2the reader can identify the exact work to which they are referring: author, title ofbook or year. Do not give just an author’s name; authors may have many booksto their credit, and readers should not have to guess to which one the student isalluding.4. Literature should be cited conceptually and analytically, showing how individualauthors fit into the larger scheme of discourse in the comparative discipline. Donot use shapeless ‘laundry lists’ of authors, but engage with the specific worksand their relationships to one another, both positive and negative.5. Students find it extremely useful, in preparing for comprehensive examinations,to study in groups. The exercise of formulating questions for others, andresponding to questions others ask, encourages agility of mind and broadens theintellectual ability to work with the materials in innovative ways. But whilegroup work is often useful, students should avoid group-think, that is, taking toonarrow a focus on specific books or issues. Competitive discussion is the bestroute to comprehensive examination preparation.6. Remember the examination will give the student a wide range of choice, so thatthe student is not forced to answer questions relating to topics with which thestudent is unfamiliar. But remember also that answers should not be directed to aspecific faculty member (the one who taught the course) but to all faculty in theComparative Politics field.7. Diversity in question answering is also important. Avoid using the sameconcepts or authors in more than one answer. Slight overlaps are acceptable, butin general each question is designed to elicit different literatures, and studentswill be judged on this criterion.8. Logical coherence of answers to the comprehensive examination questions isimportant. This should go without saying, but a reminder is perhaps useful.If you have further questions, either general or specific,please feel free to consult with members of the Comparative facultywho will be pleased to discuss with you your

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