Department of Sociology

Comprehensive Exam Archive

Purpose and Design of Comprehensive Exams in Ph.D. Graduate Study in Sociology

Comprehensive exams in sociology have two major purposes:

  1. Review the intellectual/theoretical and empirical history of a specialty area in order to be able to teach and perform research in the area with expert knowledge; move beyond the material organized in prior coursework and learn to read independently and critically as one must do as a practicing professional.
    Goals: undergraduate and graduate course development in the specialty area; webinar and short course development in the specialty area; ability to conduct high impact scholarship that convinces journal editors, book editors, and reviewers of its originality, quality, and validity.
  2. Become conversant with the primary intellectual questions in a specialty area and current empirical research on those questions in a way that enables you to speak easily and comfortably in conversation about these issues without notes or materials.
    Target audiences: recruitment committees, conference panelists and attendees, journalists and policymakers, academic lecture audiences, undergraduate and graduate students in the discipline, grant site-visit reviewers.

The format can be highly variable, but should be designed to develop each student’s skills in these areas. Once students no longer take classes, they must learn to continue their education on their own—sociology has no tradition of Continuing Education or a certification system for making sure scholars are up to date in their field. Thus the habit of independent critical reading and reflection must be established in graduate school. As working professionals, students will also be asked to comment on their own work and that of others without time for deep reflection or access to scholarly materials. As such, an expert needs enough familiarity with the extant empirical literature to explain and critique available knowledge at any time to those who might question their work or that of others. This might require some memorization and suggests time or consultation limits on exams.

The purpose of comprehensive exams is not to "weed out" anyone from Ph.D. study or establish a difficult hurdle to overcome in order to prove one’s worthiness, as some students may believe.  The primary purpose is to certify on the basis of performance that the candidate has sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge to be let out into the world to teach and instruct others as a designated UT-trained “expert” in their area of sociology.  As such, the exam is a developmental exercise designed to take each students’ skills to their highest level by creating the space and time for critical reflection on an entire field before narrowing their focus to their dissertation research question(s). We therefore strongly encourage students to take readings hours and minimize other endeavors during the time they spend preparing for the exam.

Most areas accomplish these goals by dividing the comprehensive exam into a part 1 concentrating on an overview of the entire specialty area, and a part 2 concentrating on the specific prior work in the area of the student’s dissertation in order to maximize the impact of the student’s doctoral research. The part 1 reading list should give the student the opportunity to cover enough contemporary research in specialty and generalist journals to design and implement a graduate or undergraduate course in the substantive area. The part 2 reading list should ensure that the student is well-versed in all necessary strains of contemporary scholarship to successfully undertake their dissertation research.

Students must make an appointment to audit their program of work with the graduate program administrator prior to taking comprehensive exams.

Exam templates by area
Faculty list by area
Tips from faculty and students

Crime, Law, and Deviance | Demography | Education | Family | Gender | Health | Politics and Development | Race and Ethnicity | Theory | Work, Occupations, and Organizations

Areas

General Exams

Day Two Exams

General Reading Lists

Day Two Reading Lists

Crime, Law, and Deviance

Fall 15
Fall 14

Fall 15
Fall 14 - Demography

Demography

Fall 18
Fall 17
Fall 16

Fall 15
Spring 15
Fall 14
Spring 14

Spring 18 - Gender/health
Fall 16 - Health
Fall 16 - Work/gender/family
Fall 15 - Family
Spring 15 - Aging
Spring 15 - Child health
Spring 15 - Population health
Fall 14 - Family
Spring 14 - Health

Fall 14
Spring 14

Fall 14 - Family
Spring 14 - Health

Education

Spring 18
Spring 16
Spring 15
Fall 13
Spring 13

Spring 18
Spring 16 - Work
Spring 15 - School context
Fall 13 - Demography
Spring 13 - Health

Family Spring 15 Fall 15 - Caregiving
Spring 15 - Adult health
Gender

Spring 18
Spring 17
Spring 15
Fall 14
Fall 13
Spring 13

Spring 18
Spring 18
Spring 17 - Violence
Spring 15 - Family
Spring 15 - Reproductive labor
Spring 15 - Masculinities
Spring 15 - Welfare state
Fall 14 - LGBTQ youth
Fall 13 - Capitalism
Fall 13 - Family
Fall 13 - Work
Fall 13 - Feminism
Spring 13 - Care work
Spring 13 - Labor
Spring 13 - Masculinities

Spring 17
Spring 15
Fall 14

Spring 17 - Violence
Spring 15 - Family
Spring 15 - Reproductive labor
Spring 15 - Masculinities
Spring 15 - Welfare state
Fall 14 - LGBTQ youth

Health Spring 16
Spring 13
Spring 16 - LGBT
Spring 13 - Aging
Spring 16
Spring 14
Spring 14 - Aging
Politics and Development

Fall 18
Spring 18
Fall 17
Spring 17

Fall 16
Fall 15
Spring 15
Fall 14
Spring 14
Fall 13
Spring 13

Spring 18
Fall 16 - Economics
Fall 16 - Environment
Fall 16 - Immigration
Fall 16 - Movements
Fall 15 - Movements
Spring 15 - State/migration
Fall 14 - Digital movements
Spring 14 - Social ties
Fall 13 - Environment
Fall 13 - Gender
Fall 13 - Movements
Spring 13 - State
Spring 13 - Movements
Spring 13 - Informal networks

Spring 18
Spring 17

Fall 14
Spring 14
Fall 13

Spring 17 - Gender
Fall 14 - Digital movements
Spring 14 - Social ties
Fall 13 - Environment
Fall 13 - Gender
Fall 13 - Movements

Race and Ethnicity Spring 17
Fall 14
Spring 14
Fall 13
Spring 13
Spring 17 - Knowledge
Fall 14 - Immigration
Fall 14 - Postcolonialism
Spring 14 - Intimate relationships
Fall 13 - Health
Spring 13 - Education
Fall 14
Spring 14
Fall 14 - Immigration
Fall 14 - Postcolonialism
Spring 14 - Intimate relationships
Theory Spring 14 Spring 14 - Race Spring 14 Spring 14 - Race
Work, Occupations, and Organizations

Spring 18
Spring 17
Fall 16
Fall 15

Spring 18
Spring 17 - Digital economy
Fall 16 - Inequality
Fall 15 - Work/gender/family

Fall 15


  • Department of Sociology

    The University of Texas at Austin
    305 E 23rd St, A1700
    RLP 3.306
    Austin, TX 78712-1086
    512-232-6300