Qualifying Paper and Comprehensive Exams

Qualifying Paper

The qualifying paper will be written and assessed as part of course requirements and the course grade for EDCI 8650 Curriculum and Instruction in Contemporary Urban Settings; students will further obtain approval of the final draft of the paper by their dissertation chair and committee members.  The student is responsible for submitting a copy of the paper to their committee members as an opportunity for faculty to better know their scholarly thinking and writing.  The student and the dissertation chair hold a conference (either in-person or if necessary, virtually) to discuss feedback on the paper to include review of writing strengths/needs and determine next steps and possibilities, or, further reading/research needed. If there is a significant discrepancy/problem with the students’ work, the chair should bring the problem to the attention of the EdD program committee to establish a growth plan.

Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive exam consists of written exam questions pertaining to the student’s area of research and study and occurs at the midpoint of the program. It is advisable that the EdD student holds a minimum of a 3.30 GPA in order to attempt comprehensive exams.

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is for doctoral students to demonstrate their knowledge of theory and research within their specific concentration areas, empirical research, and social justice as well as their facility in writing scholarly text using APA 7th edition format for  citations of theory and research.

Members of the Dissertation Committee assess and evaluate the doctoral student’s responses. Successful completion of the written portion of the exams precedes an oral defense with dissertation committee members for final determination of pass or fail. Per EdD Program Policy (see Graduate Catalog) students may attempt the comprehensive exams twice only.

Once a doctoral student has successfully completed their “comps” they are considered ready to begin preparation of the prospectus – or dissertation study proposal.

The comprehensive exam consists of three questions, 1) research-oriented, 1) content-oriented, and 1) program -oriented (curriculum and instruction focused on social justice). The Dissertation Committee Chairperson facilitates preparation for the exams (discussion, consultation, reading lists beyond coursework in your area) as well as the development of the content and research questions for each student.  The Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Program Committee develops and distributes the third question to Chairs prior to exam administration.  

Each student is responsible for individual work with original submissions. Turnitin Software will be employed.

Administration of Written Portion

  • Comprehensive exams are administered in a take-home format between the fall and spring semesters with approximately 35 days allowed for completion of the written portion.
  • Comprehensive exams are conducted over the semester break between Year 2 and Year 3 of the program.
  • The dissertation committee chair is responsible for developing the research and content oriented questions; the program oriented question will be developed by the EdD Program Committee members and provided to the committee chairs.
  • Students receive their three exam questions on the last class day of the program Fall (year) 2 courses from their dissertation committee chair.
  • Written responses are to be submitted to the dissertation chair (cc Dr. Sullivan) on the first class day of Spring (year) 2 via email.
  • Written responses comprise a minimum of 10 and maximum of 25 pages in length, exclusive of references, for each of the three questions formatted in APA 7th edition.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are designed to assist in creating and analyzing text, code, video, audio, and other multimedia. Use of these resources in your coursework comes with benefits and risks. For all portions of your comprehensive exams, the rules for AI usage are as follows: You are not allowed to use generative AI tools like ChatGPT for any portion of your comprehensive exam, including both the written and presentation phase. Prohibited AI usage includes idea or text generation, writing or revising your work, development of media assets, or data analysis and presentation. Any unapproved use within the course might be considered a breach of academic honesty. While exercising responsible and ethical engagement with AI is a skill you may hone over time, your unique human insights, critical thinking, and creative contributions remain pivotal to your learning experiences and success.
  • Collaboration with program colleagues or alumni, and/or with professional colleagues, editors, or tutors is not permitted in preparation, writing, or proofing/revising the comprehensive exams.  Your submission will be processed through Turnitin, a plagiarism-checking software.

Oral Defense

  • Once the written comprehensive exams are deemed satisfactory by the dissertation committee, the oral defense may take place.
  • Oral defenses of the comprehensive exam should be scheduled in Fall 2 for sometime in Spring 2 prior to approximately 15 February.
  • Electronic means such as Webex/Zoom are acceptable in conducting the oral defense.
  • Upon successful oral defense, this form must be submitted to Dr. Sullivan: Comprehensive Exam Report / Link to GSS 


  • If there is a significant discrepancy or problem with a student’s written submission, the chair of the dissertation committee should bring the problem to the attention of the EdD program directors and/or committee and scheduling the oral defense should be delayed until a revision plan is in place.
  • The dissertation committee may request revisions on a maximum of 2 of 3 questions. Should all three questions require significant written revision, the student must retake comprehensive exams.
  • The written and oral portions of a second attempt at comprehensive exams must be successfully completed by either the first class day of the next fall semester, or, during the following year’s usual comprehensive exam administration; in which case, the student will join the course sequence of the following year’s cohort for the remainder of their program in order for the student to remain in the program.
  • Per Program Policy (see Graduate Catalog) students may attempt the comprehensive exams twice only.