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The goals of the Preliminary Examination, held in the second year, are: to (1) demonstrate students' independence as researchers and teachers, and (2) provide a benchmark for advancing to candidacy, which is required for continuation in the doctoral program. In early January, area chairs meets with students to go over the prelim process; by March 15th, students submit course topics to areas chair(s) for approval; and by May 15th the Prelim components are due.

The Prelims consists of  two major components: Course Portfolio and Research Proposal. Both components are due by May 15 of the student’s second year. Area faculty are available to answer questions, but should not be expected to read drafts. Students may consult with others as well (e.g., classmates), but the final products should be their own independent work.

Course Portfolio
Students will develop an undergraduate psychology course related to Personality and Social Contexts (P&SC). The course content should include perspectives from Psych 654 as well as Psych 854/855. In addition, the course should cover perspectives Personality & Social Contexts and Gender & Feminist Psychology. Course choices and plans should reflect integration of materials from both Psychology and interdisciplinary Women's & Gender Studies.

In order to ensure that students do not spend time developing a course that doesn't meet expectations, students must receive approval of their course topic from the prelim coordinator by March 15 of their second year. The prelim coordinator will evaluate whether the course topic sufficiently incorporates issues that are relevant to both fields.

The course portfolio must include the following elements:

  • Detailed syllabus that includes a description of the course, its goals and objectives, major assignments, and schedule of readings and topics to be discussed throughout the semester.
  • PowerPoint slides, with lecture notes, for two of the course periods. Choose course periods (other than Day 1 when you introduce the syllabus) that demonstrate some of the broad-based theories that underlie the course.
  • A synopsis of readings and learning goals for each individual class period, with attention to how the readings support the learning goals.

Research Proposal
Students will develop a proposal for a research project that you would like to conduct but have not yet carried out. This work needs to be your own independent, student-initiated work.

Proposals should integrate interdisciplinary perspectives and should include a literature review, specific aims or hypotheses, proposed methods, and a budget. Below are the required sections, with recommended lengths.

  • Project Overview: This is like an abstract or overview of the project, stating in simple terms the overall goals of the research and the research questions it will address. Your specific aims can be included here (1/2 to 1 page total).
  • Background/Literature Review: This section should show that you understand the literature. It should also logically lead up to the aims and/or hypotheses that will follow (4-6 pages).
  • Method: This section should include participants, procedures, materials/measures, and analytic framework. You should include a detailed analysis plan specifying how you will analyze your data to answer your research questions and/or test your hypotheses (4-6 pages).
  • Project Budget: Include a budget table, with language that justifies expenses; be specific. (1-3 pages)
  • References

Evaluation Process
The Personality and Social Contexts faculty will evaluate all aspects of the prelim portfolio. The grades will consist of pass and revise. Students must have all materials in the portfolio reach a grade of pass before they will be considered having fulfilled the preliminary exam requirement.  Students must complete their preliminary exam requirement and all of the other requirements for candidacy before the beginning of the fall semester of their third year in order to ensure funding. After submitting their portfolios, students will receive feedback from the faculty within four weeks. Students who have to revise part of their portfolios will be given a deadline by the prelim coordinator for submitting revised materials. Failure to successfully complete the prelim requirement may result in discontinuation of the student from the program.

Additional details can be found in the student handbook.