Guidelines for Graduate Study

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VIII. The Preliminary Examination

  1. The purpose of the Preliminary Thesis Examination is to evaluate the student’s proposal for the thesis project. The student is expected to provide a clear rationale for the soundness and significance of the proposed work, along with evidence of the feasibility of the proposed research.

  2. The Preliminary Examination shall be administered orally and taken within two years of the Qualifying Examination, but no later than six months before the Final Examination. It is critical that the Preliminary Examination be held early enough in the process to incorporate the advice of the committee, which may include significant changes in the overall research plan. A student who delays the Preliminary Examination until the bulk of the research has been completed does so at his/her own peril.

  3. It is expected that the Preliminary Examination will be taken during the normal academic year. The student should not assume the availability for examinations or other meetings of the faculty who do not have academic summer appointments. Meetings during the summer or intercession periods should be sc.eduled (with the approval of the thesis advisor) well in advance.

  4. The Preliminary Examination Committee will consist of at least four faculty members, including at least three members of the Graduate College who are members of NSP. Its membership shall contain faculty from at least two departments. The committee chairperson must be a member of the Graduate College and the Neuroscience Program. Usually, the Chair of the committee is the student’s research supervisor, although this is not necessary. The Neuroscience Program Director will review the makeup of the proposed committee and send official notification to the Graduate College for approval. Exceptions to these rules must be approved by the Director.

  5. At least six weeks prior to the Preliminary Examination (typically once the date has been set), the student must notify the Neuroscience Program Office of the sc.eduled examination. This notification is essential to permit the necessary paperwork to be submitted to the Graduate College.

  6. Because the intent of the examination is to evaluate the proposed research and the student’s preparation for performing this research, the proposal should contain the following elements:

    1. A detailed exposition of the background of the proposed research, including a comprehensive literature survey.

    2. A statement of the problem to be addressed and the specific goals of the research.

    3. An explanation of the project’s overall design.

    4. A description of the methods to be used.

    5. Chapters presenting data and analyses for any fully-completed studies.

    6. Pilot data indicating the feasibility of the remaining proposed research.

    7. A discussion of the potential outcomes of the research.

    The written proposal will form the subject of the oral examination, and is often expanded into the final dissertation. The proposal must be submitted to all members of the committee at least two weeks prior to the oral examination.

  7. Pass/no-pass decisions shall require a unanimous decision of the Preliminary Examination Committee. Failure of the committee to reach unanimous decision will be reported promptly by the Committee Chair to the Executive Committee via the Program Director. The Executive Committee will assess the situation and determine future action.

  8. Students who do not pass the preliminary examination may, with the approval of the majority of the committee, retake the examination a single time within six months of the original examination. Should the student not pass the Preliminary Examination, he/she should solicit from his/her committee members, individually and collectively, suggestions for improvement. Retakes are subject to review by the Executive Committee. In particular, the Executive Committee must approve any changes in the preliminary Examination Committee prior to the retake.

  9. The Executive Committee is responsible for ensuring that all Graduate College regulations are followed regarding the Preliminary Examination.

Previous: The Qualifying ExaminationNext: The Final Thesis Examination

Last Revised May, 2007