Field Exam Roundtable Spring 2013

March 30th, 2013 by Rachel Mazique

On March 1st, the PSC hosted a roundtable on the field exam.

Dr. Kristen Hogan presented on library resources for conducting research and organizing our notes.

3 graduate students shared their recent successful exam experiences, as well as tips and strategies for preparing for the exam.

Here are some notes for those of you who could not make it!

Student #1:

  • may find inspiration for list from MA Report
  • this student experienced lots of flexibility in creating the reading list (19th cent and Renaissance)
  • looked to list on English Dept. website

  • may want to use MA report chair as Field Exam (FE) chair
  •  3 criteria for picking FE professors:
  1. knew and had a good relationship with

  2. expertise

  3. interested in promoting what he cared about

  • FE is about your research but also coverage
  1. be open to books you may not want to read

  • When it came to reading process
  1. This student used 4 notebooks–handwritten

  2. made entry on every item on list–write down your own thoughts in addition to summary

  3. not being on a computer allows for less distraction but did type up important entries from notebooks

  4. another possible tactic: read a book, write a mini-reaction paper

  • very important to meet regularly with faculty members

    • did have 1 member skype in

Test is not just 1 day but also how you came in for these in-between meetings

  • They want to see you talk consistently and knowledgeably about your field
  • Test begins every time meet with the professors–our ability to communicate
  • our ability to solidify the concepts we need to think about; these meetings are also important to help us strategize
  • To familiarize ourselves with their questioning types–their critical cruxes: formal aspects of the texts; minute details from texts, impt. content
  • need to meet regularly to know what their styles of questioning are

Be sure to ask what they want to see on exam day

  1. This student’s professor wanted to see that she had read everything… “everyone will pass”
  2. Go into the test confident; with the first couple of questions, really reach with the answers to build momentum; and show that we know what we are talking about

don’t freak out about passing

  • be confident

  • in 1st questions, push yourself to prove to examiners that you have self-confidence


Student #2:

also non-traditional list–needed to create her own

  • all criticism was from E3W list

  • half of 19th and half of 20th century

Committee formed to cover all areas and whole time period

  • keep in mind their research interests

Need a strategy to stop adding to list

  • faculty meeting will often end up with 5-10 more readings added

  • add those to prospectus list

  • be firm to your FE committee members

Need to stop reading when you get close to exam

  • you can focus on selections from texts if you need to (instead of entire books)

    • faculty may like the specificity–will know what you question you on

Set your date and schedule

  • pick week of exam

  • pick out days you can’t read and make schedule when to read based on that

Her reading process:

  • made running annotated bibliography–used comments (in review section) on Word

  • also used 3X5 note cards and color coded

    • theory, novels, history, poetry, film differentiated

    • summary in 1-2 sent. and bullet pts of useful insights

    • also identified texts that could be referred to–really useful for prospectus process

    • had index cards for each text; color coded by novel to theory to poetry
    • In front, author, title, the 2 sentence summary, then 2 things to say about the text during the exam
    • On the back, how the book relates to other texts
    • A good tool for practice testing herself
    • arranged works into her own categories (orientalism, economics of imperialism, etc.)

    • helped faculty form questions (they will probably ask to see your notes)

Need more than 1 week of review (she got sick the week before FE)

Need maybe 2 weeks. Take care of health closer to exam.


Student #3:

  • Situation of family balance–wanted to finish FE before having a baby

  • guiding principle was knowing that he had a general idea for his dissertation, a motif he was working with, so he read to benefit his dissertation idea
  • spent summer (3 months) focused on this

  • make sure to take a class with all committee members

    • don’t take this as a chance to meet a new prof

  • his FE list had a general vision of diss.

    • he really focused on texts he could use for prospectus/diss.

  • His reading process:

    • typing notes is helpful b/c committee may want to see them

    • be careful of getting distracted on computer

    • use book reviews for secondary texts, esp. one you may not be excited to read all the way through (as a supplement)

    • some books need more time than others; schedule that in

    • Ulysses.. read it for 2 weeks… talked about it for 2 minutes.
    • try to focus on primary b/c prospectus will need lots of secondary sources

    • find activities to blow off steam

    • go to library and you will get stuff done

  • Actual FE is about 1 ½ hours long
  • the opportunity to get 3 amazing scholars together and to talk deeply; take advantage of this!

  • mock field exam is a great idea
  • have fellow students ask you questions–really helps calm nerves


Dr. Hogan

MLA International Bibliography–put together by 100 unpaid people thru MLA

  • field specific info/focus; separate from EBSCO

strongly suggest proximity searching

  • use “Help” key in databases to find out how; differs b/w databases

RSS feed option

More details on handout



asked for actual questions the test-takers had answered during the exam

  • be given a poem and give a reading (take your time for this; ask to have it read aloud)

  • define your terms

  • define your methodology against theories you have read

  • Tip: if you don’t want it to be a prospectus exam, don’t give answers that push it that way

  • One student said she talked mostly about primary texts, more formalist questions

  • Each committee member took 15 minutes to ask questions
  • read your committee members’ books to reference in answers

  • You have a part in guiding the FE based on your questions

Teaching: how to balance it

  • use the summer to avoid teaching issues

  • be honest with students: tell them you may not get papers back as quickly

  • do prep work for class (usually 309K but maybe 306) in the summer

  • choose to TA over AI over the summer

  • students can be very understanding if you are honest with them; set up your grading turn-around time so they aren’t surprised


Dr. Hogan provided us with a handout. Here’s what she had to say about offering her assistance:

This handout is a starter kit that may benefit from some dialogue if you are working deeply in a particular area or with a particular tool. I’m happy to be in touch by email, phone, and in person as you need strategy support for your research. – Dr. Kristen Hogan

The alt-ac track

September 9th, 2010 by Stephanie

This informative post at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, by Dr. Bethany Nowviskie of the UV Library’s Scholars’ Lab, discusses how to negotiate an alternate academic position, which can be any of a “broad set of hybrid, humanities-oriented professions centered in and around the academy, in which there are rich opportunities to put deep—often doctoral-level—training in scholarly disciplines to use.” It doesn’t, however, tell you how to get one. Check back for more on that later.

Recommended Journals

August 15th, 2010 by Stephanie

This list was conceived in response to questions at a Professional Skills panel about how to select journals for publication. Students were interested to know which journals are the most recognized in their fields, and how to choose among journals that have a more general audience and those that are more specialized.

The Professional Skills committee asked faculty members in each interest group to name the most important journals in their field.  The resulting lists are not ranked nor are they exhaustive, but we hope they will serve as a guide to help you identify possible publication venues.  They can provide a starting point for your own research into the field as you decide where to submit your work.


PMLA: Papers of the Modern Language Association of America

ELH: English Literary History


MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly: A Journal of Literary History

Modern Philology

College Literature

Critical Inquiry


Renaissance Quarterly

JEGP, A Medieval Studies Journal

Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies


Chaucer Review

Studies in Philology

Philological Quarterly

Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Studies in the Age of Chaucer

New Medieval Literatures

18th Century Studies

Eighteenth Century Studies

The Age of Johnson

Eighteenth Century Fiction

Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture

The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation



Eighteenth-Century Life

Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies (formerly British Journal…)

19th Century Studies

Nineteenth-Century Literature

Novel: A Forum on Fiction

Review of English Studies

Studies in Romanticism

Victorian Studies

Modern and Contemporary Literature

Modern Fiction Studies

Journal of Modern Literature

Twentieth Century Literature


American Literature

American Literature

American Literary History

American Quarterly

Early American Literature

Arizona Quarterly

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance

American Transcendental Quarterly

American Literary Realism

Studies in American Fiction


Bibliography and Textual Studies

The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society

Studies in Bibliography

Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America

Book History

STS Journal: Textual Cultures (and its predecessor “Text”)

Publishing History

Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature

Comparative Literary Studies

Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature


Critical Inquiry


Theatre Journal**

Shakespeare Quarterly**

Ethnic and Third World

Callaloo: Journal of African American Literary Studies

SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures

Postcolonial Studies

Race & Class

Public Culture

Research in African Literatures

Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies

Eire / Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies

American Indian Quarterly

Law, Literature, and Culture

Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities

Law and Literature

Law Culture and the Humanities



Rhetorical Studies

Rhetoric Society Quarterly

Rhetoric and Public Affairs


Philosophy and Rhetoric

Quarterly Journal of Speech

Technical Communication

Journal of Business and Technical Communication

Technical Communication Quarterly

Technical Communication

Computers and Composition

Journal of Technical Writing and Communication

Writing Studies

College English

College Composition and Communication

Written Communication

Research in the Teaching of English

JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory

Women and Gender Studies


Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society

Feminist Studies


Getting Published

August 15th, 2010 by Stephanie

Notes from the Getting Published Panel

21 April 2010

Guest Speakers: Kurt Heinzelman and Jean Cannon (TSLL), Liz Scala (Exemplaria), Ann Cvetkovich and Hala Herbly (GLQ), Dustin Stewart.



1/20 chance of acceptance. Editors often work with the writer, asking for revisions etc.

They publish short and long articles.

Often receive articles which do not belong in this specific journal.

It is important that the writer has already looked at submissions guidelines and followed them exactly.


Always uses electronic communication and documents.

The editor only sends out essays to readers that they might realistically publish. So if you reach that stage, you are well off.

The paper should have gone through some editorial process before it goes to journal.

You must start publishing process 12-18 months before going on job market in order to have something accepted before you are in interviews.



This journal doesn’t have labor pool of readers. Rather, readers are chosen by article.

Essays must speak to people across disciplines and make a contribution to queer theory or queer studies.

Same amount of submissions (as TSLL) but more selective.


Cover Letter and Submission

Include a simple cover letter with contact information — short and to the point.

Be professional. Mention that your essay is not submitted anywhere else. The journal expects exclusive rights to article; double submission is not ok.

Guidelines: supply cover page with name and affiliation, but do not put your name on the document bc they might have to send it out with out id info.

Include your institution, but not your status (Ph.D. candidate, etc.). This is not required and could potentially hinder you.

Only submit to one journal, but after 3 months it is acceptable to inquire as to status of your article, and this will not jeopardize your submission.

Structure and timing is diff at every journal, this may affect your timing – the editor might let you know right away if its being reviewed or not. In some cases you might get good readers review then be shut down.

Revise and Resubmit

Don’t be discouraged if you are told to “revise and resubmit”, even articles from senior scholars benefits from the review process.

Some graduate students don’t do this. But a revise and resubmit letter means you have already gotten through many hoops.

As long as you understand the feedback and do what they say, you are published.

They want it to work at this point, but you dont know where it goes after resubmitting.

Some publishers have put online a timeline which shows the progress of your essay through their system (though not often accurate).

Editor may make solicitations from conference talks. But the talk must be significantly expanded and made into an article.


Choosing a Journal

Look at MLA diectory of periodicals, but it is not updated. Good place to start, then go get most recent info from the individual journals.

Do search by the text and author that you are working on – if a journal comes up repeatedly, that’s the place to publich. Then make sure you consider and reference those articles, whose authors may be your readers.

The journal wants to publish scholars who read it.

Different journals have their “biggest obstacles” at different points in the project. So the time your article has spent with the journal does not necessarily correlate to your chances of publication.


Other Advice

Approach rejection without paranoia; embrace rejection. Review process is one of the most helpful thing you can do for your work – it will be read by top scholars in the field

Know the culture of the journal; this will tell you a lot more than the submission guidelines. Be the audience.

Have a running list of where you might like to publish. Keep up with the articles in that journal, so you can reply to articles on your subject, or decide to take more time.

Journals have Facebook pages, or rss feeds so you can follow their work.

Consider that the existence of the journal encourages work in the field. For some subfields the editor acts as facilitator rather than gatekeeper.

Grad students often submit articles outside their primary project bc it is easier to finish as a stand-alone piece of writing, and it is easier to deal with potential rejection.

Know the preferred citation method of the journals that most interest you. Write in that style now to save time later.

The Prospectus

August 15th, 2010 by Stephanie

Notes from the Prospectus Panel

29 January 2010

Guest Speakers: Emily Bloom, Stephanie Odom, Ann Cvetkovich, Matt Cohen.


Started with MA, had a 3-year timeline to Prospectus, defended Spring 2009.

Papers from seminars in her first three years contributed to the eventual dissertation project, but the collective direction of these papers was dictated by common questions rather than a thesis or clearly definable approach.

The deadline for continuing fellowship forced her to create a concise dissertation proposal document. This saved her for writing the prospectus, which was essentially this document plus re-vision of notes from her earlier papers.

When beginning the prospectus writing, E joined a writing group with students who were already writing chapters. Great to see what it is to actually write the diss. plus she got good feedback in a situation that was like a low stakes defense.

For the defense – get detailed instructions from your own committee.

Her advisers came from earlier classes. She chose a prospectus chair knowing this person would not be the diss chair. It is often this papers directed towards question of radio in IRish modernism


Switching concentrations extended her coursework.

In the fourth year – she wrote draft in November. defended November in following year. (2008)

The draft S shared with our panel is the 7th version. She learned a lot about writing process.

Recommends writing group! —as a support system, with students at different stages.

Prospectus serves as ladder that you later kick away, or perhaps use parts of.

The task of the prospectus for S was describing complicated problem.

A big part was deciding which intellectual conversation to enter.

For a time it looked like historical dissertation, but realized that wasn’t the kind of work she wants to do, and it doesn’t answer to her sense of urgency, which has to do with teaching.

Group conversation with peers allowed her to reach these conclusions and to rehearse the exam.


Prospectus unlike other documents you create in grad school. less public and more about ideas than prose.

Audience is your committee, and yourself

Write a “zero draft,” which is not polished and includes everything. In fact the first few drafts of prospectus might have this feel.

A zero draft will include topics, questions, and conversation.

The Field Exam and the Prospectus should be thought of together, not merely sequentially.

The Field Exam should help you understand the field and choose conversation.

The Prospectus is better than a conventional lit review because it points more to an intervention or interesting place of cross over.

Statement of the problem also indicates directions for reading.

Attempting prospectus before or during field exam will make reading more focused, more active, rather than encourage a sense that you must read everything before you say anything.

Reading lists come out of prospectus drafts.

Always a process, so must work with committee to set date. not too early but don’t want to delay..

Think about timing your deadlines with the end of semesters, fellowship applications, etc. some only happen once a year.


Milestones, like the Prospectus, mark bureaucratic stages that split up overlapping and ongoing processes.

Function of prospectus is to reflect your process to you.

You learn how to develop a coherent project, a process you will repeat in your career.

The Prospectus should contain an idea-driven picture of the conversation, not a lit review.

It is important to be honest with your committee. They have the answers as to timing and strategies etc.

The Prospectus establishes the key terms and questions of your project. Consider keywords—they may even be words that bother you—and keywords often carry bibliographies with them.

This process serves as framework and practice for building frameworks in the future


How long should it be?

Concerning length, the Prospectus may be baggier in the beginning. Later it will shrink as chapter descriptions get more focused, or as sections concerning field-exam type stuff disappears.

For workshops, early drafts should allow for some possibilities, so readers can understand possible directions and probably add to it.

The Prospectus is not a contract.

Should you show early prospectus drafts to only one person?

Wayne prefers you work w one person at this stage. This works in certain situations but it can be useful to mess with this method. Also, some students’ intellectual work stands right between two or more faculty so the student must figure out how best to work with several faculty.

How is the Prospectus related to a book proposal?

A book proposal is usually a 10p, double spaced description of book. Includes chapter outline. May not include bib so you can’t put footnotes. You must discuss market, audience, competitors, classes in which it could be used. The book proposal resembles fellowship writing more than Prospectus writing.

Seconding Stephanie’s welcome…

July 15th, 2010 by Meghan

Welcome to the Professional Skills Committee’s blog! We’ll have content from this past year up shortly.



June 2nd, 2010 by Stephanie

First (!) post from the Prof. Skills Committee’s new blog on the University Blog Service. We plan to use this blog to archive the resources we have accumulated over the years and the conversations we have at our panels and workshops each semester — on Writing the Dissertation, Field Exams, Getting Published, the Prospetus, and more.

Check back for more soon!