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Qualifying Papers

  • (a) There are two qualifying papers (QPs). The first (QP1) is a paper of 5000 words (including all notes and references), with leeway of plus or minus 500 words, due at midnight before the first day of Spring semester in the second year. The second (QP2) is a paper of 7500 words (including all notes and references), with leeway of plus or minus 500 words, due at midnight before the first day of Spring semester in the third year. Students should deliver a full draft of the paper to their supervisor by November 30, so that the supervisor can provide them with substantive comments. The abstract is due exactly two weeks before the QP is due, but students are encouraged to submit it by December 15. Students may submit QPs at any time before the due date and are encouraged to do so. 

  • (b) Where a student takes a leave of absence before registering for a QP, the date for completing the QP will be advanced by the period of the leave.

  • (c) No other extensions will be granted except for a serious medical or other emergency. A student who does not submit a QP on time will fail the examination.

  • (d) Students are encouraged to base a QP on a course paper but this is not required. QPs may be based on work done before the student joined the Program; for example, undergraduate work; MA paper/thesis.

  • (e) The QP2 should be on a different topic from the QP1. (The two QPs may be in the same area, however; for example, both may be in Ethics, or both in the Philosophy of Language.)

  • (f) The QPs should demonstrate the necessary skills for conducting sustained research and writing at the level of professional philosophy. In particular, a QP should:

  1. make plain the philosophical motivation for the choice of topic;

  2. show a thorough knowledge of the relevant literature and lines of argumentation;

  3. show an ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate positions and arguments and to formulate and defend a philosophical thesis; (iv) handle references in the style of any leading philosophy journal. The ideas in the QP need not be original but the QP must reflect the author’s own working through of those ideas. “Writing at the level of professional philosophy” means writing with the sort of clarity, structure and “scholarly niceties” expected in a journal article. A QP will pass if it is judged to meet these criteria sufficiently. Otherwise it will fail.

  • (g) The Executive Officer will appoint a Qualifying Paper Coordinator (QPC) to administer the QPs and a four-member “Qualifying Paper Advisory Committee” to assist in the administration in the circumstances specified in (l) below.

  • (h) Each student shall have a supervisor to assist the student in preparing a QP. The student should, in consultation with the QPC, seek the agreement of a faculty member to be the student’s supervisor. Where the QP is based on a course paper, the course giver may be the supervisor, but this is not required. The supervisor may be a recent visitor. The supervisor for the QP2 must be different from that for the QP1. The student must notify the QPC of a topic and supervisor before a date early in Fall semester designated by the Executive Officer. The QPC will register the topic and supervisor with the Program’s Assistant Program Officer.

  • (i) As soon as possible after registration, and at the latest two weeks before the QP is due, the student should provide the QPC with an abstract of the QP of no more than 200 words. An expert examiner will be appointed on the basis of this abstract alone. Therefore it is important that it accurately describes the nature and content of the proposed QP (see (k) below).

  • (j) The student is entitled to help with a QP from the QPC. Once the abstract has been submitted and the second examiner appointed (see (k) below), the student can obtain this help by sending a draft – just once - that has been approved by the supervisor.

  • (k) A QP will be examined by at least the supervisor and one other faculty member. The second examiner will be appointed by the QPC upon receipt of the QP abstract and should be an expert in the field of the QP. Examining by the second examiner will be, so far as possible, “blind.” So the QP submitted to the QPC for examination should not contain the student’s name or similar identifications.

  • (l) Where the supervisor and second examiner disagree over whether a QP should pass, the QPC will appoint a third examiner. The QPC, acting jointly with two members of the Advisory Committee, may decide to appoint a fourth (or even fifth) examiner. All additional examiners will also be expert in the field of the QP and will also, so far as possible, examine “blind.”

  • (m) It is the responsibility of the QPC to recommend an examination result for a QP to the Executive Committee for decision. Where the supervisor and second examiner disagreed over whether a QP should pass and so a third examiner was appointed, this recommendation is made jointly with the two members of the Advisory Committee who participated in the decision whether to appoint a fourth examiner; see (l) above. Recommendations are made solely on the basis of the examiners’ reports

  • (n) Students who fail are required to repeat, with the paper due on the day before the first day of the following Fall semester. Students may, should they wish, repeat with the same topics and supervisors, with the permission of the QPC. Should a student fail twice, the Evaluations Committee will bring this to the attention of the Executive Committee and in the absence of considerations strong enough to override, will recommend that the student be dropped from the program.


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Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center, CUNY

365 Fifth Ave., Rm. 7113
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212-817-8615
Executive Officer: Prof. Iakovos Vasiliou
Deputy Executive Officer: Prof. John Greenwood
Director of Admissions: Prof. Graham Priest
Director of Placement: Prof. Stephen Neale
Assistant Program Officer: Natile Clarke