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Learning Goals for Examinations

Milestones and their Learning Goals

First Doctoral Exam - Second semester into summer of first year
This milestone is a paper that is begun as a part of a required lab course. It involves analytic writing about a concept of each student’s choosing in social/personality psychology from the field’s beginning, moving forward in time, depicting its development, critical turning points, and evolving methodological approaches in research. An original source for the concept is chosen (a book or article where the concept first appeared) and then five additional sources that depict the concept's advancement through time are chosen as the sources to be discussed in the paper. Ordinarily completed in June of the first year in the program, to remain in good standing in the program, students must successfully complete the First Doctoral Examination no later than the end of their second year in the program. (For details, see Critical Social/Personality Handbook, Appendix B,
Second-Year Project - Second semester of first year to beginning of third year
The Second Year Project is an opportunity for students to conduct their own research before getting to the dissertation stage. Some Second-Year Research Projects are part of larger ongoing research projects conducted with faculty. Thinking about this project typically begins in the second semester of the students' first year with students ranging in their start-times of actual research for it. Some collect data for it during the summer between their first and second years, while others collect the data during their second year.
While the research, data collection, data analysis, and/or writing of the project is being done, students attend a required weekly Second Year Project seminar with their cohort. This seminar acts as a space for students and a professor to talk and support each other on their projects as they do them. (For details, see Critical Social/Personality Handbook, Appendix B,
Second Doctoral Exam - Third year to beginning of fourth year
This is a critical literature review that is typically begun after the second-year project is completed (first semester of the students' third year) and should be completed within the next eight months (i.e., the beginning of students' fourth year). Course electives, participation in research groups, and research involvement on faculty projects often frame the topic of the Second Doctoral Examination and even the Dissertation.
 For some students, the second doctoral paper becomes the literature review for the dissertation. For others the Second Doctoral Exam serves as a broader review of a topic that leads the student to a more specific question and literature for their dissertation, and for other students it bears no relationship to their dissertation research.  For their Second Doctoral Examination, Social/Personality Psychology students have the option of taking the examination as originally conceived (Option I) or have a second option of preparing and taking an oral examination (Option II). (For details, see Critical Social/Personality Handbook, Appendix C.
Option I: The second doctoral examination is a review paper that poses a conceptual or methodological research question in a topic area. In the attempt to answer that question, it reviews the literatures relevant to that question, and suggests new directions for future research and revisions of a particular theory or theories relevant to the topic.
Option II - Oral Examination: Students will select two areas of scholarship within the field of social/personality psychology and generate a reading list for each in consultation with a faculty committee of three GC doctoral faculty chosen by the students. The Chair must be a member of the Critical Social/Personality Doctoral faculty.
Dissertation – Fourth year to program completion
Soon after completion of the Second Doctoral Examination, students prepare a brief proposal of a dissertation topic. The next step is the preparation of the formal Dissertation Proposal and the selection of a three-member Dissertation Committee.
Critical Social/Personality students design dissertations that are rooted in the history of psychology, framed in classic and critical theory. They typically rely upon multiple methods (qualitative and quantitative) to generate original theoretical and empirical understandings and/or policy implications.
The composition of the Dissertation Committee is of utmost importance and thus worth considerable reflection and consultation between the student and primary advisor. Ideally, the Dissertation Committee is Chaired by the student’s intellectual mentor, who may change at this point, as well as two other faculty whose expertise complement those of the Chair and also provide necessary methodological support. If you would like to invite a scholar to be a member of your dissertation committee who is not on the Graduate Center Psychology doctoral faculty, you may petition to include this person, specifying his/her area of expertise and submitting a copy of his/her CV to the Executive Office.
The Dissertation Proposal must be approved by the three member faculty Dissertation Committee. Following this preliminary approval, the document is presented and discussed at a meeting of the student and her/his full Committee, which then confers formal approval of the Dissertation Proposal when they deem it ready. After the Dissertation Proposal is approved, the student must apply to the Graduate Center Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval to conduct the proposed research, which must be granted before the student begins the dissertation research.
The student is then launched into the actual doing and writing of the dissertation. When a final draft is approved by all three members of the Dissertation Committee and Evaluation Approval forms are submitted, it is then sent for review to two outside faculty readers. A date for a Dissertation Hearing or Exam is set. At that meeting, the student presents her/his work and responds to questions posed by all the readers. At the end of the meeting, the Dissertation may be approved as is, or the student may be asked to make additional changes in the document. When all is finally approved, the student files the Dissertation with the Dissertation Librarian for the Graduate School.