Qualifying Exam Applied Social PhD

General information about qualifying examinations at the University of Guelph can be accessed at in the current graduate calendar

The Applied Social PhD Qualifying Examination will take place no later than the 5th semester following the MA degree. Its three broad goals are to demonstrate the student's knowledge of the subject matter of Applied Social Psychology, ability to integrate material derived from his/her studies, and ability and promise in research.

Qualifying Examination Committee 

Graduate Studies Requirements

The Examination Committee, appointed by the chair or director of the academic unit concerned, consists of five members:

  • The Chair of the Qualifying Examination is the Department Chair, Graduate Coordinator, or designated faculty member (see Note 1).
  • Two members of the graduate faculty who are not members of the Advisory Committee (see Note 2)
  • Two members of the Advisory Committee
  • Normally, at least one of these members must be from outside the department in which the student is registered (see Note 3 ) 

NOTE 1: The Chair of the Qualifying Examination is responsible for all arrangements (setting of meetings, initiation of communication with/between committee members and the student, decisions about format of communication, etc.). The Chair may not be on the Advisory Committee.

NOTE 2: For students in Applied Social Psychology, one member should be primarily from the AS area; it is strongly recommended that the other member should not be from the AS area.

NOTE 3: The outside member may be a member of the Advisory Committee.

Typical Committee for an Applied Social Student

Typically the qualifying examination committee of AS students is composed of:

  • Department Chair, Graduate Coordinator, or designated faculty member
  • Advisor
  • Outside member of Advisory Committee
  • Applied Social area member not on Advisory Committee
  • Non-Applied Social area member not on Advisory Committee 

It should be noted that the Qualifying Examination is an examination by the department, not by the Advisory Committee or the AS area. Therefore, the composition of the Qualifying Examination Committee should not be based on the proposed dissertation topic or the topic of the Qualifying Examination paper.

Qualifying Examination Components 

The Qualifying Examination in Applied Social Psychology consists of two components: (1) The Qualifying Examination Paper (QP) and a (2) Research Dossier.

1.  The Qualifying Examination Paper (QP):

1.1 Process of Development

As early as possible following the constitution of the student's Advisory Committee, the student will confer with her/his Advisor about the Qualifying Examination Committee's composition and the proposed QP topic, and will then submit the Qualifying Examination Committee Appointment form to the Chair of the Department. Following approval of the composition of the Qualifying Examination Committee, the student will meet individually with the members of the Committee to finalize the topic of the paper and discuss relevant literatures. As a courtesy, the student will also send a statement about the composition of the Committee and the topic of the QP to the AS area faculty.

The student then submits a proposal for the Qualifying Paper's content and structure (2-5 pages plus list of references) to the Qualifying Examination Committee, and meets with the Committee to receive comments and suggestions. The outline should clearly specify the topic and the scope of the paper and identify the literature(s) that will be reviewed (brief description(s), some examples of references) (see 3. under Criteria for Evaluation). It may also include a brief preliminary statement about possible critiques and issues (see 1. and 2. under Criteria for Evaluation). Once the Committee approves the proposal, the members sign the approval form and the student may commence work on the QP. It is recommended that a tentative date for submission of the paper (to be within 3 months of the proposal’s approval) and the oral examination (to be within 2 weeks of the paper’s submission) be set when the committee approves the proposal. The paper must be submitted within three months of approval, but the tentative deadline can be moved as long as it continues to meet the 3 months timeline. 

1.2 Focus and Goals

The QP can focus on a topic that is unrelated to the dissertation or it can focus on the broader literature related to the proposed dissertation topic. It cannot be a review of the literature that relates most closely to the proposed dissertation topic. In other words, the QP cannot be transferred directly into the dissertation's literature review. 

The student will submit a paper that demonstrates the ability to integrate theory, research, and/or practice within the field of applied social psychology. The paper may address theoretical, metatheoretical, methodological, epistemological, historical and professional issues as appropriate. It should include a review and critical analysis of the literature and directions for future research in the area. The paper should be deemed worthy of consideration for publication in a reputable journal.

1.3 Criteria for Evaluation (Expectations)

1.  Conceptual & Integrative Skills: Demonstrates a thorough grasp of the subject matter and insightfully integrates theory, research, and/or practice. Generates novel but solidly grounded ideas and concepts which are extrapolated from and extend the established literature.

2.  Critical Analysis: Presents concise and original critical analysis based on sound logical and/or empirical foundations. Identifies technical, conceptual, and procedural flaws and recommends appropriate remedies.

3.   Coverage of Research Literature: Summarizes and references a wide and representative cross-section of the relevant literature and presents this literature concisely. 

Each of the three criteria must be addressed acceptably. 

Minimum expected length is 30 pages and maximum length is 40 pages of text (i.e., excluding references).

1.4 Submission of the Qualifying Paper (QP)

The QP must be submitted no later than 3 months from the date the Qualifying Examination Committee approved the proposal. (Submission will be by electronic or hard copy depending on the preferences of the Committee members.) Failure to submit the QP by this deadline will result in a grade of "Fail." Deviation of the QP from the proposal, if not approved by the Qualifying Examination Committee, may also result in a grade of "Fail." 

The oral examination must be scheduled no later than two weeks after the QP is submitted to the Qualifying Examination Committee.  

The Qualifying Examination Committee will make a decision regarding the acceptability of the QP within 1 week of its submission.

1.5 Evaluation

1.  Members of the Qualifying Examination Committee will submit their written comments and grades to the Chair of the Committee. If all members (or all but one) submit a grade of "Pass," the Chair will convey this decision to the student and committee members together with a synthesis of the comments. The Committee will not meet, the paper will be deemed "accepted," and the Chair will schedule the Oral Examination.

2.  If there is more than one Abstention or vote of Fail, a grade of “Fail” will be assigned to the QP.  The Chair will convey this to the Committee and to the student.  The Chair will convene a meeting of the Committee with the student to discuss plans for submission of a new QP. The new deadline will be negotiated with the student and will take into account the extent of the required revisions, but must be set within 3 months of this meeting.  The new oral examination will be scheduled 2 weeks after the revised paper is due.    

3.   NOTE: Members of the Examination Committee may advise the student towards completion of the written paper. However, members of the Committee will not comment on or review drafts of the written paper itself (or of the proposal). One of the goals of this qualifying examination component is that the student write a major paper without substantive feedback from any member of the Examination Committee.

1.6 Oral Examination

Within two weeks of the student’s submission of the QP, the Committee Chair will schedule the oral examination by members of the Qualifying Examination Committee. The oral exam will be held in camera, with only the student and committee members attending. The student will not be required to present an oral summary of the paper to the Committee. Instead, the Chair will call on each Committee member to ask his/her questions, with questions continuing until they are exhausted but no later than 2 hours after the oral began. The quality of the student's answers forms the basis for the Committee members' evaluation of the oral. The oral exam is judged a pass or fail by a majority vote. Abstentions count as "Fail." 

In cases where the written QE was passed, but the student failed the oral exam, ‘revisions’ (preparation for another oral exam) should usually be expected to be completed within a matter of weeks. In exceptional circumstance students can be given up to a maximum of 3 months to prepare for another oral exam.

NOTE: A grade of "Pass" on the Qualifying Examination Paper requires a grade of "Pass" on both the Paper and the Oral Examination. A second failure on either the paper or the oral examination results in a recommendation to withdraw from the program.


2. The Research Dossier

It is expected that all students will avail themselves of opportunities to conduct, not just design, research during the course of their graduate studies. These opportunities will arise from the research seminars they take for course credit as well as from other research experiences, for example, involvement in a Research Centre such as the Centre for Families, Work and Well-being or The Research Shop. 

2.1 Submission of the dossier

In consultation with the Advisor, the student will submit a Research dossier to the Examination Committee that includes a letter documenting the research that the student has done and the competencies that he or she has achieved. The dossier will include appendices that contain manuscripts, technical reports, publications, and other materials that testify to the quantity and quality of the student's research accomplishments. In the case of research projects that have involved any collaborators, the student will identify his/her unique contribution to the planning, design, implementation, analysis, and reporting of the research.

Students' dossiers will likely reflect their choice of streams in the program. Students in the scientist-practitioner stream will also submit letters from practicum supervisors that comment on the research completed under their supervision. Students may also include letters from other individuals (e.g., research supervisors, co-authors) commenting on their research contributions if they so wish.

Note that all students are expected to submit this dossier and all students must include evidence of research that is in addition to their MA thesis. The nature and extent of such evidence will vary; it should be sufficient to demonstrate that the student is capable of carrying out research beyond the MA level.

The Research Dossier will be submitted with the QP if not before.

The Research component also requires the completion of the form "PhD Advisory Committee Qualifying Examination Research Evaluation" by the student's Advisor indicating that the student is capable of carrying out research at the Ph.D. level.

Additional details about the typical content of the research dossier can be found here.

2.2. Evaluation

It is assumed that the student and the Advisor will have attended to this component from the time of the student's entry into the program and that all students will present a dossier that is at least adequate. However, if the Committee judges that the Dossier is insufficient (i.e., a Fail), the student can make a second attempt to pass the component by taking up to three months (depending on how much time is available before the Qualifying Examination must be completed) to document additional research capabilities and/or experience. A second failure on this component results in a recommendation to withdraw from the program.


Overall Evaluation

The Examination Committee will make a decision about the overall grade (Pass/Fail) for the Qualifying Examination immediately following the Oral Examination on the Qualifying Paper. An overall grade of "Pass" requires a grade of "Pass" on each of the components of the examination (QP and Research).

See University Guidelines for information concerning appeal procedures and procedures in the event of an overall grade of "Fail." 


Overview of Typical Qualifying Examination Steps and Deadlines

NOTE: the time line given here is based on the expectation that the Qualifying Examination will normally be completed by the end of the 4th semester. It is designed to ensure that students will have no difficulty meeting the Graduate School deadline for completion (end of the 5th semester). [Dates in brackets refer to semesters for students entering the Program in September.]

1.    Form Committee; following approval by Dept. Chair of Committee composition and submission of Committee Appointment form to grad secretary, meet individually with Committee members to finalize topic of Qualifying Examination Paper and discuss relevant literatures; inform AS area members.

When: by end of second semester. [Winter, Year I]

2.    Submit proposal for paper to Committee, meet with Committee, obtain approval of proposal; submit approval form and copy of proposal to grad secretary.

When: End of second month, third semester [Spring, Year I]

3.    Submit QP to Committee.

When: within 3 months of approval of outline of paper by Committee (end of first month, 4th semester) [Fall, Year II]

4.    Submit research dossier; Advisor to submit Research Evaluation form

When: With paper if not before.

5.    Committee decision re acceptability of paper.

When: within 1 week of QP submission.

6.    Oral examination.

When: (normally) within two weeks of QP submission. (end of 3rd month, 4th semester) [Fall/Winter Year II]

7.    Decision about overall grade for Qualifying Examination.

When: immediately following Oral Exam (end of 4th semester, Fall, Year II) (end of 5th semester at the latest) [Winter, Year II]