Graduate Program Benchmarks

This page describes the graduate program 'benchmarks' (i.e., required exams, papers, and theses), and deadlines for when students should complete them. The two graduate concentrations share the same benchmarks, so these apply to all graduate students in the Department.

Note that this is not a complete list of requirements for the M.A. and Ph.D. For a complete list, including course and language proficiency requirements, see the main pages for the Slavic literature, culture & film graduate concentration, and the Slavic linguistics graduate concentration.

Graduate Program Benchmarks

M.A. Examination
M.A. Paper or M.A. Thesis
Post-M.A. Paper
Candidacy Examination
Dissertation Prospectus
Dissertation and Oral Defense

M.A. Examination

The M.A. examination is based on required M.A. coursework and a reading list of research articles. (Each concentration has its own reading list.) The reading list and articles are available through Carmen  to students enrolled in the program. Some of these readings are normally covered as part of the M.A. coursework. Students are expected to read the remaining articles on the reading list via directed study with their M.A. examination committee members.

In the M.A. exam, students are expected to demonstrate knowledge of the material on the reading list, as well as major theoretical concepts and patterns of reasoning that they have acquired through departmental coursework and study of the reading list.

M.A. Exam Required Components

The exam consists of a four-hour written portion followed, at least one day later, by a one-hour oral examination. The written portion is assembled by the student's M.A. examination committee. The oral exam, which is also evaluated by the M.A. examination committee, provides students with an opportunity to clarify their answers on the written portion. In addition, it can cover general knowledge of the field.

The language of both portions of the M.A. examination is ordinarily English, although the Graduate Studies Committee may, under special circumstances, permit Russian to be used in one or both portions. By Graduate School rules, students must be registered for at least two graduate credit hours for the semester in which they wish to take the M.A. examination.

M.A. Exam Timeline

The M.A. examination is normally taken in late Spring Semester of the second year of study.

M.A. Exam Committee

The M.A. examination committee consists of at least three faculty members in the area of concentration, including the academic advisor, who serves as Chair of the committee. Students are responsible for inviting faculty to be members of their examination committee. Students should consult with their advisors about who would be suitable to serve on the committee. Any faculty member at OSU holding M or P status (which is essentially any regular faculty member) may be a member of the M.A. examination committee.

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M.A. Paper

Students who wish to move into the Ph.D. program after completing the M.A. are required to write an M.A. Paper or M.A. Thesis. Neither the M.A. Paper nor the M.A. Thesis is required for a terminal M.A. degree.

The M.A. Paper is functionally equivalent to the M.A. Thesis, but it is a purely departmental requirement. It is not submitted to the Graduate School for approval, so it is not subject to the formatting rules and deadlines that the Graduate School imposes on theses. It also does not receive official recognition by the university as a thesis.

The main goal of the M.A. Paper requirement is to have students produce an article-length piece of original research in the second year of the M.A. program. The paper must address a significant question in the field of study and be of sufficient quality that it would educate and inform a professional academic in that field. It is one of the first steps that the student takes towards becoming an expert in a particular area of specialization.

The M.A. Paper is a reflection of the student's ability to do Ph.D.-level work, and faculty members in the Department take into consideration the quality of the paper when deciding whether students should be promoted into the Ph.D. program.

M.A. Paper Required Components

The M.A. Paper requirement consists of two parts: a written paper and an oral presentation of the research in a public forum.

The presentation requirement is designed to professionalize students into academic culture. As such, the presentation can occur under the auspices of OSU linguistics, SLA, or literature/cultural studies discussion groups, the Midwest Slavic Conference, or another conference on or off campus. Students should confer with their advisors about when and where to present their work, and the committee should approve the venue for the 'official' oral presentation. The entire committee does not need to be in attendance for the presentation, although this is desirable. The committee does not approve the presentation per se; the act of doing the presentation in an approved venue is sufficient by itself to fulfill the requirement. However, the oral presentation must represent a near-final version of the project. (Presentations of in-progress work are encouraged, but these cannot be used to fulfill the presentation requirement.)

The final, written paper should be a well-polished and professional product. The committee must approve the written paper.

M.A. Paper Timeline

The topic of the paper should be chosen carefully in consultation with the student's advisor and other M.A. Paper committee members, and the student should work closely with the committee (and especially with the student's advisor) from the earliest stages of the process through to the finished paper.

An abstract and preliminary bibliography of the M.A. Paper should be presented to and approved by the committee by Friday of the 14th week of fall semester during the second year. Some advisors may require a full proposal for the paper; this is at the discretion of the faculty member. Some advisors may also enforce an earlier deadline of their choosing.

The public presentation of the near-final research must take place no later than one week before the written M.A. exam in the spring semester of the second year.

A draft of the M.A. paper must be submitted to the committee prior to the written M.A. exam. The advisor will normally have reviewed and commented on at least one, and often several, drafts of the paper prior to the paper being submitted to the committee. The student should therefore submit the first draft to the advisor well in advance of the M.A. exam. The advisor must agree that the paper is ready to be submitted to the committee.

The final version of the written paper must be approved by the M.A. paper committee by Friday of the 14th week of the semester in which the M.A. exam is taken. The M.A. paper is not submitted to the Graduate School, but it is added to the student's file.

M.A. Paper Committee

The M.A. paper committee consists of three faculty members, including the academic advisor, who serves as the Chair of the committee. (The committee may have more members if desired.) Students are responsible for inviting faculty to be members of their paper committee. Students should consult with their advisors about who would be suitable to serve on the committee. Any faculty member at OSU holding M or P status (which is essentially any regular faculty member) may be a member of the committee. Students often have a faculty member from outside of the Department (from Linguistics, Psychology, Comparative Studies, or another related department) on their M.A. paper committee.

The M.A. Examination committee and the M.A. Paper committee are distinct entities. The student may choose the same faculty members for both committees, or may choose different committee members, with the exception that the academic advisor is, by definition, a member of both committees.

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M.A. Thesis

Students may choose to write an M.A. thesis instead of an M.A. paper. The M.A. thesis is functionally equivalent to the M.A. paper. Expectations regarding quality, content, and length are the same as for the M.A. paper (see above). The same guidelines also apply regarding composition of the advisory committee. However, the M.A. thesis is subject to the rules and deadlines that the Graduate School imposes on theses, and it results in official recognition by the university that a thesis was completed as part of the M.A. degree. Some issues that are specific to the M.A. thesis are described below.

M.A. Thesis Required Components

The M.A. thesis consists of two parts: a written paper and an oral defense of the paper. The oral defense of the M.A. thesis is in addition to the oral defense of the M.A. exam, not a replacement for it. Unlike with the M.A. paper, a conference-style public presentation is not required.

The written paper must be approved by the student's M.A. thesis committee, and also meet the formatting guidelines for M.A. theses according to Graduate School rules.

The student must defend the thesis at a one-hour oral examination. The language of this defense is ordinarily English, although the Graduate Studies Committee may, under special circumstances, permit Russian to be used.

M.A. Thesis Timeline



A defensible draft of the M.A. thesis must be approved by the committee prior to the written M.A. exam. The advisor must agree that the thesis is defensible and ready to be submitted to the committee.

The thesis defense occurs at least one week after the defense draft is submitted to the committee. The defense will normally take place in spring semester of the second year, by the deadline set by the Graduate School. The oral defense of the thesis may take place either before or after the M.A. examination.

The final version of the thesis must be approved by the M.A. thesis committee and submitted to the Graduate School by its deadline for theses. See the Graduate School requirements.

M.A. Thesis Committee

The principles regarding committee composition are the same as for the M.A. paper committee.

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Post-M.A. paper

All doctoral students are required to submit a serious, mature ("publishable") research paper as part of their Candidacy requirements. The post-M.A. paper is intended to give students further experience in producing scholarly research prior to the dissertation. Ideally, it will also allow them to test the viability of potential dissertation research projects, thereby expediting progress through the doctoral program. The post-M.A. paper must be a self-contained, article-length work of scholarship.

The paper must fulfill the following criteria:

  • It must deal with a well-defined topic of scholarly interest;
  • The paper must reveal a sophisticated knowledge of the primary and secondary bibliography on a given problem and must involve a critical assessment of the research to date;
  • The paper must reveal the student's mature understanding of both fundamental and advanced concepts, theories, and methodologies pertinent to the problem;
  • The paper must make an original contribution to the understanding or solution of the problem;
  • The paper must be in a consistent editorial style, to be determined by the students in agreement with their advisor.

The post-M.A. paper is a departmental requirement only and is not submitted to the Graduate School.

Post-M.A. Paper Required Components

The requirements are the same as for the M.A. paper.

Post-M.A. Paper Timeline

In order to be in good standing in the Department, students must have the post-M.A. paper approved no later than Friday of the 14th week in their 3rd semester of enrollment in the doctoral program (after the M.A., not including summers). For students who began in the M.A. program, this is the fall of the fourth year of total study in the Department.

Post-M.A. Paper Committee

The principles for committee composition are the same as for the M.A. paper committee.

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Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination is intended to assess the depth and breadth of the student's knowledge of their concentration, particularly as related to the dissertation topic. The exam is customized to the student, and will normally be created with the student's dissertation topic in mind. At the same time, the exam is not restricted to the dissertation topic, and it is expected that students will demonstrate depth of knowledge in distinct areas.

Candidacy Exam Required Components

The candidacy exam consists of three required parts: three reading lists, a written examination, and an oral defense. Depending on the structure that students choose, a first draft of the dissertation prospectus may also be required.

Students have the option, in consultation with their advisor and candidacy exam committee, to structure their exams as follows, so that either:

  • the exam consists of three questions, each corresponding to a distinct topic, and a fourth "question" consisting of a first draft of the dissertation proposal. In this case, the student may be questioned about the dissertation proposal by the Candidacy committee during the oral defense of the Candidacy Exam. By incorporating the porposal into the candidacy examination process, the faculty hope to facilitate student progress on the dissertation during post-candidacy.

OR

  • the exam consists of three questions, each corresponding to a distinct topic, (but no dissertation proposal draft). A well-polished draft of the dissertation proposal is submitted to the student’s dissertation committee no more than one month after the oral part of the candidacy exam. In this case, the student then defends the proposal orally before the dissertation committee, at least one day later.

The written examination is completed over a ten-day period. For instance, if the student receives the exam questions at 9am on Friday, the exam is due ten days later, at 9am on Monday. Examinations must be typed; use of reference books is permitted.

Students must compose three reading lists -- one for each topic to be covered by the candidacy exam. The topics and corresponding reading lists are customized to each student, and should be determined in close consultation with the student's advisor and candidacy exam committee.

In crafting their reading lists, students might take the following as models of the focus and depth expected for the topics (based on the Slavic linguistics concentration): "Speech acts in modern Russian usage," "Problems of Czech historical phonology," "Adaptation of loanwords in the Slavic languages," "Issues in Balkan Linguistics," "Development of analyticism in Slavic morphology," "The Balto-Slavic Problem," "Problems in the history of the medieval Russian literary language," "Language politics in the South Slavic region," etc.

The oral portion of the exam lasts for two hours. The members of the candidacy examination committee ask students questions based on the topics of the reading lists that they have compiled for each field. The candidacy examination committee may also ask for clarifications or amplifications of answers from the written examination, may ask question the student about the dissertation proposal (if it was submitted as the "fourth question"), and may probe the student's knowledge of their field of specialization more broadly. It is the responsibility of the committee to ensure that the oral examination reflects an adequately broad knowledge of their area of concentration.

Candidacy Exam Timeline

There are three requirements related to the timing of the candidacy exam.

1) To be in good standing in the Department, students must successfully complete their written and oral candidacy examinations no later than their fourth semester of enrollment in the Ph.D. program (after the M.A.), not counting summers. For students who began in the M.A. program, this is the spring of the fourth year of total study in the Department. Extensions may be requested by petition to the Graduate Studies Committee.

2) All required coursework for the Ph.D. (excluding post-candidacy research hours) and the post-M.A. paper must both be completed prior to the candidacy exam. For the post-M.A. paper, "completed' is defined as having received final approval from the advisory committee.

3) The candidacy exam cannot take place in the same semester as the one in which the student's post-M.A. paper has received final approval. This is designed to ensure that students take the time required for successful exam preparation. In exceptional circumstances students may, with the support of their advisors, petition the Graduate Studies Committee for an exception.

There is no official deadline for when the candidacy reading lists must be approved, but it should ideally be at least two months prior to the written portion of the exam. This allows the student time to read and digest the material. (Students will normally be composing their candidacy reading lists at the same time that they are finishing final revisions to their post-M.A. papers.)

Ordinarily, students take the oral portion of the candidacy exam no more than two weeks after completion of the written candidacy exam.

The required paperwork must be filed with the Graduate School no later than two weeks before the oral portion of the candidacy exam. Failure to meet this deadline will jeopardize the student's ability to take the oral portion of the exam in that semester. It is the responsibility of the student's advisor, as chair of the advisory committee, to inform the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School of the dates when the written portion will begin and end.

Candidacy Exam Committee

By Graduate School rule, the Candidacy Exam committee consists of four faculty members, including the academic advisor, who serves as the Chair of the committee. Otherwise, the same principles apply as with the M.A. paper committee.

Candidacy Exam Evaluation

Candidacy examinations are appraised on a scale of Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory.

The grade of Satisfactory can only be awarded by a unanimous vote of the candidacy examination committee. In order to be adequate, the answers must do more than reproduce easily accessible information and the published opinions of scholars; they must include a careful weighing of evidence and interpretations, insightful assessments of the significance and ramifications of the issues, and the students' own appraisals of the problems.

If the advisory committee judges the written candidacy examination to be unsatisfactory, the advisor may so inform the student prior to the oral. The student then has the right to waive the oral examination. The student must petition the advisory committee with a request for a waiver; the committee will record a grade of "Unsatisfactory" on the Examination Report form and return it with a copy of the petition to the Graduate School.

It is possible to pass the written exam but fail the oral exam, in which case the committee can decide to require the student to repeat only the oral portion of the exam.

Students will be told the results of both portions of the candidacy examination at the conclusion of the oral.

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The Dissertation Prospectus

Students choose the topic for their dissertation and hence their prospectus in consultation with their advisor and dissertation committee.

The function of the prospectus is to aid candidates in planning their research for the Ph.D. dissertation by allowing the members of the dissertation committee to assess the feasibility of the topic, methodology, time plan, etc. It is a provisional document that does not determine research results or bind candidates to the approaches outlined in it. The prospectus is thus not a summary of findings but a project outline and work plan.

Dissertation Prospectus Required Components

The prospectus should contain the following information:

  • The preliminary title of the dissertation and the names of the dissertation committee members;
  • A discussion of the purpose of the research and its significance, including how it will contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field;
  • A discussion of how the project relates to and differs from prior scholarship--in particular, recent works on the topic and related areas;
  • A discussion of the projected methodology, theoretical framework, and types of analyses to be used in the project;
  • A discussion of the resources to be used in the project;
  • A provisional outline or plan of the dissertation;
  • A time plan for completion of the research and writing;
  • An initial bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Dissertation Prospectus Timeline

The dissertation prospectus must be approved by the dissertation committee prior to the last day of classes in the semester of enrollment immediately after passing the candidacy examinations, and will normally be submitted to the committee at least three weeks earlier. For students who began in the M.A. program, this is normally the fall of the fifth year of total enrollment in the program. The dissertation advisor must agree that the prospectus is ready to be submitted to the committee. The dissertation committee may ask the student to clarify, rewrite, or otherwise change the prospectus prior to approval.

Dissertation Committee

There is no committee specifically for the dissertation prospectus. The committee that evaluates the prospectus is, by definition, the Dissertation Committee.

The Dissertation Committee consists of three faculty members, including the academic advisor, who serves as the Chair of the committee. (The committee may have more members if desired.) Students are responsible for inviting faculty to be members of their paper committee. Students should consult with their advisors about who would be suitable to serve on the committee. Any faculty member at OSU holding P status may be a member of the committee. Those holding M status may be members of the committee, but do not count towards the required three committee members. Similarly, faculty from other universities may be members of the committee, but only as additional members. Students often have a faculty member from outside of the Department (from Linguistics, Psychology, Comparative Studies, or another related department) on their dissertation committees.

Dissertation Prospectus Evaluation

The written dissertation prospectus must be approved by the student's dissertation committee. Students who did not submit a draft of the dissertation prospectus with their written candidacy exam must also defend the prospectus in a one-hour oral examination before the dissertation committee.

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The Dissertation and Oral Defense

The dissertation is the culmination of a student's graduate work. It is a defining work of scholarship that certifies the student as an expert in a particular area of specialization.

Dissertation Required Components

There are two components -- the written dissertation, and the oral defense of the dissertation.

The required content, structure, and length of the dissertation are determined largely by the student's dissertation committee, in consultation with the student. However, the dissertation will normally be a book-length work. It must be a mature, sophisticated piece of original scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the field and advances existing knowledge.

The dissertation must adhere to the formatting requirements imposed by the Graduate School. Students are encouraged to read these requirements carefully at the beginning of their work on the dissertation.

Dissertation Timeline

The dissertation stage (including prospectus) usually requires 1-2 years. The goal is for students who began in the M.A. program to graduate with the Ph.D. in a total of 5-6 years, and for students who began post-M.A. to graduate with the Ph.D. in a total of 3-4 years.

Students who do not complete all the requirements for the Ph.D. within five full calendar years after being admitted to candidacy relinquish candidacy. In that case, they may be re-admitted to candidacy with permission of the advisor and Graduate Studies Chair, and by retaking the Candidacy Exam. Permission of the advisor and GSC should not be taken for granted, but if granted, the examination committee will consist of the members of the dissertation committee.

In some cases, it is possible to petition for an extension of candidacy, thus obviating the supplemental candidacy examination. Please consult the Graduate Studies Chair for further information.

The Defense (final oral examination)

The final oral examination is scheduled after the Graduate School receives the Draft Approval form, which must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the examination. It is the advisor's responsibility to submit the names of the final oral examination committee members (i.e., the dissertation committee) to the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School and to inform them of the date, time, and place of the final oral examination. Final oral examinations can be conducted by teleconferencing. See the Graduate Studies Chair for further information.

Filing the dissertation

The final version of the dissertation, complete with the signatures of all the dissertation committee, must be filed with the Graduate School at least one week prior to Commencement in order for the student to receive the Ph.D. degree in the given semester. Students filing after that deadline will receive their degrees in the following semester. However, they do not have to pay fees for the following semester if they file their dissertations by the End of Semester deadline (the last business day prior to the first day of classes for the following semester).

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