Doctoral students become formal candidates for the degree only after successful completion of the comprehensive examination and defense of the dissertation prospectus. The application for admission to candidacy for the degree is available from the Graduate School-Newark and should be submitted to the director of the Ph.D. program at the time of completion of exams and the prospectus. The completed form should be filed with the Graduate School-Newark office.
The comprehensive examinations in public administration are in two parts (theoretical core and research specialization), each of which may be taken only upon completion of all required coursework in the relevant area of examination. Comprehensive examination I is given in January and June of each year. Comprehensive examination II may be taken at any time after successful completion of comprehensive examination I as well as all relevant courses. The program recommends that students who complete all of their coursework on a full-time basis sit for part(s) of the examination at the conclusion of the spring semester of their first year, and complete examination II in their second year or as early as possible in their third year. All students (including those who have enrolled on a part-time basis for some semesters) should plan to complete the examination process by the end of their third year.
The section of both examinations (Theory Core and Research Specialization) will be graded as high pass, pass, or fail. A passing grade on the comprehensive examination requires a passing grade in all sections: high pass or pass. Each student who takes the examination is counseled by the Ph.D. program director once the grading process is complete for each section. A student may retake a section once subsequent to a failure. If a student fails a section two times, the student will be asked to leave the program, but may appeal that decision to the Ph.D. program committee.
- Theoretical Core. A one-day, in-class, closed-book, written examination consisting of two three-hour questions. Each option will be based upon courses in the sequence. The exam is graded on an anonymous basis (i.e., a student will be identified by a code number, not by name) by faculty members who taught core courses and by a faculty member assigned by the director of the Ph.D. program. If one faculty member evaluates the exam as a pass, and the other as a failure, a third faculty member will be assigned to grade that exam and the majority opinion shall prevail. If both faculty members evaluate the exam as a failure, the student must repeat the exam for that question at the next regularly scheduled date. Students should provide notice of intent to take the examinations as early as possible.
- Research Specialization. Two essays, one representing each of the student's areas of specialization. The essays can be any combination of a quantitative empirical study, a qualitative empirical study, or a literature review essay and should be comparable in length, style, and quality to a journal manuscript. The essays may be extensions of work the student has done as part of an independent study or other elective coursework and may be submitted at different times, although the second essay should be submitted within the same or subsequent semester. For each essay, the student's adviser (or if the student does not yet have an adviser, a faculty member with expertise in the specialization) and a second reader (faculty member) review the essay and prepare written feedback and criticism (similar in style to a journal's peer-review process); as a result, the student will receive two reviews of each essay (one from the adviser, one from the second reader). The adviser, in consultation with the second reader, may decide to require revisions to the essay. The student will then revise and resubmit the essay, generally within a one-month period. The student will have only one opportunity to revise and resubmit the essay(s) before receiving a final grade.