Depth Exam

Rationale

The depth exam is the second exam for doctoral students. The goal of the exam is to assess the ability of the student to convey the significance of a research question, synthesis of prior work, research gap analysis, research questions and aims, and to a lesser extent outline of proposed methods. The work completed as part of the exam is intended to provide a basis for the doctoral dissertation.

Who
The exam is taken by all doctoral students. The faculty examiners for the depth exam consist of the student’s internal thesis committee (research sponsor and two internal members of the DBMI training program).

When
Students take the depth exam usually in their third year when the student has earned the necessary six residence units GSAS requires. Furthermore, students should plan on taking the depth exam no earlier than six months before they intend to sit for their dissertation proposal defense.

What
Approximately a month before the depth exam, the PhD sponsor of the student, in collaboration with the internal committee, provides the student with a specific research problem to investigate. The research problem is expected to be closely related to the student’s doctoral work.

The depth exam takes place over two hours, with the first hour given as a public seminar and the second hour taking place as a closed session. In the first hour of the exam, the student introduces the problem, presents the literature in the area (conveys significance, synthesizes the achievements and identifies research gaps), proposes research questions, and outlines a proposed methodology that addresses the problem. In the second hour, the student’s internal committee meets privately with the student and asks additional questions as needed.

The outcome of the depth exam is pass, retake, or fail. The decision is made by the internal committee by consensus and based on the student’s performance in conveying the significance of the research question, synthesis of prior work, research gap analysis, research questions and aims, and to a lesser extent outline of proposed methods.

Expectations
The student is expected to present their depth exam public component as a seminar, and as such is expected to publicize title and abstract to the department. On the day of the exam, copies of the slides and the bibliography must be provided to the committee so they may refer to them during the closed session.