The First Year Review stands as the Department’s qualifying mechanism for continuation in the Ph.D. program beyond 18 hours of coursework for those students who enter with an M.A., and 36 hours of coursework for students who enter with a B.A. The review process thus occurs in the third semester. The First Year Review Committee (composed of all faculty teaching graduate courses that year) will evaluate each Ph.D. candidate for adequate progress toward the doctoral degree. Each student will be evaluated on the basis of a First Year Review dossier. The requirements for the first year review dossier are listed below. In addition, the dossier will include evaluative statements from each of the student’s professors from courses taken during the first year of course work, as well as an informal transcript (the graduate office will provide these).
Requirements of the First-Year Review:
- Course Distribution: Many Ph.D. candidates will have met the distribution requirement prior to their first year in the Ph.D. program. However, it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that distribution requirements are met prior to or concurrently with the First-Year Review process and that an accurate course list is included in the First-Year Review dossier.
- Curriculum Vitae.
- Professional Statement: This one-page document allows the student to present himself/herself to the Committee and the faculty and to describe progress made toward the degree. This statement may include information not presented elsewhere in the dossier (e.g., research interests, conference presentations, grants, professional service, publications, etc.).
- Writing Sample: Students include with their dossiers a writing sample, which must be a paper prepared for a course taken at A&M during their first year in the program. The paper may be revised and lengthened; it does not have to be identical to the version originally used to satisfy the requirements of the course for which it was prepared. In some cases, students will want to consult with their instructors on how to revise the paper to make it stronger for the purpose of the Review. Papers should be approximately 20 pages, not including notes and citations.
Here is some guidance for the preparation of a successful paper:
Project design: Have you chosen a topic that is worth investigating? Can you articulate to your reader what the stakes of your work actually are? (What will this work do for the field?) Do you have the evidence to make the assertions you want to make? Have you been sufficiently bold in your claims, which is another way of saying, have you taken intellectual risks in the construction of your argument? If you haven’t, your paper isn’t sufficiently ambitious.
Thesis and argument: The paper should contain a thesis, presented somewhere near the beginning, that states the argument of the paper and indicates what is at stake in this project. The reader should be able to anticipate where the paper will go intellectually. The paper should be organized in such a way as to promote the development of its argument and to help the reader anticipate the consequences of its ideas. Not only should individual paragraphs be well-organized, with appropriate use of topic sentences, but so should the paper as a whole. Is the presentation of evidence logical? Are ideas sufficiently developed? You should be able to articulate a larger organizational scheme for the entire paper. The paper should also contain an appropriate and well-developed conclusion.
Use of sources: Sources should be well chosen, fresh, appropriate to the project, and well documented. You are entering a scholarly conversation already in progress and so you need to engage with your sources, rather than merely invoking them as authorities. Engagement is not necessarily indicated by quoting sources at length. Instead, you should think about what is being discussed or not being discussed in these sources and why. If a source has significantly anticipated your line of argument, you will need to find ways of rethinking the project or redefining the question you want to investigate.
Writing: The paper should be free of errors in grammar, spelling, diction, and punctuation.
- Self-assessment of the writing sample: This document should be turned in with your dossier. Its purpose is to provide context and additional information to the Director and Associate Director(s) of the graduate program that may inform their debriefing with you at the conclusion of the First-Year Review process. In the one-page, single-spaced self-assessment, please provide your own perception of the degree to which your writing sample succeeds in terms of project design, argument, use of sources, and quality of writing. What are you happiest with? Where do you think improvement may be possible?