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Culminating Capstone Experience Guidelines

WAR AND PEACE STUDIES MA Culminating Capstone Experience Guidelines

WPS graduate students undertake a comprehensive written exam as the primary element of the program’s culminating experience, along with a substantial research paper. Each exam requires the student to synthesize knowledge gained over the course of their studies. It is prepared by the instructor of INST 6500 Research in War and Peace Studies, who serves as the exam/ SRP committee chair. The student is generally expected to respond to three essay prompts over a four-hour period: (1) Debates in War and Peace studies; (2) Methods; and (3) Region/Area Focus. The committee chair supplies and evaluates the ‘Debates in War and Peace studies’ component of the exam, which is weighted more heavily. Two additional faculty members, from whom the student has taken courses, serve on the committee and provide/ evaluate questions on Methods and Region/Area Focus, respectively. Students will consult with these faculty members to design a reading list for each area of specialization. These faculty members must agree to serve on the committee, evidenced by a completed Comprehensive Exam Faculty Selection Form submitted to the War and Peace Studies program director by the end of the student’s first semester. The culminating experience prepares students for problem solving challenges in the policy world and expresses their knowledge in written formats.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

The following procedures outline the steps necessary to take the comprehensive exam:

  1. The comprehensive exam will be offered in each semester in which students in the program have indicated they want to take it during that specific semester. Generally, it will be given during the tenth week of the semester, with a total of four hours allotted for the exam. Students will take the exam in their second semester of the program. Should it be required the exam can be given in the summer semester should a student be unable to take the exam in the spring semester.
  2. Students who intend to take the comprehensive exam must:
    • Select three faculty members who will provide guidance, a reading list, and exam questions. Faculty should be experts in the area for which they are responsible. In consultation with the committee chair, the student should fill out the Comprehensive Exam Faculty Selection Form by the end of their 1st semester.
    • Submit a Comprehensive Exam Intent Form to the War and Peace Studies director during the 2nd week of the semester in which the exam will be taken.
    • Verify that committee members have submitted questions to the committee chair before the 5th week of the semester in which the exam will be taken.
    • Appear at the designated time and place to take the exam. In certain extenuating circumstances a remotely proctored exam can be undertaken.
  3. Comprehensive exam faculty will each prepare an interdisciplinary essay question that attempts to delve into the key debates of war and peace studies. Questions will focus on the students methodological and areas studies interests, which the student will identify to the exam committee. Ideally the faculty will reflect the interests of the students and hold expertise in the area or methodological focus of the student. The faculty will submit their essay questions to the committee chair before the 5th week of classes of the semester in which the exam will be taken. General guidelines are included below.
  4. The committee chair will prepare the comprehensive exam using the submitted questions. The student will generally be expected to respond to three essay prompts: 1) Debates in War and Peace studies – 2 hours; 2) Methods – 1 hour; 3) Region/Area Focus – 1 hour.
  5. Faculty members will comment on answers to their own questions, giving the student either a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory grade.
  6. Based on the committee chair’s recommendation, the War and Peace Studies director will assign one of three outcomes:
    1. Pass: If the student receives a satisfactory for all three sections of the comprehensive exam, he or she will receive a pass grade.
    2. No Pass: If the student receives an unsatisfactory in one or more sections of the comprehensive exam, he or she might receive a no pass grade. The student may retake the sections he or she did not pass one time only, at a date determined by the exam committee.
    3. Fail: If the student receives an unsatisfactory in all three sections, he or she will receive a ‘fail’ grade. After completing additional remedial work determined by the examining committee, the student may retake the exam one time. Failure to pass the reexamination will result in the student being dropped from the program.

Required forms for the comprehensive exam

ALL FORMS available here:  

Before the exam:

  • Comprehensive Exam Notification Intent Form
  • Comprehensive Exam Faculty Selection and Reading List

After the exam:

  • Comprehensive Exam Committee Member Evaluation Form
  • Comprehensive Exam Program Director Evaluation Form

Guidelines for Exam Committee members:

Ideally, faculty committee members are selected from courses taken by the student in fulfillment of their Methods and Region/Area requirements. Each committee member provides and assesses a single essay prompt based on an agreed-upon reading list. Essay questions should be provided to and approved by the committee chair by the 5th week of classes in which the exam is going to be taken and submitted to the program director. Each reading list should be coordinated in consultation with the student and should contain a minimum of three books per area of specialization or an equivalent number of books and articles (approximately four articles equal one book, unless otherwise agreed upon). Students should be provided general guidance on how to best prepare but should not be provided with questions in advance of the exam.

The overall exam takes place over a four-hour period, in which the student completes all three essay prompts in a single sitting. Assessment is coordinated by the committee chair and should be completed in sufficient time to accommodate the retaking of individual sections, if needed, prior to the end of the semester. More extensive remedial work, if required, will be arranged in consultation with committee members, committee chair, and the program director.

WPS greatly appreciates the time and energy devoted by faculty to serve on MA exam committees.

Significant Research Paper Guidelines:

As part of the culminating experience, the student also needs to provide a Significant Research Paper (SRP) written during their time as an MA student in War and Peace Studies. The SRP will be evaluated members of the exam committee and approved by the Director of War and Peace Studies. As with the comprehensive exam, grading will be based on pass/no pass/fail outcomes. Students may re-submit their paper once should they receive a failing grade.

Students are allowed to update and develop their paper from one of their courses, enhancing it in preparation for the culminating experience.