Comprehensive Exam for Master's Students

Guidelines for the MSLS and the MSIS Comprehensive Examination

I. Eligibility for Comprehensive Examination

II. Time of Examination

III. Philosophy and Scope of the Examination

IV. Study Guide for the Comprehensive Examination

V. Administration of the Examination

VI. Evaluation of the Examination


 

I. Eligibility for Comprehensive Examination

A student who wishes to write the comprehensive examination must meet all of the following conditions:

1. The student must remove all "conditions of admission" as specified in the letter of admission received from the Graduate School.

2. The student must be enrolled in or have completed the last term of coursework. Students who will be completing coursework during the summer may take the comprehensive examination in the spring semester.

3. The student must be registered in the School of Information and Library Science for one or more courses in the semester in which s/he takes the comprehensive exam.

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II. Time of Examination

The comprehensive examination will be administered two times a year, typically the Friday before the October fall break and the Friday before the Spring break. Announcements are sent out to all registered students on the students’ listserv.

Application to take the examination is made by signing up electronically. The examination is administered through email.

Students who are not in residence but registered for courses during the semester in which they wish to take the comprehensive exam must notify the School of Information and Library Science office of their intention.

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III. Philosophy and Scope of the Examination

The examination offers the student the opportunity to display creativity, organizational skill, and factual knowledge in the fundamental areas of information and library science. Where relevant, knowledge gained from specialized and advanced courses, or from independent study or experience, should be used to give depth to the answers. Indication of knowledge of the literature will strengthen the answers.

Ordinarily a student will be asked to answer one of two questions, which may have sub-parts, and is to be answered from various perspectives as indicated in the study guide below. Questions are composed by the master’s committee with input and consultation from the entire faculty. In preparing for the examination the following guide should be used. This guide covers the structure and perspectives you will find in the examination.

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IV. Study Guide for the Comprehensive Examination

Select 1) a particular information service or library environment, e.g., a research facility, a library, a university, a research consortium, a government agency, or a corporation , and/or 2) a major library/information function, e.g., public services, technical services, work with children or other special population, user support, or information retrieval.

The examples identified above are not the only choices. Select an environment and an activity that closely approximates your particular interests.

For your chosen information or library setting, be prepared to discuss any or all of the following:

1. The history of the particular type of information service or library and major changes contributing to work today

2. The major issues you see at work today and the problems you consider most in need of solution

3. Research-based solutions to problems and plans to take advantage of opportunities

4. The trends you foresee affecting the future and what needs to be done now to prepare for the future

In your discussion remember to include factors external to the library/information center such as government policy, resources for funding, and changing technology that interact with the special needs and capabilities of libraries and information agencies.

Copies of past comprehensive examination questions are on file in the SILS Library.

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V. Administration of the Examination

The comprehensive examination is to be completed during a seven-hour period, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m. The examination is emailed to students at 8:30am by the Student Services Manager and returned within the seven-hour time frame. Students must submit an appropriate email address and a contact phone number to the Student Services Manager by the Monday prior to the exam. Students have the option of picking up a copy of the exam from the Office of the School of Information and Library Science. The exam is closed book and is administered under the provisions of the Honor Code. Students are required to turn in a signed Honor Code form. The exam may be written at any convenient place. It must be word processed, typed, or legibly handwritten; word processing or typing is highly recommended. No notes or reference materials are allowed but you may use spell checker or a dictionary for spelling and word usage purposes.

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VI. Evaluation of the Examination

Answers are evaluated by faculty members who are knowledgeable about the type of library or information activity addressed by the question. Faculty often seek the counsel of colleagues in making their judgments. Exams are presented to faculty members anonymously.

Students who complete the comprehensive examination fall into three groups: 1) those who pass the exam, 2) those who fail the exam, 3) those who receive a grade of "L" on the exam. Those exams that receive a “L” or “F” are read by a second reader. A student is considered to have failed the exam if the exam receives an “F” by both readers. A student is considered to have received an “L” if the exam receives an “L” from both readers, or an “L” from one reader and an “F” from another.

Those who receive an L on the exam are re-tested orally by a three-member subcommittee of the faculty appointed by the academic dean. Normally, the academic dean will chair this committee. One member of the committee will be a faculty member who had graded the original exam. The student’s advisor is the third member of the committee. If the results of the oral exam are clearly satisfactory, the student will be considered to have passed the exam. If the results of the oral exam are not satisfactory, the examining committee may require that the student undertake some remedial work and/or provide proof of his or her understanding of the material, or may require that the student retake the exam, or the committee may fail the student.

Students who fail the exam are permitted a second attempt. Such re-examination will not be administered earlier than the date of the next regularly scheduled comprehensive examination.

Students who neglect to answer any major part of the exam will be re-tested on the entire examination.

A student who fails the examination for a second time may petition the SILS faculty to recommend to the Graduate School that the student be permitted to take the exam a third time.

Notice of success or failure on the examination will be given to the student by letter from the Dean of the School of Information and Library Science, generally within three to four weeks after the exam. Do not discuss the exam with anyone until you receive your letter saying that you have passed.

NOTE: Questions not addressed in these guidelines should be addressed to the student's faculty adviser or to the academic dean.

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