Graduate Program - Qualifying Exam and Master's Thesis

Qualifying Exam (PHIL 896)

The PHIL 896 exam is the Department’s qualifying examination for graduate students. The exam is a closed-book, closed-note, three-hour exam. The exam tests the student’s ability to comprehend, explain, compare, and explore the views of four key philosophers in the following texts: Plato’s Republic, Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, and Kant’s Prolegomena.

Students can access the Phil 896 packet available here. We highly recommend that students review this document in order to better acquaint themselves with the structure of the exam.

See here for the Phil 896, Spring 2017 schedule.

Meetings regarding the Qualifying Exam (PHIL 896)

All meetings will be the in Philosophy Lounge, HUM 392.

Be sure to arrive at least a half hour before the exam begins. Depending on how many students take the exam, it will take about thirty minutes to one hour to submit the exams.

Master's Thesis (PHIL 898)

Master's Thesis (PHIL 898) Each student's culminating experience is the Master's Thesis (PHIL 898). The semester prior to beginning the thesis, students need to meet with several faculty to form a committee for the thesis. A committee has two or three faculty, at least two of which must be from the Department of Philosophy. Neither semi-retired faculty nor lecturers may serve as thesis chairs; they may, however, serve as readers, as may faculty in other departments. Special paperwork is required to enable their participation. Eligible chairs are the following: Mohammad Azadpur, Pamela Hood, David Landy, Carlos Montemayor, Isabelle Peschard, Anita Silvers, Alice Sowaal, Ásta Sveinsdóttir, Justin Tiwald, Kevin Toh, Bas van Fraassen, and Shelley Wilcox. If the committee formally approves the proposal, they will then sign the Culminating Experience Form (PCE), which the student may then file. Remember, students must submit a ATC to the Graduate Division the semester before they take PHIL 898. (Students may file the ATC and PCE the same semester.) After both forms have been filed, the Graduate Division will allow the student to sign up for PHIL 898. The thesis chair will give the permit codes to sign up for the PHIL 898 course.

Regarding enrollment in PHIL 898: once students enroll in this course, they do not re-enroll, even if the thesis is not completed in one semester. If at the end of the PHIL 898 semester a student has not completed and successfully defended the thesis, she or he will receive a grade of RP--“Report in Progress”-- and does not need to pay an additional fee for the subsequent semester for work in this particular class. Note SFSU's policy about continuous enrollment for graduate students.

Different faculty members may have varying expectations about the process of mentoring a thesis candidate, so it is important for students to find out what their committee members require. Typically, the chair of the committee may want to approve drafts of the thesis, while the second and third readers may prefer to wait until the penultimate draft is complete. At any rate, students should make sure that they get their final rough draft to their committees in plenty of time for them to read and evaluate the work before returning it for revisions.