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 (PDF) here. We highly recommend that students review this document in order to better acquaint themselves with the structure of the exam.

All meetings are held in the Philosophy Lounge, HUM 392.

Phil 896, Spring 2019
Week # Date Time Event
1 Fri, Feb 1 3-5pm Orientation with Landy
2 Fri, Feb 8    
3 Fri, Feb 15 By 3pm Plato paper due
4 Fri, Feb 22 3-5pm Plato tutorial with Islami
5 Fri, Mar 1 By 3pm Descartes paper due
6 Fri, Mar 8 3-5pm Descartes tutorial with Silvers
7 Fri, Mar 15 By 3pm Hume paper due
8 Fri, Mar 22 3-5pm Hume tutorial with Ásta
  Spring Recess    
9 Fri, April 5 By 3pm Kant paper due
10 Fri, April 12 3-5pm Kant tutorial with Azadpur
11 Fri, April 19    
12 Fri, April 26 1-4pm Exam with Landy
15 Wed, May 15   Grades to students

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 Committee Chairs are the following:  Mohammad Azadpur, Arezoo Islami, David Landy, Carlos Montemayor, Isabelle Peschard, Wendy Salkin, Anita Silvers, Alice Sowaal, Ásta Sveinsdóttir, Justin Tiwald, 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 an 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 SF State'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.