Qualifying Exam and Master's Thesis

Qualifying Exam (PHIL 896)

PHIL 896 is the Department of Philosophy qualifying exam for graduate students. The course tests the student’s ability to comprehend, explain, compare, and explore the views of philosophers working on topics selected by the Department faculty. The course also satisfies the University’s Written English Proficiency Requirement for graduate students.

  1. Students will work on one topic throughout the semester.
  2. Each topic will have four readings assigned to it.
  3. Students working on the same topic will participate in four study sessions throughout the semester (one on each reading).
  4. Following each study session, each student will submit a summary of the discussion at the session.
  5. Additionally, each student will submit a final exam for the course.

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 will be held online over Zoom.

Phil 896, Fall 2020
Week # Date Time Event
1 Fri, Aug 28 3:00 - 5:00pm Orientation with Landy
2 Fri, Sept 4    
3 Fri, Sept 11 3:00 - 5:00pm 1st Study Group Meeting
4 Fri, Sept 18 By 3:00pm 1st Meeting Summary Due
5 Fri, Sept 25    
6 Fri, Oct 2 3:00 - 5:00pm 2nd Study Group Meeting
7 Fri, Oct 9 By 3:00pm 2nd Meeting Summary Due
8 Fri, Oct 16    
9 Fri, Oct 23 3:00 - 5:00pm 3rd Study Group Meeting with Faculty
10 Fri, Oct 30 By 3pm 3rd Meeting Summary Due
11 Fri, Nov 6    
12 Fri, Nov 13 3:00 - 5:00pm 4th Study Group Meeting
13 Fri, Nov 20 By 3:00pm 4th Meeting Summary Due
14 Fri, Dec 4 by 3pm Final Exam Due
15 Tue, Dec 22   Grades to Students

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, Jeremy Reid, Macy Salzberger, 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.

To coordinate the scheduling of your thesis defense, please email your entire committee including Jennifer Waller at phlsphr@sfsu.edu.