Qualifying Papers

Students must write and defend two qualifying papers, each of which deals with an area of linguistics on which the department faculty can advise the students. The two papers must be in separate areas of linguistics. In cases in which it is not clear to which area a given qualifying paper belongs, or whether the two qualifying papers that a student writes really belong to separate fields, the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the faculty will make a decision at the beginning of the Autumn quarter of the year the qualifying paper is due.

Each qualifying paper is assigned two faculty members, who will act as readers. The students will be asked for their preferences as to who should be the readers for their qualifying papers. Reader assignments are decided on jointly by the DGS and Chair of the department in consultation with the faculty, taking into account the topic of the paper, and the student’s preferences. This decision is made in the Autumn quarter of the year the qualifying paper is due.

The qualifying paper is an extensive original research paper, which should demonstrate both the ability to conduct independent research and an appropriate assessment of the position of the research in the broader intellectual context and history of the relevant (sub)field. It is written in consultation with the two readers, and must be approved by them after an oral examination; this defense is not public. The paper is generally 35-50 pages (double-spaced) in length, and the oral exam is typically one hour, during which the faculty may ask the student about the paper itself and about the general field it is written in, and during which the student is expected to demonstrate wide knowledge of the relevant field(s) of linguistics.

The student must submit the first qualifying paper by the last day of the sixth week of Spring quarter of the second year. This paper is an equivalent to an MA thesis for students leaving the program after the second year or for those wishing a non-terminal MA for any other reason.

No later than two weeks after the submission of the first qualifying paper, the readers must schedule the oral exam in consultation with the student to decide on the acceptability of the paper. The readers may decide:

  • To pass the paper.
  • To conditionally pass the paper, specifying the revisions that have to be made in consultation with the readers.
  • To fail the paper.

The readers will communicate the results to the student. A student who fails the first qualifying paper has until the end of the summer after the paper is first due to pass the paper, as explained in the student year-end assessment section. In the case of a conditional pass, the readers will give the student a deadline for completion of the revisions (which in no case can be after the end of the summer the paper is first due).

By the end of the sixth week of the Spring quarter of the third year, the student must submit the second qualifying paper, which is subject to the same timetable and procedure as the first qualifying paper.