The Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive exam is a four-hour essay test of the graduate student’s factual, interpretative, bibliographical, and historiographical knowledge in a particular field. Although a student can, with the help of an advisor, put together a custom-designed field, the more common and standard fields are U.S. I (1492-1865), U.S. II (1865-present), and U.S. Diplomatic History, as well Modern European History (1789-present). In the interest of simplicity, currently ProjectHistory will only focus on the above-mentioned standard fields.

In order to prepare for a comprehensive exam, a graduate student usually starts by taking a colloquium in the field. The professor leading the colloq will assign readings to give the student an overview of the field; this list is by no means an exhaustive list covering the field of study, but should be viewed by the student as a good start.

This is where ProjectHistory comes into play. ProjectHistory provides a more comprehensive list of readings, along with easily accessible scholarly reviews (provided the student has access to ALADIN). These readings have been loosely grouped into themes within the field of study; these themes are the current school of thought, and may change over time, as ProjectHistory seeks to be a constantly evolving tool for the American University graduate History student.

In addition to the reading lists and scholarly reviews, Project History also provides the graduate student with visual aids for a better understanding of the field of study. Visual aids such as maps and period images can give an added dimension to the study of a particular theme.

But what may be even more helpful to the graduate student are several different ways of viewing the source material: chronological timelines of both the scholarship and the historiography, and a rather unique creation of ProjectHistory called the ThematicGrid.

The ThematicGrid is a way at looking at the overlap of the different readings in terms of the subject material. By using the ThematicGrid, a student can instantly see where a book ‘fits’ in the overall scheme of historiography, giving the student an added depth and dimension to his or her comprehension of the material.

Taken together, the thematic compilation of the scholarship, the maps, the images, the timelines, and the ThematicGrid make up what is ProjectHistory.

One final note: even though ProjectHistory has compiled a fair amount of data for your use, the site has not contributed any actual scholarship; all ProjectHistory is doing is presenting existing scholarship in a conveniently accessible digital format, and in some cases providing you with a different way at looking at the existing scholarship. Always remember: ProjectHistory is not a substitute for the creation of your own unique plan of study; rather, it should be considered a supplement to such a plan.

Keeping all of this in mind, you may begin to access the wonders of ProjectHistory by highlighting the Comprehensive Exam tab above, and choosing the appropriate field from the pulldown menu…