RECAP: COMPS Demystified

Today, the GOC held a Q&A program in DAC 407, re “COMPS Demystified”, during common hour.  Students who have passed their comprehensive exams to those who are in the throes of their dissertation, passed on information and shared their experiences on “How to tackle the COMPS”.

Some major questions ignited the conversation, such as “How do you go about choosing faculty to be on your committee?”, “What is the process of selected your reading list?”, “How was the preparation vs. the reading?”, “How do you move into the dissertation phase post comps?”, and “Are the comps three separate conversations or one large conversation?”

 Here are the recommendations that what provided:

  • choose faculty that have focus in your main interest(s)
  • you can change committee members
  • choose faculty members who are willing to give time to work with you – and nurture your growth through your interests//research
  • go to your book shelves, skim major themes/concepts, what works with your research, study bibliographies
  • analyze what is circulating scholarship relevant to your research
  • practice memorization tactic
  • take notes while reading
  • CITE EVERYTHING – especially, major quotes relevant to your focus
  • you must know where information can from
  • seleect professors/committee members allow you to take notes/list in
  • make information lighter
  • study academically as if preparing a paper
  • use website/web recommendations of books that have algorithms and relevancies
  • don’t think of this as an exam
  • think of it as a conversation
  • have no plan going in, no plan ever actually comes to fruition – having no plan is better to not have a plan
  • have fun – it is actually a very supportive process – despite the “Academic Rumor”, the Department’s professors are looking to support you rather than tear you down
  • breadth vs. depth
  • practice communicating what you’re studying within your discipline “non-academically”, so that you can debunk and easily relay and articulate your research
  • use your three lists as a starting point for your dissertation
  • stay to the course
  • stay positive
  • find each new idea as a thread
  • the things you do in your comps might not be translated to your dissertation
  • allow flexibility and change to occur
  • be ready to narrow the focus from the broad scope
  • sometimes you have to look at this process as exploratory
  • read no less than 100 pages a day to pace yourself!
  • if you need the full year, take it
  • you can’t and won’t cover every book
  • find commonalities in the books on the each of the three lists
  • don’t work in a vacuum – keep in conversation with your committee members
  • comps is not a solitary process – although reading as solitary
  • time management, slef-monitor, set timers
  • comps depends on your committee members and their preferences


See pictures from the program, below.

img_6498 img_6504  img_6501 img_6499 img_6496 img_6495



If you have any questions or futher interests, please don’t hesitate to contact the GOC. You can reach the GOC at

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