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Western Kentucky University

Comprehensive Exam Non-thesis Capstone Experience

Students pursuing the non-thesis capstone option will complete a 6-hour written comprehensive exam in their last semester of coursework. The exam consists of three questions addressing theory, research methods, and students' areas of interest and course specialization.  The questions should cover both organizational and human communication concepts. The following sections describe the process in more detail.

First, in their last semester, students will form a comprehensive exam committee consisting of a chair and two other members from among the communication graduate faculty and submit a Comprehensive Exam Committee Form to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Second, students will meet with the committee in the 3rd week of the semester they intend to graduate.

During this meeting, the candidate and the committee should come to an agreement about the theories, methodologies, and areas of specialization for testing. Each student will take exams over:

  •  Two theories/typologies/models
  • One research design (e.g., interviewing, focus groups, experiments, surveys, rhetorical criticism)
  • Two areas of specialization (e.g., narratives, sibling communication, crisis, health, etc.)

 Once submitted, the committee will evaluate the responses and indicate the quality of the response using the following scale: H (Pass with Honors); P (Pass); F (Fail). Students must receive a "P" on all exam questions in order to graduate. Each question will be evaluated using the exam rubrics located on the department website. Students will be notified about the results of their exams by the exam committee chair by the end of the 12th week.

If a student receives a failing grade on an exam question, they will have one additional opportunity to pass the comprehensive exam by writing a literature review on the topical area needing work (as indicated by the committee). The paper should be 12-15 pages, written in 12-point font, Times New Roman, and double-spaced. The Comprehensive Exam committee will evaluate the paper and make a determination on whether the student has successfully passed. In order for a student to graduate in the same semester the exam is taken, the literature review should be submitted at the end of the 15th week of the semester.

Comprehensive Exam Committee Form

Comprehensive Exam Rubrics

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 Last Modified 10/19/15