Preliminary Exams

Students will design preliminary examinations in American Studies to train them as scholar/teachers able to present their ideas as part of a course design and/or as the beginnings of a scholarly project. The examinations will allow students to:

  • gain a broad overview of three fields of study enabling them to teach introductory courses in one or more University departments or interdisciplinary programs,
  • provide an understanding of the state of scholarship allowing the location of both potential models for their own work as well as possible dissertation topics,
  • prepare a syllabus to show mastery of teaching and present a pre-proposal for a dissertation.

The exams will last for two hours and the student will be examined by three current or former members of the Brown faculty

Schedule to Preliminary Exams

Year 1:

Students will work with the DGS to consider their courses in light of possible fields and dissertation topics. The DGS will help students prepare a summer reading list.


Students will work, independently, to conceive of three fields and a series of questions in which they are interested.

Year 2:

First SemesterStudents will begin reading courses with potential preliminary exam advisors to locate beginning books and questions; in AMCV2520, students will workshop their field questions and beginning books, as well as draft a syllabus

Second Semester: Students will present to the Department of American Studies for review by February 28, the following:

  • Three field essays laying out important questions
  • Three sets of 5-10 beginning books
  • Three signed cover sheets
  • One overview essay explaining how the fields fit together and how they help prepare them for teaching and research

Year 3:

First Semester:

  • One month before the exam, students send the committee a copy of their syllabus.
  • One week before the exam, students send the committee their dissertation pre-proposal.
  • By October 30, students will take their preliminary examinations.