Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prepping for Comps

So, this semester I'm finalizing my Comps reading lists. At this point, I am on track to finish my coursework in the Fall, and will comp in February- one year from now. Two of my committee members are on sabbatical next year (one for the entire year, one for just the Fall) so I'm locking in my lists now so I can spend the summer reading, since February will come so close.
I'm comping in Methodology/Folklore, Middle English, and Early Modern. Right now I have Methodology/Folklore and Middle English lists so I'll read those this summer, with Early Modern slated for fall reading.
So here's my question to the world- what's the best way to read/study for comps?
  • Is it to write short, rhetorical precis type responses for each work?
  • Create a notebook for each area, and take notes as I read?
  • Just read and annotate?
My Methodology/Folklore committee member has told me the four questions will break down as:
  1. one left field question
  2. one based on a discussion we've had
  3. one specific to my dissertation
  4. one that focuses on the methodology
My Middle English committee member has told me the exam will break down as:
  1. identify and explain key terms/phrases
  2. passage ID and close analysis
  3.  Synthesis essays (two parts) that address 3-5 ME works each and scholarly material
I'm still trying to lock down my Early Modern committee member.
I'd appreciate any comments/thoughts on how you prepped, things that worked, things that didn't.


  1. This is a great question! Best advice I got from my advisor: spend more time organizing your materials than re-reading them. Think through what sources you might go to for which (anticipated) question, and sort articles/books/ideas accordingly. She created a spreadsheet and massive binders when she took her comps; I made stacks of material on the floor of my office. It helped me to: a) think through my response strategies; b) make connections between articles I'd read at very different points in time over the previous two years; and c) feel like I had a place to go, immediately, once I had the questions in hand.

  2. Thanks! Right now I'm leaning towards color coded notebooks and paper for each field, then organizing those towards questions as you suggest. I figure then it will be easy to sort for diss