Criminology Doctor of Philosophy Program

Comprehensive Examination(CRIM 897)

  • Ph.D. students in the School of Criminology are required to write a single comprehensive examination covering two core areas: methods and theory, and specific to the student's area of research interest. 
  • The Comprehensive examination may be written in any semester, provided that the sitting of that comprehensive exam is no sooner than the semester following the completion of all coursework.


The comprehensive examination will normally be written during one of the three SFU semesters and is expected to form a major part of the student's work obligations during that time.  It is anticipated that the student will be allowed up to four months to complete the exam.

  • Spring Comprehensive: Register by December 15
  • Summer Comprehensive: Register by April 15
  • Fall Comprehensive: Register by August 15


Comprehensive Exam Process

  1. Select an Examining Committee: the committee will consist of three members drawn from the School of Criminology faculty. One of these three will be designated as the Examining Committee Chair. The student will select the committee in consultation with his/her Senior Supervisor; two of the members of the committee are likely to be the members of the student’s supervisory committee, one other member should be selected from the faculty at large, dependent upon her or his interest and relevant research expertise.

  2. The student shall submit a completed and signed registration form to the Graduate Programs Assistant to be enrolled in CRIM 897.

  3. In the semester prior to the scheduled examination, the student will develop a program of study in consultation with the Comprehensive Examination Committee. The Committee will assume responsibility for designing an acceptable framework for the student’s preparation for the exam. The framework will take into account both the general parameters of the examination, and the individual needs and interests of the student. Typically, the central focus of preparation will comprise the creation of a challenging assignment, separate from the specific focus of the doctoral thesis, but often within the same general subject area.

  4. All members of the Examining Committee will contribute to the development of the assignment. The committee will ask the student to provide input.

  5. Length of the exam response should be determined by committee, but generally no less than 50 pages, and no more than 75 pages.

  6. The three (3) questions to be answered (or the assignment) - and an acceptance form - must be approved before commencement of the exam.

  7. Following submission of the Acceptance Form, candidates may withdraw from undertaking the comprehensive exam only under extenuating circumstances, and with the permission of the Graduate Program Committee.

  8. Approval by the Graduate Program Chair of the examination assignment will be forwarded to the candidate and to all examination committee members within one week of submitting the approval form.

  9. All exams should be typed, in a recognized essay format with appropriate bibliography. Late submission of responses will not be accepted unless due to extenuating circumstances.

  10. Examinations will be graded individually by the three committee members. Two possible grades may be awarded: "Pass" and "Fail". The overall grade will be assessed on a majority basis. In the event of one discrepant evaluation (e.g. two passes, one fail), the candidate will be judged to have “passed” (or “failed”) by a majority vote. In the event of a failed examination, the student will be required to write and pass a second comprehensive exam, in the semester immediately following the initial failure. Following a second failure permission to again re-write the exam will be granted only under exceptional circumstances, and after a thorough review of the student’s status and performance by the School of Criminology Graduate Program Committee.

    No more than one month should pass between the completion of the comprehensive exam and a decision being relayed by the Chair of the Examining Committee to the student and the Director of Graduate Program; this decision should supply the student with sufficiently detailed feedback on their performance.