Thursday, August 23, 2012



A friend of mine recently asked for my suggestions on preparing for the comprehensive examination in Regent University's Organizational Leadership PhD program. My response:

Congratulations on your achievement of completing the course phase of your journey!

Even though it offers little comfort, remain assured that the comps "scare" even the bravest and most well-prepared of potential candidates. You'll undoubtedly read and hear a lot of advice on how to approach the "eating of this elephant." One of my themes for life includes: "a poor plan well implemented beats the best plan left undone." Therefore, I most of all encourage you to weigh the different approaches, pick the one that best fits you and give it your committed effort -- as unto the Lord. In any case, my advise for preparation first concerns two things: (a) how comprehensive you were in developing your dialogue posts and (b) how well you've memorized references from key authors to support the 3 test-room topics you'll confront.

If you're like me and most of the folks I talked with (both before I took the comps and afterwards), you probably did an "ok" job on your dialogues. I would go back through those and all of the associated replies; categorize them (as best as possible) by comp topic / question; "beef up" any you skimped on; and then study them, as they apply to each of the categories.

As for the references, you probably need to have at least 5 or 6 citations/authors committed to memory, per comp question topic, in order to demonstrate / document your breadth of understanding of the associated literature. Of course, some of these references might overlap the different categories. This might sound daunting, but if you think about it, you probably already have at least 8 or 10 favorite references you've used through the years, to prove everything from "soup to nuts." Maybe you've cited Bandura (1977), Maslow (1972), Schein (1992), or Yukl (2001); bringing in the concepts of social learning, motivation, organizational culture, or leadership (respectively) into 10 of your previous papers and dialogues -- and you might probably even detail the associated full citations from memory. Build on your strengths in this area. Of course, you won't have to have the Kerlinger & Lee or Creswell citations memorized, if you'll take the 4th question home with you.

Finally, regardless of previous dialogue or memorized references, I would work back through all of the topics generally associated with leadership and be able to say something about each of those. Reviewing your dialogues and papers should help you in this endeavor. However, in my group's third question, they asked us about a concept I had not studied (looked at?) since my 1st semester. I was able to salvage the question with a low pass by relating it to things I knew -- but I used no references that spoke directly to the topic. If I had known then what I know now, I would have answered that weakness in preparation by trying to pretty much scan and commit to memory Winston and Patterson's (2006) study, found at: http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/ijls/new/vol1iss2/winston_patterson.doc/winston_patterson.htm. I would also include memorizing at least some secondary citations on each topic (as listed in their paper) for which I didn't already have references committed to memory.

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