Research Portfolio Replaces Traditional Ph.D. Comprehensives

With the faculty action approving a dramatically revised process for doctoral qualifying examinations, the Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice doctoral program enters a new era. The traditional comprehensive examination process has been replaced with a qualifying examination in the form of a research portfolio. The goal is to provide a substantially enhanced research component to the Ph.D. curriculum. That concept will pervade the program, from the first semester's coursework to the initial years as an alumnus.

The College is justifiably proud of the quality and impact of the doctoral program, built over the forty-year history of the effort. Our graduates have excelled. Two College of Criminal Justice graduates-Dr. Janet Mullings and Leanne F. Alarid-were named "academic star" publishers in a recent article in the Journal of Criminal Justice Education. We have established a virtual lineage of Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences presidents, with our alumni holding the office for three of the last five terms. Most "rankings" of Ph.D. programs in Criminology and Criminal Justice place SHSU in a highly competitive position. We have done well-particularly when we must compete with flagship state universities recognized more by the university name than the actual productivity of its criminal justice program.

But that is not good enough. Borrowing the title from Jim Collins' famous book, we intend to go from "Good to Great." And we are already great on a number of dynamics: a huge high-quality baccalaureate program; a reputation in Texas as the place to attend for criminal justice; a name that instantly opens doors; millions of dollars annually channeled to us from the Texas Legislature for CMIT, LEMIT, and CJC operations; an already strong and growing international exchange; a very substantial research effort; a presence in respected journals; and the list goes on.

Times nevertheless change. A gradual but cumulative shift among doctoral programs is occurring. Acknowledgement as a program of import in the next decade will not come from teaching quality, a strong field service component, or visibility in academic associations. It will come from sophisticated research with a strong statistical component-published in highly competitive journals. Our recent faculty hiring reflects this shift in emphasis, as does Dean Webb's tenure. Now the core structure of the doctoral program will also reflect the shift.

Portfolio Requirements

Doctoral students will no longer be tested "comprehensively." Instead the goal of what we formerly called "comprehensives" will be demonstrated research competence-a research portfolio. Passing "Quals" in the form of the portfolio will be a significant achievement.

The specified requisites for each student's Research Assessment Portfolio will be determined by program committees, constituted on a student by student basis. Competence is demonstrated by a combination of the following four core components:

  1. Manuscripts publishable (or published) in recognized refereed journals.
  2. Publication of applied research monographs and reports.
  3. A series of literature analyses in areas related to a proposed dissertation.
  4. Academic conference presentations (primarily ACJS and ASC), and related activities.

A student who has already established a record of publications in refereed journals is apt to have to do little else to demonstrate research competency. A "light" record of publications will likely require demonstration of research competence by a combination of the last three components.

Our goal is straightforward: we want doctoral graduates with a beginning record of research publication, a robust research agenda, and a commitment to contributing to the body of knowledge in Criminal Justice.

Member of The Texas State University System