The PhD requirements consist of:

  • Course work, including three required courses and nine elective courses
  • A first-year exam
  • Pre-dissertation fieldwork
  • The preparation and defense of two qualifying exam essays
  • The preparation of dissertation research proposals for external funding
  • A 12-18 month period of field research
  • The defense of the completed dissertation
  • Three semesters of teaching assistantships

Beyond these requirements, students are expected to meet regularly with their advisors to discuss their academic plans. Download the Graduate Student Handbook for more details.

  • Coursework

    Graduate students are required to take 12 courses, including three required courses, spread over the first three years.

    First Year

    • Readings in Anthropology (strongly recommended): Students engage texts in classical social theory in relation to contemporaneous ethnographic texts.
    • Proseminar (required): Students learn key concepts and methods in the history of anthropological theory.

    Second Year

    • Methods (required): Students develop a toolkit of specific methods tailored to specific research projects and theoretical interests.
    • Defining Region (strongly recommended): Students learn to define region in relation to their research project and through engagement with regional literatures. This course helps students work towards a draft of their regional qualifying exam essay.

    Third Year

    • Proposal Writing (required): Students articulate their research project in the process of writing proposals for external funding.
  • First-Year Exam

    All incoming graduate students will be provided with a reading list at the start of the summer before the beginning of the academic year. This reading list is comprised of texts that the department believes to be significant in forming modern anthropological thought. Students should begin reading over the summer and throughout the first year.The First-Year Exam is a take-home, 36-hour exam consisting of two 5-page essays. Students will be provided three essay prompts and can choose two prompts to respond to. The exam is administered in March, after Spring Break.

    A faculty committee will evaluate the essays. If the committee deems it necessary, the student may have to retake the exam in early May. If the second effort is unsatisfactory, the committee will evaluate the student’s overall progress before making a final decision as to whether the student can continue in the program.

  • Pre-Dissertation Field Research

    All anthropology graduate students are required to undertake pre-dissertation fieldwork in the summer after the first year. This summer project is exploratory in nature and is intended to give students an opportunity to make initial contacts, explore the terrain, and visit the areas in which they will eventually do their dissertation work.IRB permission is required for all research involving human subjects, and students must apply for clearance at least six weeks before approvals are needed. Students must provide the IRB with the name of an expert for the area in which the research will take place. Details of the procedures for application are available on the Homewood Institutional Review Board website.In cases in which the student expects to write a dissertation based on archival sources or published literature, the summer may be used to work in libraries and archives. 

    Funding for Pre-Dissertation Field Research

    While students are supported throughout the summer with stipend, the department encourages students to seek project grants to cover expenses related to research.

    In addition to external funding sources, applications made be made to Krieger School programs and centers such as:

    • Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
    • East Asian Studies
    • Islamic Studies
    • Program in Jewish Studies

    Please see the Funding page for additional funding sources.

    The department may be able to provide limited support to students whose research expenses are not met by summer stipends and who are unable to secure internal or external funding. However, this support is not guaranteed.

  • Comprehensive Examination

    Students must complete their comprehensive exams before or by the start of their fourth year. The comprehensive examination consists in the preparation of two synthetic essays – the first on a conceptual issue and the second on a region – and a viva voce examination on these essays. The final essays should be between 25 and 30 pages in length and should demonstrate the student’s mastery over the major debates in their chosen fields. Students are also required to defend their dissertation research proposals at the time of the comprehensive exam and to submit it to the chair of the exam committee. Prior to the exam, they should have completed their coursework and fulfilled the language requirement.Each student is responsible for establishing a three-member committee of the faculty (one of whom should be requested to act as chair) who will examine the student on the essays and conduct a viva voce examination. In some cases, the committee may include one member of the faculty from outside the Department of Anthropology. The names of the committee members should be communicated to the academic program administrator by the end of the second year.

    Students must circulate their essays to all department faculty at least two weeks before the date of examination. Faculty may communicate their written comments to the student and to the exam committee chair. The exam committee must approve of the essays before circulation.

    Students will be awarded the MA degree on passing the comprehensive examination. It is expected that most students will receive ABD (All But Dissertation) status upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination and may proceed to their dissertation research. The department may decide in exceptional circumstances that the student cannot be permitted to proceed to dissertation research or there may be personal circumstances in which a student may wish to discontinue after receipt of the MA degree. If a student opts for the terminal MA, they are not required to submit a dissertation research proposal.

    A student who fails to complete the comprehensive exam by the end of their fourth year will be placed on probation. (See Policy for Graduate Student Probation, Funding Withdrawal, and Dismissal.)

  • Language Requirement

    Students are required to study one foreign language. This could be a field language or a language that a student would find useful for research literature. In the case of students whose native language is not English, the foreign language must be different from their native tongue but could be a different dialect or language within the same larger language group. In case the university does not have provisions for study in a particular language, the student may devise a program of instruction with the advisor and the DGS. Students will have been deemed to have successfully completed the language requirement if they obtain: 1) a grade of B or higher for an intermediate-level course; or 2) a passing grade on an exam administered by a competent authority consisting of translation assignments.The Center for Language Education and language departments on campus are a resource for students to complete this requirement. Students can seek outside funding for training as well, and a students can apply for limited funding from the department for language training outside the university.

  • Teaching Requirements
    All students are required to provide teaching assistance for three courses in the first three years of their training, starting the second semester of their first year. There are other possibilities for gaining teaching experience after the student has acquired All But Dissertation (ABD) status. These include the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship and Teaching Fellowships from the Programs in Latin American Studies, Expository Writing, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program’s Teaching Fellowship.
  • Dissertation Research


    Graduate students should apply for non-resident status with the Graduate Board before leaving for fieldwork. The usual period of fieldwork is 12-18 months. During the time when students are conducting fieldwork, they are expected to be in regular contact with their advisors regarding their progress. This applies also to faculty on leave.

    Dissertation Writing

    Upon return from fieldwork, students should meet with their committee members to discuss benchmarks for progress in dissertation writing. Students are expected to work out a schedule for the submission of drafts with their committee members.

    Dissertation Defense

    The dissertation defense takes the form of a Graduate Board Examination, required by the University for the PhD. The oral exam covers the contents of the dissertation. The exam committee is composed of two readers, one internal examiner from within the department, and two external examiners from outside the department.

    Students should distribute the dissertation draft six weeks before the exam date to the readers, and the final draft should be submitted to exam committee members at least two weeks before the exam date.

    Upon successful completion of the dissertation defense, students should submit one final copy of the dissertation to the department, and one to the library binding office. The requirements for degree are not complete until the dissertation is turned into the library binding office.