The First Two Years
Most students complete their required coursework during the first two years. All coursework should be completed no later than the end of the third year.
Each student’s program of study must receive the approval of their advisor or, for first year students, of their advisory committee. The director of graduate studies, program director or department chair may sign a plan of study when the advisor is absent.
Students must maintain an overall grade average of B+.
No grade of “Incomplete” can be used to fulfill any departmental requirement.
Students may petition to have a course requirement waived on the basis of prior coursework, with the exception of the following: for Archaeology students, Anthropology 2070 and 3070; Anthropology 2250a and 2250b; for Social Anthropology students, Anthropology 2650a and Anthropology 2650b; Anthropology 3626 and Anthropology 3628.
Students may petition to have as many as eight graduate-level courses from another university accepted toward fulfillment of their PhD coursework requirements.
Archaeology PhD students choose areas of specialization in consultation with their primary advisor and advisory committee. See the Anthropology program of study page on the GSAS website for a more detailed presentation of archaeology program objectives and student expectations.
Archaeology PhD students must fulfill the following coursework requirements: Anthropology 2250a and 2250b: Proseminar in Archaeology; Anthropology 2070: Archaeological Method and Theory; Anthropology 3070: Case Studies and Research Proposal Preparation; and Anthropology 3636: Pedagogy in Anthropology, and twelve four-credit courses in archaeology or other fields chosen in consultation with the primary advisor and advisory committee. Students are expected to obtain competence in quantitative methods or computer applications (e.g., GIS) as they relate to the practice of archaeology. Courses taken to fulfill the requirements must normally be passed with a grade of B+ or better.
The expectation is that the student will be able to complete the program in six years. Beyond the eighth year of registered graduate study, students are required to withdraw. Students can apply for readmission for the degree in the term for which they submit their dissertation.
The course of study in Social Anthropology requires a minimum of sixteen four-credit courses, at least twelve of which must be in anthropology. The twelve required four-credit courses include the proseminars, Anthropology 2650a and 2650b: History and Theory of Social Anthropology,and the two methods courses, Anthropology 3628: Anthropological Research Methods and Anthropology 3626: Research Design/Proposal Writing; and a two-credit course, Anthropolgy 3636: Pedagogy in Anthropology. A four-credit course on the ethnography of one’s area of specialization is strongly recommended, and a four-credit course in archaeology is also recommended but not required. First-year students must attain at least a B+ in each of the proseminars.
Where appropriate, candidates whose native language is not English may petition the faculty to accept their native language or English as fulfillment of a language requirement.
Proficiency in one modern scholarly language other than English is required. In addition, the candidate must attain proficiency in a second scholarly language or in a field language or in a laboratory skill. The election of one among these options shall be made following consultation by the student with their advisor. Proficiency in language(s) and/or a laboratory skill must be demonstrated before the prospectus examination is taken.
Prior to admission to doctoral candidacy (i.e., before beginning field research), all PhD students in Social Anthropology must meet the Departmental requirement of demonstrating competence in a language other than English. The requirement can be met by taking a university administered placement exam (placing into the third year or above), by completing with a grade of B+ or better the fourth semester of a language sequence at Harvard, or by ad hoc arrangement in consultation with the primary student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. There are no exemptions to or substitutions (e.g., a programming language or other specialized skill) for this general requirement.
Social Anthropology PhD candidates are also required to demonstrate competence in the language they will need to speak in the field. When it is impossible to learn a field language at Harvard, the candidate must make the arrangements necessary to do so elsewhere. The field language requirement is fulfilled when approved by the student's advisor. In special circumstances candidates may fulfill this requirement by taking a course in anthropological linguistics, or another appropriate field. The student's primary advisor will identify the specific language requirements appropriate for the student's dissertation research.
During the first year, students must submit a plan indicating how they expect to fulfill the language requirements. In all cases, students are strongly encouraged to demonstrate competence in at least two languages other than their native language.
- Incompletes are granted at the discretion of course instructors. However, first year graduate students are not permitted to receive a grade of Incomplete in any of their coursework, including courses taken in other departments.
- Students normally may not request Incompletes from instructors who are going on leave during the following academic term.
- Students who are non-resident (traveling scholars or those on leave) are subject to the same deadlines as resident students (i.e., Incompletes must be completed during the term following that in which the Incomplete was taken); otherwise, students must petition the GSAS Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for more time to complete the work.
- Students normally may not take more than one Incomplete in a term. Incompletes in the Archaeology and Social Anthropology proseminars or any other course taken in the first year are unacceptable.
- A prolonged record of Incompletes will jeopardize a student’s chances of obtaining teaching fellowships and financial awards in the department.
Master of Arts (AM)
Students may apply for a non-terminal AM degree (aka ‘Masters in passing’) en route to the PhD degree. Normally, this application is made after a student has passed the general examinations and fulfilled coursework requirements, except for elective courses. Archaeology PhD students may apply for the non-terminal AM after passing the general examination and eight four-credit courses. Social Anthropology PhD students must pass the general examination and twelve required four-credit courses before applying for the non-terminal AM. A thesis is not required for the non-terminal AM degree in Anthropology. Students who do not attain the PhD may be awarded a terminal AM degree when appropriate.
Terminal AM in Medical Anthropology
Only one terminal AM degree is offered, in Medical Anthropology. Preference for admission to this program is given to students and practitioners in the health professions.
- The terminal AM in Medical Anthropology requires eight four-credit courses, including one of the proseminars (2650a or 2650b), an ethnography course, and three courses in medical anthropology. Only one course may be included that is outside of social anthropology.
- A thesis is required for the AM in Medical Anthropology. The thesis must be read and accepted by two department members.
- All courses taken for the AM (non-terminal and Medical Anthropology) must be passed with a minimum grade of B+.
- Language requirements are waived for the AM in Medical Anthropology degree.
- A minimum of one year in residence is required for the AM in Medical Anthropology degree.
- Graduate students are expected to teach during their careers at Harvard.
- First-time teaching fellows must participate in at least one Bok Center Teaching Conference.
- Second-year Graduate students enroll in Anthro 3636: Pedagogy in Anthropology before teaching in the third year.
- As a rule, only graduate students who have completed field work may apply to teach Junior/Senior Tutorials in Social Anthropology.
- Students in their third and fourth years have priority for teaching fellowship appointments.
- Upon admission, students are assigned a faculty advisor or advisors based upon compatibility of research interests. The advisor(s) appointed at the time of admission typically serve(s) on the student’s dissertation committee.
- The progress of each student will be assessed annually by faculty.
- Students may contact the graduate program administrator to address any questions and/or issues relating to the advising process.
In addition to the primary advisor(s), students will also have an advisory committee, consisting of three archaeology faculty members, including the primary advisor(s), for the first three to four semesters of the student’s academic career.
The student shall meet with their advisor(s) on a regular basis—at minimum, the beginning of each term of residence prior to completing enrollment. The student shall also meet with their advisory committee at least once during each of the first two years of residence, generally before or during the first week of classes in the fall term.
Upon admission to the PhD program in Social Anthropology, each student is assigned a primary advisor and a secondary advisor, based on a preliminary assessment of mutual interests. After the first year, in consultation with faculty, the student may select a permanent advisor, either the person to whom they were assigned when they entered, or another faculty member whose interests more closely match those of the student.
In the absence of faculty advisors/advisors on leave, students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS); in such instances the DGS serves as the student’s acting advisor. A new advisor may be appointed by the DGS on the initiative of either the student or the advisor at any time in the course of study. If the DGS is the advisor being changed, the director of the Social Anthropology program will step in to oversee the process.
Students should schedule meetings with their advisor(s) at least once per term – more often is very strongly encouraged – to discuss their programs and to work out a plan of study. Students should also keep their advisors informed about their progress while in the field.
Dissertation committees consist of at least three members. Archaeology and Social Anthropology dissertation committees must include at least two members from the respective program. Students in both programs may include readers on their committees who are from other departments or universities, subject to faculty approval.
See specific program sections below for additional information regarding the dissertation committee.
General Exams and Qualifying Paper
A broad, comparative approach to graduate education is one of the most distinctive and valued attributes of the Archaeology Program of Harvard’s Department of Anthropology. To preserve this signature feature of the program while at the same time promoting publication of work early in a student’s graduate career, the Archaeology faculty has a two-part General Examination (written and oral) and a Qualifying Paper.
a. The written General Examinations is “closed book” and conducted over an agreed-upon period of time during one working day, with that time being flexible depending on the particular circumstances of each student. The one-hour oral examination for each student is ordinarily scheduled to take place one week after the written General Examination and are attended by all available archaeology faculty. Students are strongly encouraged to review the content of their written exam and to be prepared to answer questions related to that exam in addition to any other questions that the faculty may ask.
The “closed book” exam normally takes place in January just before the beginning of the spring semester. In preparation for the exam, students are very strongly encouraged to review the past 15 years of General Examinations given by the program. In addition, they will be provided with a comprehensive list of short terms for identification (IDs) three months prior to the date set for the general exam. A selection of these IDs will be included in the January exam. In addition, a list of “Key foundational readings” will be distributed early in November. These will be based on the suggestions of the entire archaeology faculty and will be curated to be available and adjustable year to year. This list of key texts will focus on breadth of general archaeological knowledge including that which may not have been taught in required courses or in other coursework that students may have taken in the first three semesters.
The primary focus of the General Examination essay questions will be of the broad comparative kinds that have been framed in past examinations. However, unlike in the past, the expectation is that the questions will draw heavily and explicitly on three of the four required courses that incoming students are required to take during their first three semesters of course work. These are: Anthropology 2070 : Archaeological Theory; Anthropology 2250a : Small Scale Societies; and Anthropology 2250b : Large Scale Societies. Theory and epistemology will be topics for essays in the General Examination as will questions comparing specific aspects of small-scale and large-scale societies from different parts of the world. For the General Examination, a specific list of themes that is based on the topics covered in these three required courses will be generated by the faculty. Those themes ordinarily will be all or many of the weekly themes covered in those three courses. The expectation is that the exam questions will explicitly concern those themes discussed in the required courses. However, these questions will require that students engage with those themes in a comparative manner, drawing on details and information that extends beyond the content of the required courses as the exams have done in the past. Thus students will need to employ information gained in other courses taken during their first three semesters as well as the information provided in the provided list of key texts.
b. A Qualifying Paper is required to be submitted before the end of the fourth semester of classes. This paper is intended to evaluate student writing abilities prior to their focusing on dissertation research, with the goal of giving our students the opportunity to hone their writing skills to a professional level. The topic of the Qualifying Paper will be developed by the student in consultation with the student’s Pre-Prospectus Advisory Committee. That committee will generally be composed of the three members of the faculty who were assigned to the student at the beginning of the first semester.
Students may take a “Reading Course” in order to prepare the Qualifying Paper.
In those cases where a student has already completed a Master’s thesis or published a peer-reviewed paper in a journal, that student ordinarily will be allowed to submit that work in fulfillment of the Qualifying Paper requirement so long as the student is the sole author and submits all of the peer reviews along with the thesis/published paper. An exception may be made for cases in which a second or third author is listed on the paper as a courtesy.
The entire Archaeology faculty will review the Qualifying Paper, and there will be a defense/discussion of the work with the faculty late in the Spring semester. If changes are required after the defense, they are to be submitted before the summer’s end to the pre-Prospectus Advisory Committee. Ordinarily the “outside member” of that three-person committee will take charge of evaluating the consensus as to whether the work “passes” as a qualifying paper. If a resubmission is again required, this three-person committee will consider and evaluate the resubmission, as above.
Normally, at the end of their first year, the student will form a General Examination Committee consisting of three faculty members (one of whom may be from outside the department). After completing the general examination in the fall of the third year, students will form a Dissertation Prospectus Committee. Students may choose to keep the same members from their General Examination Committee or choose new members.
The General Examination has five parts, including four sets of written documents and an oral examination. Each of these is discussed in more detail just below.
Part 1, Theory Requirement
Part 2, Reading Lists
Part 3, Field Essays
Part 4, Research Plan Overview
Part 5, General Examination Oral Defense
Part 1. THEORY REQUIREMENT
The theory requirement is fulfilled by successful completion of two semesters of the proseminar in the history and theory of Social Anthropology (A2650a & A2650b). The proseminar is taken during the fall and spring semesters of the student’s first year in the program.
Part 2. READING LISTS
Guidelines: In consultation with their General Examination Committee, students will develop two reading lists that pertain directly to their research interests. Ordinarily, one will be regionally focused, the other thematically focused. The latter might be defined theoretically, or in terms of specific content or topics of interest.
These lists are not meant to be comprehensive overviews of fields of research. Nor are they meant to be uniform or standardized. Instead, they should be organized around the student’s particular research concerns and created to serve the student’s unique scholarly objectives.
One way for students to proceed is to first boil down their research interests to one page, and then ask themselves: what literatures, regional, theoretical, and/or analytical, do they need to master in order to successfully carry out this project? Reading lists should focus on contemporary work but anchor it in older traditions.
Aims: The reading lists serve important goals, which students should keep in mind as they create their lists. The most fundamental, of course, is to ground the student’s PhD research. These lists will serve as the basis for the field essays, the prospectus, and later, the dissertation itself. At the heart of every good dissertation will be carefully constructed reading lists. The reading lists will also serve as a vehicle by which students can begin identifying the fields of intellectual endeavor in which they will claim expertise and by which they will define themselves intellectually. Many students will eventually teach in these sub-fields; creating the reading lists will serve as an exercise in constructing meaningful sets of readings from which they can later draw in developing syllabi for their own courses.
Scope: No more than 75 to 100 entries per list.
Part 3. FIELD ESSAYS
Aims: In consultation with their advisor and/or committee members, students will prepare two field essays that are based on close and selective engagement with key works on the previously submitted reading lists. The task of the field essays is to delimit a field of inquiry that is interesting and position the student’s project in relation to it. The two essays jointly constitute an important first step in the student’s process of defining his or her doctoral dissertation research topic.
Guidelines: The style and content of the field essays will vary from student to student. Regardless of the specific style and format, like the reading lists, the field essays should engage with ethnographic as well as theoretical work, and they should emphasize contemporary work, but link it to earlier traditions of scholarship. Students are encouraged to begin by engaging with relatively current work, mapping out the state of the field now (identifying the key questions, central issues and debates, core figures, and so on) and clarifying how they will productively engage with and contribute to this body of work. They should then trace the historical roots of important strands in contemporary scholarship, showing how today’s research has developed out of, and often in reaction to, earlier work. By tracing out earlier intellectual precedents, lineages, and/or genealogies, the essays will demonstrate an understanding of the historical contexts within which contemporary work has emerged.
Length: The maximum length for each field essay is 15 pages, double-spaced.
Part 4. RESEARCH PLAN OVERVIEW
Guidelines and Aims: The research plan overview is a brief, synthetic statement that brings together the two field essays and explains the student’s research purpose to the committee. It might be thought of as a preliminary sketch of the student’s planned dissertation research. This document will be presented at the general examination oral defense along with the reading lists and field essays.
Length: No more than 2 to 3 pages.
Part 5. GENERAL EXAMINATION ORAL DEFENSE
The Graduate Program Administrator will maintain a file or dossier for every Social Anthropology graduate student. Students are responsible for submitting their reading lists, field essays, and research plan overview to the administrator for inclusion in their file. Faculty members teaching the proseminar are responsible for submitting copies of the students’ paper (or papers), in graded form, to the Graduate Program Administrator for inclusion in the file.
When all the documents required for the General Examination Oral Defense are available in the file, the Graduate Program Administrator, in consultation with the student and committee, will schedule the Oral Defense. Two weeks before the defense is held, the Graduate Program Administrator will distribute the full set of documents to the student’s General Examination Committee.
Due Dates for General Exam Requirements
Part 1, Theory Requirement: Fulfilled by successful completion of two semesters of proseminar, year 1.
Part 2, Reading Lists: Due ideally by the end of the fall semester of the G2 year.
Part 3, Field Essays: Due ideally by the end of the G2 year, but no later than the beginning of the G3 year.
Part 4, Research Plan Overview: Due with the field essays, ideally by the end of the G2 year, but no later than the beginning of the G3 year.
Part 5, General Examination Oral Defense: Normally to be scheduled by the end of the G2 year but no later than the end of the fall semester of the G3 year.
TIMETABLE FOR COMPLETION OF REQUIRED COURSES AND OTHER PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
All students are required to take two semesters of the Proseminar (A2650a & b) during their G1 year. They should take Methods (A3628) during the spring of their G1 or G2 years so that it can be of use when they do preliminary summer during those years. Successful completion of the methods course is a prerequisite for enrolling in the compulsory Research Design/Proposal Writing course (A3626), which should be taken during the Fall of the G3 year, or while they are writing grant proposals for funding.
The schedule set out below calls for completion of the General Examination by the end the G2 year and no later than the Fall of the G3 year. Following the oral defense portion of the exam, students turn to the prospectus. The prospectus is normally written and defended by the end of the G3 year and before embarking on the extended period of field research.
- Proseminar (A2650a) required
- 3 additional courses
- Proseminar (A2650b) required
- 3 additional courses; students are encouraged to take Methods (A3628) as one of the additional courses
- Form General Examination Committee in consultation with advisor
- First summer predissertation research and/or language study
- Establish fields of intellectual endeavor and create reading lists
- 4 courses; students are encouraged to take relevant courses or do 1-2 independent studies over the course of their G2 year to prepare general examination fields and write the field essays
- Methods (A3628) required if not already completed
- 3 additional courses; if they have not already taken 1-2 relevant courses or independent studies to prepare their field essays, they can do so this semester
- Students are encouraged to submit field essays
- Second summer predissertation research
- Start actively working on a grant proposal to prepare for the Research design/proposal writing course in the fall
- Field essays must be submitted by the beginning of the semester
- Schedule the oral defense of the general examination
- Research design/proposal writing course (A3626) required
- Form Dissertation Committee
- Grant proposals for funding due
- Begin writing prospectus
- More grant proposals
- Submit prospectus and schedule defense
The Dissertation Prospectus
A dissertation topic is developed through consultations between the student, the principal advisor, and other appropriate scholars. The dissertation prospectus consists of a proposal that describes the research on which the dissertation will be based. It should include a statement of the problem(s) and topic(s) to be addressed and should relate how the student intends to address them. The prospectus normally should be no longer than 20 double-spaced typewritten pages of text and should include relevant visual and bibliographic materials and details on possible funding sources. With the approval of the student’s advisor, the prospectus may be produced in the form of a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a doctoral dissertation improvement grant (DDIG).
The student must develop and submit the prospectus to each member of their prospectus examining committee at least two weeks before the prospectus examination. The examining committee shall consist of the student’s advisor(s) and at least two other faculty members, one of whom must be an archaeology program member, although any additional faculty member who wishes may participate in the examination. The chair of the examining committee must be a member of the archaeology program and is ordinarily one of the student’s advisor(s).
The prospectus examination shall take the form of a defense before the student’s advisory committee. Following the defense, the final version of the prospectus should be circulated for comment and approval to the prospectus examination committee (or to the dissertation committee, should said committee have been constituted by that time) at least two weeks before being placed on file with the department’s graduate program administrator.
Students ordinarily may not apply for outside funding for dissertation field research until they have successfully defended their prospectus. Any application to a funding source outside of Harvard University for either fieldwork or other research funding for dissertation research must be approved by the student’s advisor(s), and it is expected that students shall first submit all research proposals to their advisor(s).
All candidates must, in consultation with their advisors, select a dissertation topic and describe their proposed doctoral research in a prospectus. The prospectus should 1) give a concise statement of the problem to be addressed in the dissertation or of the hypotheses it proposes to test, 2) provide a literature review that draws on their reading lists and field essays, 3) provide a clear research design, and 4) address the project with appropriate research methods. The prospectus will normally be written in the fall semester of the G3 year after the general examination and in tandem with the Research Design/Proposal Writing course.
The candidate will discuss and defend the prospectus before his or her dissertation committee. The prospectus defense should take place prior to the beginning of dissertation fieldwork (typically at the end of the third year). Completion of the Human Subjects compliance forms and approval of them by Harvard’s Institutional Review Board must be completed before dissertation field work can begin (see the IRB website).
Length: No more than 25-30 double-spaced pages, exclusive of the bibliography and any figures.
The Dissertation and Defense
All anthropology PhD candidates must pass a PhD dissertation defense.
A complete draft of the dissertation must be received by all members of the dissertation committee at least one month prior to the dissertation defense, which must be passed at least one month before the dissertation is due at the Registrar’s Office. The candidate may have to advance this due date for readers outside the Boston area.
PhD dissertation manuscripts must conform to the requirements outlined in Dissertations. Failure to meet deadlines for completion of the dissertation may constitute grounds for dismissal from the program. Students may apply for readmission to the graduate program through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Readmitted students may be required to retake the special examination in archaeology or the general examination in social anthropology.
The dissertation committee is composed of at least three members, two of whom must be Archaeology program faculty members. The chair of the committee must be a member of the Archaeology program faculty. Normally the prospectus examination committee and the dissertation committee are composed of the same individuals, although it may be appropriate that substitutions or additions be made. A complete draft of the dissertation must be received by all members of the dissertation committee at least two months before the approved dissertation is due at the Registrar’s office and must be approved by that committee at least one month before the Registrar’s due date. A draft of the dissertation must be made available to other members of the Department at least two weeks before the private defense (see below). The text of the dissertation, exclusive of charts, figures, references cited, and appendices, ordinarily may not exceed 250 typewritten double-spaced pages.
The dissertation ordinarily must be 1) assessed by the dissertation committee at least 1.5 months before the dissertation is due at the Registrar’s office, 2) formally defended in a closed meeting (private defense) with the dissertation committee and other interested faculty members approximately one month before the Registrar’s due date, and 3) presented orally to a general audience, including other faculty members (public defense) as soon as possible after a successful private defense. After successful completion of the above assessments and after the incorporation of any required revisions, signatures of the committee members must be obtained on the dissertation acceptance certificate, which is submitted with the dissertation to the Registrar’s office. Note that the above timetables are estimates. The candidate should discuss timetables with the chair of the PhD committee.
Dissertations are submitted electronically. The final manuscript of the dissertation must conform to the requirements described in Dissertations. Students are expected to submit a complete draft of the dissertation by the end of the sixth year of graduate study, and ordinarily the dissertation must be approved by the end of the eighth year of graduate study or the student will be required to withdraw (see above).
The PhD dissertation should normally fall between 300 and 400 double-spaced pages in length. Given that most reputable academic publishers will not consider unrevised dissertations for publication, students are encouraged to anticipate revision by aiming to stay at or below this optimal length. Any student expecting to defend a dissertation of more than 450 pages should petition for the prior agreement of the faculty, which will base its decision on the student’s research committee’s evaluation and other relevant information.
The dissertation committee will review the dissertation and decide when it is ready for defense. The doctorate will be awarded when the candidate passes a public defense. The final copy of the dissertation should be in committee members’ hands one month before the scheduled defense.
Dissertations are now submitted electronically. The final manuscript of the dissertation must conform to the requirements described in Dissertations.
The public defense lasts approximately two hours. It begins with a short (15–20 minute) presentation by the candidate. Committee members then question the candidate. A more general discussion with other social anthropology faculty, graduate students, and other attendees follows.
Normally, a complete draft of the dissertation must be submitted within five years after entering the program (exclusive of the time required to complete fieldwork). Students entering their seventh year (exclusive of the time required to complete fieldwork) must submit a letter to the faculty requesting an extension of this time limit.