Inner Asian and Altaic Studies

Program of Study

A minimum of two years of academic residence is required in the Inner Asian and Altaic Study Program.  A graduate student is expected to complete a minimum of sixteen four-credit courses; however, in some cases the fulfillment of all requirements for the degree will require additional coursework. Courses are chosen in consultation with the student’s academic advisor.  

Language Requirement

Upon entering the IAAS program the student will prove competence in at least one foreign “tool” language, normally by examination in the first semester. During the first two years of residence, they should demonstrate competence by way of examination in a second “tool” language, selected from among those pertinent to the student’s topic of specialization. “Tool” languages, such as French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, etc., are to be distinguished from “source” languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, Persian, Tibetan, Turkic, and Sanskrit. Students are expected to be competent in the language(s) of their primary focus, and will be required to take written examinations in their “source” language or languages. 

Incomplete Grades

A grade of Incomplete (INC) in a course must be converted into a letter grade before the end of the next registration period. IAAS students may not have more than two grades of incomplete on their record.


Advising is a critically important aspect of the IAAS program, and the IAAS Committee will make appropriate advising arrangements for all students.  Once admitted to the IAAS program, students are assigned an academic advisor from among the members of the IAAS Committee, with whom they will design an appropriate program of study. Students will also consult with the Committee Chair to discuss their academic plan. 

General Examinations

By the end of the third year of residence, the candidate will have a three-hour general examination in three fields chosen in consultation with the student’s academic advisor. One of these fields should cover the history or culture of a major society outside of Inner Asia (e.g., Western Europe, Russia, Islamic Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, or the Americas). The other two fields may be focused on: 

  • Pre-Islamic History of Inner Asia
  • Medieval and Early Modern History of Inner Asia
  • Modern History of Inner Asia
  • Philology and Religion of Pre-Islamic Inner Asia
  • Philology and Religion of Medieval and Early Modern Inner Asia
  • Altaic or Tungusic Linguistics
  • Archaeology and Art of Inner Asia
  • Ethnology and Anthropology of Inner Asia

In some cases, students may, with the approval of the Committee, choose to take an additional fourth general examination field. 

Dissertation Prospectus

Within one academic year of completing their general examination, students will be required to present a written prospectus of their dissertation of at least 20 pages in length plus a bibliography for approval by the academic advisor and submission to the IAAS Committee. 


The doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to use primary source material and to produce a piece of original research. After the acceptance of the dissertation, the candidate must defend their dissertation in a special oral examination that is open to the public. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described online in GSAS Policies



Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies

Harvard University
1730 Cambridge Street, Suite 105
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138