Ph.D. in Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology offers a Master of Arts (MA) and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Anthropology. Most students accepted to our graduate program pursue a Ph.D. Students entering the program without a master's degree in anthropology or an equivalent discipline, as approved by the Graduate Committee, fulfill additional requirements to complete a joint MA/Ph.D. track.
At UConn, the Department of Anthropology recognizes and provides graduate education in subfields that are closely tied to our faculty members’ research strengths:
- Critical biocultural anthropology
- Cultural anthropology
- Environmental anthropology
- Evolution, cognition, and culture
- Human rights
- Medical anthropology
Students identify their own area(s) of specialization and work closely with their major advisor to develop a program of coursework and research training. The program should be tailored to the student's interests and should fulfill the degree requirements described below.
Below are general guidelines for the anthropology Ph.D. and MA/Ph.D. tracks. The requirements conform to the Graduate School policies as outlined in the Graduate Catalog.
The UConn Department of Anthropology Graduate Program Handbook lists full degree requirements and guidelines for the Ph.D. and MA/Ph.D. tracks. Please email the Director of Graduate Studies for a copy of the handbook.
Students entering the Ph.D. program with a Master of Arts in Anthropology or an equivalent discipline, as approved by the Graduate Committee, complete the requirements below to earn the Ph.D. Work for the doctoral degree can usually be finished in six or seven years, and must be completed within eight years, in accordance with Graduate School policy.
Courses and Credits for the Ph.D.
Students must complete:
- A total of 15 course credits.
- ANTH 5500 (Professional Development) in the first or second year of the program.
- A total of 15 credits of doctoral dissertation research (ANTH 6950).
Students must be enrolled in a minimum of six credits each semester to be considered a full-time student. One course is typically equivalent to three credits.
In order to ensure timely progress through coursework and toward the degree, we recommend that students complete their required course credits within the first two years of graduate school. Students are encouraged to take three courses (nine course credits) in some semesters, although we generally advise students to take only two courses (six course credits) in the first semester of year one, to help students ease into the program as they are transitioning to graduate school at UConn.
Students should generally enroll in courses at the 5000 level or higher, but up to six course credits may come from courses at the 3000 or 4000 level.
Major Advisor and Advisory Committee
A member of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Anthropology is appointed to serve as the major advisor for each graduate student. The major advisor works closely with the student to develop a program of coursework and research training that fulfills the degree requirements and is tailored to their specific interests. The major advisor is also responsible for coordinating the supervisory work of the student’s advisory committee. Occasionally, it may be desirable or appropriate for a student’s degree program to be directed by two co-major advisors.
If a change of major advisor becomes necessary for any reason, the student must notify the Director of Graduate Studies and file a Change of Graduate Major Advisor form, bearing the signature of the new advisor, with the Office of the Registrar.
Each student also has an advisory committee to help guide their graduate work. The advisory committee should be formed before the student has completed 12 course credits and shall then supervise the remainder of the student’s degree program.
The advisory committee is formed after consultation between the major advisor and the student, and includes the major advisor and at least two associate advisors, one of whom must hold a current appointment to the Graduate Faculty in the student’s field of study or area of concentration.
In addition to these members of the advisory committee, the Dean of the Graduate School may appoint another person to the advisory committee – such as a member of the Graduate Faculty outside the student’s field of study but in a related field. If deemed appropriate by the student’s major advisor, the major advisor may request that a suitably qualified external (non-UConn) associate advisor be appointed to the student’s advisory committee. Such requests must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. Ordinarily, not more than one external associate advisor is appointed to the advisory committee.
Ph.D. Plan of Study
After completing 18 course credits, each student prepares a Ph.D. Plan of Study in consultation with their major advisor. The Plan of Study lists the coursework and dissertation research credits that will be used to complete the doctoral degree, and must be approved by each member of the student’s advisory committee before being submitted to the Graduate School.
The Plan of Study should consist largely of courses at the 5000 (graduate) level or higher, but a limited number of credits (six or less) at the 3000 or 4000 level can be included.
Up to 12 credits of advanced coursework taken while the student was an undergraduate or non-degree student at UConn may be included as long as:
- The coursework was completed within the time limit for completing the Ph.D. requirements (i.e., coursework that would be more than eight years old when the Ph.D. is completed should not be included on the Ph.D. Plan of Study).
- Inclusion of the coursework is approved by the student’s advisory committee.
- The coursework meets any additional criteria described in the Graduate Catalog.
A limited number of credits from graduate-level academic coursework completed at other accredited institutions may be accepted in transfer and included on the Ph.D. Plan of Study. Classes that were used to fulfill a currently held degree are not eligible to transfer for the doctoral degree. Transfer credits must be:
- At an appropriate level for the Ph.D.
- Associated with a grade of B- or higher.
- Completed within eight years of when the Ph.D. will be conferred.
The student’s major advisor must approve the transfer of credits and sign off on the Transfer Credit Request Form, which should be submitted to the Graduate School with the Ph.D. Plan of Study. Transfer credits must also meet any additional criteria described in the Graduate Catalog.
Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination
All Ph.D. students at the University of Connecticut are required to pass a Ph.D. General Examination. In anthropology, this exam is referred to as the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam.
After a student’s Advisory Committee has been formed and their Plan of Study approved, the Ph.D. comprehensive exam should be undertaken. This exam is designed to assess the student’s mastery of the literature most relevant to their Ph.D. research, so the content is unique to each student. The exam is different from an MA final exam, which evaluates a student’s mastery of the foundational literature in their subfield of anthropology (e.g., medical anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, etc).
For the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, the examining committee consists of at least five faculty members, including all members of the student’s advisory committee. The examining committee determines the specific content of the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, with the contours shaped by input from the student and the student’s major advisor.
To prepare for the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, the student and their major advisor identify three to five topical areas that are closely related to the student’s developing dissertation research. These topical areas may encompass theory, methods, history, an ethnographic or geographical focus, specific areas of empirical research, etc. For each topical area, the student prepares a reading list of approximately 30-50 primary sources (i.e., about 100-150 sources altogether, divided approximately equally among the areas). The student’s examining committee reviews the topical lists and suggests additions or deletions, with each committee member contributing where appropriate given their expertise.
Once the reading lists have been finalized, students typically devote a couple of months to reading the assigned literature. Many students may find it useful to prepare an annotated bibliography or a document with notes on the key points, relevant methods and/or theory, and core findings for each reference as a study guide. It can also be helpful for students to think explicitly about how to synthesize the material and conclusions from multiple sources because synthesis is a key goal of this part of Ph.D. study.
We recommend that the student touch base with each committee member a few weeks before the exam to confirm that they are on the same page regarding the core topics to be covered on the exam. Committee members should review the relevant reading list(s) when writing exam questions.
The Ph.D. comprehensive exam itself has two possible formats, with each student selecting the format of their exam in consultation with their major advisor:
Option 1 (15-hour exam)
In this format, the written exam is completed in 15 hours, with the time divided equally among the identified topical areas and the student writing on one area per day. Thus, for a student with three topical areas, the exam will take place over three days, with five hours of writing per day (a mid-writing break is permitted). For a student with five areas of study, the exam will take place over five days and entail three hours of writing per day. The writing days may occur consecutively (i.e., in a single week) or be more spaced out (i.e., spread over two or more weeks), with the specific schedule determined by the student and their major advisor after considering the student’s other time commitments (i.e., teaching and research responsibilities) that semester.
On each day of the exam, the Advisory Committee provides the student with questions about the material from one topical area (with questions developed by the Advisory Committee without student input). The student may be asked to answer 1-3 questions and is often given a choice of which question(s) to answer. In all cases, questions are designed to assess the student’s broad familiarity with the relevant literature and synthesis of what is currently understood about that topic.
(Please note that students will not be asked to write a dissertation grant proposal as part of this exam because that constitutes a separate program requirement – i.e., the dissertation prospectus.)
Students are allowed access to their notes and sources during the exam, and should include citations of relevant sources in their answers. Altogether, with this format, the written exam takes 15 hours and typically encompasses 30-40 pages of writing (double-spaced).
Option 2 (take-home exam)
In this format, the written exam takes place over a more extended time frame, with the student writing about each topical area over a one-to-two-week period and the number of pages written divided approximately equally among areas. The student and major advisor together determine the specific writing schedule after taking the student’s other time commitments (i.e., teaching and research responsibilities) into consideration. For each topical area, the Advisory Committee provides the student with one or more questions about the material (with questions developed by the Advisory Committee without student input).
Students typically write 12-25 double-spaced pages per topical area, with the response taking the form of a review paper or essay. Thus, for a student with three topical areas, the exam will consist of three 20-25 page essays. For a student with five areas of study, the exam will entail five 12-15 page essays. Students are allowed access to their notes and sources during the exam, and should include citations of relevant sources in their answers.
For each topical area, the Advisory Committee may ask the student to answer 1-3 questions, and may give the student a choice of which question(s) to answer. In all cases, questions are designed to assess the student’s broad familiarity with the relevant literature and synthesis of what is currently understood about that topic. (Please note that students will not be asked to write a dissertation grant proposal as part of this exam because that constitutes a separate program requirement – i.e., the dissertation prospectus.) Altogether, with this format, the written exam takes 3-10 weeks to complete and encompasses 60-75 pages of writing (double-spaced).
Regardless of which format is used, the Advisory Committee is expected to read and evaluate each of the student’s answers within 2-3 weeks of submission. Within two weeks of completing the entire written exam, the student meets with their advisory committee to discuss their performance and answer any follow-up questions.
If a student fails to provide satisfactory answers to part or all of the written exam, the advisory committee may ask the student to retake part of the exam, revise and resubmit one or more of their essays, or answer questions in an oral exam to better assess the student’s mastery of the relevant material. Failure to pass the exam a second time, in part or in whole, may be grounds for dismissal from the Ph.D. program and University.
Once the exam has been completed, the Report on the General Examination for the Doctoral Degree is submitted to The Graduate School.
Before undertaking dissertation research, a doctoral student must prepare a written proposal describing the scope, content, and significance of their intended dissertation research. In anthropology, students write the dissertation proposal in the format of an external grant proposal (e.g., as a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant proposal or a Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant proposal). The dissertation proposal therefore serves dual purposes: it fulfills the Graduate School’s degree requirement and enables the student to seek external funding for their dissertation research.
The student works closely with their major advisor while preparing the dissertation proposal, and then submits a completed draft to their advisory committee for review and feedback. After revising the proposal and receiving approval from their advisory committee, the student submits the proposal to the external funding organization(s) for consideration. Whether funded or not, this external review satisfies the Graduate School’s requirement that the dissertation proposal be critically evaluated by two reviewers who are not members of the student’s advisory committee.
If the dissertation proposal is not submitted to an external funding organization for some reason, the proposal should be submitted to the anthropology department head. The department head will appoint two individuals not on the student’s advisory committee to critically evaluate the dissertation proposal. The use of at least one reviewer from outside UConn is encouraged.
If human or animal subjects will be involved in the proposed dissertation research, the student must receive approval from the UConn Institutional Review Board (IRB) and/or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before research can begin.
The completed dissertation proposal should be submitted to the Office of the Registrar along with the Dissertation Proposal for Doctoral Degree Form (signed by all members of the advisory committee and the Department Head) and documentation of IRB and/or IACUC approval.
Upon approval of the Ph.D. Plan of Study, passing of the Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam, and approval of the Dissertation Proposal, a student becomes a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Dissertation Preparation, Oral Defense, and Submission
The dissertation is the scholastic culmination of a student’s ongoing research. It must meet all standards specified by the student’s advisory committee and the Graduate School, and conform to the specifications listed on the Office of the Registrar’s website. The dissertation must be of publishable quality, and it is expected that students will submit their dissertation for publication either before or shortly after the degree is conferred. The dissertation can be published as a single entity (e.g., submitted as a book manuscript) or with individual chapters becoming separate journal articles or chapters in edited volumes.
The oral defense of the dissertation must be announced publicly in the University’s online events calendar at least two weeks prior to the defense date. Ph.D. candidates in Anthropology are also required to advertise their defense to the entire department. The candidate should notify the department administrator by email of the date, time, and location of their defense, as well as the dissertation title and abstract. This information will be disseminated to the entire department to give everyone the opportunity to attend.
The Graduate School requires at least five members of the faculty, including all members of the advisory committee, to be present for the oral defense unless written approval for fewer faculty has been obtained in advance from the Dean of the Graduate School.
The advisory committee determines whether a Ph.D. candidate has passed, conditionally passed, or failed the dissertation defense, and must reach a unanimous decision. Following the dissertation defense, the major advisor communicates this decision to the candidate and to the Office of the Registrar through the Defense and Final Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form.
If dissertation revisions are necessary, the advisory committee will notify the student. Once revisions are completed and all members of the advisory committee approve the final version of the dissertation, the dissertation is submitted electronically through Submittable, a University repository for public access. Students may request an embargo period for the dissertation if they do not want it to be publicly accessible immediately.
Degree conferral requires that all requirements for the degree have been satisfactorily completed by the last day of the conferral period. UConn holds graduate commencement ceremonies in May each year, but degrees are conferred three times each year (in August, December, and May).
The application for a degree to be conferred must be submitted online by the degree candidate through the UConn Student Administration System during the first four weeks of the student’s final semester. This application can be withdrawn at any time by the student if needed.
Detailed information and instructions about the required steps during a student’s final semester are provided on the Office of the Registrar’s website.
Prior to graduating, students should review their transcript and Ph.D. Plan of Study to confirm that the listed courses match and grades are posted for all courses listed on the Plan of Study. If any grades are missing or incomplete, the student should contact the course instructor to resolve the grade. If any changes are needed to the approved Ph.D. Plan of Study, an email outlining the changes and including the major advisor’s approval should be sent to Degree Audit at email@example.com.
Students who qualify for degree conferral receive their diplomas by mail, usually within three months following conferral.
Students entering the Ph.D. program without a Master of Arts in Anthropology or an equivalent discipline must complete additional requirements to earn a master's degree before completing the requirements for the Ph.D. in Anthropology.
In anthropology, students follow the Plan B (non-thesis) requirements for the master’s degree. In addition to completing the Ph.D. degree requirements described above, students in the MA/Ph.D. track complete 15 other course credits (so that 30 credits of content coursework are completed altogether) and pass the MA final examination. All 30 coursework credits are then listed on the student’s Ph.D. Plan of Study.
Coursework and Credits for the MA Degree
Students applying for the Plan B (non-thesis) master’s degree in anthropology are required to complete 30 course credits (i.e., 15 course credits more than is required for the Ph.D.). One course is typically equivalent to three credits.
In order to ensure timely progress through coursework and toward the degree, we recommend that students complete the required course credits within the first two years of graduate school. Students are encouraged to take three courses (nine course credits) in some semesters, although we generally advise students to take only two courses (six course credits) in the first semester of year one. The lower course load helps students ease into the program as they are transitioning to graduate school at UConn.
Students should generally enroll in courses at the 5000 level or higher, but up to six course credits may come from courses at the 3000 or 4000 level. Students may also count some undergraduate or non-degree course credits from UConn, or transfer credits from another accredited institution, as part of their 30 course credits in accordance with the Graduate School’s regulations (see the Ph.D. Plan of Study section above for details).
The MA final examination is designed to assess a student’s mastery of foundational theory, concepts, and literature in their subfield of anthropology. We encourage students to complete the MA exam before beginning their third year in the MA/Ph.D. program, and it must be completed no later than one year after the completion of coursework.
The MA.final exam is typically a six hour written exam completed over the course of 1-3 days, with the content decided by the student’s advisory committee. Students are usually examined on 4-5 core topical areas, each of which is associated with a reading list of approximately 10 references to guide the student’s preparation for the exam. The scheduling of the exam is determined by the student and their advisory committee.
Applications are due December 20.
Prospective students apply to the Ph.D. in Anthropology online via the Graduate School’s application portal. GRE scores are not required.