Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology

Competencies Developed
Requirements for obtaining a Ph.D.
Comprehensive Exams
Final Draft of Research Proposal
Language Requirement
Oral Defense
Seven Year Limit
Additional Resources

The Ph.D. program develops the following competencies:

  1. A broad knowledge of one anthropological subfield (archaeology, physical anthropology, linguistic anthropology or cultural anthropology);
  2. A deep and critical knowledge of the topic that is most relevant to the research that the student plans to carry out for his or her dissertation;
  3. A thorough familiarity with the relevant literature concerning any geographical region in which the student may plan to do research for his or her dissertation;
  4. The capacity to design research projects, including an ability to formulate problems clearly, to use concepts creatively, to employ appropriate methods in data collection, and to relate empirical data to theoretical constructs;
  5. The capacity to write clearly and cogently, and to make effective oral presentation before critical audiences.

Graduate Application Information

Outline of Requirements for Obtaining the Ph.D.

[click here for a pdf guide to completeing PhD requirements]

  • Submit an acceptable program plan at a candidacy conference
  • Pass a comprehensive examination
  • Formulate an acceptable dissertation proposal
  • Write an acceptable dissertation
  • Successfully defend this dissertation

Students entering the doctoral program with an M.A. in Anthropology from any university other than UHM must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Attend the Colloquium Proseminar during the first 2 semesters at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawai`i. The colloquia are held on Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Do not enroll in any classes that will overlap this time.
  2. Take three out of four core courses (601 Ethnology, 602 Linguistic Anthropology, 603 Archaeology, 604 Physical Anthropology).  You must pass with a B or better.
  3. Take upper division graduate courses (numbered 300 and above, but excluding 699 Directed Reading) from 4 different full-time Department of Anthropology faculty members.
  4. The minimum residence requirement for the doctoral degree is 3 semesters of full-time work.  8 credits counts as full-time enrollment.

When have fulfilled the above requirements, you are eligible to convene your doctoral committee and hold the Candidacy Meeting.  Students are expected to hold their candidacy meeting by the end of their second semester in the program (usually in March or April).

For all students entering the Ph.D. Program, the student will form a five-member Ph.D. committee. The doctoral committee is formed according to the following guidelines: the Chair must be on the Anthropology Graduate Faculty and a regular member of the Anthropology department. In conformance with Graduate Division requirements, one member must be appointed from another department's Graduate Faculty and will be formally designated as the "Outside Member. In addition to the Chair, two other committee members must be on the anthropology faculty (including emeritus faculty, co-operating faculty, and affiliate faculty) and at least one of those two must be regular Anthropology Graduate Faculty. The fifth member may be from any UH department's Graduate Faculty. A sixth member may be added if deemed desirable and consistent with the student's interests. The Graduate Chair and Graduate Division Dean must officially approve the committee upon request of the student. All students entering the Ph.D. Program, including those obtaining a M.A. from the Department, are strongly advised to hold a candidacy conference and gain written approval of their five-member committee for the projected program of study by the second semester. Each spring semester all enrolled graduate students are required to submit a progress sheet, signed by their advisor, to the Program Support Office.

Comprehensive Exams

Approximately one semester prior to the comprehensive examination, the student shall submit a detailed description of the areas to be covered, complete with bibliography to the committee. The reading lists for the comprehensive exams should be broadly relevant to the student's planned dissertation research, but not narrowly or exclusively tailored to those research plans. In other words, the comprehensives should retain a component of general cross-cultural comparative and theoretical material. The candidate is expected to have read the items contained in the bibliography and be prepared to discuss them in some depth. It is the responsibility of each committee member to suggest additional readings for the bibliography and to suggest any other changes in the reading lists. After all committee members have been consulted, the student will prepare a final version of the bibliographies, copies of which will be distributed to all members of the committee. The first page of the final set will be a dated signature page, the original of which will be given to the Graduate Chair and placed in the student's file.

Before beginning doctoral field work, the student must

a) pass the comprehensive exams, and b) submit a research proposal that meets the approval of the committee. We expect and encourage students to work on the research proposal while they are studying for their comprehensive exams. Ideally, the two processes are nearly simultaneous. The sequence of these two bench marks is an option for the student, but both steps must be completed successfully before the student is awarded ABD, All But Dissertation, status and begins doctoral field research. Three months before sitting for the comprehensives, the student will submit a draft of the research proposal to the committee.

The comprehensive examination shall be administered in two parts

a) a written examination and b) an oral exam, at which the student will be given the opportunity to clarify and amplify answers to the written component. The written exam will consist of one essay question submitted by each member of the student's committee. It will be closed-book; students will not be permitted to use notes or other aids. An allotment of three hours per question will be given. Scheduling will be flexible, but the total exam must be taken within a two-week period. Before the written examination, a student may consult with each member of the committee regarding the direction and general scope of that faculty member's question. Faculty members are not, however, obliged to elaborate on the nature of the question beyond referring the student to the bibliography. Before the written exam is administered, it is the committee chair's responsibility to read all submitted questions for possible overlap and/or incongruity with the agreed-upon reading list. If the committee chair is not available to do this, the task must be assigned to another member of the student's committee or to the Graduate Chair.

Each committee member will assign a grade of 'pass with distinction', 'pass' or 'fail' to each essay independently. A committee member may abstain from grading an essay the committee member does not feel competent to evaluate. The grade assigned by the committee member who originated a particular question shall be double-weighted, and the grade for each question shall be determined by averaging all the scores. The student will receive copies of their written answers prior to the oral exam. The student should consult with each committee member about the written portion and shall be informed of the scores for each question. The oral examination is expected to be held not less than one week and no more than two weeks after the written examination.

All members of the committee must be present at the examination (click here for Phone Usage Policy for Remote Committee Meetings). At the oral exam the student will be asked to explain and/or defend answers to the written component. Two hours are to be allotted for this exercise. At the conclusion of this exercise, each committee member will assign a grade of 'pass,' 'fail,' or 'pass with distinction' to the student's performance as a whole, including both the written and oral components. A majority of 'fail' votes will constitute a failure, and a majority of 'pass' votes a passing grade. If the majority assign a grade of ' pass with distinction,' the committee chair shall raise for discussion the question of awarding a 'pass with distinction' and the committee shall take another vote on that issue. If the majority then votes to award a 'pass with distinction,' the committee chair will inform Graduate Division so that it may be entered in the student's record. If a student fails this examination, the student may be allowed to repeat it. If the exam is failed the second time, the student will be dropped irrevocably from the graduate program. The committee will provide the student with a written statement detailing the reasons for its decision if it is negative.

Final Draft of Research Proposal

If you have not already developed a research proposal, it is recommended that you take ANTH 711 Seminar in Research Design. This course alternates with 710 Seminar in Research Methods, so check the Course Descriptions booklet to make sure which one is being offered.

Before or after successfully completing the comprehensives, a student is required to submit a final draft of the research proposal for review by the committee. The final draft of the proposal will be circulated to all members of the committee, and each committee member will respond in writing regarding suggested revisions. A copy of these comments will be forwarded to the committee chair, whose responsibility it will be to guide the student's revision so that it incorporates all feasible suggestions. A meeting of the committee will be scheduled within two weeks of submission of a final draft of the proposal, so that the committee can determine whether or not the student is adequately prepared for the fieldwork proposed. A candidate who passes the comprehensives and whose field research proposal is approved is eligible to receive a University ABD certificate indicating completion of all requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation.

Note:  Per Graduate Division, you may not submit your research proposal to your committee at the same time you complete the oral portion of your comprehensive exams.  The comprehensive oral examination and PhD proposal defense now must be held on separate days.

Language Requirement

A student conducting dissertation research among a people who do not speak any of student's native languages will be required, before leaving for the field, to show evidence of oral competence in the most useful field language, or of training in linguistic field techniques.

Oral Defense

Following the student's submission of a final draft of the dissertation, an oral defense, which includes a required colloquium presentation, is to be scheduled. It is the student's responsibility to see to it that each member of the committee has a copy of the complete final draft of the dissertation at least four weeks before the scheduled date of the oral defense. The dissertation must be read by no less than three members of the committee, and all members must be present at the oral defense (click here for Phone Usage Policy for Remote Committee Meetings and here for form on remote participation). Procedures for determining final acceptance of the dissertation and awarding the Ph.D. are as set forth by the Graduate Division.

Seven Year Limit

A candidate must complete all requirements within seven years of admission to the doctoral program. A student who is unable to meet this deadline may request an extension by written petition to the committee describing reasons for the delay. The committee's recommendation will be sent to the chair of the graduate program, and if approved, to the dean of the graduate division for a final decision.

Additional Resources

For further, more informal advice for graduate students and junior scholars, see also "Words of Wisdom," written by Dr. Alison Rautman, who has given us permission to share it on our website.

Graduate Chair:
Jan Brunson
Office: Saunders 309
Phone: 956-2007