University of Massachusetts Amherst

Anthropology

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PhD Program Description and Requirements

A. Admissions

Individuals admitted into the doctoral program generally have earned an MA degree in anthropology. In the event that the master's degree has been earned in another field, a student is normally admitted on a provisional basis. A faculty provisional committee meets with the student to plan an appropriate initial program of study to bring the student to the same level of preparation as those PhD students who have earned the MA in anthropology. When the MA has been earned in a field outside the social sciences, the committee may recommend that the student complete an MA in anthropology before proceeding in the doctoral program.

B. PhD Guidance Committee

On admission to the program, the student sets about without delay to form the PhD guidance committee. Committee members are selected on the basis of their capability to guide the student's development in the "three fields of specialization" described below. The composition of this committee is wholly independent of the composition of the student's MA advisory committee.

As a rule, the student completes the formation of the PhD guidance committee within one semester after being admitted to the doctoral program. The committee consists of at least two departmental graduate faculty members and one UMass graduate faculty member from outside the department who is not an anthropologist. Additional members are often added to the committee to meet the student's need for specialized expertise. The committee designates one of its members from within the department as its chairperson, to serve as the student's advisor of record.

On occasion students may form an interim PhD Guidance Committee. This committee shall consist of no fewer than two members of the graduate faculty. It may oversee the preparation of the outline of the PhD program (i.e., the Statements of Field, the Tools of Research, and the Prospectus). As a rule, however, the full committee shall be formed within one year of a student's entering the doctoral program.

The student is required to consult with the advisor at least once a semester in planning course work, but more frequent consultation between student and advisor is strongly encouraged. The student should convene the entire guidance committee at the time of its formation and whenever the formulation or change of substantive matters relating to the student's overall program is under consideration.

C. Statements of Field and Tools of Research

As soon as possible after entry into the PhD program the student, in consultation with the guidance committee, designates "three fields of specialization" that reflect the individual's career goals and intellectual interests. These fields may be defined very broadly or may be highly specialized, but must be outlined with care. The topics of these field statements will subsequently define and designate general areas of professional competence when the candidate completes the doctorate; accordingly, they ought not be too generally or narrowly constructed. One recent example of this middle road -- between specificity and generality -- was an essay on the biology of poverty; another was a course syllabus on the political economy of African development.

Preparation for each field selected by the student is under the supervision of a different committee member. Thus, there are at least three field representatives on the student's guidance committee. Students are normally expected to spend two or three semesters taking specialized courses and otherwise achieving mastery of the literature in their designated fields, and preparing their statements of field. The three statements of field may take several forms. An essay synthesizing and evaluating trends in the field of inquiry, a bibliographic essay, and a course outline are some of the forms that doctoral students have used in the past to demonstrate their competence in the defined field.

At the same time the fields of specialization are being designated, the guidance committee must consider what tools of research (e.g., mastery of a computer programming language, competence in one or more relevant foreign languages) shall be required of the student. The issue of tools of research is something the guidance committee must weigh at the time the doctoral program is defined. The committee may decide not to require mastery of any tools of research, but in any event, this issue is to be decided at this point. Further, the committee must at this point decide how it will ultimately assess mastery of any research tools it may require.

Once the student and the guidance committee (or the interim guidance committee) have decided on the content, form, and preceptors of the statements of field, and on the tools of research, if any, the student prepares an outline summarizing these decisions, and obtains the approval of the chair of the guidance committee and the GPD, after which the outline is then placed in the student's file.

D. The Prospectus

As part of the doctoral program, the student prepares a prospectus of the dissertation. The prospectus outlines (1) the intellectual issues that converge in the dissertation topic, (2) the pertinent literature, and (3) the methodological strategy and timetable for accomplishing the research objectives.

The prospectus thus serves a different intellectual purpose from a statement of field. Guidance committees may allow students to combine one of the statements of field and the prospectus in one document; or they may specify that they remain as distinct forms. When combined, both intellectual objectives must be incorporated: a statement delineating a field of inquiry and the research rationale, methodology, timetable, and anticipated results. While each statement of field has a distinct preceptor, the prospectus is assumed to be developed in consultation with all the members of the guidance committee. If the student combines one statement and the prospectus, one member of the guidance committee precepts the field statement portion of the document while all members of the committee guide the creation of the prospectus per se.

Once the prospectus has been prepared, the student is expected to make a public presentation of it in a departmental seminar. The presentation is not an examination. Its purposes are to provide information on a specialized topic to members of the department at large, to stimulate discussion, and to engender useful feedback to the presenter. The student has the responsibility for distributing copies of the prospectus to faculty and interested students at least two weeks before the scheduled presentation, so that others may be well prepared for it. The official announcement, also to be made no less than two weeks before the event, is issued by the GPD. After the presentation of the prospectus, the guidance committee may require the student to make changes in it before accepting it as the definitive outline of the doctoral dissertation.

E. Oral Preliminary Comprehensive Examination

As each statement and the prospectus are completed and approved, copies are filed with the G. When the dissertation prospectus and all statements are completed they must be approved by the committee as a whole. Then, after completing any required research tools and/or languages, the student takes the PhD oral preliminary comprehensive examination. This examination is customarily held at the end of the student's fourth or fifth semester (but generally no later than the end of the sixth semester) of study beyond the M.A. and should be conducted during the academic year unless prior approval of the GPD has been secured.

The PhD preliminary comprehensive examination is conducted by the student's PhD guidance committee. Together with the GPD, the student selects a faculty member to chair the examination. Any member of the examination committee is eligible except for the guidance committee chairperson. The examination chairperson is responsible for arranging the examination. A notification of the time and place of the examination must reach the GPD (via Form 5) in time for public written notice to all faculty at least two weeks before the event. The examination is open to all members of the departmental faculty.

The preliminary comprehensive examination focuses on, but is not necessarily limited to, the fields of specialization as represented in the statements of field described above and the proposed dissertation research as represented in the prospectus. Prior to the commencement of the examination, the examination committee reviews the student's file. The examination procedure lasts no more than three hours, during which anyone attending has the right to question the student. At the completion of the examination the student temporarily leaves the examination room while the results are evaluated. Anyone present may comment on the student's performance, but only the members of the examination committee may vote on the outcome. On the basis of performance, the student is granted "pass" or "fail;" in the latter case, there is an automatic option to repeat the examination one time. A unanimous vote is required for a grade of Pass. The student is informed of the outcome immediately after the examination.

A student who fails the oral examination twice is dropped from the program. The student who passes the oral preliminary comprehensive examination begins to devote full attention to dissertation research as outlined in the prospectus.

F. The Dissertation Committee

As soon as the student has passed the preliminary comprehensive examination, a dissertation committee is appointed by the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the GPD. The dissertation committee consists of a minimum of three members of the graduate faculty ?? a minimum of two from within the department plus a minimum of one outside member, who is not an anthropologist. The outside member must be a member of the graduate faculty at UMass. It is customary, although not necessary, for the dissertation committee to carry over members of the student's PhD guidance committee.

It is the responsibility of the chairperson of the dissertation committee to arrange a conference with other members of the committee and with the student for the purpose of discussing the research problem before approving the dissertation outline. This conference should be held as soon as possible after the appointment of the committee.

Each member of the dissertation committee must sign the cover page to the student's dissertation outline (prospectus). The signed copy is then sent to the Graduate School by the GPD. The approved outline must be received in the Graduate School at least seven months before the dissertation defense may be scheduled.

The committee has direct charge of all matters pertaining to the dissertation, which must have the approval of a majority of this committee before arrangements are made for the final oral examination. As a rule, about one year is devoted to field or laboratory research under the guidance of the student's dissertation committee; after that an additional year is needed to write the dissertation.

Students are required to complete at least ten dissertation credits (Anthropology 899). No more than nine dissertation credits may be registered for in any one semester. There is no upper limit on the cumulative number of dissertation credits that may be earned.

G. The Dissertation and its Defense

When the dissertation is complete and approved by all the members of the committee for form and content, and a date is agreed upon, the chairperson of the committee informs the Graduate School through the GPD of the date, time, and location of the dissertation defense. The memorandum must reach the Graduate School at least three weeks prior to the date of the examination. At the same time, the student places a copy of the defense draft of the dissertation in the care of the graduate secretary, so that interested readers may look at it prior to the defense.

The final oral examination (i.e. dissertation defense) is conducted by an examining committee consisting of the dissertation committee and such other members of the graduate faculty as choose to attend. At the discretion of the candidate and the committee, the examination can be opened to individuals other than those on the graduate faculty. However, such guests are not expected to participate in any appreciable degree in the questioning or discussion. In order to pass this final examination, the degree candidate must receive the unanimous vote of the dissertation committee.

While the student must present to the dissertation committee a draft of the dissertation complete in form and content, the defense itself may open up areas that require the text to be revised after the defense.

Once the committee-mandated changes have been made and approved, the student completes the final copy of the dissertation. The format requirements for the dissertation are spelled out in the Typing Guidelines for Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, available in the Office of Degree Requirements. Normally committees expect the dissertation to follow the reference and citation style of the American Anthropologist, though this is neither a Graduate School nor a departmental rule. Be sure to check with the committee on this point before drafting the dissertation, as the members may recommend a different style.

The department requires that students submit an unbound final copy of the dissertation on acid-free paper to the GPD for the departmental library. It is the student's responsibility to supply this copy to the department prior to the date of the awarding of the degree. The GPD will not sign the Certificate of Degree Eligibility form until this copy of the dissertation has been received.

 

 
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