PhD in Anthropology
PhD students in the Department of Anthropology design and implement individualized problem-oriented anthropological research under the guidance of our world-class faculty. A PhD in Anthropology involves coursework, a lengthy period of field and/or laboratory research, and a dissertation. Anthropology PhD degree-holders find employment in higher education, government, non-profit and private sector research, outreach, and policymaking.
There is a campus-wide New Graduate Student Orientation (NGSO) during the week before the Fall semester starts, hosted by the Graduate Student Organization (GSO). The Department of Anthropology also hosts an orientation session for its own new students during the same week. It is run jointly by the Anthropology Graduate Student Association (AGSA) and faculty members. Entering students should receive an information packet from the department about this during the summer.
First-Year Student Requirements
All first-year graduate students in the Department of Anthropology, regardless of their particular degree program, must fulfill certain obligations during their first year in the program.
All incoming graduate students are required to attend the Department of Anthropology Colloquium Series their first two semesters in residence. The colloquia are held on Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Students should not enroll in any classes that will overlap this time.
In addition to attending the colloquia, first-year students should pair up and take turns providing refreshments (light snacks and beverages). Students can turn in their receipts to the Graduate Specialist for reimbursement of up to $20. Students should sign up at the beginning of the school year, using the sign-up sheet located on the back door of the Department’s Special Events Room.
2. Special Events Room Maintenance
First-year students have the responsibility of maintaining the Department’s Special Events Room (colloquially known as the lounge). Students take turns each month to clean the lounge, working in pairs. Each student should clean the lounge at least one month each semester. Cleaning should include wiping down table and counter surfaces, sweeping the floor, cleaning the microwaves, and taking out the recycling. Students should sign up at the beginning of the school year; the sign-up sheet is located on the back door of the lounge.
3. AGRL Monitoring
The Anthropology Graduate Reading Library (AGRL) is a special resource in the Department that is operated and maintained by the graduate students. At the beginning of the school year, first-year students will receive training in how to be a monitor for the AGRL. By volunteering as a monitor for a minimum of one hour per week during their first year in the program, new graduate students earn check-out privileges.
Students in the PhD program develop the following competencies:
- Broad knowledge of one anthropological subfield (archaeology, biological anthropology, or cultural anthropology);
- Deep and critical knowledge of the topic that is most relevant to the research that the student plans to carry out for their dissertation;
- Thorough familiarity with the relevant literature concerning any geographical region in which the student may plan to do research for their dissertation;
- 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;
- The capacity to write clearly and cogently, and to make an effective oral presentation before critical audiences.
To obtain the PhD, students must:
- 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
The minimum residence requirement is 3 semesters with full-time enrollment (8 credits). If a student obtained their MA in Anthropology from UH Mānoa, they may petition to have 1-2 semesters of their MA work count toward the 3 semester residency requirement. Petitions should be made during their first semester.
Course Requirements for Students with an MA from Another University
For students whose primary area of focus is biological or cultural anthropology:
- Take 3 out of 4 the following graduate-level survey courses, passing with a B or better
- ANTH 601: Ethnology
- ANTH 611: Contemporary Anthropological Theory
- ANTH 603: Archaeology
- ANTH 604: Physical Anthropology
- Take upper division graduate courses (numbered 300 and above, but excluding 699 Directed Reading) from 4 different full-time Department of Anthropology faculty members (not including Cooperating Graduate Faculty). This may overlap with the above graduate-level survey course requirements.
For students whose primary area of focus is archaeology:
- ANTH 603: Archaeology and 2 out of 3 of the following graduate-level survey courses, passing with a B or better
- ANTH 601: Ethnology
- ANTH 611: Contemporary Anthropological Theory
- ANTH 604: Physical Anthropology
- ANTH 471: Field Mapping (cross-listed as GEOG 472)
- ANTH 666: Archaeological Data Analysis (4 credits)
- ANTH 711: Seminar in Research Design and Proposal Writing
- Take upper division graduate courses (numbered 300 and above, but excluding 699 Directed Reading) from 4 different full-time Department of Anthropology faculty members (not including Cooperating Graduate Faculty). This may overlap with the above core course requirements.
When these students have fulfilled the above course requirements, they are eligible to convene their doctoral committee and hold the Candidacy Meeting.
- Progress: Each spring semester all enrolled graduate students are required to submit an Annual Progress Report form (from the Department of Anthropology), signed by their advisor, to the Graduate Specialist in the department office.
- 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.
- 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 Graduate Division for a final decision.
In consultation with individual faculty members, the Admissions Committee selects an interim advisor for each incoming student who intends to become a candidate for a graduate degree. Any Graduate Faculty member of the Department of Anthropology is eligible to become an interim advisor. The Department does not usually permit Cooperating Graduate Faculty to serve as a student’s advisor. On a case by case basis, however, and in consultation with members of the relevant subfield caucus (comprised of all archaeology, biological or cultural anthropology faculty), the departmental Admissions Committee may recommend a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member serves as an interim advisor—and act as their committee chair thereafter—for a prospective student if that student would be best suited to work with a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member and would otherwise be deemed admissible into the Anthropology graduate program. This may be the case if the prospective student:
- Explicitly mentions the desire to work with the Cooperating Graduate Faculty member;
- a regular faculty member does not feel they have the ability or time to advise the student;
- the Cooperating Graduate Faculty member could aid in recruitment; or
- a combination of these three criteria.
If a student prefers a particular faculty member, the student may request that person to be the advisor. Faculty members may examine the records of incoming students and submit to the Chair of the Admissions Committee the names of any student whom they wish to advise.
Initial Advisory Meeting
New students should have an initial meeting with their interim advisor to discuss their study plans and any undergraduate deficiencies. This should be done soon after they arrive at the Department, no later than the week before the start of the semester.
Either the student or the advisor may later propose a change of advisor to the Graduate Chair if another faculty member better matches the student’s interests. Only in rare and exceptional circumstances may a graduate student change their committee chair to a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member by petition to the Graduate Chair, having first consulted with members of the relevant subfield caucus. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the graduate student to demonstrate that another core faculty member in the department of anthropology is unable or unavailable to act as committee chair and that a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member has the appropriate expertise to guide the student through the program.
All PhD students will form a five-member doctoral committee. The doctoral committee is formed according to the following guidelines, which conform with Graduate Division requirements:
- The committee chair (the student’s advisor) is typically a member of the Department of Anthropology’s regular Graduate Faculty; only in rare and unusual circumstances may a Cooperating Graduate Faculty member of the Department serve in this capacity.
- Three committee members must have Graduate Faculty appointments in Anthropology.
- At least two members of the student’s committee must be regular Graduate Faculty in the Department of Anthropology (one of whom may also be the committee chair).
- If the student’s advisor and committee chair is a regular faculty member of the Department, then only one additional member of the committee need also be a regular faculty member.
- If the student’s advisor and committee chair are Cooperating Graduate Faculty Members, then two other members of the student’s committee must be regular Graduate Faculty in the Department of Anthropology.
- Unless the chair is Cooperating Graduate Faculty member, the third member of the committee may be either a regular Graduate Faculty, emeritus faculty, Cooperating Graduate Faculty, or Affiliate Graduate Faculty member of the Department of Anthropology. If the committee chair is Cooperating Graduate Faculty then this third member must, by default, be a regular Graduate Faculty member in Anthropology.
- The fourth member must be from another department's Graduate Faculty and at arm’s length from the committee chair. They will be formally designated as the University Representative (formerly known as “Outside Member”).
- The fifth member may be from any UH department’s Graduate Faculty.
- A sixth member may be added if they hold an academic appointment at another educational institution, or they may be drawn from the local community if their expertise is deemed consistent with the student’s interests. This is the only committee member who does not have to be Graduate Faculty.
The Graduate Chair and Graduate Division Dean will officially approve the committee upon submission of Doctorate Form II - Advance to Candidacy (from Graduate Division), which is completed once students are eligible for candidate status.
By their second semester, all PhD students (including those who have obtained an MA from the Department) are strongly advised to hold a candidacy conference to acquire written approval from their five-member committee for the projected program of study. The candidacy conference will be the first meeting of the five-member committee, after the student completes any necessary coursework. Students should bring the following to the meeting:
- Their Annual Progress Report form (from the Department of Anthropology).
- Proposed Program of Study, which includes:
- Any other courses the student plans to take.
- Subfield, geographic area of specialization, and foreign language (if applicable).
- A brief description of the prospective research project.
- A committee member list which includes names and departments, and specifies the Chair and University Representative.
- Doctorate Form I - Pre-Candidacy Progress (from Graduate Division)
At the end of the meeting, the student should complete the Doctorate Form I and give it to the Graduate Specialist, who will pass it on to the Graduate Chair to sign and then process to Graduate Division. The student should also have their committee chair sign and date a copy of their Proposed Program of Study to be entered into their academic file.
The Post-Candidacy Conference form (from the Department of Anthropology) must be filled out by all students (MA and PhD) and signed by committee members after student has held the first candidacy conference (usually after the first year of residency).
The comprehensive exam will consist of three questions. These questions will focus on the three areas of expertise that the student will claim professionally. Committee members will consult as a group to determine these areas and some may collaborate closely on a specific question.
Bibliographies (Reading Lists)
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 comprehensive exams 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.
The first component of the comprehensive exams is the written exam. The written exam will consist of three questions submitted by the student’s committee. The exam is take-home and open-book; therefore, students are permitted to use notes and other reference materials when answering the questions. Students will be given all three questions at once and have three weeks (21 days) to complete all three. Each answer should take the form of an essay between 5,000 and 6,000 words long (including in-text citations, but exclusive of a listing of the references cited). Formatting will be left up to the relevant subfield. The questions will not be distributed ahead of the exam. 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 member of the committee will read all three essays and vote on whether each one is an acceptable answer to the question posed. Each committee member is entitled to one vote per question. A committee member may abstain from voting on an essay he or she does not feel competent to evaluate. The student shall be informed of the outcome of voting for each question.
The second component of the comprehensive exams is an oral exam, at which the student will be given the opportunity to clarify, amplify, explain and/or defend answers to the written component. The student will receive copies of their written answers prior to the oral exam. 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. 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.
Three months before sitting for the comprehensive exams, students will submit a draft of their research proposal to the committee.
Before or after successfully completing the comprehensive exams, students are required to submit a final draft of their 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.
Students are expected and encouraged 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 benchmarks is an option for the student, but both steps must be completed successfully before they are awarded All But Dissertation (ABD) status and before beginning doctoral field research. It is recommended – but not required – that students first complete their comprehensive exams and then hold their dissertation proposal defense. The Department of Anthropology requires that the comprehensive oral examination and dissertation proposal defense be held on separate days.
Students who pass the comprehensive exams and the dissertation proposal defense is eligible to receive an All But Dissertation (ABD) certificate indicating completion of all requirements for the PhD except the dissertation. Students must submit Doctorate Form II - Advance to Candidacy (from Graduate Division) in order to officially receive the status of PhD candidate. If research involves the use of human subjects, students must obtain a protocol approval letter from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and attach it to Doctorate Form II. All committee members and the Graduate Chair sign Doctorate Form II. After completing the form, students should give it to the Graduate Specialist to process.
After approval by Graduate Division, students are eligible to enroll in ANTH 800: Dissertation Research, a 1-credit course that is considered full-time status. ANTH 800 does not count toward the 3 semesters full-time residency requirement. Students must be enrolled in this course during the semester in which they plan to graduate.
Following the submission of a final draft of the dissertation, an oral defense should be scheduled. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that each committee member has a copy of the complete final draft at least four weeks before the scheduled date of the oral defense. Students should also allow a minimum of three weeks prior to the final exam meeting to submit an Final Oral Examination for Doctoral Dissertation Defense to Graduate Division (from Graduate Division). The dissertation must be read by no less than three committee members, and all members must be present at the oral defense. At the meeting, students should have available for signature the prepared Doctorate Form III - Dissertation Evaluation and Doctorate Form IV - Dissertation Submission (from Graduate Division). Procedures for determining final acceptance of the dissertation and awarding the PhD are as set forth by Graduate Division.
After revisions, students must submit the final draft of the dissertation to Graduate Division, along with Form IV. All dissertations are now submitted online. Students should carefully consult the Graduation Checklist for PhD Doctoral candidates (from Graduate Division). Refer to the current Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations (from Graduate Division) for proper format style for the dissertation.
Students whose committees include an external committee member participating via telephone teleconference have the responsibility to handle the logistics of communication, in consultation with their committee chair and Graduate Specialist.
Expenses for a long distance call will be borne by the department, so long as the following conditions are met:
- Skype or a similar free internet communications service will be used whenever possible. The student is responsible for informing their committee member of this expectation and for assisting that person with installing any required software. The student is responsible for testing the connection (including audio/video quality) with the external member prior to the committee meeting.
- If the student can demonstrate that it is impossible to utilize a free internet service (for example, the committee member cannot get access to a fast internet connection), then a scheduled call may be arranged. Graduate Specialist will provide advice regarding phone access.
It will be the student’s responsibility to arrange for a faculty proxy in the event that the phone and/or internet connection is inoperable.
Federal, State, and University regulations require that proposed research projects of certain types be reviewed and approved to ensure that the proposed research complies with applicable protective standards. Students who are unsure whether these regulations apply to their research should consult with their advisor, with Graduate Division, or with the Office of Research Compliance.
The Human Studies Program (HSP) is the administrative unit of the University of Hawaiʻi System Human Research Protection Program (HRPP). The HSP works together with the UH research community to ensure the health, welfare, rights, and dignity of people who participate in UH research. Students conducting research with human subjects for their thesis, dissertation, or other project resulting in publication must receive Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. Students may submit their application through the eProtocol system. For information on exemption qualifications and other details, visit the HSP website.