The PhD program normally requires about five years, and is completely separate from the MA program. That is, students may enter the PhD program directly following their undergraduate degree, and do not necessarily earn a master's degree (although earning the master's degree can be incorporated into the PhD program without increasing the total length of time needed). Students who have already earned a master's degree elsewhere can often receive credit for previous coursework which may shorten the time needed to earn a PhD by as much as a year. Requirements for the PhD include 72 credits of coursework; a foreign language; three of four core courses (cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, or anthropological linguistics); two quantitative methods courses (for students in archaeology and biological anthropology) or a course in field methods and a course in contemporary theory (for students in cultural anthropology); written comprehensive examinations; fieldwork or equivalent research; and the dissertation.
Complete PhD Requirements
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences requirements for the PhD also apply. More information on requirements can also be found in the Anthropology Graduate Handbook.
Advising and Supervision
A faculty advisor is assigned to each incoming student. Students are free to change their advisors at any time to a faculty member who has agreed to work with them. Advisors consult with students on their course selections and on their research and career plans, and monitor their advisees' progress in the graduate program. Progress of all active graduate students is systematically reviewed by the faculty in each subdiscipline annually in the spring term. Students must petition the Graduate Studies Committee for approval of committees and at other points, as discussed below. Students may also submit petitions about other academic issues that may arise during the course of their studies. Concerns of any kind may be discussed with advisors, the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee, and the Department Chair.
A minimum of 72 course credits in the Anthropology Department at the University of Pittsburgh is required for the PhD degree. Of these, at least 42 credits must be in formal courses (as opposed to readings courses, independent study, or thesis or dissertation credits). The remaining 30 credits may be any combination of formal courses, readings courses, independent study, and/or thesis and dissertation credits.
Generally, a full-time student will be enrolled in a minimum of three formal courses during fall and spring terms until the required 42 credits of formal coursework are attained. Full-time students may or may not register or take courses during the summer term. Reading or independent study courses, if taken prior to completion of the 42-credit minimum of formal courses, are generally taken during the summer term or in addition to the three formal courses that are the minimum for full-time students during the fall or spring terms.
A student may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to accept toward the 72-credit minimum (and/or the 42-credit minimum of formal courses) 1) a maximum of 12 credits for coursework at the master's degree level earned in another accredited graduate school, and 2) a maximum of 12 additional credits for work beyond the master's degree at another accredited graduate school (if the student has completed this work in a PhD program and passed PhD comps in that program). Students may also petition the Graduate Studies Committee to accept toward the 72-credit minimum (and/or the 42-credit minimum of formal courses) course credits taken outside the Anthropology Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Dietrich School regulations also apply to transfer credits.
Students who enrolled in the PhD program prior to Fall 2017 are allowed to have 12 1000- level credits count towards the MA or PhD. Students who enrolled during or after Fall 2017 are not eligible to have 1000- level credits count towards either degree.
Core Courses/Preliminary Examination
The core course system of the Department of Anthropology fills the role of the preliminary examination in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences requirements for the PhD. A broad foundation based on a general familiarity with all four subfields is considered to be highly beneficial to the practice of anthropology, and core courses are offered in the four subfields of anthropology: cultural anthropology, archeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. PhD students are required to pass (with a grade of B or better) at least three of these four core courses, one of which must be the core course in the student's subdiscipline. (Linguistic anthropology students must complete the core courses both in linguistic anthropology and in cultural anthropology.) Full-time students are expected to pass the required core courses by the end of their first year in residence.
A student with an MA from another institution, or with a strong undergraduate background in one or more subdisciplines, may present transcripts and other relevant documents to petition the Graduate Studies Committee to waive the core course in that subdiscipline(s), as long as it is not a core course specifically required for the student's own subdiscipline. If not granted a waiver, after consultation with the instructor and review of the core course syllabus, a student can take the final exam (when it is normally given) instead of taking a core course for credit. A student may opt to selectively audit a core course to remedy weaknesses in only a few areas and then take the regular final exam. It should be stressed, however, that all exams will be evaluated in the same manner as those of students taking the course for credit.
Before students advance to candidacy, they must demonstrate competence in a language other than English that possesses a substantial body of anthropological literature. For common foreign languages (e.g. French, German, Spanish), the student may choose either to 1) pass with a grade of B or better the level 4 or 8 course offered by that language department, or 2) pass at a level determined by this department the examination for evaluating graduate students currently offered by that language department. In the case of languages for which such avenues of evaluation are not available, the student, after seeking advice from an advisor, should petition the Committee on Graduate Studies for alternative forms of evaluation.
Students in archeology must pass with a grade of B or better Anthropology 2534 and Anthropology 2524 (Archeological Data Analysis I and II). They may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to accept other courses in quantitative methods in lieu of these. Students in biological anthropology must pass with a grade of B or better: 1) Biostatistics 2041 and 2042 (Introduction to Statistical Methods I and II), or, for bioarchaeology concentrators with the approval of their advisor, Anthropology 2534 and Anthropology 2524 (Archaeological Data Analysis I and II). Students in cultural and linguistic anthropology must pass with a grade of B or better Anthropology 2763 (Field Methods) and Anthropology 2750 (Seminar on Contemporary Theory in cultural anthropology). They may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for approval of other courses to satisfy this requirement.
After completing the core course requirement and prior to advancement to PhD candidacy, students must pass two comprehensive examinations designed to test breadth and depth of knowledge in the chosen areas of expertise. Students generally take their comprehensive examinations at the end of their third year of residence. A student who fails a comprehensive examination or who has not passed comprehensive examinations by the end of the fourth year of residence (fifth for students in the joint PhD/MPH program) may be dismissed from the program.
Each examination is designed and administered by a committee constructed by the student in consultation with the advisor or the chair of the comprehensive examination committee. The committee consists of at least three faculty members (at least two of whom must be in the department). One of these is designated as chair of the committee. Well in advance of the exam, students submit to the committee a bibliography of sources from which they intend to work. Members of the committee may recommend additional sources. The student must petition the Graduate Studies Committee for approval of the topic and committee for each examination.
The structure of the comprehensive examinations differs from subfield to subfield:
In cultural anthropology, one examination is in the student's ethnographic area (e.g. Africa, East Asia, Latin America, the Pacific). Students should demonstrate mastery not just of ethnographic work that is relevant to their projects, but also of the wider fields of literature that have informed anthropological study of their regions as identified by the members of the comprehensive exam committee. Reading lists should display historical depth and awareness of significant work in fields beyond cultural anthropology. The second examination is of a more theoretical nature in a field chosen and defined by students in conjunction with their advisors. Examples are gender and sexuality, migration and transnationalism, medical anthropology, media anthropology, etc.
In archaeology, one examination is on either a significant world area (e.g. Eastern North America, Mesoamerica, Europe) or a significant time period (e.g. the Paleolithic). The other is on the theory and history of archeology, with special emphasis on broad topics and questions of relevance to the student's research.
In biological anthropology, one examination covers a major body of theory, e.g. evolutionary theory or developmental theory, and the second focuses on a coherent, substantive body of research, e.g. hominid evolution, functional anatomy, paleopathology.
In linguistic anthropology, one examination is in the student's ethnographic area (e.g. East Asia, Latin America, the Pacific, etc.). Students should demonstrate mastery not just of ethnographic work that is relevant to their projects, but also of the wider fields of literature that have informed anthropological study of their regions as identified by the members of the comprehensive exam committee. Reading lists should display historical depth and awareness of significant work in fields beyond linguistic and cultural anthropology. The second examination is of a more theoretical nature in a field chosen and defined by students in conjunction with their advisors. This exam should cover significant works relevant to the study of linguistic and cultural anthropology.
Areas of Concentration
Students may designate cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology, or linguistic anthropology as an area of concentration, depending on which subdiscipline's degree requirements they satisfy. Alternatively, students may designate medical anthropology as an area of concentration if they have taken Patients and Healers, Medical Anthropology 1, Medical Anthropology 2, and 12 elective credits from a list of approved courses. The area of concentration will be officially recorded on the student's transcript, but does not appear on the diploma. In any case the degree awarded is not in the area of concentration but simply in anthropology.
Committee: As soon as possible after completion of the core course requirements, and certainly by the third year in residence, prior to admission to candidacy, the student must establish a doctoral dissertation committee that will: 1) participate in the student's preparation of the dissertation research proposal; 2) administer the oral dissertation overview; 3) offer advice while the student is collecting field or laboratory/museum data as well as while the student is writing the dissertation; and 4) conduct the oral dissertation defense. This committee consists of at least three Graduate Faculty members from the Department of Anthropology, including the student's advisor, and at least one graduate faculty member from another department of the University or from another university. If a member of the graduate faculty of another university is selected, she or he must be approved in advance by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. The student must petition the Graduate Studies Committee for approval of the dissertation committee.
Overview: Before actively pursuing dissertation research, the student makes an oral presentation of the intended project to the dissertation committee. The student gives the members of the committee a proposal at least one month ahead of time. The overview should not be the first discussion of the project between the student and committee members. If the committee members approve, their recommendation is forwarded to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. For research involving human subjects or animals, IRB or IACUC approval must be obtained before the student can be advanced to doctoral candidacy. A student who has not passed the dissertation overview by the end of the fourth year in residence (fifth year for students in the joint PhD/MPH program) may be dismissed from the program.
Dissertation Format: In addition to the standard dissertation format, students have the option to write their dissertations following the three-article format.
Three Article Dissertation
Students should decide at the time of their overview examination whether to pursue the three-article dissertation format. This decision must be made in consultation with the members of the student’s dissertation committee. All members must unanimously agree to the student’s plan to complete a dissertation in the three-article format. Students can also choose the three-article format after the overview, or switch from this format to the regular dissertation format with committee approval.
This dissertation format will be comprised of three full-length articles of publishable quality within a peer-reviewed journal, an introduction, and a conclusion.
The articles are expected to develop various aspects of an overarching theme presented in the introduction. Additional papers may be added above the minimum of three if approved by the committee. The student must be the sole author or lead author on all articles. The student should be responsible for the conceptualization, data analysis, and writing of the articles.
Only one of the three articles can be an article that has been published or accepted for publication prior to the student’s overview at the discretion of the committee. If the article is co-authored, the student must be the first author. The published article must represent work undertaken while the student was enrolled in the PhD program and be related to their dissertation project. The student is responsible for securing necessary permissions from the copyright holder and other authors. See the Pitt Library for questions and assistance.
The goal of writing an article-style dissertation should be to publish the articles that appear in the dissertation. Journals to which articles are being submitted must be approved by the dissertation committee. Serving as an “editorial board” for the student, the committee will help select journals that will challenge the student and offer a reasonable chance of publication success. Dissertation papers can be submitted for publication while the student is ABD. If a paper is rejected by a journal during the dissertation process, the student may submit to another journal approved by the committee. In the case of a “revise and resubmit” during the dissertation process, major revisions to the paper that change the paper’s overall relationship to the dissertation topic must be approved by the dissertation committee. After the successful dissertation defense, any new submission or resubmission, including changes in the authorship or article content, will be at the discretion of the PhD graduate.
The introduction of the dissertation should clarify the rationale for grouping the three articles together. It is expected to include a summary of the research problem the three articles tackle, the methodology used to answer the research question(s), the significance of the research, the theoretical foundations of the research introduced in the context of an overview of pertinent literature.
The conclusion should summarize the dissertation’s major findings. It should also reinforce the linkages between the chapters, tying together the three articles into a cohesive body of scholarship. The conclusion is a place where the student can restate and reinforce the through-line that connects the individual chapter. The conclusion might also present a plan for future research on the research problem(s) engaged in the dissertation.
Large datasets and specific methods discussed in a published paper but not presented in their entirety, or presented in supplemental sections, should be (if permissible) included as appendices as appropriate.
Public Presentation: Each student presents a formal colloquium to the department based on the dissertation research. This may form part of the dissertation defense, or it may come at an earlier stage so that the experience may be of benefit as the ideas in the dissertation take shape.
Defense: By the time of the oral defense of the dissertation, students will have prepared and presented to their committee members a final version of the dissertation. It is expected that there will be sufficient interaction between the student and the committee members that revisions subsequent to the defense will be minimal and minor. All members of the doctoral dissertation committee should be present at the defense. The procedures for the final oral examination are outlined in the requirements for the PhD degree of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
Statute of Limitations
Dietrich School regulations stipulate that the PhD must be completed within 10 calendar years of initial matriculation (8 years for students entering with a Master's degree). They also stipulate that comprehensive examinations must be retaken if they were originally passed more than 7 years before completion of PhD requirements.
Part-time students should take the core courses in their subfields before taking more than 18 credits of formal coursework. They should complete the core course requirement before taking more than 36 credits of formal coursework and proceeding with the other aspects of the program.
General MA Degree
An MA degree may be awarded during the course of a student's PhD program after completion of: 1) 30 course credits; 2) the language requirement; 3) the core course in the student's area of concentration; 4) course(s) that satisfy the MA method/theory requirement (see MA requirements); 5) an acceptable MA paper; and 6) fulfillment of all Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences regulations (e.g., at least 12 credits of course work, not including readings or independent study, must be at the 2000 level). The student selects at least three graduate faculty members (at least two of whom must be in the Department of Anthropology) to participate on the MA advisory and evaluation committee. The Graduate Studies Committee should be petitioned for approval of the committee composition and the MA paper topic well in advance of the expected date of completion.