Guidelines for Graduate Students
This document is intended as a guide to graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at Binghamton University. It provides information on expectations as well as regulations for students and advisors. This document should be used in conjunction with the current Graduate School Student Handbook and the Department of Anthropology Graduate Brochure. It is intended to supplement, rather than supplant, active consultation between students and their advisors.
The department offers an orientation program that is required of all entering graduate students. The orientation sessions provide students with information about our department, the University, funding opportunities and career options beyond the degree. The student is also provided information about faculty expectations, specifically regarding "timely and significant" advances toward the degree and "normal" programs of study in each major subfield. Further, we will discuss the master's thesis, doctoral exams and the doctoral dissertation. The orientation program seeks to promote an atmosphere of communication and community by addressing departmental and disciplinary issues often not covered in the classroom.
Advising and Course Load
1. The expected course load for first-year (both MA and PhD) students is 12 credits,
normally three four-credit courses. All entering students are required to register
for ANTH 501 (History of Anthropological Thought) in the fall semester. The additional
two courses for the fall term will be chosen in consultation with the student's initial
advisor. Students are urged to have the subfield's requirement completed by the end
of the first year of full-time status. The course load for part-time students will
be decided in consultation with the advisor. The department strongly advises that
part-time students register for ANTH 501 in the first semester, though it recognizes
that the course may need to be postponed. In no circumstance should the course be
postponed beyond the third semester of registration.
2. Each student is assigned a temporary faculty advisor upon admission to the graduate program. The temporary advisor will assist the student in course selection and help to identify potential research topics. As students formulate research interests and plans, they may wish to change their principal advisors. In such cases, the student should consult with the potential new advisor and secure consent; the student should then inform the temporary advisor and the department secretary of the new arrangement. Similarly, as graduate committees are formed by the student in consultation with the primary advisor, the student should inform the department office of the composition and any changes in committee membership.
3. Students are required to meet with their advisors at least once a semester, shortly before preregistration. During this meeting, the student and advisor will review progress toward the degree, evaluate current work and establish a program of study for the next semester. All graduate students in residence are required to preregister for courses, and admission to courses may be denied to students who fail to preregister.
4. Each student should receive an annual written evaluation from his/her advisor or the subdisciplinary caucus to provide the student and the department with a record of the student's progress toward the degree. The first-year evaluation will include a recommendation as to whether the student should continue toward a graduate degree. The second-year evaluation will indicate whether the MA degree should be terminal. These evaluations will be arrived at through consultation with the student's advisor and other faculty with whom the student has worked. This information will be made available to the Graduate Committee and may be used by that committee in funding decisions. Students who wish to register a formal comment on their evaluation may do so by placing a letter in their student file.
5. Students should anticipate that they may be required to take courses beyond the minimal 56 credits requirement for the degree program. The student, in consultation with the advisor, the degree committee and in some instances the Graduate Committee, will develop a program of study that will best meet the students interests, fill gaps in knowledge and best equip the student to pursue a research program. In many instances, this program cannot be met within the limitations of the minimum-degree requirements.
6. Departmental funding decisions are made by the Graduate Committee with input from the faculty at large. Students should be aware that general rates of progress toward a degree are considered in decisions regarding allocation of departmental resources. Preference is given to those students who make timely and significant advances toward the degree. Students in the MA program may be funded for a maximum of four semesters, and students in the PhD program for a maximum of eight. Students who can demonstrate that they have actively sought external funding may be considered for a ninth, or sometimes 10th, semester of funding.
The department awards two types of funding: teaching assistantships (TA) and graduate assistantships (GA). The specific duties associated with the positions vary; these are spelled out in individual appointment letters (see Graduate Student Handbook for more details). The department views these assistantships as opportunities for professional growth that provide the student with valuable teaching and research experience.
Students who hold assistantships must be enrolled on a full-time basis during the tenure of the award, and they may not be concurrently employed by any state agency (including the University or the Research Foundation). Further, additional employment is restricted so that a student's total obligation may not exceed 20 hours per week (Graduate Student Handbook).
A student is normally expected to complete a master's degree in two years of full-time study. Most students complete the required course credits for the MA during their third semester of full-time study.
Foreign Language Requirement
Students are required to demonstrate an ability to read research literature in their respective areas of interest in a major language of scholarship other than English. This requirement may be fulfilled in a number of ways (see Graduate Degree Program under Master of Arts).
The purpose of the MA thesis is to demonstrate a student's ability to conduct research and proceed to doctoral-level studies. Research competence encompasses the abilities to define a relevant problem, propose a research program designed to address that problem, conduct independent research and produce a written document that communicates the research results and demonstrates the student's ability to analyze and synthesize data. The definition of acceptable thesis topics varies by subdiscipline and students should confer with their advisors regarding individual projects. In general, however, choice of a topic should be guided by a consideration of the accessibility of relevant data/information or the immediacy of fieldwork opportunities. Further, the thesis is viewed as a step toward the PhD, and the MA project should not impede progress to the PhD. Thus, the scope of the MA project must be defined in such a way that the student makes significant and timely advances towards the PhD.
The master's thesis should be regarded as roughly equivalent in magnitude to a four-credit course. Thus, students normally register for four "thesis" credits (ANTH 599) during the fourth semester to count toward the degree. A student may, therefore, anticipate devoting approximately half of his/her time to researching and writing the thesis during the fourth semester.
In some instances, a student may be permitted to pursue the two-paper option with the approval of the advisor. The two-paper option enables a student to produce two shorter written documents on separate topics (see Appendix 1 for a more full description of this option). These might be outstanding seminar papers which the student wishes to expand and improve into papers of publishable quality. The two papers taken together should demonstrate the same research skills as listed above for the thesis. Availability of the two-paper option varies by subdiscipline and students should discuss this possibility with their advisors early in their graduate careers.
The MA Committee
The MA Committee normally consists of two faculty members in anthropology who are required to read and evaluate the MA thesis. The student, in consultation with the advisor, selects a second committee member once a thesis topic is agreed upon. Once the second faculty member agrees to serve on the committee, the student must inform the department office of the membership.
Each student must present a colloquium to his/her advisor and reader in the third semester of full-time registration. The subject of the colloquium is the student's thesis topic or topics of the two-paper option. The intention is for the student to discuss the formulated research plan and the implications of the research for the academic field. The colloquium is required for all MA students, but it is a critical step in the academic progress of those students who seek eventual admission to the doctoral program. The colloquium will be scheduled by the advisor; the timing of the colloquium will be adjusted for part-time students and will occur during the first semester following the completion of 24 credits.
Time Limit to Degree
A maximum of six (6) semesters full-time or eight (8) semesters part-time graduate study is allowed for completion of the master's degree. Students who do not complete their master's degree within these time limits will be ineligible for funding. Further, the student who has not completed the MA within these limits must petition the Graduate Committee for extension and may face removal from the program. In the event of an interruption in a student's course of study, extension beyond these limits will require approval of the Graduate Committee.
Admission to the PhD Program
Unless granted a waiver of the degree, students are normally required to complete the requirements of the MA degree before being admitted to the PhD program. An MA student who is fully funded for the first two years and has not completed the thesis may find it necessary to apply for admission to the PhD program during the fourth semester if he/she wishes to apply for further funding. A student in this position may apply for conditional admission to the PhD program (see Appendix 2). If granted, conditional admission extends for a period of one year. If at the end of this one year period the student has not completed all requirements for the MA, he/she will be dropped from the doctoral program. The student must then reapply for admission to the PhD program once the requirements of the MA degree are met.
Time Limit to Degree
A student should complete course work for the doctorate in three years of full-time study (one year in addition to the MA degree). In a normal course of studies, doctoral examinations will be scheduled during the sixth semester. This may vary, if for example the student chooses to devote time during the third year to preparing funding proposals. In such circumstances, the student might take his/her exams in the fourth year. During the fifth year of doctoral studies, the student will normally be engaged in field research. The sixth and perhaps seventh years of a normal program are devoted to writing the dissertation.
Once the doctoral examinations are successfully completed, a student is admitted to "candidacy." The Graduate School allows five years from this point to submission of the defended PhD dissertation. After that time, the department must request an extension in writing for approval from the dean of the Graduate School. Requests are normally supported by the department when in the judgment of the graduate director there is a real likelihood of a candidate producing a dissertation within the period of extension.
The PhD Committee
In principle, it is possible to distinguish three separate committees with whom the student works during the completion of the doctoral degree requirements, although the same faculty normally serve on all of these committees. In all cases, the minimum size of the committee is three. At least two of the members must be regular faculty in the Department of Anthropology.
The continuing student should, with the consent of the relevant faculty, formulate a guidance committee at the time of application to the PhD program. The PhD Guidance Committee oversees the selection of exam and research topics, administers the doctoral candidacy exams and assists the student in the preparation of funding proposals. Students should inform the department office as soon as they have composed a guidance committee, as well as of any change in the composition of that committee over time. There is a form available from the department office for this purpose.
The PhD Dissertation Committee is likewise composed of at least three faculty, at least two of whom must be regular faculty in the Department of Anthropology. The chairperson of the dissertation committee is the primary supervisor of the dissertation.
The PhD Examining Committee includes the dissertation committee and may include other members named by the Director of Graduate Studies. It also includes an outside member named by the provost.
Doctoral Candidacy Exams
There are two components of the doctoral exams: a written examination and a colloquium. The written examinations include questions on three fields (e.g. area, theory and method) which are decided upon in consultation between the student and his/her PhD committee. The student prepares bibliographies on each of the three areas which must be approved by his/her committee. Examination questions are tailored by the committee and based on the bibliographies prepared by the student.
After successfully completing the written examinations, a student presents a public colloquium in which the student outlines his/her plans for dissertation research. This is normally scheduled within a month of completing the written examinations. During the colloquium, the student identifies a research problem. Following a question-and-answer period open to the public, the committee meets with the student to discuss the presentation, and may suggest modifications to the research plan. The colloquium and subsequent discussions are incorporated into a written research prospectus which must be submitted by the student to the PhD Committee. The prospectus represents an agreement between the student and his/her committee regarding the acceptability of a specific research agenda.
Scheduling Doctoral Defenses
A student must allow adequate time for scheduling the doctoral defense. Students are referred to Appendix 3 for guidelines on scheduling doctoral defenses.
For further information, consult the most recent Graduate School Student Handbook.
The Two-Paper Option: Criteria and Procedures for Acceptance of Two Revised Papers in Lieu of a Master's Thesis
All recipients of graduate degrees (MA or PhD) in anthropology must submit original work in demonstration of their ability to apply appropriate concepts, findings and analytical techniques of anthropology to a problem identified by the individual student.
Recipients of the MA, especially if they are not committed to pursuing doctoral studies, are encouraged to fulfill the above requirement through completion of a thesis, in which they (a) pose an original and researchable question in general anthropology or one of its recognized subfields, (b) exhibit their mastery of the professional literature relevant to this question and to the proposed solution, and manipulate and present data bearing on this question and (d) interpret such data in order to come to a conclusion about the proposed solution to the original research question.
The pressure of time and other obligations does sometimes preclude the completion of a thesis of the above description. However, an MA may be awarded on the basis of the submission of two revised seminar papers -- with the approval of the original seminar instructors. Students wishing to pursue this "two-paper option" should discuss its feasibility with their principal advisor and one other member of the department faculty who will read both papers.
If the advisor agrees to the appropriateness of revising two specific previously completed papers, the student should compose a letter to the Graduate Committee explaining how the two papers, with specified revisions, would satisfy the criteria (a)-(d) identified above. This letter should also provide the name of a nominee to serve as a second reader for each of the two papers.
If the option is approved by the Graduate Committee, copies of the committee's memo of approval and the student's original application letter will accompany each of the revised papers when they are submitted for approval by the final readers. Upon receipt of signed approval of the two papers by the readers, the master's "thesis" requirement will be considered complete.
Admission to the PhD Program for Continuing Students
Students who earn a master's degree in the department are not automatically admitted to the doctoral program in anthropology. Students who wish to enter the doctoral program may apply for admission as early as the third semester of residence. If all MA requirements are not met at the time of application, the Graduate Committee may admit the student for PhD studies on a conditional basis. Such conditional admission will extend for a period not to exceed one year, at which time it is expected that the MA will be completed. (For restrictions on funding at the MA level, see elsewhere).
The application takes the form of a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies and must contain the following information:
1. Verification of receiving the MA degree. If MA requirements are not completed, the applicant should provide a statement giving status of the work (requirements remaining, schedule for completion), signed by the applicant's advisor.
2. A statement of the applicant's goals for doctoral study (topics or areas of interest, a brief outline of research to be conducted, more specific plans as available).
3. Names of three appropriate faculty (at least two must be from anthropology) who may serve as the applicant's principal advisor and as members of the Doctoral Guidance Committee. Students should discuss the application with potential committee members in advance of applying to the PhD program. Members of the guidance committee usually also sit on the candidate's dissertation committee. The Graduate Committee will confer with these nominees or with other faculty who are familiar with the applicant's work as part of the process of reviewing the application.
Following review by the Graduate Committee, the applicant will be notified of acceptance, the need to modify or rejection of the proposal. Only at this stage should the student seek final faculty approval of the application. After admission, the student is required to submit a Doctoral Guidance Committee form which the approved faculty will sign to indicate their willingness to serve. This form is available from the department office. Once completed, this process signals formal acceptance to the PhD program and initial make-up of the guidance committee.
Criteria for Admission
In evaluating applications for admission to the doctoral program, the Graduate Committee considers all available evidence bearing on the applicant's potential for high-quality doctoral study and research. This evidence includes performance in prior course work and independent study, evaluations from instructors and quality of written work (including the master's thesis, if available). The following are generally necessary, but not in themselves sufficient, conditions for admission to the doctoral program: completion of the MA; a cumulative graduate grade point average of at least 3.5 (A = 4 points; A- = 3.7; B+ = 3.3; B- = 2.7; etc.)
Scheduling Doctoral Defenses
Problems have occasionally arisen regarding the scheduling of the final oral defense of completed dissertations. The following is a restatement and clarification of Graduate School policies regarding this issue and a set of procedures for departmental implementation. These procedures are a means to insure that candidates and committee members know what is expected of them "in the home stretch."
1. The dissertation "....must have the unanimous approval of your program before
arrangements are made for the final examination for the degree." The Dissertation
Committee is made up of at least three members of the faculty of the Graduate School,
at least two of whom must be regular faculty in the Department of Anthropology. To
be assured of their "unanimous approval," they are each, and all, to sign a statement
attesting to receipt and approval of a complete draft of the dissertation. There is
a form for this purpose available in the department office. The submission of the
signed acknowledgments of receipt and approval from all members of a duly constituted
Dissertation Committee (excluding the outside examiner) shall constitute the grounds
for departmental approval, at which point, tentative arrangements for the scheduling
of the defense can be made.
2. The Examining Committee is distinct from the Dissertation Committee, although the chairperson of the Dissertation Committee normally serves as chair of the Examining Committee as well. The final Examining Committee necessarily includes the Dissertation Committee, as it may have been modified during the course of completing the dissertation, and may include other members named by the Director of Graduate Studies. It also includes an outside member, nominated to the provost by the Director of Graduate Studies. According to Graduate School guidelines, the outside examiner will normally have had no involvement in the supervision of the dissertation.
3. A tentative examination date is recommended by the committee chairperson in consultation with named members of the Examination Committee and the student. Because scheduling is often very tight, especially at the end of a semester, the Director of Graduate Students may, upon request of the chair of the Examining Committee, schedule a tentative date for the defense at the time of nominating the outside examiner to the provost. However, the date will be definite only after the confirmed appointment of a willing and available outside examiner by the provost. Remember that "no member of an Examination Committee can be expected to participate in a dissertation defense if that member has not had at least two weeks to read and consider the dissertation." Therefore, three full weeks are normally required in order to schedule an examination.
4. Because the outside examiner and perhaps other members of the Examination Committee will be reading the dissertation for the first time, and because the dissertation "must receive the unanimous approval of the Dissertation Committee and no more than one dissenting vote from the total Examination Committee present," it is essential that any problems relating to approval of the dissertation be made known to the candidate, the committee chairperson and the Director of Graduate Studies as soon as possible. At the date of the examination, the Dissertation Committee will already have signed its approval, but if any other member of the Examination Committee finds reason to doubt that the dissertation is approvable, he/she should make this doubt known to the chairperson of the Examination Committee. In the event that more than one member finds reasons to dissent, the committee chairperson should contact the Director of Graduate Studies so that the defense can be postponed. The Examination Committee will meet at the time originally scheduled for the defense (or some other mutually agreed-upon time) to discuss the dissertation.