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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Anthropology

Graduate Studies

Requirements 2017-18 Academic Year


The Master of Arts degree signifies an important step in a student’s scholarly development. The requirements for a Master of Arts degree in anthropology at Syracuse University emphasize comprehensive understanding of anthropology and the articulation of its various sub-fields. The department feels this is the core strength of their discipline. Coursework and qualifying examinations reflect the department’s intent to expose students to the breadth of anthropology prior to engaging in more narrowly defined scholarly studies and doctoral research topics.

1. Core courses: 30 graduate credits that must include at least four core courses, including a two-course sequence within their subdiscipline, (ANT 611 and ANT 711 for cultural students and ANT 641 and ANT 741 for archaeology students), and at least two core courses in other subdisciplines.

The core courses are:

  • ANT 611 History of Anthropological Theory
  • ANT 612 Ethnology
  • ANT 631 Method and Theory in Biological Anthropology
  • ANT 641 Anthropological Archaeology
  • ANT 672 Language, Culture, and Society
  • ANT 711 Current Anthropological Theory
  • ANT 741 Archaeological Theory

Students are expected to complete core courses and qualifying examinations within the first two years in residence.

2. Qualifying Examination: Successful completion of a qualifying examination in their subdiscipline: the History of Anthropological Theory and Ethnology for cultural students and Archaeological Method and Theory for archaeology students.

3. Writing requirement: Students who do not continue beyond the master’s level are required to submit a master’s paper. The master’s paper is to be a significant piece of work on a subject of the student’s choosing, but approved by the advisor. Minimally, it should demonstrate original thinking plus knowledge of the literature of a given area, topic, or issue. See "Position Papers" below for the writing requirements leading to a doctoral degree.

4. Tool and methods requirements:

Cultural students choose either:

  • ANT 681 Ethnographic Methods  or
  • ANT 684 Social Movement Research Methods

Archaeology students choose either:

  • ANT 642 Advanced Archaeological Method and Theory   or
  • ANT 644 Laboratory Analysis in Archaeology

Archaeology students must also fulfill a field training course (ANT 643 Advanced Field Work in Archaeology) or complete an accredited archaeological field program.

5. Advisor and master’s committee: Students are expected to select an advisor by the end of their second term in residence. (The graduate director can serve as an interim advisor until one is selected.)



It is the objective of the anthropology department to produce doctors of philosophy of the highest quality. The Ph.D. requirements build upon the educational training and background gained through the completion of master’s requirements. Ph.D. students are expected to demonstrate outstanding quality in coursework. They must demonstrate that they are qualified to carry out a significant body of anthropological research. Once their proposal has been approved by their committee, they are expected to carry out the project and write a dissertation based on this research.

1.  Basic Requirements: 72 graduate credits (past B.A.) as follows:

  • Minimum of 33 credits in anthropology
  • Maximum of 27 credits in cognate fields
  • Maximum of 12 "dissertation" credits
  • Completion of core courses (see master’s requirements)
  • A Ph.D. pass on qualifying examinations (See master’s requirements.) Exemptions may be granted on the basis of previous work. (Petition to the graduate director is required.)

2.  Students with a prior master’s degree must fulfill all core courses and qualifying requirements. This may be accomplished through satisfactory completion of required coursework and/or the Qualifying Examination, or other means approved by the Graduate Committee (petition to the graduate director is required.

3.  Tool and methods requirements: Cultural students must satisfy the tools and methods requirements for the M.A. plus show proficiency in a language of international scholarship, a literary language, or a field language.

Archaeology students must satisfy the tools and methods requirements for the M.A. plus a relevant language of international scholarship, a literary language, or a field language; or managing electronic databases and other computer programs for data processing.

4.  Dissertation committee: The Ph.D. student is responsible for forming a committee that will guide and preside over the doctoral dissertation. The committee is composed of five members, including  the student's principal advisor plus at least two other faculty members from the Syracuse University Department of Anthropology. The other two may be from any department. (Interdisciplinary training is encouraged.) At the discretion of the advisor, one member of the committee may be chosen who has no affiliation with Syracuse University.

5.  Position papers: Doctoral student are required to write three position papers on topics selected in consultation with the student’s advisor and committee. These three papers will demonstrate competence in a) the geographical area and focal context of specialization; b) the topic of specialization (local and cross-cultural perspectives on a specific research topic); and c) a specific research problem. The position paper should be a student’s original synthesis of the specialized literature in each of the three areas. The ideal paper would be one that could be published in the Annual Review of Anthropology. Position papers may be written (in consultation with the student’s core committee) at any time beginning in the student’s third term of residence. They must all be completed and approved before a formal research proposal ma be defended.

6.  Dissertation proposal and proposal defense: Each student must submit a dissertation proposal to his or her committee and successfully defend it during an oral examination. The dissertation proposal should be a substantive piece of work demonstrating competencies in   theory, method, topic and geographic area sufficient to support the proposed research.

7. Dissertation and dissertation defense: The dissertation shall be an original and substantial written report on one’s doctoral research. Completed dissertations are subject to a formal dissertation defense.