The Doctoral program prepares candidates for a career in teaching, research or as an anthropologist employed in the public or private sector. Graduates are expected to have acquired autonomy in conducting in-depth, full-scale field research projects. They are expected to be able to conduct research, write, revise and publish scholarly manuscripts. These objectives are achieved beginning with a first year of formal course work that includes the possibility of internships as well as directed reading courses. The second year of the program is geared towards developing intellectual independence and a comprehensive understanding of theory, method and area, in preparing for comprehensive requirements: two comprehensive examinations and a research proposal. The next phase of training tests students' abilities to conduct independent field research in diverse social and cultural settings and locales. Field sites are various and range widely both spatially and temporally and in concept. The final phase of the program involves writing the dissertation culminating in an oral defense.

All doctoral students are encouraged to gain experience as teaching and/or research assistants. Our Faculty of Graduate Studies was the first in Canada to offer graduate students the opportunity for a teaching practicum. Our students regularly take advantage of the weekly teaching development workshops offered at the university's Centre for the Support of Teaching.

Duration of the PhD

All requirements for a doctoral degree must be fulfilled within 18 terms (6 years) of registration as a full-time or part-time doctoral student in accordance with Faculty of Graduate Studies Registration Policies, including the requirement of continuous registration. Terms that students register as Leave of Absence, Maternal Leave, Parental Leave, or No Course Available are not included in these time limits.


Doctoral students are expected to take 2.5 graduate courses (or equivalent), which must include the two required half year Theory courses and the required half year Methods course. Two additional half-courses should be selected from the theme courses in Social Anthropology, or one from a cognate discipline, with the permission of the Graduate Director. A Reading Course and/or an Internship are also options. All first year students must also enroll in the required Graduate Seminar, which is held on a weekly basis in both the Fall and Winter terms. Students are expected to have all course work done in the first year.

Comprehensive Exams, Research Proposal and Exam

From the start of working on the comprehensive exams and research proposal, through to the completion of the doctoral program, doctoral candidates begin to work independently outside the structure of courses, and in collaboration with a supervisory committee. The purpose of the comprehensive exams and research proposal is essentially preparation for the fieldwork and writing the dissertation. The two comprehensive exams and research proposal are intended to help students prepare for fieldwork and to move towards the conceptual work of the dissertation. The comprehensive exams and research proposal will enable doctoral candidates to:

  • Read broadly and deeply within selected areas of socio-cultural anthropology and related disciplines in preparation for fieldwork.
  • Develop skills in compiling reading lists, framing questions, and demonstrating sustained engagement with questions posed in relation to bodies of literature.
  • Develop and demonstrate analytic and synthetic skills in the writing of two comprehensive exams.
  • Develop a research proposal that conceptualizes a research project and details how it will be carried out.

After successfully completing their two comprehensive exams, candidates begin to develop their research proposal. The research proposal must clearly demonstrate the candidate’s conceptualization of their research project, the research context (including any proposed engagements with human/non-human participants); provide details about how and when the research will be carried out, ethical implications, and the associated costs. Put differently, a successful proposal clearly outlines the subject and nature of the research project, describes its relationship to the relevant field(s) of research, delineates the scope of the problem and the questions it will address, specifies the methodology/methodologies it will deploy, provides a time-line for the completion of the project including the completion of the dissertation, budget where relevant and contains the necessary ethics clearance documentation. The final version of the dissertation proposal is submitted to the committee for approval to proceed to a proposal defense.

Dissertation and Defense

Candidates must write dissertation under the supervision of a minimum of three members from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, at least two of whom must be members of the graduate program in Social Anthropology. The final version of the dissertation is submitted to the supervisory committee for approval to proceed to a dissertation defense. The oral examination will center on the dissertation and is a public academic event.