PhD in Anthropology pre-Fall 2015

Admission to the program is dependent, first, on the achievement of a satisfactory level of work in a prior degree (with a minimum 3.25 CGPA) and, second, on the ability, interest, and availability of one faculty member to supervise the proposed topic of research.

PhD programs in Sociology and Anthropology offer students a comprehensive foundation in social theory in each discipline, substantive courses in areas of research interest, and rigorous training in research methodologies, a particular strength of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at SFU.

Degree Requirements

The minimum requirements for the degree are completion of the required and elective coursework (8 required and 1 elective), successful completion of two qualifying examinations, preparation and public defense of a dissertation prospectus, and a dissertation of approximately 250-300 pages, inclusive of bibliographies, appendices, and tables. The dissertation will be defended at a public defense and examined by the student’s faculty supervisory committee, a university External Examiner who is a faculty member at Simon Fraser University, and an External Examiner who is a faculty member at another academic institution.

 Time Limits and Timelines for PhD Degree Completion

It should be possible for students to complete the PhD within five to six years. For exceptions, the student should consult the DGS Graduate General Regulations section 1.12 Maximum Time for Completion of the Requirements for the Degree (Retrieved from:

Students are expected to complete their graded courses during their first two years of enrolment. PhD students should aim to complete their qualifying examination and defend the dissertation prospectus by the end of their seventh semester in the program, and no later than their eighth semester.

Our goal for stipulating these timelines in this program of study is to facilitate a timely completion. Timely completion requires a realistic combination of commitment, capacity, and responsibility on the part of both students and supervising faculty. Supervisory committees and students should meet at least twice during each semester (once at the beginning and once at the end) to monitor their programs and to encourage dissertation development. These meetings may take place by individual telephone communications, conference calls, video-conferencing, or on e-mail, as long as the goal of close collaboration and communication is achieved to the satisfaction of supervising faculty and students.

The Graduate Program Committee strongly suggests that students and their supervisory committees discuss mutual expectations regarding deadlines and respective responsibilities, frankly and concretely, at the earliest possible opportunity. The Graduate Program Committee requires that these agreements be set out in writing and signed by all parties. Please complete a Graduate Plan of Study (Appendix ‘B’) and refer to Section 4 for more detailed information.

PhD Anthropology Courses

Students must complete a minimum of 9 courses:

  • 5 courses, graded
  • 2 professional development Graduate Seminars, Sat/Unsat (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory)
  • one PhD Qualifying Examination course that extends over two semesters, Sat/Unsat (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory)
  • PhD Thesis, IP/CO (In Progress or Complete)

Required Courses (8 in total)

SA 840-1 (Graduate Seminar 1, Semester 1), Sat/Unsat (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory)

SA 841-1 (Graduate Seminar 2, Semester 2), Sat/Unsat (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory)

SA 856-5 (Qualitative Methodology), graded

SA 857-5 (Research Design Seminar), graded

SA 870-5 (Contemporary Theory in Anthropology), graded

SA 874-5 (Historical Perspectives on Anthropological Theory), graded

SA 897-6 (PhD Qualifying Examination), Sat/Unsat (Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory)

SA 899-6 (PhD Thesis), IP/CO (In Progress or Complete)

Elective course (1 in total):

The additional graded elective course may be chosen from the following courses, subject to availability, and by permission of the instructor, or may be chosen from graduate courses in other departments, including those offered at other BC universities, as per the Western Deans’ Agreement, subject to approval by the supervisory committee and the Graduate Program Committee. See Appendix ‘F’ for the Western Deans’ Agreement process (retrieved at: and Appendix ‘G’ for the Western Deans Agreement form (retrieved at Please note the WDA paperwork must be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies Office at least 6 weeks before the course begins.

SA 871-5 (Readings in Anthropology I), graded

SA 872-5 (Readings in Anthropology II), graded

SA 875-5 (Ethnographic Methodology: Social/Cultural Anthropology), graded

SA 886-5 (Selected Problems in Social Analysis), graded

SA 887-5 (Selected Topics in Sociology/Anthropology), graded

 All graded courses, with the exception of SA 857 (Research Design Seminar), must be completed before enrolling in SA 897 (PhD Qualifying Examination). SA 897 (PhD Qualifying Examination) must be completed before enrolling in SA 857 (Research Design Seminar). Supervisory committees may, at their discretion, require additional courses to be completed.

 NB:     All graded courses, with the exception of SA 857, are to be completed in the semester in which they are started. Course work deferrals should be seen as exceptional, and requests should be made only with accompanying medical certificates or with obvious grounds for consideration.


The dissertation will normally consist of no more than 250 – 300 pages, inclusive of bibliographies, appendices and tables. At the discretion of the supervisory committee, the maximum number of pages may be increased, normally only to facilitate the inclusion of large appendices and tables. The student’s supervisory committee, a qualified External Examiner, a University Examiner will examine the thesis, and a public oral defense will be held. Dissertation Approval pages (with original signatures) are physically submitted to the library and the dissertations are submitted electronically to the library for more details please visit: or contact the Graduate Program Assistant at for more details.

PhD Qualifying Examination

Doctoral students will be required to complete a two-part examination on theory and methodology broadly related to their proposed dissertation topic. The course objective of SA 897 (PhD Qualifying Examination) is to provide a framework and process for students and supervisors to facilitate students’ satisfactory preparation for qualifying examinations; and to complete qualifying examinations required for admission to doctoral candidate standing. A broad critical knowledge of the relevant literature by the student should be seen as sufficient preparation to undertake the qualifying examination.

All PhD courses, including required courses and electives, with the exception of SA 857 (Research Design Seminar), must be completed before the student may enroll in SA 897 (PhD Qualifying Examination).

SA 897 (PhD Qualifying Examination) must be successfully completed before enrolling in SA 857 (Research Design), and before a PhD dissertation prospectus may be defended.

Dissertation Prospectus and Prospectus Defense

The supervisory committee will appoint an Internal/External member who may or may not be the same SFU faculty member who served as Internal/External for the Qualifying Examination.

a) Dissertation Prospectus

A dissertation prospectus should present an intellectually and/or empirically manageable topic and research question and place such a topic within the framework of existing work in this area. The dissertation prospectus will consist of a written statement (minimum 10-15 pages double-spaced, exclusive of abstract, notes, appendices, and bibliography).

The dissertation prospectus will be developed during the required Research Design seminar, SA 857 (Research Design Seminar). Subjects will include, but are not limited to, formulation of research questions; literature reviews; development and articulation of theoretical and methodological frameworks; institutional and field site ethical review processes, protocols and practices; issues in the negotiation of collaborative and participatory research relationships; time management; analysis and interpretation of research data, findings and/or experiences; effective written and oral communication.

The dissertation prospectus should contain:

  1. a precise definition of the topic;
  2. a demonstration of a certain critical awareness of pertinent literature;
  3. argumentation concerning the perceived significance of the topic in relation to existing knowledge and/or theory in the area;
  4. a statement and defense of the research methods and general methodology to be employed.

The dissertation prospectus will be publicly defended upon completion of the required SA 857 (Research Design Seminar) course and with approval of the supervisory committee (including the Internal/External member), generally no later than the end of the first month of the seventh semester. PhD students will not receive a passing grade for SA 857 (Research Design Seminar) until they successfully defend their prospectus.

The dissertation prospectus will be prepared in consultation with the student’s supervisory committee. The senior supervisor has the responsibility of informing the Chair of the Graduate Program Committee in writing of the intent of the student to proceed to a defense.

b) Prospectus Defense

The dissertation prospectus will be publicly defended to an Examining Committee.

PhD students must defend their prospectus in order to complete the requirements for SA 857 (Research Design Seminar) and move to “All But Defended” (ABD) status. Students register in SA 857 (section – does not meet as a class) for the Fall semester following the summer semester SA 857 seminar. The prospectus is usually defended during the Fall semester or, if necessary, at the beginning of the Spring semester.

The defense will be chaired by the Chair (or delegate) of the Graduate Program Committee. The Examining Committee shall consist of the student’s supervisory committee, together with the Internal/External member who will be a faculty member with relevant expertise not already on the supervisory committee. The prospectus defense will be open to students and faculty wishing to attend. Two weeks prior to the defense, five copies of the dissertation prospectus must be given to the graduate program assistant for distribution to the Examining Committee; one copy will be available in the department.

The prospectus defense will be done in the spirit of constructive dialogue and criticism. It is assumed that the selection of a research topic, conceptualization and focusing of the research problem, situating it within a theoretical framework, and identifying the appropriate methodological perspective and tools, are processes a graduate student goes through in close consultation with members of her/his supervisory committee. The prospectus is thus a document that emerges from this interactive-consultative process. Defense of the prospectus should not, therefore, be seen as an adversarial situation. It is instead a continuation of the collaborative process, culminating in a formal, documented stage in which the student proceeds to carry out actual research and writing.

On the basis of the written prospectus and its oral defense, the Examining Committee may recommend to the Graduate Program Committee in the Thesis Prospectus Examination Report one of the following possibilities:

  1.  That the student proceeds to work on the thesis.
  2.  That the student revises the thesis prospectus as specified by the Examining Committee and then proceed to work on the thesis (minor revisions to be approved by the senior supervisor only).
  3.  That the student be required to undertake major revisions (whole committee to review or second oral defense). Further coursework may also be recommended.
  4. That the student is required to take further courses or other remedial measures with a view to writing and re-submitting a revised proposal for another defense. Specify.

In the event that the thesis proposal defense receives a 2, 3, or 4, a plan of successful completion must be submitted to the GPC Chair.

A student has only one opportunity to resubmit the prospectus to their examining committee. Failure to pass the prospectus upon resubmission will result in a request to withdraw from the program.

Students, who propose to undertake either the qualifying examination or the dissertation prospectus defense should, in the first instance, consult with their supervisory committee. It is the responsibility of the supervisory committee to set the process of examination and/or prospectus defense in motion as outlined above.

Oral Examination of Dissertation

When the first draft of the dissertation is nearing completion, the student should consult with the supervisory committee about the scheduling of the oral defense. The senior supervisor and committee members must submit a signed Approval of Examining Committee form (see Appendix ‘M’), with the names of the dissertation Examining Committee, including the curriculum vitae of the External Examiner, the dissertation title and abstract, date, time and place, to reach the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than six weeks prior to the examination date.

It is the responsibility of the senior supervisor to select an External Examiner and confirm the defense date. The student is responsible for providing the Graduate Program Assistant with digital copies of the dissertation at least six weeks before the defense. The dissertation defense will be public. Defenses must take place at least two weeks before the Library submission deadline, which changes each semester, in order to allow time for revisions and thesis formatting. See website for Library rules/etc.

The defense will be chaired by the Chair (or delegate) of the Graduate Program Committee, who shall be a non-voting member of the Examining Committee. In addition, the Examining Committee shall consist of the student’s supervisory committee, a member of faculty at SFU or a person otherwise suitably qualified who is not a member of the supervisory committee (sometimes referred to as the Internal/External), together with an External Examiner who shall be specifically qualified in the field of the dissertation and not be an SFU faculty member. The External Examiner shall be free from potential conflict of interest that may arise, for example, from research collaboration with the student or prospective employment of the student. Adjunct faculty members are not eligible for appointment as an External Examiner.