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Ph.D. in Chinese Archaeology

The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare students for a doctoral degree in Chinese archaeology.

Students should consult the most up-to-date version of the degree plan on the Stanford Bulletin as well as the EALC Graduate Handbook. Each student should meet with their faculty advisor at least once per quarter to discuss the degree requirements and their progress.

Degree Requirements for the Ph.D. in Chinese Archaeology

Admission to Candidacy

Candidacy is the most important University milestone on the way to the Ph.D. degree. Admission to candidacy rests both on the fulfillment of department requirements and on an assessment by department faculty that the student has the potential to successfully complete the Ph.D.

Following University policy (GAP 4.6.1), students are expected to complete the candidacy requirements by Spring Quarter of the second year of graduate study.

Degree Requirements

  1. Demonstrate proficiency in modern Chinese by completing one of the tracks of third-year Chinese with a letter grade of B or higher or by demonstrating an equivalent level of linguistic attainment by passing the appropriate certifying examinations.
    • CHINLANG 103 - Third-Year Modern Chinese, Third Quarter (5 units)
    • CHINLANG 103B - Third-Year Modern Chinese for Bilingual Speakers, Third Quarter (3 units)
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in classical Chinese by completing one of the following advanced classical Chinese courses with a letter grade of B or higher.
    • CHINA 208 - Advanced Classical Chinese: Philosophical Texts (3-5 units)
    • CHINA 209 - Advanced Classical Chinese: Historical Narration (2-5 units)
    • CHINA 210 - Advanced Classical Chinese: Literary Essays (2-5 units)
  3. Proseminar sequence: Complete the following courses for a letter grade of B or higher.
    • EALC 201 - Proseminar in East Asian Humanities I: Skills and Methodologies (3 units)
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in at least one supporting foreign language (in addition to Chinese and English), or in a laboratory skill, to be chosen in consultation with the primary advisor according to the candidate's specific research goals. Proficiency in language(s) and/or laboratory skills must be certified through a written examination or an appropriate amount of course work, to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
  5. Six graduate-level CHINA or ANTHRO courses appropriate to the Chinese Archaeology subplan, as approved by the advisor:
    • ANTHRO 303 - Introduction to Archaeological Theory (5 units)
    • ANTHRO 307 - Archaeological Methods (5 units)
    • ANTHRO 308 - Proposal Writing Seminar in Cultural and Social Anthropology (5 units)
    • ANTHRO 310G - Introduction to Graduate Studies (2 units)
    • ANTHRO 311G - Introduction to Culture and Society Graduate Studies in Anthropology (2 units)
    • CHINA 275 - Constructing National History in East Asian Archaeology (3-5 units)
    • CHINA 276 - Emergence of Chinese Civilization from Caves to Palaces (3-4 units)
    • CHINA 376 - Methods, Theories, and Practice in Chinese Archaeology (3-5 units)
  6. Serve as a teaching assistant for two quarters and research assistant in an archaeology laboratory for two quarters.
  7. Pass qualifying examinations in Chinese archaeology. In order to advance to Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status, students must also complete a prospectus defense.
  8. Carry out fieldwork related to dissertation research.
  9. Pass the University Oral Examination (dissertation defense). General regulations governing the oral examination are found in Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures (GAP 4.7.1). The candidate is examined on questions related to the dissertation after acceptable parts have been completed in draft form.

  10. Following university policy (GAP 4.8.1), submit a dissertation demonstrating the ability to undertake original research based on primary and secondary materials in Chinese.

Chinese Archaeology Qualifying Exam

Since the PhD students in Chinese Archaeology Program in EALC will form the qualifying exam committee which consists of faculty members from Anthropology Department, we follow the format and timeline for the exam from Anthropology Department. The information about the exam process is based on Department of Anthropology Best Practice Reference, Doctoral Qualifying Examinations for Area and Topic.

The qualifying exam process includes the five components: Bibliographies, Literature Review, Setting the Examination Questions, the Written Examinations, the Oral Component meeting and examination.

  1. Bibliographies
    • Each student should prepare two bibliographies – one on TOPIC and one on AREA. Each of these bibliographies should have app. 100 titles – book and/or articles. The exact number of titles on the list should depend on whether these are whole books or shorter articles. Each of the bibliographies should have some subheadings to organize the content – three to five is advisable. The preparation of the bibliography, including the discussion of exact topic and area content, begins in the beginning of the second year (or before) in close collaboration with the advisor and the members of the area and topic exam committee who the student identifies in the course of the second and third year.
  2. Literature Review - How to Prepare for the Written Examinations
    • The safest way to pass the qualifying exam is to prepare early and well by discussing the selected texts with members of the committee. The most successful and proven method to review and understand the selected literature is the following: Schedule regular (bi-weekly) meetings with members of your topic and area committees. This should ideally begin in the second year already. Enroll in a Directed Reading course with Advisor and/or committee member - In preparation for each meeting, select a cluster of related texts (four to six) from your bibliography and write a two-three pages succinct summary and discussion of the texts, what they say, how they are situated in relations to one another, etc. This forces the student to read and digest the texts early, and to get used to the brief and precise style of writing that is expected for the exam. - The précis should then be sent the committee member(s) one day ahead of the meeting. This will allow the works and the elements that are most difficult to be discussed with the committee member. Make sure to enroll in an Independent Study course with Professor Li Liu in the Winter quarter of the third year. After about a year’s gradual preparation of this kind, each student will have an archive of notes and précis that will be immensely helpful in writing the exam.
  3. Setting the Written Examination Questions
    • As students prepare and read for the exam, it is a good idea to indicate areas and themes that they would like to have questions set in. It is important to discuss these well ahead of time with members of the committee. The actual exam questions are NOT to be framed by the student but always by the chairs of the topic and area exam committees. It is ultimately the responsibility of the advisor to make sure that appropriate questions that are approved by the committee are submitted before the deadline. Each exam questions should be broad enough to allow the student to demonstrate mastery of a wider literature, and precise enough to be answered meaningfully in an essay of app. 8-9 pages. There should be a minimum of five questions set for Topic and five for Area. The student must select three questions from each list.
  4. The Written Examinations
    • A written exam is an essay that addresses a contradiction, tension, paradox within a body of literature, and/or an essay that traces the permutations and continuities of certain frames and themes in a body of literature.

      The style and economy of presentation should be akin to that of (good) Annual Review articles that present and discuss various positions while developing an argument of its own.

      The style should be precise and it should demonstrate an ability to summarize large and complex arguments succinctly; an ability to situate various works in relation to one another; an ability to develop a clear and reasoned argument, and an ability to situate theoretical and conceptual positions within a larger field of debate as it has developed over time and in different geographical and historical contexts.
  5. The Oral Component Meeting of the Written Examinations
    • The Oral component of the Qualifying Examinations should be scheduled over a minimum of 90 minute period of time. The exam should begin with a 10-15 minute presentation by the student on central themes arising from the exam answers.

      Following this, the Exam committee discusses the exams and the bibliographies with the student for about 30 minutes for Topic and 30 minutes for Area. Students may be asked to clarify and expand on arguments made in the written exam and/or explain the specific arguments of various authors. There are three golden rules for a successful oral exam:

      1. Make sure to answer the questions that are posed;

      2. Be prepared to discuss authors and perspectives from the bibliographies that may not be included in the written exams;

      3. Be as precise and brief as possible to make the most of the discussion.

    • Following the discussion, the student is excused and the committee discusses the exam as a whole and decides to approve, or not approve, the exam. The committee members invite the student back in and communicate the result to the student. Qualifying Examination submissions and committee approval of the exams must be completed by the end of Spring quarter of the third year.

      If the exam is not approved, the committee members will present recommendations for improvement and a suggested time frame for revision and resubmission of the written exams directly to the student. Alternatively, the comments and required revisions can be relayed to the student by the Advisor. A student can revise written exams and retake oral exams a maximum of three times. The final submission must be made by the end of Autumn quarter of the fourth year.

Dissertation Proposal Guidelines

The Written Proposal 

In the Third year of the Ph.D. degree program, each Ph.D. candidate must submit a written dissertation proposal (approximately 10-15 pages long), which must be approved by the candidate’s Dissertation Reading Committee. The proposal should be written and approved before the student undertakes the bulk of the dissertation research in the fourth year of the Ph.D. in Chinese Archaeology. An approved proposal should establish the background, feasibility and interest of the proposed research, and details procedures for time to accomplishing the research during the fourth year of the Ph.D. in Chinese Archaeology.

A dissertation proposal will clearly specify the leading research questions and hypotheses, the data relevant to answering those research questions, the theoretical framework and the methods of analysis. It will provide a brief literature review, elucidating the relationship of the proposed research to other current research, and a clear work plan. The proposal should also present and interpret progress to date if the research is already underway. Finally, it should briefly discuss any research costs involved and the anticipated sources of funding.

The written proposal may be modeled on the project description for an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DDRIG) in Archaeology (

Proposal Overview and Format

Students should begin thinking about a dissertation topic early in their degree program. Concentrated work on a dissertation proposal normally begins after successful completion of ANTHRO 308A, Proposal Writing Seminar in Archaeology; and, the student collaborates with their faculty advisor and Qualifying Examination Committee members in the choice of a topic for the dissertation.

The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement on the extent and nature of the student’s dissertation research interests. Students submit a draft of the proposal to faculty advisor at the end of Spring quarter in the Second year of the degree program. In Autumn quarter of the third year, students submit funding proposals to at least three agencies and further revise the dissertation proposal. In Winter quarter of the third year, student confirm Area and Topic for the purpose of the Qualifying Examination requirement. The students experience in the Qualifying Examinations further informs revision to the dissertation proposal. Then, in the Spring quarter of the third year, students must provide a written copy of the proposal to the Qualifying Examination Committee members for Area and Topic no later than two weeks prior to the date of the dissertation proposal review.

The major components of the proposal are as follows:

  • a detailed statement of the problem/question(s) to be studied and the context within which it is to be seen. This should include a justification of the importance of the problem, theoretically.
  • a thorough review of the literature pertinent to the research problem. This review should provide proof that the relevant literature in the field that has been thoroughly researched. Good research is cumulative; it builds on the thoughts, findings, and the mistakes of others.
  • a statement on the overall design of the proposed study, including general explanatory interest, overall theoretical framework within which this interest is to be pursued, and the model or hypotheses to be tested or the research questions to be answered
  • a discussion of the conceptual and operational properties of the variables
  • an overview of strategies for collecting appropriate evidence (sampling, instrumentation, data collection, data reduction, data analysis)
  • a discussion of how the evidence is to be interpreted (This aspect of the proposal will be somewhat different in fields such as history and philosophy of education.)

Dissertation Proposal Meeting guidelines – the meeting for approval of the dissertation proposal

The meeting for a review of the dissertation proposal usually follows the oral component meeting reviewing the Qualifying Examinations for Area and Topic. The Dissertation Reading Committee members can be the Qualifying Examination Committee members, either all, or partial. Or, the Dissertation Reading Committee can include other faculty.

The student and faculty advisor are responsible for scheduling a meeting to review the proposal; the faculty committee members convening for this evaluative period should be considered the Dissertation Reading Committee. Normally, all must be present at the meeting either in person or via televideo conference. The meeting should be 60-90 minutes in length.

At the end of this meeting, the advisor should email the student with cc to Student Services Officer indicating approval of the dissertation proposal, or their evaluation of and required revisions for the dissertation proposal. In addition, the University Registrar Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form should be completed and given to the Student Services Officer to enter in the University student records system.

During the meeting for approval of the dissertation proposal, the student should make arrangements for a minimum of three faculty members (two faculty who are Academic Council with appointments in the Department of Anthropology and the third faculty member who may be external to Stanford University) to serve on their Dissertation Reading Committee.