Research Degrees: Anthropology & Sociology
Duration: All SOAS PhD programmes are expected to take a maximum of 48 months fulltime (three years of full fees that includes one year fieldwork, and one final year of continuation). The PhD programme may also be taken part time. If taken part time, it is normally expected that both the year-long fieldwork component and continuation year are taken fulltime.
Minimum Entry Requirements: a BA and/or MA degree in Anthropology, with a merit or equivalent in the Masters Degree and a MA dissertation grade of 65% or higher. Applicants must provide a clear and coherent research proposal of 2000 words.
In the first year, every MPhil student is appointed a three-person research committee comprising a principal supervisor, a second supervisor and the Research Tutor. MPhil students attend the weekly Research Training Seminar and the Research Methods course, and they take relevant language training. MPhil students may also be required to take additional regional, thematic or theory courses related to their chosen specialisation. Upon successful completion of a 20,000-word research report and fieldwork proposal, MPhil students are upgraded to PhD status and commence fieldwork. The fieldwork experience forms the basis of a 100,000-word dissertation which should demonstrate original thinking and make a significant contribution to the discipline. During the post-fieldwork period, PhD students attend the weekly post-fieldwork seminar and have the opportunity to present their work in progress. MPhil and PhD students are encouraged to attend the variety of seminars and workshops that take place across the School.
Why a PhD in Anthropology
Social anthropology is widely regarded by employers as an excellent training, equipping holders of the degree with a range of employable skills. The value and relevance of the discipline are evidenced by the great variety and distinction of careers SOAS anthropology graduates have embarked upon with success.
Anthropologists have a global perspective when they come to make career choices. The speed and ease of worldwide communication networks is expanding the need to understand and interpret the socio-cultural patterns, values and life styles of others. Social anthropologists therefore find opportunity in diverse fields including international business, information technology, the media, library and museum services, and tourism. The multi-cultural nature of modern society has triggered a need in many spheres for staff with a trained awareness of the socio-cultural norms of minority communities, and our graduates may be found throughout the education sector, health sector, local government, and in advisory services of many kinds. Increasing numbers work in the field of development at home or overseas, with UN agencies or non governmental organizations, and others work as freelance consultants.
There are several possible research pathways available to research students in the Department. These are:
- The +3 pathway
- The 1+3 pathway
- The 2+3 pathway
- The +4 pathway
- The +3 pathway is the longest-standing MPhil/PhD pathway involving approximately one year of MPhil training and preparation, one year of fieldwork followed by one year of writing up on a full-time registered basis. Students may apply for one additional year of writing up on a ‘continuation’ status to complete their thesis if needed.
- The 1+3 pathway involves one year on the MA Anthropological Research Methods followed by three years on the MPhil/PhD programme. The dissertation for the MA Anthropological Research Methods will constitute the basis for the research report and fieldwork proposal required for upgrading from MPhil to PhD status. Consequently the upgrade process generally occurs early in the first year of the +3 part of the pathway and the student may expect to leave for fieldwork after about one term. Students may apply for ‘continuation’ status as in the +3 pathway.
- The 2+3 pathway is similar to the 1+3 pathway in all respects other than it starting with the two-year MA in Anthropological Research Methods and Nepali.
- The +4 pathway differs from the +3 pathway by beginning with two years of pre-fieldwork training instead of one. This pathway is likely to appeal particularly to students who have a new or difficult language to learn for fieldwork. The two-year pre-fieldwork training period also offers the opportunity, where appropriate, for short pre-fieldwork familiarisation visits to expected fieldwork sites and/or in situ language training. As with the other pathways, students may apply for one year of ‘continuation status’ if necessary.
For more information please contact the Research Tutor.
May be combined with
See the PGDip in Social Science Research Methods for those wishing to undertake prior training before applying for the Doctoral programme.
All students enrolled in their first year of an MPhil/PhD are required to take and pass the course, i.e. to pass the course assessment for this course and the companion course on quantitative methods.
Introduction to Statistics - A Graduate Programme at Three Levels
All first year MPhil/PhD students in the Department, unless formally exempted by the course convener, are required to take and pass this course. Students who miss a session may experience difficulty in following the trend of teaching in subsequent weeks. Part-time students are expected to make arrangements to ensure regular attendance.
Research Training Seminar
This is a two-hour seminar course that has no formal lectures, but includes occasional guest discussants. In the first weeks of term 1, basic writing and organizational skills will be discussed; funding bodies and grant applications will be considered; a library orientation tour will be scheduled; and we will be introduced to the use of audiovisual equipment in fieldwork. From the second half of term 1 onwards, the main part of the course will consist of student presentations and focus on writing and developing the MPhil Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal.
- Timetable: Terms 1 and 2, Monday 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. (see SOAS timetable for room)
- Coursework requirements: This course is aimed at supporting the writing of the Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal, both of which are due Friday, week 4, term 3. To this end, all students will be required to make various presentations in the seminars. In term 1, students will introduce their Research Topic and briefly outline the future aims of their PhD research. Early in the term, students will be introduced to audiovisual equipment and will conduct a brief ‘fieldwork’ exercise in London in order to familiarise themselves with the equipment and explore the limits and possibilities of ethnographic representation ‘beyond text’. The learning outcomes of this exercise should be integrated in forthcoming presentations Students will also be expected to make presentations on material they are reading (or ethnographic film they are viewing), with an aim to discuss the writing and presentation techniques involved. Questions to consider include: What makes good ethnography? What is an effective way of structuring an argument (both in writing and visually)? What makes for difficult reading or viewing? What are the boundaries of ethnography, and how have they changed, and continue to change? Longer presentations to be made during term 2 will consist of a section of the student’s Research Report. Selection of work for presentation should normally be discussed and agreed upon with the student’s supervisor. In term 2 students will be assigned to act as commentators on one another’s written piece of work.
- Course aims: In addition to supporting the written work students do and the ideas they explore in their individual tutorials with supervisors, the Research Training Seminar also aims to introduce and hone transferable skills. These include the ability for composing and communicating both brief and more sustained seminar presentations; the skills to critically assess ethnographic writing and each others’ work in a productive manner; and the ability to contribute to discussions and the making of knowledge as a group member. The seminar provides a vital forum for students to discuss competing theoretical positions and approaches; and to consider different writing styles, forms of ethnographic representation, and ways of communicating results and ideas. All such aspects of the seminar are aimed at contributing to the intellectual and organisational development of the MPhil upgrade Report.
Other Required Courses
Some first-year research students may be required to register for specific courses and they must complete the coursework set by the teacher. This will have been indicated in their letter of acceptance to the research programme. If you fall into this category, your supervisor will remind you of your commitment and will follow your progress on the course, as will the Research Tutor and Associate Dean for Research.
Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal
In your first year, as part of your degree, you will write a Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal of 20,000 words on a topic you have chosen and agreed with your supervisor. This is due in term 3 of your first year and any late submissions must be supported by your supervisor and approved by the Research Tutor. All students are expected to submit this report and be examined in a viva voce by the end of term 3. Late submissions may require delays in examinations and a delay to the upgrade from MPhil to PhD status. No student is granted permission to leave for fieldwork until they have been examined and a decision has been made about upgrading.
In your second year, you are normally expected to do twelve months of fieldwork based on your Fieldwork Proposal. Requests for longer periods of fieldwork must be approved by the ADR and supported by your supervisor. On return from the field you will be expected to begin work on your PhD dissertation of 100,000 words. This dissertation must adhere to the University of London Regulations for Anthropology Degrees.
Part-time Students and AHRC Students
If you are a part-time or AHRC student, then, like all first-year research students, you must meet your supervisor at the beginning of the academic year to agree your training needs and define the appropriate mode for supervisory contact. In addition, part-time students are required to attend a School Research Training Day together with full-time students (organised over an October weekend) in either your first or second year. It is normally advised that you take the Anthropological Research Methods course in your first year; and you are expected to attend the Research Training Seminars on Mondays with the Departmental Research Tutor in your second year. In the past, the post-fieldwork seminar has been scheduled on Mondays as well, so the second year commitment could be one full day. During the term, supervision will take the form of a mix of face-to-face meetings and email contact; face to face supervision tends to occur during the Christmas, Easter or summer break.
The majority of departmental seminars, and many subject-based seminars, are held throughout the week and in the evenings (e.g. the department seminar is held every Wednesday from 3-5 pm). Access to the library and computing facilities is possible during normal opening hours, and arrangements are underway to increase access, particularly to the new IT facilities in the East Block which was completed in 2004. Formal teaching and an increasing amount of subject-based research material is available via electronic resources available through the Library internet connection (including a growing number of specialist search engines by subject/region).
AHRC Students: The department and faculty do their best to meet all the highest standards of supervision, care and provision for all research students. To find out what you are entitled to as an AHRC student please refer to:
The variety of seminars you might like to attend at SOAS, and across London, is enormous, and you will need to be selective. The Anthropology Departmental Seminar meets on Wednesday afternoon and is a crucial element of the shared intellectual life of staff and postgraduate students. All first year students are expected to attend. Invited speakers will present work in progress, much of which should be at the cutting edge of anthropological research. There is also a regular PhD Post-Fieldwork Seminar given by students returning from fieldwork. While this seminar is primarily aimed at post-fieldwork students (and all post-fieldwork students in residence are expected to attend regularly), MPhil students are strongly encouraged to attend and participate in discussion. Programmes are posted on the Department notice boards.
SOAS hosts a variety of public lectures, conferences and seminars which are prominently advertised on the fifth floor, in the foyer and on the SOAS events page. SOAS staff usually belong to an academic department and a Regional Centre (some also belong to Special Purpose Centres). If you have a regional interest, then make a point early in the year of locating the relevant Regional Centre where you will find an information board displaying forthcoming meetings. Some Regional Centres also publish a Newsletter.
Outside SOAS you might want to explore the facilities of the University of London. The LSE, University College and Goldsmiths College have substantial anthropology departments and also run weekly seminars. Some of you might have specialist interests which make it worthwhile seeking out London University colleges concerned with higher studies in medicine, law, education etc. The possibilities are too extensive and varied to itemize here; if you have particular interests then ask a member of staff who shares your enthusiasms.
You might also consider taking out a Junior Fellowship of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) which will include a journal subscription to Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Anthropology Today. Membership also includes access to the RAI library located in the British Museum, which also hosts seminars and film screenings.
Teaching & Learning
Teaching & Learning
MPhil/PhD students are expected to work independently for the most part. There are, however, certain requirements for the first year of the programme which all students are expected to fulfil. Fortnightly tutorials with your supervisors are the norm if you are full time, although there will be times when you will see your supervisor more frequently and others when you might need three weeks between appointments. You will also be required to attend and do the coursework for the Anthropological Research Methods class in term 1, Statistics course in term 2 and the Research Training Seminar in both terms. In consultation with your supervisor, you may also decide to take a language course and you will be expected to follow classes and do the related coursework. Some students may be required to enrol on one or more MA core courses as part of their first year of study and to attend the seminars/tutorials, write essays and take the exams. Other students also may decide to audit BA or MA core theory lectures in anthropology, or special interest lectures in other departments which will require attending lectures only. Most courses involve a weekly one hour lecture. Please consult the timetable on the SOAS website for days and times. Once again, you will need to seek agreement from the convenor to audit a course.
Post-fieldwork students (year-three students) are expected to meet regularly with their supervisor to discuss the work and progress of their PhD thesis. Following the fieldwork year, all students are required to present two papers in the Post-Fieldwork seminar. Throughout postgraduate studies, many students also participate in the student run workshops, reading groups and seminar series.
The lectures for any courses you are required to attend or audit serve merely to introduce new topics, theories, and debates. Ideally, lectures serve as a basis and catalyst for your further reading and research into the subject. Please note, therefore, that lectures are not a substitute for your own independent reading and study which will be monitored by your supervisor.
Auditing Courses in the Department of Anthropology
Students are strongly recommended to consider auditing some of the lectures for courses offered at undergraduate and postgraduate level in the Department. Particular mention should be made of:
- Introduction to Social Anthropology (first-year BA core course)
- Social Theory (first-year BA introduction to the history of social thought)
- Theory in Anthropology (second-year BA core course)
- Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology (MA core theory course)
- Comparative Studies of Society and Culture (MA Social Anthropology core course)
- Cultural Understandings of Health (MA Medical Anthropology core course)
- Comparative Media Studies (MA Anthropology of Media core course)
- Issues in the Anthropology of Food C (MA Anthropology of Food core course)
- Anthropology of Development (MA Anthropology of Development core course)
- African and Asian Diasporas in the Modern World (MA Diasporas in the Modern World core course)
First and second-year undergraduate theory lectures may be especially useful to any student feeling in need of extra guidance on the topics dealt with in Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology during the first term.
Students are also welcome to audit other lectures at BA and MA levels within the Department, and are free to audit other lectures within the School with agreement from the course convenor. As a matter of courtesy, please ask the lecturer concerned whether or not your attendance will raise any problem in face of over-subscription or limited room space (especially for small lecture groups). Please note that auditing is possible for lectures but not for tutorial classes. Auditing a language is, therefore, normally precluded. Please also note that students cannot be examined in audited courses, nor is work set or marked.
Auditing Courses in the University of London
Please note that auditing other courses at other colleges within the University of London is an option, but this must be recommended by your supervisor to the ADR and approved. Auditing within the University of London can involve a course fee and, if you are not willing to pay this out of your own pocket, the faculty may elect to do so if an argument can be made for the necessity of the course. The ADR reserves limited funds for this propose, but applications must be supported with a supervisor’s reference.
If you wish to apply for funding for separate language tuition offered outside SOAS, then this must be specified at the time of application. When you arrive, your supervisor must give their approval and help you make the application to the ADR. For more information, please contact the faculty administrator, or Dr Mandy Sadan.
(This section applies mainly to the Anthropological Research Methods and the Statistics Courses)
The bulk of each course document consists of the recommended reading list for that course. Readings are sorted according to weekly programmes and topics, and certain items may be marked as essential or priority readings. In no case would you be expected to read all the texts suggested for a topic, but you should prepare adequately for tutorial classes, and draw on a reasonable range of readings for your coursework essays.
The precise coursework requirements for each course you take (rather than audit) are indicated on the course cover sheets which accompany reading lists. It is your responsibility to acquaint yourself with this information. Reading Lists will be distributed to students in the first week of teaching.
Coursework is an important part of your first year of study, not only because it contributes toward your overall mark for a course, but because it enables tutors to assess your grasp of the key concepts and principles introduced, and your ability to present them in argument. Perhaps more importantly, it is only through concerted study of ideas, developed understanding, and active problem solving, that sustainable (not just measurable) progress in your learning and comprehension can be achieved.
All courses involve at least an element of written coursework which is formally assessed. Essays must be properly referenced: the standard form of anthropological referencing is that used in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI, previously Man).
Post-Field Work Seminar and Student Status
The work of writing the PhD dissertation is yours alone, supported, of course, by regular (normally monthly) meetings with your supervisor. As a post-fieldwork student you will also be expected to give two seminar presentations in the Post-fieldwork seminar in the third year of your course of study. This is an opportunity to get feedback on your work from other members of the department as well as from your fellow PhD students. The aim of the third year is to help you complete the work or produce the large part of a first draft of the dissertation. Many students then seek a fourth year of study, or Continuation. All changes in status must be supported by your supervisor and approved by the Associate Dean for Research.
During the writing-up period, your supervisor may encourage you to attend conferences and present papers outside of SOAS (as noted above, some funding is available from the Faculty – please contact the Faculty Administrator). You will also have available to you the various seminars and workshops run by the Learning and Teaching Unit and the Language Support Unit should you feel that your writing, organisational or language skills have suffered during fieldwork or simply need to be honed. Further skills training will be offered to you via the School (IT for example) or the Bloomsbury group. You may also, if it does not interfere with the writing of the dissertation, be encouraged to prepare at least one journal article for publication. Students, whose work is progressing satisfactorily, may wish to acquire paid teaching experience as Teaching Assistants (TA) for undergraduate anthropology courses within the department. The Undergraduate Tutor organises the TA teaching each year and will ask your supervisor if your work is progressing before approving your application to do teaching within the department. Students are not allowed to do more than six hours of teaching a week.
In the last year of writing the dissertation, you should also start considering postdoctoral work and applying for fellowships and to job advertisements. Normally, your supervisor will guide you in preparing your applications, but it is your responsibility to identify opportunities and meet application deadlines.
Some Useful Websites to Search for Postdoctoral Funding
- www.esrc.ac.uk (Economic and Social Research Council)
- www.britac.ac.uk (British Academy)
- www.leverhulme.org.uk (Leverhulme)
- Leventis Nigerian Post-Doctoral Fellowship in London: The Centre of African Studies of the University of London invites applications from Nigerian academics to take part in a scheme of collaborative research funded by the Leventis Foundation. Applications by letter should be addressed to: The Chair, Centre of African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. Contact the Centre for application deadlines
- GDAI (Governance for Development in Africa Initiative) Visiting Fellowships. For more information, contact: Angelica Baschiera, Coordinator, Mo Ibrahim Foundation Governance for Development in Africa Initiative, SOAS. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to apply
How to apply
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A Student's Perspective
My time within the Anthropology and Sociology Department at SOAS has afforded a number of opportunities to fine tune my research skills and broaden my academic horizons. The calibre of research among members of my cohort has been particularly inspiring.