Department of Anthropology Research Student Handbook
- A Summary Statement of Educational Provision
- Student Representation
- Contacting Members of Staff
- Staff Roles
- Enrolment/Registration Procedures and Course Commitments
- Information Technology
- Media Production Skills
- Transfer to PhD/Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal
- Research Ethics
- Fieldwork and Funding
- The PhD Dissertation
- Extension to Writing-up (Continuation) Status
- Submitting the Dissertation
- Postdoctoral Research
- References for Applications
- SOAS Careers Service
- Staying in Touch
The Department of Anthropology and Sociology teaches the discipline of Social Anthropology with special reference to the countries, peoples, societies, cultures, and diasporas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East - both past and present. The emphasis given to particular regions, themes and approaches will vary with current trends in the discipline, broader global developments, and the evolving research specializations of academic staff. The Department recognizes a special responsibility to complement the provision of skills in the languages and the cultural and social affairs of Africa, Asia and the Middle East provided in the other Departments, Institutes and Centres of SOAS.
Degree programmes are offered at BA, MA and Research (MPhil and PhD) levels. This Statement and Handbook refer chiefly to the MPhil and PhD Anthropology degree programme. Research Students should also consult the SOAS Postgraduate Research Degree Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degrees available at the Doctoral School website (https://www.soas.ac.uk/registry/degreeregulations/).
At the beginning of each
Faculty office staff will assist student representatives in setting up e-mailing lists for the MPhil/PhD programme. You should check your SOAS email regularly as this will be used by academic and faculty staff, as well as other students, to contact you with important degree-related information throughout your studies
Faculty staff will also assist student representatives to organise meetings and events (i.e. making room bookings). These may include informal meetings with staff or with other students, year forums, workshops, or social events as students see fit.
Individual office hours are posted outside the doors of academic staff and/or on the Anthropology Department staff page. Please try to make your enquiries at those times only. When in their offices, staff are frequently conducting supervisions, preparing for teaching, or engaged in research activity. If you need to arrange an appointment at an alternative time, please do so in person, by email, or by telephone. Of course, we do understand that emergencies may require immediate attention.
The Faculty Office is open during holiday periods (with reduced opening hours - see the Faculty Office webpage for details), but academic staff are only available for consultation during these times by
As an anthropology research student, you will be assigned a primary supervisor in the department at the beginning of your studies. This staff member will be available for consultation on matters concerning your work and welfare. Normally, you will have the same tutor throughout your study programme. If your supervisor is absent on research leave, you are expected to keep in touch with them, but your second supervisor will normally assume responsibility for administrative duties during the first supervisor’s absence.
If you are a first-year, full-time MPhil/PhD student, you should arrange to meet your supervisor during registration week and fortnightly during term time. Your supervisor will schedule regular meetings with you once you have introduced yourself. Post-fieldwork students are expected to meet with their supervisors once a month or more frequently given their writing timetables. Part-time students are expected to see their supervisors monthly in years one and two and as needed during the post-fieldwork period.
Your second supervisor is usually assigned to complement the thematic or regional expertise of the first supervisor. A second supervisor can be consulted during the first year of research, but their principal task is to examine the Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal (see 9, below) in Term 3 (year one for full-time students, year two for part-time students). The second supervisor can also step in to fulfil the primary supervisor’s duties should they be on leave. When you return from the field, the second supervisor will be invited as one of two people to comment on your PhD
Some students will have two supervisors who share the task of seeing them through the research student programme. A co-supervisor is generally a supervisor based in another department, and the
During registration week, you are also advised to meet the Research Tutor, Professor Richard Fardon. From week one you will be seeing the Research Tutor regularly in the Research Training Seminar. The Research Tutor can offer moral support and general guidance, acting as both confidant and spokesperson. If you have any special burdens be they financial, personal or in relation to your role as a parent and/or carer of which you think the department should be aware, it is a good idea to let the Research Tutor know as soon as possible. You may also wish to discuss with the Research Tutor any plans for taking time out,
If you are not comfortable with your supervisor, you can request a change of tutor from the Research Tutor as well, although such changes are not undertaken lightly and again will need approval from the Associate Dean of Research. If you have serious problems which need
Your Research Committee
Every student has a three-person research committee. The committee consists of the above members: supervisor, second supervisor and Research Tutor. In cases where the Research Tutor and supervisor are one and the same person, the Head of Department will normally act as the third member of the committee. The Research Tutor monitors the progress of every student and signs the Upgrade Form at the end of the MPhil year. In cases where a student has concerns about the upgrading viva, they (or their supervisor) can request that the Research Tutor be present as an ‘external’ during the exam process.
The Associate Dean for Research
The Associate Dean for Research (ADR), Dr Erica Hunter, together with the Faculty Research Committee, has responsibility for overseeing all aspects of research student training. The ADR oversees the progression of all students through to graduation. If arising problems related to supervision or training cannot be resolved with your supervisor, you are advised to speak to the Research Tutor and/or Head of Department. If you are still not satisfied or need further advice, you should speak to the ADR regarding regulations and procedures.
In general - It is important that you keep your supervisor and the Research Tutor aware of problems which may be leading to repeated absences, difficulty completing coursework or other issues affecting your studies. Please provide documentation in the form of medical certificates, letters of explanation, etc. where applicable.
If after reading this handbook you are still in doubt as to the right person to see about academic or personal matters, ask in the Faculty Office. There is a list of Department Staff and their roles alongside the staff photographs posted in the
During the Registration period, members of staff and the Research Tutor will be available at advertised times to meet you in their offices. You will need to discuss any courses that you may want to
It is your responsibility to speak to specific course teachers about attending their language classes or auditing their lectures.
The times of required lectures are fixed so as not to clash with other lecture commitments you may have within the department. If the time slots for other lectures you wish to audit outside the department coincide with that of the Research Training Seminar, Research Methods, or Statistics courses, then these compulsory courses must take precedence. Some juggling in relation to the demands of language classes might be possible, but you must first discuss this with both your supervisor and the Research Tutor.
Attendance and Absence
Attendance for the Research Training Seminar, Research Methods in Anthropology, and Statistical Analysis courses
Please talk to your supervisor or Research Tutor if you are experiencing, or anticipate experiencing, problems which you feel impinge upon your attendance or studies. It is usually best to share such difficulties with a concerned member of staff who will be able to advise you, in confidence, on the best way to cope with them.
At the start of your MPhil/PhD programme, you will be issued with a personal electronic logbook. Before meeting with your supervisor, you are responsible for completing the first few entries that outline what you think he/she needs to know about your existing skills and experience and your future training needs. The logbook must be completed every time you meet with your supervisor throughout your study programme, and all goals and deadlines agreed during the tutorial must be logged. The logbook must be signed by your examiners at the end of your MPhil upgrading viva.
There are two libraries at SOAS to which you have access. You should become familiar with them, their strengths, layout, computer catalogues, loan regulations etc. from the start and learn to use them to your best advantage.
SOAS (Main) Library
Familiarise yourself from an early date with the principal sections of the main library, including the Teaching collection, General collections, Regional collections, Periodicals and current periodicals room and Social Science Reading Room (for reference works).
Anthropology Department Library
The Helen Kanitkar Departmental Library contains a large number of items, mostly copies of popular anthropological texts and material used on BA and MA courses. This library also serves as the Postgraduate Research Student (
Every week the Department of Anthropology screens an ethnographic film in the SOAS Lecture Theatre. The films are carefully selected from the collections of the Royal Anthropological Institute and elsewhere, and are introduced by people with specialist knowledge. There is usually
If you cannot find what you need in the SOAS Library, there are a large number of other academic libraries you can access, including the University of London Library at Senate House and the libraries of UCL, LSE, Birkbeck and Kings College London. There is additionally the British Library and the Royal Anthropological Institute's Anthropology Library and Research Centre, located in the British Museum. See also guidelines
MPhil/PhD students have access to computers in the SOAS Main Library and other parts of the campus. The IT Service Desk is located in the SOAS Library. See IT Support for further information.
MPhil/PhD students are encouraged to take the Media Production Skills course (15PANH050). This module provides postgraduate students with multimedia training and practice that can be used during fieldwork. Students will learn to harness a variety of media technologies including stills and video cameras and audio recording
SOAS research students are initially registered on
The transfer to PhD (or ‘upgrade’) involves submitting a
The general guidelines for producing the MPhil upgrade document in Anthropology are:
- Research Report: 12,000 to 14,000 words
- Fieldwork Proposal: 6,000 to 8,000 words
- Totalling no more than 20,000 words.
As part of the upgrading process, students are also required to obtain ethical approval of their proposed research project following SOAS’s Research Ethics Policy (see Ethics section, below)
Contents of Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal
The Research Report should demonstrate a clear development in your critical thinking over the course of the MPhil year regarding your topic of study and related issues.
- The formulation of your research problem should demonstrate sound understanding of the related debates and dialogues underway both in anthropology and elsewhere in the human sciences, and an ability to take up a scholarly position;
- Your research problem should be formulated in relation to the existing ethnographic literature of your selected region;
- The Research Report should display an ability to pose an anthropological question/problem such that, if necessary, you could make a new project for yourself once arriving in the field;
- The Research Report should contain a well-formulated research question that emanates squarely from the preceding discussion.
The Fieldwork Proposal section is the place to address pragmatic and practical information. If the Report has not addressed, for instance, the current political situation in your field site and the ways that it might impact your study, then you might wish to consider it here. The Proposal is the place to include timetables, statement of visa requirements, discussion of funding applications, and institutional and personal links in the field. Importantly, it is the place to elaborate upon your proposed field methods and to discuss ethical issues (these may also be addressed to some degree in the Research Report, but try to avoid repetition)
Correct spelling and grammar are required for all submitted work, and poorly structured reports will not be accepted. Keep in mind that research committees have an obligation to refer students who merely submit literature reviews in place of properly developed reports; who propose projects that are not sufficiently developed or deemed to be untenable; or who display insufficient foundational knowledge in the subject of anthropology. It is therefore important that your supervisor’s advice
The Research Report and Fieldwork Proposal are important steps in the development of students’ research projects and, in addition to supervisors’ guidance, there will be ample opportunity to discuss them in the MPhil Research Training Seminar.
Submission and Examination
Two bound copies of the combined Report and Proposal must be submitted to the Faculty Office by the
There are several possible outcomes from the viva voce examination, including:
- that the student will be transferred to PhD status (subject to the approval of the Associate Dean for Research);
- that the student’s transfer has been deferred to a specific date and subject to certain stated requirements (e.g. involving minor or major re-writing);
- that the transfer is not approved, but the student can continue for an MPhil degree only; or
- that the programme of study
A student working well with their supervisor will find that there should be little need to worry about the last two categories.
Students Joining the MPhil after Completing the MA Res or another ESRC-Recognised Masters
The first year of study differs for students joining the MPhil/PhD programme after completing the MA in Anthropological Research Methods (MA Res) or
For these students, it is expected that the upgrade document is submitted in the second half of Term 1, and for the upgrade viva to take place before the end of Term 2. Once upgraded, full-time students on the ‘1+3 pathway’ should
Students in a similar position coming to us from other universities may choose, in consultation with their supervisor, to follow the above path or to do the full MPhil year of training including the Research Training Seminar, the Research Methods and Statistics courses and any necessary language training. Decisions on individual study patterns will be decided in consultation with the Research Tutor.
SOAS expects its staff and student researchers to maintain the highest ethical standards, and to foster openness, honesty, tolerance, fairness and responsibility. Ethical review is necessary to ensure that SOAS research projects will comply with the requirements of the School’s Research Ethics Policy. Ethical approval must be obtained before any research project commences. Guidelines of SOAS’s two-stage ethical review procedure and downloadable copies of forms are available from the School’s Research Office webpages.
It is expected that upgrade documents and PhD dissertations will demonstrate students’ awareness of and engagement with both SOAS and discipline-specific codes of ethics. Students are expected to familiarise themselves with the Association of Social Anthropologists’ Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice.
Application Forms for Undertaking Overseas Fieldwork
Once upgraded to PhD status, you and your supervisor must complete the Application for Overseas Fieldwork form and submit to the Doctoral School. On this
You are expected to keep in touch with your supervisor throughout fieldwork. Some students prefer to send a regular monthly report of their activities by email (or post); while others submit a longer mid-term fieldwork report after the first six months. You and your supervisor must agree on your planned method of reporting prior to departure. At the end of the year, your supervisor must complete an annual assessment form for you and will need to know what you have been doing. Any requests for
Few students come to the MPhil/PhD programme with their fieldwork funding in place and this is an issue that occupies considerable first-year concern and effort. So while working on methods and training, a student is expected to identify and apply to any relevant sources of fieldwork funding. Your supervisor can offer guidance, but, aside from writing references, a supervisor is not expected to locate sources of income for you. Finding funding, writing applications, and collecting the necessary supporting material are all part of your research training and transferable skills that will serve you after the PhD.
The Registry maintains a general list of scholarships available on SOAS research degree programmes as well as a database of external funding sources. Please contact Alicia Sales, firstname.lastname@example.org, in the Scholarships Office for information and assistance regarding ESRC, AHRC, and SOAS scholarship applications, as well as for information about other funding schemes.
The Department also maintains a list of scholarships and grants for
Below is a list of scholarships and grants that may be used specifically for anthropological field research. Students are advised to check institutional websites as early as possible to verify procedures, deadlines, eligibility, and grant amounts. Keep in mind that referees require plenty of advance warning for supplying letters of support.
- Elisabeth Croll Scholarship for fieldwork in China
Created to honour the memory of Elisabeth Croll (1944-2007), vice principal of SOAS and Professor of Chinese Anthropology. The scholarship offers a current MPhil/PhD student at SOAS £1000 towards the cost of fieldwork in China.
- Fürer Haimendorf Fund
For research in South Asia by SOAS doctoral students. Priority will be given to those students wishing to work in the same areas as Professor von Fürer-Haimendorf. Professor von Fürer-Haimendorf was also a pioneer in the use of film and photography as ethnographic tools. Students working with these technologies are also eligible to apply for funding regardless of their region of ethnographic specialization, but in the knowledge that applicants working
isSouth Asia will be given priority. Applicants are asked to submit proposals of 500 words and costings by May 15th to the Research Tutor. The maximum award available under the scheme is £1,500.
- Japan Research Centre Small Grants for Students
- Ouseley Memorial Scholarship
Support for students entering the second or third year of study. Fieldwork must require
useof Asian or Middle Eastern language.
- SOAS Fieldwork Awards
Normally these awards do not cover more than the price of a budget return airfare. Competition is very intense and applicants and referees are encouraged to be as precise as possible in making their case. Closing dates for applications are normally in October for students leaving for fieldwork from January to March the following calendar year; January for students leaving for fieldwork from April to September of the same calendar year
; andApril for studentleaving for fieldwork from October to December inclusive.
- Tibawi Trust Award
To assist a Palestinian postgraduate student with travel expenses (fieldwork or conference)
- BDK Fellowship in Buddhist Studies
For one year of doctoral research in Japan - any nationality except Japanese
- British Institute of Persian Studies
For research in Iran
- British Association for Chinese Studies
Link to extensive list of grants available for field research in China
- Civil Society Scholar Awards
For short-term international research by doctoral students who are citizens of the following: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Kosovo, Laos, Libya, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, or Yemen
- Council for British Research in the Levant - Visiting Scholarships
For doctoral students undertaking six or twelve months' research, based in Amman or Jerusalem
- Council for British Research in the Levant - Travel Grants
For research travel to Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, or Syria
- Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Small Grants
For research in Japan
- Developing Areas Research Group Travel Award
For development-studies-related fieldwork
- Emslie Horniman Anthropological Scholarship Fund (ASA/RAI)
For fieldwork outside the UK. Deadlines twice/year.
- Forty-Nine Thirteen Foundation Research Grants
For research into the history of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic societies
- Great Britain China Educational Trust - Postgraduate Grants for Sinological Studies
Eligibility: Chinese (PRC) or British postgraduate students over the age of 27, studying topics involving Chinese medicine, Tibetan Buddhism, or Chinese language (e.g., philology, drama & poetry, history & literature)
- Japan Studies Fellowship Program (Japan Foundation London)
For fieldwork in Japan
- JSPS Summer Programme (Japanese Society for the Promotion of Social Science)
For two months of summer research in Japan under supervision of Japanese scholars
- Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentships
For international research excluding
US. Must be UK resident.
- Memorial Foundation for Jewish CultureFor research on a topic related to Jewish culture, in any location worldwide
- MEXT scholarships (Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
For fieldwork in Japan
- Spalding Trust
For research on religious principles
- Taiwan Studies Scholarships
Link to list of grants available for research in Taiwan - maintained by SOAS Centre for Taiwan Studies
- Toyota Foundation Research Grant Program
For research in Japan
- Turkiye Research Fellowships
For field research in Turkey
- Wenner Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grants
Grants of up to US$20,000 for research that demonstrates a clear link
toanthropological theory and debates, and promises to make a solid contribution to advancing these ideas.
In your second year, you are normally expected to conduct 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
Students should familiarize themselves with the regulations relating to PhD dissertations, which are regularly updated. These may be found in the Code of Practice for Postgraduate Research Degrees. A summary of the requirements of a PhD dissertation (thesis( is outlined below.
The PhD thesis shall:
- not exceed 100,000 words, excluding bibliography and appendices. Appendices must only include material which the examiners are not required to read in order to examine the thesis but to which they may refer if they wish;
- be written in English;
- consist of the candidate’s own account of his/her investigations, the greater proportion of which shall have been undertaken during the period of registration at the School;
- form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power;
- be an integrated whole and present a coherent argument;
- demonstrate research skills relevant to the thesis being presented;
- satisfy the examiners with regard to literary presentation; and
- merit publication in whole or in part or in a revised form.
Unless they have interrupted due to extraordinary circumstances, full-time students must submit their completed PhD thesis within four years of initial registration. A complete draft of the thesis is required by the end of year three. Subject to satisfactory progress and completion of
Under Extension to Writing-up (Continuation)
Deciding whether the dissertation is near completion should be done in consultation with your supervisor (and possibly second supervisor). Once agreed, students should follow the guidelines available at the PGR Examinations Forms and Guidance webpage.
In brief, students need to complete and return to the Doctoral School an examination entry form no later than two months before the intended date of submission to avoid delays in the appointment of examiners and arrangement of the examination. The student should also provide his/her supervisor with a 300 word abstract of
When a student is ready to submit their thesis, they should complete a These Submission Form, and submit this together with two bound copies of the thesis to the Doctoral School. (Binding notes for SOAS theses, and all other guidelines and forms, are available at the PGR Examinations Forms and Guidance webpage.)
Once the copies of the thesis have been received by the Doctoral School, they will be sent to the approved examiners, and the student’s supervisor will be notified and requested to set a date for the examination (viva). Students should liaise with their supervisors to prepare for the viva.
At the viva, there are seven possible outcomes:
- pass with minor corrections;
- not pass, but with major corrections (referral);
- not pass, but with
recommendationof award of MPhil (if sitting for the PhD degree);
- a recommendation of MPhil be awarded upon satisfactory completion of minor corrections;
- a recommendation of MPhil to be awarded upon satisfactory completion of major corrections (referral);
Should the outcome be ‘pass with minor corrections’, you should ordinarily be notified of this at your viva, and will be informed as to what corrections are required (normally in writing and normally within four weeks of the date of the viva), either directly by the examiners, or through your supervisor. The examiners will also notify the Doctoral School. You should submit your corrected thesis (normally by email) to the person(s) you were informed would be responsible for confirming that these meet the requirements. The three month period you have for completing these will be from the date of the results letter to you from the School.
Should the outcome be ‘not pass with major corrections’, you may be notified of this at the
If you’ve submitted your thesis for a PhD examination and the outcome is a recommendation for the award of MPhil (whether with or without corrections) then you have the choice of accepting this award, not accepting, or appealing against the decision. If you wish to make an appeal you should contact the Doctoral School for instructions.
Your degree diploma will be issued around three months after your confirmation of award letter date.
For students who wish to continue with postdoctoral research, please familiarise yourself with the application forms, procedures and deadlines of individual funding schemes well in advance of applying. It is a good idea to discuss the various options with your supervisor. You are responsible for finding possible sources of post-doctoral funding and for working out an appropriate application timetable with your supervisor.
Whether you go on to further study, volunteer work or a paid job, references are important. Students generally ask for references from supervisors and teachers whom they know well, but more general references may also be provided by the Research Tutor or Head of Department.
SOAS has a Careers Service which is available to all students, free of charge, while they are studying at the school. You will receive further information about this at registration. The Careers Service will help with career advice, preparing applications (including CVs and writing covering letters), practice interviews, and they organise careers fairs, workshops and other skills sessions.
The School has an Alumni Office which aims to keep in touch with all graduates. This provides a pool of potential speakers for Careers Talks. Having a record of the employment of anthropology graduates and how our students get on helps us to reflect upon, and plan for, our teaching programmes, and to advise current students.