Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Anthropology | Resources for Master's Students


It is the student's responsibility to see that her/his program of study and academic file is complete and up-to-date at any given time. Current students' files are kept in the main Anthropology office and may be accessed by asking the administrative assistant to get the file. If a student has difficulty getting a faculty member to process a form or complete an evaluation, see the Graduate Program director or the Department Chair.

Students must:

  • Get to know and keep themselves up to date on program requirements. For MAPA Program requirements, see ( and for MA International requirements, see ( 
  • Become familiar with the university's Graduate Academic Regulations ( 
  • note schedules and deadlines for SRP, stages of thesis preparation, etc. 
  • secure appropriate forms and submit them in a timely fashion to the correct University office
  • make appropriate payments to the university upon completion of a stage of graduate work

It is the advisor's responsibility to be accessible to students and advise them well. Graduate advisors must know program requirements and become intimately familiar with the university's Graduate Academic Regulations ( Where needed, advisors must fill out and process forms promptly and accurately. They must also verify that all appropriate paperwork is put into the student's academic file in the main office.

It is the faculty's responsibility to evaluate student work promptly and thoroughly, to make themselves accessible to students, and to provide frequent feedback and advice to students. All faculty who work with graduate students should familiarize themselves with program degree requirements and the Graduate Academic Regulations (

It is the Graduate Director's responsibility to insure that regulations are followed and, together with the Graduate Studies Committee, to evaluate exceptional cases and recommend decisions to the Anthropology Council. Final graduate clearance is carried out by individual advisors and overseen by the Graduate Program Director.

FILES AND FORMS are kept in the main Anthropology office. Advisors are responsible for making sure that all materials generated in the course of study (e.g. copy of student's Program of Study, copy of thesis proposal or SRP form, copies of all other forms) are put into the student's file. Students should verify that their own files that are kept up to date. The files are found, alphabetically, in the filing cabinet marked "Graduate Files A –Z" in the main office. The department MUST have copies of EVERYTHING for your file, or you risk problems and hang-ups later on.

All graduate school and university forms needed to record progress through the graduate programs are available on-line on the AU web site. Most relevant forms are also available on the page marked Administration and Forms under Student Resources on the Department of Anthropology web page. Internal department forms are also available here. Many forms are also available in hard copy in the Department's main office. See Administrative Assistant for help if you cannot find a form.


Students are assigned a faculty advisor upon admission. These assignments are considered "best matches" based on admissions material, but students may change advisors as their interests develop. If a student wants to change advisors, s/he should first contact the potential new advisor to get her/his agreement to serve as advisor. Faculty members are not required to serve as advisors to any particular student, so this agreement is vital. After a student has procured the agreement of a new advisor, the student should then inform the former advisor of the change. Advisors should be faculty from the Department of Anthropology.

If a faculty member is going on leave, it is her/his responsibility to work with each advisee to arrange for another faculty member to serve as advisor during the absence. Advisors can provide information regarding internships, career development, courses outside the department (in the University and Consortium), field schools, conferences, grant applications, selection of committees for SRPs or thesis. Be sure to maintain a close relationship with your advisor!

Students' advice about advisors!!!

To ensure good relations with your advisor, be persistent and clear about communications. Come to your advisor with plans and options. Sometimes pertinent information can be obtained from the department administrative assistant, department committee chairs, and more senior students. If you experience communication problems, talk to the Graduate Program Director, the department chair, or identify a professor to whom you can talk. More senior students often offer good advice, but they do not have authority to implement departmental actions. Please see a professor, the Graduate Program Director, or Department Chair if you have a serious problem.


Requirements for the MA degree in Public Anthropology, whatever track, include at least 30 semester hours of approved graduate work, with an earned cumulative GPA of 3.00 or higher. Students who elect to write a thesis in partial fulfillment of course requirements (see below) must register for at least 3 hours of the Thesis Seminar (ANTH 797) sometime during their graduate program.

There are three separate tracks for the M.A. in Public Anthropology (MAPA). These are:   Cultural/Social Anthropology Track (   Archaeology Track (   Master's International Program with Peace Corps (

The Master's International Program took in its first cohort for Fall 2014 semester. As of August 2014, the published degree requirements are not up-to-date, compared to those of the MA in Public Anthropology. The research requirement is ANTH 652 Anthropological Research Design, not ANTH 552. There no longer is a qualifying/comprehensive examination for the MA in Public Anthropology. The NTO (non-thesis option requirement) has been replaced by an SRP (substantial research project);see below.

INTERNSHIPS (Anth 691, taken for variable credit) are encouraged as part of the MAPA degree. Internships within museums, government, or private agencies provide opportunities for hands-on experience in the fields of anthropology. Many students have landed permanent employment through their internship opportunities. Students have also assisted faculty in developing research proposals and carrying out programs in all the subfields of anthropology;they have worked on a wide variety of topics. Anthropology students have held internship positions in public institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service, National Center for Environmental Research and in private institutions such as the Institute for Women's Policy Research, US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Center for American Progress, and international development organizations.

For more information on special opportunities, consult the internship information available in the anthropology office, on the department bulletin board, or from your advisor. The university now has specific regulations about the conditions under which an internship will earn academic credit ( See your advisor for further information on earning Department of Anthropology credit.


Each student should fill out a program of study form ( with her/his advisor during the first semester of the graduate program. The Program of Study lays out planned coursework and other activities during the entire graduate program. This program should be revisited (and changed) as necessary, but students should consult with their advisors at least once a year. A copy of the program of study (and any updated versions) should be placed in the student's academic file in the main office.


Students register online for regular courses. Students cannot register until their advisors have authorized them to register (online). Students should consult their advisors about their planned schedule for the subsequent semester before requesting authorization to register. Professors may grant permissions and waivers online for specific courses;please contact individual professors if this is necessary. 

For variable credit courses (e.g., independent studies, internships, Thesis Seminar), students cannot register online. A variety of other forms exist for these courses. Independent Studies and Internships have special forms and require a number of signatures (; For all other courses where on-line registration is not possible or where additional signatures are required, students should use the Request for Registration Action form (


Generally, students are expected to complete the M.A. in Public Anthropology after two years of full-time course work or its equivalent for the regular MAPA. Students in the Masters International Program will generally take three years, including the Peace Corps assignment. Master's students, whether full-time or part-time, must complete all degree requirements in no more than six years after the date of first enrollment in the degree program. The Graduate Academic Regulations do not permit extensions for Master's degrees.


All students must maintain their matriculation by registering for at least one credit hour every spring and fall semester through graduation. A course load of nine credit hours is considered "full-time." Full-time study is required for international students and most students with university financial aid awards. Departmental awards do not always require full-time status. In August 2014, many students have been able to qualify for student loans if they maintain part-time status (5-6 credit hours/semester);please consult Financial Aid for further information.

The department itself does not formally differentiate between full-time and part-time status. Students may move between full-time (3 courses/semester) and part-time (1-2 classes/semester) status as they wish, if they are not required to be full-time for other reasons. Students who attend school less than full-time may become responsible for paying back earlier school loans;please contact your loan provider or Financial Aid for further information.


No more than six credit hours can be transferred to Anthropology from courses taken at other universities prior to commencing the MAPA degree. Students may transfer up to twelve credit hours of anthropology courses taken at AU as a non-degree or certificate student, but not more.


Training in research methods is provided in many of the department's graduate courses. Additionally, the department offers specific courses in research methods relevant for professional development and for doctoral dissertation projects. ANTH 652 Anthropological Research Methods is offered in the spring semester, and should be taken in the first year in residence. ANTH 637, Discourse Text and Voice, provides a range of methods for analyzing cultural, social and historical content in spoken and written texts. ANTH 531 orients students to specific modes of analysis of material culture. Some sections of ANTH 544 provide training in forms of ethnographically related, community-centered film-making. ANTH 640 section Ethnography for Social Change addresses the tasks of interpretation and summation, emphasizing different formats in which research findings can be made available to audiences inside and outside academe.

Research methods options can also be found in Sociology, in MATH/STAT, in SIS and elsewhere on campus. Discuss your research training needs with your faculty advisor and integrate relevant choices into your Program of Study.


MAPA students must meet a capstone requirement through the completion of a Substantial Research Project (SRP) or by writing an M.A. Thesis. An M.A. Thesis will follow a conventional format, as described by AU's Guide to Electronic Theses and Dissertations ( and will demonstrate a student's capacity to do original, independent research. An SRP can take a number of formats, including a standard research paper, a critical evaluation of work completed during an internship placement or other public anthropology report, an audio or video media presentation. Students in the Master's International Program will satisfy the capstone requirement through a product that links to their overseas placement. The capstone should build upon earlier coursework taken as part of the MA in Public Anthropology.

Generally, the M.A. Thesis will be somewhat longer than a Substantial Research Project, but some students will find it in their best interest to do a thesis. Students should discuss with their advisors the best capstone option in light of future career plans. Important steps on the way to achieving the capstone (preparation of plan or proposal;first draft of the final document;oral presentation or defense;final submission of the document) should be included in the student's Program of Study. Copies of the plan should be put in the student's academic file in the main office.


The Substantial Research Project should be planned jointly by the student and his/her advisor to show the student's understanding of anthropological method and theory in relationship to public anthropology through a focused study of a specific topic or issue. Its quality should be superior to an ordinary term research paper. Each SRP should follow all steps of the following process.

1) Development of a plan for the SRP

Each student will develop a written plan/proposal for the SRP. This will identify and justify the form of the SRP, the major questions or issues to be discussed in the SRP, and the methodology that will be used by the student to gather and analyze information. The plan will also identify the likely forum for public dissemination or defense.

Normally, this plan should be done approximately 6 months ahead of the student's planned graduation. Thus, a student who hopes to graduate in May should develop a plan for the SRP during the first four weeks of the preceding Fall semester.

2) Approval of the plan by the SRP committee

When the student has developed the written plan or proposal, this plan must be approved by two committee members, one of whom must be an AU faculty member, preferably from the Department of Anthropology. The second may be a faculty member at AU or elsewhere or a practitioner of public anthropology. Ideally the student will present the plan to a joint meeting of the two committee members.

When both committee members have approved the plan, it will be forwarded to the MAPA Program Director for approval. An SRP Tracking form has been developed to track the progress of the SRP ( The form for the approval of the SRP plan will be placed in the student's file with a copy of the plan. Approval of the SRP plan should be noted on the student's Program of Study.

3) Research and elaboration of the SRP

A student should carry out research, analysis, and presentation in consultation with his/her committee members. The SRP will likely go through several revisions before final approval. During university semesters, each draft will be reviewed and returned to the student within three weeks. Students should be aware that faculty may not be available to review SRPs during summer months (ca. May 15-August 15);be sure a timeline is reached that is feasible for all participants.

4) Final approval of the SRP

There are two separate steps to gaining final approval of the SRP.

A) Approval of the final product by the SRP committee.

Both members of the SRP committee must approve the final written and/or media form of the SRP. This must also be approved by the MAPA Program Director. Approval will be noted on the SRP form and in the student's Program of Study.

B) Public presentation of the final product.

Each student must also do a public presentation of the final product. This can be done in a variety of venues. Students could present at the annual CAS Research Conference, at an off-campus professional meeting, or in an end-of-the-year departmental showcase. Another option is a written or visual document in an appropriate publication. Students can also publically defend their SRP before their committee members and other interested members of the AU community.

The form of the public presentation and its date of completion should be entered on the SRP form and the student's Program of Study.

Once the student has completed both these requirements, the student's completion of the capstone requirement will be noted on the appropriate university forms. Once all requirements for the MAPA program have been completed, the advisor should fill out a Graduate Academic Action form.


Masters-level theses are developed from an M.A. student's topic of interest and independently researched with faculty guidance. The thesis should make an original contribution to anthropological study. The thesis length can vary, but it is usually between 75-100 pages.


The thesis will be written and revised under the guidance of a graduate committee of at least two members of the AU faculty selected by the student. The M.A. thesis committee chair must be a full-time member of the Anthropology faculty, usually the student's advisor. The second committee member may be from inside or outside the Department of Anthropology. The full thesis committee is expected to meet with the student at least once for the approval of the thesis topic and once for the thesis defense.


Students who elect to write an M.A. thesis must register for at least three credits of the Masters Thesis Seminar (ANTH 797). M.A. students may count up to six credits of ANTH 797 in their Program of Study. The decision about the appropriate number of credits should be made jointly by the student and his/her advisor.


1. Development of a thesis proposal

Each student will develop a written thesis proposal that will identify and justify the research question/s and a methodology outlining the plan for data collection and analysis. This should be done after discussion with the student's advisor and the additional committee member. Normally, this plan should be done well ahead of the student's planned graduation

2. Approval of the thesis proposal

When the student has developed the proposal, it must be approved by the two committee members, both of whom must be AU faculty members. Approval will be done by a defense of the proposal by the student before the committee members.

When both committee members have approved the proposal, it will be forwarded to the MAPA Program Director for approval. (A Form will be developed to note this). The approval of the thesis proposal will be filed in the student's file with a copy of the proposal. Approval of the thesis proposal should be noted on the student's Program of Study. It should also be reported on a Graduate Academic Action Form.

3. Keep in mind that the thesis will likely go through several revisions before final approval. During university semesters, each draft will be reviewed and returned to the student within a month. Students should be aware that faculty may not be available to read thesis chapters during summer months;be sure an understanding is reached that is mutually acceptable.

4. After the thesis committee chair approves the finished thesis, an oral defense is held with all committee members and is open to the public. If successful, the committee members sign the title page of the thesis. The Committee Chair files a Graduate Academic Action Form. NOTE: Students should be aware that faculty may not be available for purposes of thesis defense during summer months (ca. May 15-August 15);be sure a timeline is reached that is feasible for all participants.

5. Deadlines for completing the final thesis manuscript are published in the Academic Calendar each semester. In order for a thesis to be completed, the thesis must be accepted by the Thesis/Dissertation coordinator in the CAS Dean's Office. For this to happen, the advisor and other committee members must be satisfied with the finished product and the CAS Dean's Office must have approved final formatting. The CAS Dean's Office will notify the student of other requirements for final graduation.


Students are also responsible for filing an "Application for Graduation" with the Office of the Registrar, in which they indicate how their name should appear on the diploma, etc. This application should be submitted early, at the latest during the registration period of the last semester you are enrolled at AU. Submit for the semester that you plan to graduate;you can always resubmit if you don't finish in time!!!!

Graduate ceremonies occur only in May, but a student can graduate (receive a diploma) in August or December as well. Please consult the yearly Academic Calendar to see the dates for filing the graduation application and the MA Thesis.