Archaeology Doctoral Candidacy Requirements

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology Graduate Program

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Statement of purpose

The candidacy requirements in the Archaeology program are designed to provide a student with the background necessary to be a professional in their field and assess the ability of the student to conduct independent research leading to the successful completion of a dissertation. Archaeology is a broadly focused discipline that requires a thorough understanding of method, theory, and culture history. This is acquired through graduate level courses selected in consultation with the supervisor, and evaluated through a comprehensive examination. A detailed and well-crafted research design is a necessary component of any successful doctoral research project, and is developed through a written dissertation proposal.

Candidacy components


All doctoral students in the Archaeology Graduate Program must successfully complete the following components:

  1. All course requirements
  2. A second-language proficiency exam
  3. A written dissertation proposal
  4. A written field of study examination
  5. An oral field of study examination

Timeline for PhD students

  1. By the end of the 24th month in the PhD program, all course requirements should be completed.
  2. By the end of the 20th month in the PhD program, the second language proficiency examination should be completed.
  3. By the end of the 20th month in the PhD program, the written dissertation proposal should be completed.
  4. By the end of the 28th month in the PhD program, the Written and the Oral Field of Study Examinations should be completed.

Timeline for by-pass PhD students

  1. By the end of the 24th month in the graduate program, all course requirements should be completed.
  2. By the end of the 20th month in the graduate program, the written dissertation proposal should be completed.
  3. By the end of the 28th month in the graduate program, the second language proficiency examination should be completed.
  4. By the end of the 36th month in the graduate program, the Written and the Oral Field of Study Examinations should be completed.


Dissertation proposal

When preparing a dissertation proposal, students will follow the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Insight grant guidelines available on the website at www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca. The dissertation proposal should be approximately six pages in length with single-spaced text. The proposal should clearly outline the nature and goals of the research and include a description of the methodology to be used, as well as a schedule of activities. The schedule should include timelines for fieldwork, laboratory work and completion of the dissertation. The proposal is submitted to the supervisory committee for evaluation, who then sign off on the document when it is found to be satisfactory. A written document with guidelines for writing a proposal is available from the graduate administrator or graduate program director.

While not required, the Archaeology program recommends that all doctoral students make a brief (ca 20 minutes) presentation of their dissertation proposal to members of the department. While the presentation is not formally evaluated, it can provide the candidate with valuable feedback from faculty and graduate student peers. If they elect to make a presentation, students should arrange this with the Graduate Program Administrator. Faculty members will be encouraged to offer students advice on how to address specific issues in the proposal.

Outcome of the written dissertation proposal

The written dissertation proposal will be evaluated by the student’s supervisory committee. Upon receiving a copy of the dissertation proposal, the supervisory committee will have three weeks to review the proposal. After reviewing the proposal, each supervisory committee member will send a recommendation, in writing, of pass or fail to the supervisor. A unanimous decision by the committee is necessary for the student to pass.

Criteria for a recommendation of pass consists of a dissertation proposal presenting a viable program of research that is well-situated within the discipline of Archaeology, grounded in an appropriate theoretical framework, and engaging suitable methods.

Once a unanimous recommendation of pass is reached, each member of the supervisory committee will sign the dissertation proposal approval form. The completed form will then be forwarded to the Graduate Program Director for her/his signature and will be added to the student’s file.

If a student’s written dissertation proposal is a fail, each member of the supervisory committee will provide a detailed letter to the Graduate Program Director (or the Head of the Department or delegate, if the Graduate Program Director evaluated the failed component) stating the rationale for his or her evaluation. Each letter must be delivered to the appropriate person, either the Head or the Graduate Program Director, no later than five business days following the date of the failed dissertation proposal. Within five business days of receiving letters from the committee, the Head or the Graduate Program Director, on behalf of the program, will respond to the student outlining the appropriate next steps.

Normally, the student must revise the proposal as necessary and a re-submit it to the supervisory committee within six months. If a written dissertation proposal is unacceptable a second time, then the student will be required to withdraw from the program.


The Second Language Proficiency Examination

The second language proficiency examination is scheduled by the end of the 20th month in program. The exam is arranged by the supervisor, who invites a faculty member who is not on the supervisory committee to administer and evaluate the exam. The faculty member who is invited to administer and evaluate the exam, henceforth called the examiner, should be a fluent speaker of the language which is to be examined.

The supervisor in consultation with the examiner and the student will schedule the exam.

The exam will normally consist of translating all or part of an article (ca. 2-4 pages) from the second language to English. The examiner will select an article in the language that is being examined for translation. The article addresses issues related to the field of archaeology.

The student will be given two hours to translate the selected pages of the article. The student will be able to use a dictionary for assistance. No other support material or technology (i.e. translation programs) are allowed. The examiner (or his/her designate) will stay with the student until the translation is completed or the two hours have passed.

Outcome of the Second Language Proficiency Examination

The examiner will evaluate the translation within one week of the termination of the second language proficiency examination. S/he will recommend either a pass or a fail to the supervisor.

Criteria for a recommendation of pass consists of an accurate accounting of the meaning and structure of the original text in the English translation. If the examiner recommends a fail on the second language proficiency examination, then the supervisor in consultation with the student and the examiner will schedule a re-take of the examination in no sooner than three, but no later than six months after the original exam.

The examination committee for the Written Field of Study Examination will consist of the supervisory committee, one faculty member from the student’s program, and one faculty member from outside of the student’s program.

Normally following the approval of the dissertation proposal, the supervisory committee and student will agree on the three areas of interest. Generally, the areas of interest should be drawn from the coursework and the dissertation proposal approved by the supervisory committee. These topics will be communicated (in writing) to the student at this time, with copies to other members of the Field of Study Examination committee, and to the Graduate Program Director.

No less than eight weeks before the proposed date of the Oral Field of Study Examination, the supervisor in consultation with members of the supervisory committee and the student will select the two additional members of the examination committee (described above).

The three areas of interest will also be communicated to the two other members of the Field of Study Examination committee at this time.

At least seven weeks before the proposed date of the Oral Field of Study Examination, the supervisor will invite everyone on the Field of Study examination committee to submit at least two questions based on the student’s established areas of interest. If an area is not adequately covered by the questions submitted, the supervisor may request an additional question from one or more committee members. If appropriate, the supervisor may combine elements of two or more questions, in consultation with the exam committee members who submitted the original questions, into a single question.

The supervisor, in consultation with the supervisory committee, selects six questions, two from each area of interest, for the Written Field of Study Examination. The six questions are provided to the student at least five weeks before the agreed-upon date of the Oral Field of Study Examination at 8:30 am. All six questions are circulated to the examination committee at the same time they are given to the student.

The student will select one question from each area of interest to answer. The student should research and respond to each question selected in a separate essay. Each essay should be 15 pages (or less) excluding the references cited. The text is to be double-spaced using 12-point font on pages with normal margins.

Three weeks after receiving the questions, by 4:30 pm, the student will submit her or his written answers to the supervisor. Answers may be submitted in electronic format (i.e. as an email attachment), followed by a hard copy within 24 hours of the deadline for submission.

At least two weeks before the scheduled date of the Oral Field of Study Examination, all members of the examination committee receive copies of the Written Field of Study Examination. They will be asked to read the student’s responses to the three questions prior to the Oral Field of Study Examination.

After reading the Written Field of Study Examination, the examination committee members may suggest that the student make themselves familiar with additional readings in preparation for the Oral Field of Study Examination.

The examiners will give their vote on the written FoS to the Neutral Chair at the start of the oral examination, prior to its commencement. The votes will be kept secret with the Neutral Chair, and disclosed (but not changed) after votes have been cast on the oral FoS examination.

The committee for Oral Field of Study Examination is the same as for the Written Field of Study Examination. In addition, the Oral Field of Study Examination will be chaired by a Neutral Chair.

The Oral Field of Study Examination is scheduled no later than four weeks in advance.

The Oral Field of Study Examination provides students with an opportunity to discuss and defend their written FoS examination responses, as well as to be questioned orally about their research area. Oral Field of Study Examinations in Archaeology are not meant to be comprehensive to the entire discipline. The Written Field of Study Examination is understood to serve as the basis from which the Oral Field of Study Examination shall proceed. However, members of the examining committee are not limited to the written component in framing the questions asked, and questioning may range into cognate areas.

The Oral Field of Study Examination will be chaired by a Neutral Chair. The Chair will facilitate rounds of questions to the student and ensure that examiners focus their questioning on the pre-determined areas of interest selected by the supervisory committee. The duration of the oral examination will not exceed two hours, excluding time for deliberations or breaks in the examination approved by the Neutral Chair.

Examiners may use the responses to the Written Field of Study Examination as a foundation for questions in the Oral Field of Study Examination, or they may seek clarification about the written responses. They may also ask students to defend their written responses, provided that the lines of questioning are meant to test the understanding of the student and not revaluate the written answers.

The Neutral Chair will ensure that examiners ask clear and succinct questions and that the student has ample time to respond or seek clarification to each question. If the student has understood the question and cannot answer, the examiner should pass to another question and not engage in a prolonged interrogation of the student.

Each of the Field of Study Examinations (Oral and Written) is evaluated as a pass or fail, independently. A failure is indicated by two or more examination committee members that recommend failed FoS examination; otherwise, that FoS examination will be considered a pass (i.e., a single vote for a fail results in a pass for an examination).

The Neutral Chair will solicit a straw ballot for the Oral Field of Study Examinations and then facilitate deliberations by the examination committee. When possible, the examination committee will seek to reach a unanimous decision, although a unanimous decision is not required (see above). When deliberations are completed, the Neutral Chair will record the final outcome for each component and have each committee member record their vote on the designated form. The Neutral Chair will then immediately inform the student about the outcome of each of the FoS examinations.

If the committee recommends a fail, the Graduate Program Director may uphold the fail in the case of a clear fail or refer to FGS for decision in the case of an unclear fail.

If a student fails the Written Field of Study Examination, one re-take of the written exam will be permitted, provided it can be accomplished within FGS program deadlines. The conduct for the re-take of the Written FoS Examination will follow that of the original Written FoS Examination.

If a student fails the Oral Field of Study Examination, then one re-take of the oral exam will be permitted, provided they can do so within FGS program deadlines. The conduct for the re-take of the Oral FoS Examination will follow that of the original Oral FoS Examination.

A re-take of the Written and/or the Oral Field of Study Examination must occur between two and six months following the date of the first examination. If a student fails either examination component (written or oral) twice, they will be required to withdraw from the Program.

Committee procedures for failed Field of Study Examinations

If a student does not pass a Field of Study Examination component (written or oral), each member of the examination committee will provide a detailed letter to the Graduate Program Director (or the Head of the Department or delegate, if the Graduate Program Director evaluated the failed component) stating the rationale for his or her evaluation. The Neutral Chair will also provide a letter that details the examination procedures, including timings and any irregularities that may have been observed. Each letter must be delivered to the Head or the Graduate Program Director no later than five business days following the date of the failed Field of Study Examination. Within five business days of receiving letters from the committee, and after consultation with the Supervisor, the Graduate Program Director summarizesthe essential points from the letters to the student, copied to the Supervisor and FGS (gpoform@ucalgary.ca).