The Ph.D. Program in Archaeology

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. program in Archaeology

Upon arriving, you should select a faculty mentor who will guide you toward the goal of completing all coursework in three (3) years, and the dissertation within five (5) years of advancing to candidacy, thus meeting all Dedman College requirements.

Fifty-four (54) hours of coursework are required. You can waive up to 24 hours for equivalent coursework (18 hours elective courses plus 6 hours field school) taken before you entered the program. 

Group A: Required Courses: 24 hours (all courses are 3 credit hours)

  • ANTH 5334 - History of Anthropology, Part I 
  • ANTH 5335 - History of Anthropology, Part II
  • ANTH 6300 - World Archaeology
  • ANTH 6301 - Principles of Archaeology
  • ANTH 6342 - Science & The Human Past
  • ANTH 6387 - Practice of Archaeology
  • ANTH 7313 - Archaeological Theory


  • ANTH 7317 - Archaeological Research Strategies (taken after successful completion of the MA exam)

Group B: Thematic Courses:

  • ANTH 6302 - Statistics in Anthropology
  • ANTH TBD  - Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology
  • ANTH 6332 - Special Problems 
  • ANTH 6337 - Origins of Complex Society
  • ANTH 6351, 6352, 6353, 6354, 6355, 6156, 6256 - Research in Anthropology
  • ANTH 6383 - Geoarchaeology
  • ANTH 6386 - The Archaeology of Gender and Sexuality
Group C: Lab Courses:
  • ANTH 5310 - Osteology
  • ANTH 6325 - Zooarchaeology
  • ANTH 6333 - Lithics
  • ANTH 6388 - Geospatial Analysis
  • ANTH 7321 - Ceramic Analysis

Group C includes various workshops in Archaeological Sciences for 2 or 3 hours credit offered occasionally at Fort Burgwin. Register for these courses under a Research in Anthropology number.

Group D: Regional Courses

  • ANTH 6310 - Seminar in the Southwest
  • ANTH 6368 - North American Archaeology
  • ANTH 6369 - South American Archaeology
  • ANTH 6385 - Pacific Island Archaeology
  • ANTH 7312 - Archaeology of Mesoamerica
  • ANTH 7318 - Late Pleistocene in North America

Note: With the advice and consent of your Advisor, you may choose other courses offered within the Department or University as electives.

All graduate students must complete an archaeological field school or have field experience equivalent prior to or during their time at SMU. A waiver for this requirement can be granted if you have completed a field school or have sufficient field supervisory experience prior to entering the program. On its own, prior field experience cannot be used as a transfer credit towards existing degree requirements. Students who do not have field school or adequate field experience prior to joining the program may take up to 6 hours credit of field school as part of their elective credits.

Group E: Field Courses: up to 6 hours maximum
ANTH 5381, 5382, 5681, 5981 - Field Methods in Archaeology

Progression through the Program

Please see the Projected Sequence and Timetable at the bottom of this page.

Faculty Advisor: Students will be assigned a faculty advisor when they enter the program or they may choose if they already know which faculty member they would like to have as their major mentor. This decision must be finalized by the end of the second semester. The "Faculty Advisor" form (see Pamela Hogan) should be filled out and filed with the department. In addition, students should formalize a general course of study with their advisors. (Important Note: a student may change his/her faculty advisor at any time if research interests change.)

Preparation for the Language Exam: Starting the first semester, students should begin language study or review in order to be prepared to pass the Language Exam their sixth semester, prior to the Ph.D. Qualifying Exams. We have found that students who do not prepare early are often not ready to pass the Exam and this may delay their progress. Go to: Language Requirements.

Students are expected to choose and finalize their faculty committee (their faculty advisor, two other professors from the department, and one outside member) by the end of their third semester. The committee must be set up in accordance with University Guidelines and approved by the committee chair. The list of committee members should be filed with the department and forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Note: no faculty member is obligated to serve on your Ph.D. Qualifying Committee, nor are you obligated to have any specific faculty member on your committee.

Students should meet with their committees at the end of their third semester to identify and plan their general dissertation research topic, and to discuss the areas to be covered by their Ph.D. qualifying exams. The "Faculty Committee/Research Topic" form must be filled out, signed by the student and all members of the committee, and filed with the department. (Important Note: a student may change the membership of the committee and research plans at any time if circumstances change.)

Really Important Note: Students who are not fulfilling these requirements and thus not making adequate progress by the end of Year 2 will be asked to meet with the Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and their faculty committee chair to discuss ways to improve their progress.

M.A. General Examination

Go to: MA General Exam.

Continuing Course Requirements

After you have received a "Pass" or higher on the M.A. General Examination, you will be expected to take the following two additional courses as soon as possible:

  • ANTH 7317 - Research Strategies in Archaeology

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination and the Ph.D. Proposal Defense

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination consists of two parts: a take-home written exam and a proposal defense.

Note: You may not take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination before (a) completing 54 hours of coursework, (b) removing any Incomplete grades, and (c) passing the Language Exam.

The Written Exam

You will take the written Ph.D. Qualifying Examination during the semester in which you are completing your coursework. The exam will be tailored to your research topic, and will be scheduled and evaluated by your Advisor and Committee. There will be two questions in the area of specialization: one on the region of research, the other on methodological and/or theoretical matters related to your proposed research. These will be take-home exams, with a time limit of one week. The Written Examination is a diagnostic test only, and is not graded. Rather, your Advisor and Committee will read it, and the Advisor will provide a written evaluation of the Examination, with input from the Committee members, who will send their written comments to the Advisor within two weeks. The evaluation will identify strengths and weaknesses, and will suggest areas of further study as necessary. You will receive the written evaluation before your proposal defense.


When your last semester of coursework begins, follow this schedule:

Start of sixth week of classes - last day for your Advisor to hand you two [take-home] questions. This can happen sooner if all committee members agreed on an alternative date.

End of sixth week of classes - last day for you to give finished answers to your committee. Whenever you start, you have one week to hand in the answers.

As in the case of the M.A. general examination above, failure to take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination at the specified time can result in dismissal from the program.

Proposal Defense

You also will prepare for the proposal defense during the semester in which you are completing your coursework; i.e., during the same period that you take the written exam. Submit a complete version (including text, references, vita, and budget) of your dissertation research proposal to your Advisor at least one month in advance of the scheduled date of your proposal defense. Your committee should receive a final version of the proposal two weeks in advance of the proposal defense date.

Schedule - the proposal defense can occur no later than the last day of the exam week at the end of your final semester of coursework.

You will defend the proposal orally before your committee. Introduce the topic in a 10-15 minute presentation. Visual aids are encouraged, but not required. Questions from the committee will follow. Suggestions for changes or improvements made by the committee during the defense should be included in the final draft of your research proposal.

Once approved by the committee, the final draft must be submitted to a funding agency.

Note: It is your responsibility to adhere to the schedules, to ensure adequate time for resubmitting revised drafts, and to ascertain that all committee members will be available for the exam and defense. It is your Advisor's responsibility to schedule the exam and defense times and locations with the Departmental Administrative Assistant.

Ph.D. Candidacy (ABD, "All But Dissertation")

Ph.D. Candidacy is conferred upon the completion of 54 hours of coursework, completion of the language requirement, successful completion of the written qualifying exam, successful defense of a dissertation proposal, and submission of the proposal to a funding agency.

The Ph.D. Dissertation

Committee -- After successfully defending and submitting your research proposal, you should constitute your dissertation committee, if you have not already done so, following the guidelines previously set out.

During Field Work -- You should enroll each semester for ANTH 8049 in order to maintain full-time graduate status. You are responsible for contacting the departmental staff to verify your enrollment each semester.

Remain in regular contact with your Advisor and committee. You have five (5) years from the time you attain ABD status in which to complete the Ph.D. dissertation. During those five years, you will be required to provide, before the end of the year student evaluation meeting (which takes place the week after exam week), a written statement discussing your progress on your dissertation. This letter will become part of your permanent file.

Dissertation Production -- All guidelines for dissertation production should be obtained and studied before writing begins. Consult appropriate personnel in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies in person before final formatting of your graphics.

Scheduling the Defense -- Procedures for scheduling a  defense are outlined in the Redbook.

A complete first draft of the finished dissertation should be handed to your Advisor well in advance (a month or more) of the defense date. With your Advisor's approval, you will send the second draft to the committee members, again well in advance (weeks) before the scheduled defense. 

The Defense -- Procedures for a dissertation defense are outlined above. You will meet with your committee immediately following the public proceedings and receive any additional recommendations to be incorporated into the third and final version of the dissertation before it is submitted to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

Projected Sequence and Timetable: Archaeology Ph.D.

A possible schedule for your first several years in the program follows. Do not expect the courses to be offered in the exact order as shown, and feel free to mix required and electives as they are available (you do not need to fulfill all your requirements before your electives.) Also, the research/teaching schedules of each student will vary depending on funding opportunities and previous teaching experience. Finally, the semester numbering system applies only to semesters in residence: If you have field commitments during the academic year, your schedule must be adjusted accordingly. You still will be expected to take the M.A. general examination within five (5) semesters of entering the program. ® = Required course. "Electives" may be independent study courses in the student's area of interest.

Note: Students who are not fulfilling requirements and making adequate progress by the end of Year 2 will be asked to meet with the Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies, and their committee chair to discuss ways to improve their progress.


               Semester 1


                  Semester 2

5334 History of Anthropology I ®


5335 History of Anthropology II ®

6301 Principles of Archaeology ®


7313 Archaeological Theory ®

6330 World Archaeology ® or Group B, C, or D


Group B, C, or D




*Students will be assigned/choose an initial advisor.


*Students finalize choice of faculty advisor and plan of study (courses).

*Begin Review/Study for Language Exam.


*Complete all petitions (course waivers/transfers)





               Semester 3


                  Semester 4

6387 Practice of Archaeology ®


6342 Science and the Human Past ® 

Group B, C, or D Elective


Group B, C, or D Elective








*MA GENERAL EXAM: required field experience must be completed and all grades of "I" must be removed prior to taking exam.




               Semester 5


                  Semester 6

7317 Arch. Research Strategies ®


6351 Research in Anthropology

6351 Research in Anthropology









*Students finalize faculty committee-
meet with committee to identify dissertation
topic, discuss PhD qualifying exams and
research plans


*Pass Language Exam and remove any "I's"



*PhD Qualifying Exam/Proposal Defense



*Submit PhD proposal for funding ®

YEARS 4, 5, and 6

Secure external funding for field research, complete field/lab research, & write/defend dissertation.