University of Wisconsin–Madison

Cultural Anthropology: Master’s Requirements

Prerequisites for Admission

Admission to the Cultural Anthropology area in the Anthropology Graduate Program is determined by the rules and regulations of the Graduate School and by the Cultural Anthropology faculty. Prospective students must send their application to the Graduate School Admissions Office and the Anthropology Department. See Admission for more details regarding application and admission. The deadline to apply is December 1.

Cultural Anthropology Faculty: Bowie, Camal, Enriquez, Lepowsky, Nesper, Ohnuki-Tierney, Stambach, Wendland, Zhou

Requirements for the Master’s Degree Program

All students need to develop a command of social theory and ethnography. They must become well – acquainted with the literature, concepts, problems, and issues of the discipline. To this end, we strongly urge students to take courses primarily in anthropology during their first year in the program (or longer if they enter the program without an anthropology major). The Anthro 860, Anthro 900 sequence is designed to give all first year students a grounding in the fundamentals of the discipline. In addition, students should work closely with their advisors to construct a course of study appropriate to their particular needs and interests.

The requirements for the Master’s Degree are as follows:

  1. Minimum of 30 graduate credits, of which at least 15 should be in cultural anthropology.
  2. Passage of the Qualifying Examination at the Master’s or Ph.D. level.
  3. Anthropology 860, History of Anthropological Theory.
  4. Anthropology 900, Fundamentals of Anthropological Theory.
  5. At least one graduate seminar in the cultural section of the department in addition to Anthro 860 and 900 in the Department of Anthropology. (No substitutions of 600 level courses are allowed, nor can Anthropology 909 be counted if continuing in Ph.D. program.)
  6. Note that up to six credits of foreign-language instruction can count toward the MA

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying exam will be administered once a year in January before the start of the spring semester. Typically, students will take the exam after the completion of their third semester. The exam will be a take-home, and students will have 2 weeks to answer two questions designed to examine their overall knowledge of anthropological theory. In creating the exam, the cultural faculty will provide students with 5-6 questions, from which they must choose and answer two. Some of the questions will focus on the history of anthropological theory, while others will focus on the application of anthropological theory to contemporary issues/topics. Each student must prepare his or her answers to these questions independently; no collaboration is permitted, nor may anyone other than the student him or herself edit the student’s answer (not even for language; the faculty will take into account a student’s language ability when evaluating the exams). In preparing their answers to the exam questions, students are limited to 10 pages (12 point font, double spaced) plus a bibliography (2 pages maximum) for each question.

The examination structure has been designed to ensure that students progress satisfactorily through the program. The Masters qualifying exam tests whether students in the program have attained a solid grounding in the theories and methods of the discipline.

The entire cultural section will evaluate the exams on the basis of their overall quality. Students will be awarded a pass at the Ph.D. level, a pass at the MA level, or a failure. Students who receive a PhD pass are authorized to continue on in the program. Students who receive an MA pass are eligible to receive an MA (see below), but will not be permitted to continue on in the PhD program. Students who fail the exam will not receive an MA degree, nor will they be permitted to continue on in the program. Students may elect to retake the qualifying exam once in accordance with Graduate School policy.

Students are urged to consult with advisors after the exam process for detailed comments on performance. Successful exam-takers should at this stage begin arranging an Advisory Committee.

Student Responsibilities in Cultural Section

  1. Attend department colloquia and lectures.
  2. Provide a minimum of two weeks notice to faculty for requests of letters of recommendations (include address and stamped envelopes as appropriate).
  3. Secure Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval as appropriate for research involving human subjects

Awarding of the MA Degree

Upon receipt of at least an MA pass on the qualifying exam and the completion of a sufficient number of course credits, the student will be awarded an MA degree.