Doctoral Degree

A minimum of two years of academic residence is required. However, in many cases the fulfillment of all requirements for the degree will involve at least one additional year of coursework. Students may be encouraged by their advisor to continue taking courses relevant to the doctoral work.  In the first year, the student will arrange and develop their course of studies in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies or their academic advisor and in the second year and beyond they should do so in consultation with their advisor.


Upon entering the IAAS program, students are assigned a temporary academic advisor from among the members of the IAAS Committee, with whom they should meet to design an appropriate program of study; students should also consult with the Committee Chair to discuss their study plan. In the student's second year, the student should choose their main faculty advisor, who may be different from the temporary advisor assigned to them when they entered the IAAS program.

The faculty advisor, Chair, and Program Administrator should be consulted in making arrangements for the general examination, and an appropriate advisor or advisors will also be assigned for the PhD dissertation. Students may petition the Committee for changes in the advisor assignment, when they feel it is in their best academic interest. Advising is a critically important aspect of the IAAS program, and the Committee is fully and absolutely committed to finding appropriate advising arrangements for all students.

Requirements for PhD


All first-year students in this program should take an introductory course in at least one of the following fields given by members of the committee: History of Inner Asia, Archaeology and Art of Inner Asia, or Inner Asian Philology (Mongolian, Manchu, Tibetan, Uyghur, Sanskrit etc.) Two-years of course work, totaling 16 courses are the minimal expectations by the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies with additional relevant courses taken as needed and directed by the student's academic advisor.

Incomplete Grades

Students are encouraged to clear incompletes as soon as possible. A grade of Incomplete (INC) must be converted into a letter grade before the beginning of the next registration period or it will become permanent, unless the student has successfully petitioned the GSAS Dean’s office for an extension. No grade of Incomplete can be used to satisfy any departmental requirement.

Language Requirement

Upon enrolling in the graduate program the candidate should offer proof of competence in at least one foreign “tool” language (this will be done by way of examination in the first term of study), and sometime during the first two years of residence, he or she should also demonstrate competence by way of examination in a second “tool” language, selected from among those especially pertinent to the student’s topic of specialization. “Tool” languages, such as French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, etc., are to be distinguished from “source” languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, Persian, Tibetan, Turkic, Sanskrit, and Uyghur. In particular cases, where one of the latter is not a “source” language it may be considered a “tool” language. Students are expected to be competent in the language(s) of their primary focus, and will be required to take written examinations in their “source” language or languages, both with and without the aid of a dictionary.

General Examinations

Once the language requirements have been successfully fulfilled and the student has shown competence in the tool and primary languages used for their research, then at the end of the second year of residence or in the beginning of the third year of residence, the candidate will write a general examination in three fields approved in advance by the committee. One of these fields should cover the history or culture of a major society outside of Inner Asia (e.g., Western Europe, Russia, Islamic Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, or the Americas). The other two will be focused on:

  1. Pre-Islamic History of Inner Asia
  2. Medieval and Early Modern History of Inner Asia
  3. Modern History of Inner Asia
  4. Philology and Religion of Pre-Islamic Inner Asia
  5. Philology and Religion of Medieval and Early Modern Inner Asia
  6. Altaic or Tungusic Linguistics
  7. Archaeology and Art of Inner Asia
  8. Ethnology and Anthropology of Inner Asia

There will be a 3-hour written examination in the three specified fields, plus one 3-hour oral examination in Inner Asian studies, broadly defined. In some cases, students may with the approval of the committee choose to take an additional fourth general examination field.


Within one academic year of completing their general examination, students will be required to present a written prospectus of their dissertation of at least five to ten pages in length, for approval by the committee.


The doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to use primary source material and to produce a piece of original research. After the acceptance of the dissertation, the candidate must defend his or her dissertation in a special oral examination that is open to the public. The manuscript of the dissertation on which basis the defense can proceed manuscript must conform to the requirements described in GSAS Dissertations: A Guide to Preparing and Submitting your Dissertations stipulated by the GSAS.

A bound copy of the final dissertation must be given to the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies as part of the IAAS requirements.