Doctoral Degree

A minimum of two years of academic residence is required in the Inner Asian and Altaic Study Program. A graduate student is expected to complete a minimum of sixteen four-credit courses; however, in some cases, the fulfillment of all requirements for the degree will require additional coursework. Courses are chosen in consultation with the student’s academic advisor.


Upon admission into the program, students are assigned an advisor appropriate to their proposed field of study whom they will consult on their academic plan, and who will approve their courses for registration. They will also consult with the Director of Graduate Studies regularly. Students may change advisors in consultation with the program. 

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

The study of languages is integral to success in the IAAS Program with secondary modern scholarship languages are to be distinguished from primary research languages. In addition to building on previous language skills, the student should demonstrate proficiency in a second primary research language pertinent to the student’s topic of specialization. Depending on their area of focus, a student may need to learn additional languages. Proficiency in a language is determined by completing courses to the third-year level at Harvard, or by taking placement exams in the relevant departments. Language preparation should be completed prior to taking the General Exam.

General Examinations


Once the student has shown competence in the primary and secondary languages used for their research, they will form a general exam committee with three faculty members covering a minimum of three fields. The student will prepare a brief description of each of the three fields in consultation with their advisor. The brief descriptions will be used by members of the committee to formulate questions. It is expected that the fields generally fall within the following categories:


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



A two-hour written examination in each of the three fields is required with a paper and pen, or on a 'clean' computer; these can be done on three consecutive days. Phones and personal computers cannot be used during the examination and must be left outside the examination room. The student must then pass a two-hour oral examination in these three fields and is expected to complete the general examination by the end of the third year but no later than the beginning of their fourth year.




Within one academic year after completing their general examination, students will present a written prospectus of their dissertation that includes the relevant work in the field and how this dissertation will contribute to the field. The prospectus must be at least 15 to 20 pages (double-spaced) plus an annotated bibliography. The Chair will submit written approval of the prospectus to the IAAS office along with a copy of the prospectus.

The Dissertation Committee should consist of at least three faculty members, and the Committee Chair must be a Harvard faculty member. The Committee may include one non-Harvard faculty member.



The doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to use the primary source material and to produce a piece of original research. It is expected that students will regularly submit chapters of their dissertation to the Dissertation Committee for comments and guidance.


The complete dissertation must be submitted to the Committee a minimum of six weeks before a possible defense date, with the public defense taking place no later than the second week of April. The IAAS Chair must be informed of the acceptance of the dissertation by the Dissertation Committee, after which the candidate must defend the dissertation in a public oral examination.


The manuscript must conform to the requirements described in GSAS Dissertations: A Guide to Preparing and Submitting your Dissertation. Submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by the deadline is required. A bound copy of the dissertation must be given to the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies as part of the IAAS requirements for graduation.