A dissertation must be a research-based, original and scholarly contribution to anthropological knowledge.  Following admission to candidacy, the student’s dissertation committee is formed. Usually the dissertation committee comprises all of the members of the dissertation proposal committee and one outside member. At a minimum, a student’s dissertation committee must consist of the student’s principal advisor, at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty of Anthropology, and at least one outside member. The outside member must be from another graduate program at Rutgers or another university. If the outside member is from another university, the student’s dissertation advisor must inform the Graduate Director in writing, providing the member’s name, title, and work address. If the outside member is an independent scholar with no formal institutional affiliation, the advisor must also send a recent copy of the member’s curriculum vitae to the Graduate Director. The Graduate Director will then forward the materials to the Administrator for Degree Certification at the Graduate School, who will write the member a letter inviting them to serve and thanking them for being willing to do so.  After the advisor and three other committee members have been chosen, one or two other committee members, either inside or outside, can also be added if needed (see Committees).

In order to earn the Ph.D. degree, a student is required to complete 24 research credits.  Most of these credits should be taken after a student achieves candidacy (i.e., becomes ABD), but students who have not yet defended their dissertation proposal may take up to 12 of their research credits prior to becoming ABD for dissertation-related research only. A student’s progress is monitored by her/his principal advisor and other dissertation committee members who will alert the student to any reservations about his/her progress and carefully specify any changes needed for dissertation acceptance.

Dissertation Defense: When the student, the principal advisor, and a majority of the committee agree that a dissertation is ready for defense, a time and date for the defense are set by the student. The student’s principal advisor informs the Graduate Director at least three weeks in advance as to the student, title, date, time and place of the defense.  The Graduate Director announces the defense and invites all faculty and students in the Graduate Program in Anthropology to attend. Students are responsible for distributing final copies of their dissertation to all committee members and placing an additional copy in the Graduate Office at least two weeks before the defense. All Ph.D. defenses are held in the Anthropology Department, except under special circumstances, and then only with the permission of the Graduate Director.

At the end of a defense, everyone but the members of the student’s dissertation committee leave the room. The committee members decide the outcome of the defense. They formally announce their decision to the candidate and attendees. This decision is recorded on the Application for Admission to Candidacy Form and submitted to the Graduate Director for review and approval, after which the student delivers it to the Graduate School.