The PhD Degree
The cross-disciplinary Ph.D. program in East Asian Languages and Civilizations is designed to train graduate students who can teach and conduct independent research in a variety of humanistic disciplines using Chinese, Japanese, Korean and occasionally other languages of East Asia, defined roughly as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Chinese-speaking Mongolia, Central Asia and Tibet. Before completion of the degree, each student is required to: 1) master the requisite linguistic tools and research methods, 2) demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the history and culture of his or her area of expertise, 3) gain an in-depth expertise in one or more period and/or subject areas, and 4) attain the necessary level of training in his or her humanistic discipline.
While the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) does not require a minimum level of Chinese, Japanese or Korean prior to admission, students who have not completed the equivalent of two years of at least one East Asian language before beginning graduate work will be accepted into the graduate program only with provisional or special standing. Sometimes it is advisable for those students to matriculate into an M.A. program rather than begin Ph. D. work while gaining intermediate language skills. Students with questions about language skills should consult a member of the EALC faculty. Applicants must present the results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and demonstrate proficiency in written and spoken English at the graduate level. Students whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL test. Since admission to the Ph.D. program depends on the GRE and/or TOEFL scores, as well as a student’s grade point average and letters of recommendation, the prerequisite tests should be taken well in advance of application.
Prospective students should familiarize themselves with the areas of expertise of the Penn EALC faculty. In most cases, a student whose interests fall outside the strengths and collective expertise of Penn faculty will not be admitted to the program, regardless of qualifications.
Schedule for Graduate Work and Performance
Entering students are urged to meet each member of the Graduate Group in EALC. These introductions will make it possible to make an informed selection of courses and become more fully acquainted with the strengths and research of the faculty.
As soon as a student matriculates into the University, an advisor will be appointed. The advisor, who may be changed at any time, will serve as the student’s chief mentor. Before the beginning of the third year of residency, in consultation with the advisor, a student should select three areas of inquiry that will form three examination fields. The student should then identify three members of the faculty with whom he can take these exams. If an examiner is not a member of the EALC Graduate Group, the student must have the permission of the Graduate Chair and agreement of the examiner in order to continue in that field.
Each student’s progress is evaluated formally in every class. Faculty also evaluates each student annually. In cases of extraordinary performance or weak performance, a student will receive a letter from the Graduate Chair. A grade of B- should be considered a warning sign. According to the rules of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the grade of Incomplete is acceptable only for six weeks. After that, the student may be subject to penalty.
Comprehensive examinations will normally be taken within one year after a student has completed all coursework (20 cu) and passed the required language examinations. The date of exams should be formally scheduled before the end of the student’s last semester of coursework. “Formally scheduled” means that a letter of intent, stating the proposed fields, examiners, and month of exams, should be sent by the student to the Graduate Chair.
Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, a dissertation committee of at least three persons will be appointed. The chair of the committee will be the student’s advisor. Other members will normally be members of the EALC Graduate Group. This committee may, but need not be, the same as a student’s examination committee. When appropriate, one of the members may be a University faculty member who is not part of the EALC Graduate Group or faculty from another university. A thesis prospectus must be submitted and approved no more than one year after the successful completion of the comprehensive examinations. The optimum time for completion of the Ph. D. from matriculation to defense is five years for students who enter the program without an MA or the equivalent.
Any student who does not progress according to the schedule recommended here must justify why in writing. Otherwise, the student jeopardizes continuation of fellowships or other forms of support. Any student who does not complete the dissertation within six years of the date of passing the qualifying examinations may be asked to re-take one or more qualifying exams in order to verify that he or she has kept up with current knowledge in the field(s) in which exams were taken.
Coursework and Examination Fields
Students must complete a minimum of 20 graduate c.u.’s, that is, courses numbered 400 or above, of which 12 must be taken at the University of Pennsylvania. Up to 8 may be transferred from an accredited graduate program other than one at Penn upon completion of 8 graduate c.u.’s here.
Students should plan their courses of study and examination fields in consultation with their advisors. Every student is expected to meet with his or her advisor at least once every semester, both when enrolled in courses and afterward.
Students should plan their examination fields with professional goals in mind. Thus even though the three examination fields will be tailored to the specific interests of each student, it is in a student’s best interest that the exams demonstrate breadth or credentials that will help in gaining employment. Sample examination fields are: Chinese Buddhism of the Tang and Song periods; Vernacular literature of Ming-Qing China; Chinese thought up to the Han dynasty; Heian literature; Popular culture in Japan; Archaeology of Central Asia through the Tang dynasty; Buddhist texts of a given time period. It is also often advisable for a student to develop one field in the methodology of a discipline, such as folklore, ethnomusicology, comparative literature, or linguistics.
Every Ph.D. student must reach a level of expertise necessary to do research in primary sources in one East Asian language and basic skills for secondary-source research in the second East Asian language. These standards are necessary for dissertation research and will be required for teaching and research after the dissertation. In practical terms, this means that a student will have taken the highest-level courses offered in the modern and classical tracks of one East Asian language, or will have received equivalent training elsewhere, and will have taken three years or the equivalent of Japanese or Korean (for students focusing on China) or two years of classical Chinese (for students focusing on Japan). Research in seminars will serve as one demonstration of a student’s level of expertise and readiness to conduct research in primary and secondary source materials in East Asian languages. Students, in addition, must pass a reading examination in a European language, usually French, German, or Russian, other than English before the comprehensive exams can be administered. Most students will need to take Sinological Methods or Japanese Bibliography. Students should expect to master all languages necessary for their chosen dissertation topic and future research goals, such as Sanskrit, Uighur, Sogdian, or Tibetan.
The Comprehensive Examination
In order to take the comprehensive examination, a student must have completed 20 c.u.’s of coursework, have no “incompletes” on the transcript, have demonstrated the necessary level of preparation in two East Asian languages, and have passed the European language examination. In addition, a student must have written two seminar papers of high quality. The student’s advisor should notify the Graduate Chair that papers meeting this standard have been completed before the student is allowed to petition to take the examinations.
Normally, all the examinations will be written. In special circumstances, a student may petition for an oral exam in one or more of the fields. Oral exams must be presided over by at least two members of the Graduate Group and will last approximately one-and-a-half hours. In addition to the three field exams, the student must demonstrate that he/she has achieved the linguistic and research skill to do dissertation work. This component may take the form of a separate written research examination or may be incorporated into one or more of the three field exams.
The specific scheduling of comprehensive exams will vary from student to student depending on concentration and examiners. In the Chinese concentration, it is usual for exams to take place during a specified two-week period; field exams are allotted three hours each and the research exam has a deadline of seventy-two hours. In the Japanese concentration, students are typically given all three of their field exams at one time, and are allotted two weeks to complete and return all three. Each examination will be graded “pass” or “fail,” and in certain cases, “pass with distinction.” In the event of failure, the faculty will decide whether the examination may be repeated, in what form, and after what period, within the guidelines set forth in the Graduate Bulletin. Additional work may be required before the student is allowed to retake the examination.
Only after successful completion of all exams should a student embark on dissertation research. The first step in the preparation of the dissertation is a proposal. This proposal, usually 5-7 pages in length, including bibliography, should include a summary of previous scholarship on the subject, the candidate’s proposed original contribution, outline of the whole projected dissertation, and a preliminary bibliography. Included on the cover sheet should be the names of three people in the field of the dissertation who are capable of serving as readers. The candidate should already have talked to each of them about the dissertation and each should have already agreed to be a reader. It is fine for one or even two readers to be outside the department or the university. However, if this is the case, the student must also have discussed the choice of readers with the main thesis advisor. Only in rare instances will the primary dissertation advisor not be a member of the EALC Graduate Group. Samples of accepted proposals are available in the EALC office.
No one method is suggested or recommended for successful dissertation writing. Usually drafts of chapters or sections are submitted first to the advisor, who then often suggests substantial additional research or rewriting of each section. Usually, partial drafts are read only by the principal advisor. A complete draft of the dissertation is normally given to the second reader only after the advisor is satisfied with such a draft that has incorporated his or her suggestions. If the second reader is satisfied with the draft, or after the second reader’s suggestions are addressed or incorporated, the dissertation is given to the third or other additional readers. It is usual for each reader to make suggestions or raise issues that must be incorporated or addressed by the dissertation writer.
Only after three readers have approved a complete draft will the defense be scheduled. Two copies of the draft must then be submitted to the EALC office. The defense must occur at least three weeks after submission of the complete draft so that all Graduate Group members have the opportunity to read the dissertation. The defense will be attended by at least three members of the Graduate Group and all members of the Group are invited.
Upon successful defense of the dissertation, a student is responsible for preparing the dissertation in the required format, carefully proofread and adhering to University requirements. Sometimes final changes will have to be made as a result of the defense. The student should assume the dissertation will be microfilmed. The advisor should have agreed upon the extent to which and manner in which uncommon or non-Western orthographic symbols and illustrations are included before the dissertation is submitted to the Department and University. The dissertation also must be indexed prior to submission. The final step is to make an appointment for submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School of Art and Sciences. Students should be aware of this final necessary step, because it is sometimes difficult to get an appointment in the weeks before graduation.