MA Applied Anthropology Thesis

All students on the thesis/project track are required to submit a thesis (research- or project-based). Students are guided through the process of thesis development and writing throughout the MA program, according to the following timeline:

  • Discuss and present potential thesis topic ideas (throughout program)
  • Establish thesis chair and preliminary thesis plan (after/while completing ANTH 674)
  • Form thesis committee (confer with chair, then contect potential committee members), gain chair (& committee) approval of thesis topic and proposal, complete IRB/IACUC, file for Advancement to Candidacy & Graduation (list committee members on candidacy form). (after completing ANTH 674). Begin research after IRB/IACUC approval.
  • Complete 6 units of Anth 690 while presenting thesis chapters to advisor/chair and then committee.  Complete an in-person/Skype oral defense of thesis, then submit final approved thesis to Humboldt.  (Final semster(s) in the program).
  • Students are responsible for keeping track of Humboldt Graduate Studies deadlines and requirements, such as final deadlines for submitting your Advancement to Candidacy & Graduation forms, any variations/waivers, your final thesis, and registration for graduation. See Deadlines & Dates.

Thesis Writing

For information on thesis requirements and how to prepare your thesis, please carefully read all section of the Humboldt Graduate Studies thesis format requirements. Also, view the thesis examples/resources - it is recommended that you utilize the Thesis Template Standard Headings (note that you must follow the FORMAT, but you can, and likely will need to, change the names of the headings).

Whereas there are no strict guidelines on the number of thesis pages required, as a general guideline, a quality MA thesis will usually need to include at least 50 (double-spaced) pages of writing (not including references) to be sufficient, but it may need to be considerably longer. It is helpful to view completed Humboldt Theses and Projects

At the beginning of (or prior to) the first semester you are signed up for thesis units (Anth 690), submit well-organized (properly formatted, proofed, etc…) thesis chapters to advisor. It is recommended that you begin the semester you plan to graduate with at least the introduction, background/theory, and methods chapters completed, with your results and discussion in progress. Your advisor will return your chapters within a 3-week turnaround with comments and requested changes. Plan for at least 2-3 rounds of edits before submitting final (advisor-approved) thesis to entire committee at least 3 weeks prior to your scheduled defense (see below). Plan for at least one final round of approval after comments from your entire committee prior to submitting the final version to Graduate Studies.

If thesis completion is not expected during the first semester enrolled in thesis units, students are advised to sign up for fewer than 6 thesis units, and distribute the remaining units over (typically no more than 2) subsequent semesters to maintain continuous enrollment of at least one unit per semester. Many students find that adding an additional semester to the standard timelines is beneficial. If students complete all 6 thesis units before the thesis is completed, students shall enroll in one unit (x693) per semester to maintain Graduate Continuous Enrollment.

Thesis Defense

Schedule a 1.5 hour in-person/Zoom oral defense of thesis before final thesis submission to Graduate Studies. Start by contacting your committee with options for times (do this several weeks in advance). Then, for face-to-face defenses, schedule a room contact the graduate coordinator. Invite others that you would like to attend, and gain approval from advisors regarding attendees. Prepare an approximately 20-30 minute presentation (PowerPoint or Prezi) overviewing your project, findings, and significance. Be prepared for challenge questions from your audience following the presentation. If your defense will be via Skype, work with your advisor regarding your setup and room choice prior to the date, and run through a practice with your setup/advisor – you will need to show both your presentation and yourself during your defense.

Thesis Committee

ADVISOR: Students will be assigned an advisor based on their interests and faculty availability. The advisor may change after the Summer Institute based on student focus. Students are generally expected to work with the same advisor for the duration of the program, but under some circumstances students may switch to another advisor within the department with the approval of the current advisor, proposed advisor, and graduate coordinator.

THESIS COMMITTEE: The thesis committee will have at least two or three members, depending on the scenario, and must be approved by the graduate coordinator and the Dean of Graduate Studies. The thesis committee is officially formed when the student applies for Advancement to Candidacy (the committee is indicated on the application). Changes to the committee thereafter must be made using the Request for Program Variation or Waiver form.  Possible scenarios:

  • If your advisor holds a Ph.D. and is a tenured or tenure-track faculty in Anthropology, your thesis committee will be comprised of (1) your advisor, whom is also the thesis chair, (2) a second Humboldt faculty member with a Ph.D./other terminal (doctoral) degree, either from within or outside of Anthropology, and (3) optional additional member(s) with experience in your research area and a Master’s degree or higher (not required to be affiliated with Humboldt).
  • If your major advisor/chair is an adjunct (not tenure-track) faculty with a Ph.D./terminal degree, or is in the faculty early retirement program (FERP), your thesis committee will be comprised of (1) your advisor, whom is also the thesis chair, (2) a tenured/tenure-track Humboldt Anthropology faculty member, and (3) optional additional member(s) with experience in your research area and a Master’s degree or higher (not required to be affiliated with Humboldt).
  • If your advisor holds a Master’s Degree, your thesis committee will be comprised of (1) your advisor, whom is also the thesis chair, (2) the official thesis chair, who will be a tenured/tenure-track Humboldt Anthropology faculty member selected in consultation with your advisor, (3) a third Humboldt faculty member with a Ph.D./other terminal (doctoral) degree, either from within or outside of Anthropology, and (4) optional additional member(s) with experience in your research area and a Master's degree or higher (not required to be affiliated with Humboldt).

Research Tips

  • Literature: Peer-reviewed books or journals (periodicals) should be your primary sources. The Humboldt Library and Google Scholar are good places to start searching.
  • Internet: Be very cautious of non-peer-reviewed information (e.g., Wiki and It is generally not acceptable to cite non-peer-reviewed information to support claims in your thesis; however, such information can be used to demonstrate other things, such as state of general knowledge on a topic. Please consult your instructor, advisor, or thesis committee if you have any question as to the legitimacy of citing this information.
  • ANY idea that is not yours must be cited within the text of your thesis, and with a full citation in your bibliography/works cited.

Contact Us

Gordon Ulmer, Ph.D.
Anthropology Graduate Coordinator

Marissa Ramsier, Ph.D.
Anthropology Department Program Leader

Graduate Admissions
Phone: 707.826.6250

Humboldt Graduate Studies
Phone: 707.826.3949