Field Statements are reviews of scholarly literature related to but broader than a student's intended topic of Ph.D. research. Taken as a whole, they define the student's areas of expertise, forming a foundation for dissertation research, and later helping the student with professional identification when entering the highly competitive job market. For instance, they provide an indication of the range of courses a newly hired professor is qualified to teach. Every student in the Ph.D. program must have completed two Field Statements by the time she or he is ready to develop and defend a thesis proposal. Together with 48 credits of scheduled coursework, Field Statements constitute the qualifying examination which advances a student to admission into candidacy for a Ph.D in the eyes of the Graduate School. When these have been completed and a research proposal has been successfully written and defended, the Graduate Program in Anthropology considers the student "all but dissertation" ("ABD").  

Field Statements may take one of three forms (in consultation with a student’s advisor and Field Statement supervisor):

  1. The basic form of the Field Statements is a critical review of the literature, a "state-of-the-art" essay that identifies an active area of contemporary research, sorts out the important topics and debates within it, demonstrates awareness of the history of these debates, and suggests future directions. Extensive bibliography is essential, though students should be selective in its preparation. Sweep and saliency are the norms: one must know the best work well, and must know of the existence and general contents of related literature. Nor should a critical review be a simple summary. Assessment is the key attitude -- judgment about the relative importance and interrelation of the many items being pulled together. See Annual Review of Anthropology for good examples of this type of scholarly writing in biological, archaeological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology.

  2. One alternate form of field statement is a looser critical review, an augmented analytical bibliography. To be acceptable, this must be more than a long list of one annotated item after another. It must contain some synthesizing overview, perhaps in the form of fifteen or twenty pages of introductory material, cross-referenced in some way to the subsequent annotated citations. One faculty member asks his advisees to structure such a bibliography in sections that reflect the student's understanding of the critical issues in the field.

  3. The other alternative form is an augmented course design -- a syllabus and supporting material for an upper-level undergraduate course. This form is intended to help the student prepare for teaching as well as for research. It cannot be a bare-bones syllabus and associated readings. It must be the course plus all the scholarly apparatus that lies behind one's ability to teach it well. One faculty member has the following guidelines for augmented course designs: 1) a 3-5 page overview of course objectives; 2) a 1-2 paragraph writeup of each week's topics; 3) a list of required and recommended readings that constitute the student's bibliography for the course; and 4) a more comprehensive bibliography cross-referenced to the course outline – readings which may be thought of as the basis of the teacher's lectures in the course.

The purpose of these guidelines, in any case, is not tightly to prescribe all the possible ways of writing Field Statements, but to set out the basic and alternate forms, and to indicate the seriousness of purpose of these required elements of the Graduate Program in Anthropology.   Once again, most Field Statements are and should be critical reviews.  Whatever other approaches students decide on between themselves and their main advisors, however, if the result looks as if it achieves the essential purpose of the Field Statement – to develop and demonstrate well-synthesized, in-depth knowledge of a body of scholarly literature related to one's more specialized topic of dissertation research – the statement will be approved.  For examples of Field Statements that have been successfully written in the past, ask the Graduate Program Secretary for copies of "open" statements from the files – for approved statements whose student writers have given permission for them to be examined.  These may be looked at in the department but not taken away or copied.


The field statement will be prepared according to the following guidelines:

  1. Length and Format: Field statements should be between and 10,000 and 11,000 words, which includes footnotes/endnotes but not bibliography. As a general convention, text should be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, in a standard 12 point font like Times New Roman.

  2. Titling: Students are encouraged to think broadly in their field statements, and this should be reflected in the titles they give these documents.

  3. Bibliography/Works Cited: The field statement will contain a Works Cited section consisting of 40-60 key citations, all of which will have been mentioned or discussed in the body of the text. In some cases, an additional bibliography may be included containing additional references.

  4. Due Date: Field statements should be completed within one semester. In order to receive a grade, the student must turn in the complete and final field statement by a date specified by the instructor, prior to the end of the semester. Incompletes are discouraged.

  5. Credits and Enrollment: If a student is allowed (or chooses) to sign up for one to three course credits for writing a field statement. They may do so by registering for 16:070:600, 601, or 602.

  6. Format: Field statements can be in the form of a critical review of a body of literature; an annotated bibliography; or a syllabus (see above). Critical reviews should have a theme, usually focused around such questions as: What are the questions that people are asking of the literature? What are the key debates in the literature, and how do the key authors inform each others’ work?

  7. Before Enrolling: Students are advised to consult with the instructor during the preceding semester to discuss the expectations of that instructor and to make plans for writing the field statement. Students should also consult their main advisor prior to beginning work on any field statement.


Students should plan the subjects of their two Field Statements as a single conceptual package in consultation with their main advisors.

When the main advisor has approved a particular set of topics, she/he must also work with the student to identify the faculty member most appropriate to supervise each topic, who is usually but need not be someone on the student's committee.  Main advisors can also be Supervising Faculty Members for one of their advisees' Field Statements, but no faculty member may supervise more than one Field Statement by a given student. After working out a set of topics and supervising faculty with their main advisors, and obtaining the agreement of the supervising faculty to serve, students should obtain a Field Statement Approval Form from the Graduate Office, enter the title and supervising faculty member for each statement, and return this form to his or her file. Students should also obtain a Field Statement Course Enrollment Form,which they should complete and give to the faculty member supervising their field statement. This form should then be returned to the Graduate Office, and if needed, a special permission number generated to allow the student to register for a one-credit or three-credit Field Statement course (070: 600 or 070:601).

As each Field Statement is completed, this form must be signed by the supervising faculty member.  When both Field Statements have been satisfactorily completed and approved by their supervising professors, they are re-examined as a whole by the student's main advisor – and, if considered acceptable, approved with the appropriate signature on the Field Statement Approval Form and forwarded to the Graduate Director.  The Graduate Director informs the general graduate faculty in anthropology of the completion and subject matters of the two Field Statements, and makes them available for inspection in the graduate office for a period of two weeks.  If there are no objections as to the quality of any of them either by members of the general graduate faculty in anthropology or by the Graduate Director, they are then considered fully approved for purposes within the graduate program in anthropology (and for such purposes as claiming a Master's Degree on the basis of having passed them and having taken at least 30 credits of coursework). The Graduate Director indicates this by signing the final approval on the Field Statement Approval Form, which is then deposited in the student's file. 

If either the Graduate Director or any other faculty member considers a Field Statement inadequate, the objection is brought back to the main advisor, the relevant supervising faculty member and the student, who can either accept the critique and work to improve the statement, or contest the objection.  In the latter case, the Graduate Executive Committee will consider the statement, the objection and the rebuttal, and resolve the issue, if necessary by a simple majority vote.

Completed Field Statements that are "open" to other students’ inspection are deposited in yearly files in the Graduate Office for easy access. "Closed" statements -- whose student writers do not want them available to other students -- shall be filed in student files.  A Field Statement Access Permission Formshall be supplied for each statement, on which the student writer shall clearly indicate whether a given statement is open or closed, and this access form shall be attached to the front of each statement in the files.

When students subsequently complete and orally defend their Dissertation Proposals, they shall briefly describe the subjects and contents of each Field Statement and their relation to the students' dissertation research.  If the student then passes his or her Proposal Defense, the Field Statements shall be considered fully approved for the sake of counting as a student's general qualifying exam.  This approval shall normally be automatic.  (The reason for this formality is that Graduate School Bylaws require qualifying examinations to be orally defended, and Field Statements are the equivalent of qualifying examinations in anthropology). 

When students have successfully passed their Field Statements by the program procedures indicated above, in other words, and have successfully defended their Dissertation Proposals, they are fully approved in the eyes of everyone concerned – the larger Graduate School, the Program in Anthropology, their advisors and their committees --  to research, write and defend a Ph.D. Dissertation in Anthropology at Rutgers.