Resources for students explaining official comps policies:

Basics--NOT a substitute for reading the information in the above links:


  • Each comp is an 8-10 page double-spaced essay, plus bibliography
  • First question reviews basic issues in public anthropology as relevant to interest of students taking exam
  • Second question is a specialty question that addresses particular interests of individual students
  • Sometimes questions will be structured as multi-part or a set of questions.
  • Faculty giving exams develop comp questions based on the written statement MAPA students provide at end of November indicating something about students' interests in Public Anthropology.
  • Written statement includes:
    1. Paragraph one: your idea about what public anthropology is about
    2. Paragraph two: your focus within the field of public anthropology
    3. Include readings you will use to establish key arguments
  • In addition to the comps, you will have to write either ONE thesis or TWO non-thesis option papers, which should extend from a paper from class. Non-thesis option papers should be 40-50 pages each (these should not require an independent study).
  • You will not receive written comments, but I will be happy to discuss your results


  • First comp: Anthropological Method and Theory (Anth 006)
    The final exam or end-of-course project in three foundation courses (631:Cultural /Social Anthropology, 634: Archaeology, and 637: Discourse, Narrative and Text) satisfies the first doctoral comprehensive requirement.
  • Second comp:
    • Two essays: each 8-10 double-spaced pages, plus bibliography
    • Usually January of 2nd year (see resources doc for exceptions) with a broad focus; this one is meant to get you to think broadly (one same question for all students taking exam)
    • Students should think about themes that move them broadly across anthropology
    • Don't pin yourself down too deeply into particulars and familiars, e.g., for a Race Gender Social Justice 3 part comp, it's easiest to organize the bibliography around those 3 areas
    • In a 3-section bibliography, each section should be around 2 1/2 pages. NO 20-page bibliographies (should be well under 10 and closer to 7)
    • Generally, don't list whole books in your bibliography
    • Do not put things you have not yet read on the bibliography.
    • The bibliography should be prefaced with a short narrative explaining what the bibliography is about
  • The third comp (3rd year) is generally focused on literature related to the dissertation, and is much more sharply defined than the second comp.
  • The fourth comp (3rd year) is a defense of the dissertation proposal
  • Following completion of the dissertation, the dissertation must be defended.