Program Requirements


Every student in the Department is required to demonstrate competence in at least two foreign languages: one in the East Asian language appropriate to the field of specialization (Chinese, Japanese, or Korean), the other in a European language, typically French or German. Students specializing in the pre-modern or early modern periods must be proficient in both the classical and the modern language of their field of specialization. In addition, students in Chinese studies are required to take at least two years of modern Japanese and are advised to take EAS 563-564 (Readings in Japanese Academic Style). Depending on the field of specialization, individual faculty may impose additional language requirements. 

The European and (for students in Chinese studies) Japanese language requirements must be fulfilled prior to the General Examination. These and any other language requirements may be fulfilled through regular courses during the academic year and/or through intensive summer programs that typically provide the equivalent of a full year of language study, for which students may apply for additional Princeton (or outside) funding dedicated to this purpose. Princeton maintains its own summer language programs in Beijing, China and Kanazawa (Ishikawa prefecture), Japan. Students may also take examinations to place out of their additional language requirements. These examinations must be taken before the General Examination.

Upon arrival at Princeton, new students are evaluated in the language of their field of specialization and, if necessary, placed into appropriate language courses. Foreign students are required to take an examination to demonstrate adequate mastery of the English language and, in some cases, they may be asked to take a dedicated English language course.


Students are expected to complete twelve graduate seminars during the first two years of study in addition to all necessary language classes. In exceptional cases, and with permission of the Director of Graduate Studies obtained prior to enrollment, a 400-level undergraduate seminar can be counted as one of the twelve seminars with the expectation that the work produced in the course is commensurate with graduate level work. The Director of Graduate Studies will determine the course load in each semester in consultation with the student and her/his adviser.

The Department encourages students to do part of their coursework in other departments as appropriate and pertinent to their fields of study. Students in East Asian history are expected to take History 500 (Introduction to the Professional Study of History) in their first semester. Students in literature are encouraged to take Comparative Literature 521 (Introduction to Comparative Literature). Students in the Social and Cultural Study of Contemporary East Asia are encouraged to take an introductory course specific to their discipline, for example, Anthropology 501 and 502 (Proseminar in Anthropology) and/or 503A or B (Co-seminar). 

In addition to the official course offerings, students may ask individual faculty for an independent reading course.

While doing graduate coursework, students are expected to write final research papers (or the equivalent thereof) in each of their courses. These papers must be written in English. At the end of the first and second academic year, students should deposit one sample of their best written work in their departmental file. 

Students can take courses at neighboring institutions like Columbia University, New York University, Rutgers University, and University of Pennsylvania. Princeton is also part of the Exchange Scholar Program, a student-exchange consortium of research universities that allows students to study for a semester or a year at another participating institution. 


The Director of Graduate Studies acts as interim adviser for all students in their first and second year of study. It is responsibility of graduate students to find a research topic and secure a faculty member who is competent and willing, after the second year, to advise them about general examination, dissertation prospectus, and the dissertation project as a whole. Students are mentored by an EAS faculty member as main adviser but are free to take classes and be co-advised by faculty from different departments. As per Graduate School rules, “students may need to adjust their research topics in order to align them with faculty expertise if they wish to complete the degree. […] In cases where, despite all reasonable efforts, no satisfactory advising structure can be found for a student, that student's enrollment and degree candidacy may be terminated.” 


Throughout their coursework, students are expected to perform at a high level of excellence. At the end of each academic year, all EAS faculty discuss and then decide on the re-enrollment of each student for a new year of study. A grade of B+ or below is a sign of concern.

Students should complete coursework in the semester in which it is assigned. An extension on the deadline for coursework can be granted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the course instructor but an extended deadline must be agreed upon by the faculty member and the student and the new deadline must be communicated to the EAS Graduate Administrator. Lingering “incompletes” from previous semesters may lead to a deferred re-admission. A student with an outstanding “incomplete” is automatically denied permission to take the General Examination.

General Examination

The General Examination consists of both written and oral sections and covers three distinct fields of study, one major and two minors. It is designed to test the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge in her/his major field—the field of specialization—and competence in the minor fields adequate to teach at the undergraduate level. 

Students can take the exam only after they have completed two years of coursework, all language requirements, and the University’s one-year residency requirement. The General Examination can be scheduled in October or January of the third year of study. 

In preparation for the exam, students need to decide their three fields and identify the appropriate faculty members to serve on the examination committee in consultation with the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies. Typically, the examiner of the major field will also serve as the student’s dissertation adviser. In choosing the minors, students must include either a different discipline or a cultural-linguistic area different from the major field. These may include disciplines outside the EAS Department, cultural areas other than East Asia, or methodological/ theoretical fields. One field can be jointly supervised by two faculty members.

It is strongly recommended that students actively keep in regular contact with the supervisors of their exam a year before the examination. These meetings are necessary for the student to obtain a clear idea about the scope of the individual fields and to design a reading list in consultation with each field’s examiner. 

It is normally expected that all three fields are jointly examined during a specified period of 10 consecutive days in the months October or January. The individual examiner determines whether the written exam is in the sit-down or take-home format. The three separate written exams are then followed by a joint oral exam of about two hours with all three examiners. 

There are four possible outcomes of the General Examination: 1) pass and advance to doctoral candidacy; 2) fail and retake the Examination once; 3) pass, but at a low level and be advised to accept a terminal M.A.; 4) fail a second time and receive the terminal M.A. If in the course of the examination doubts are raised about the student’s ability to pursue doctoral research, the Director of Graduate Studies may seek the approval of the entire Department before a student may advance to candidacy or asked to withdraw from the program. 

The student must pass each of the three field examinations. Should a student fail the examinations, examiners will provide the student with feedback and clear guidelines for improvement before the student re-takes the exam. A student who fails one or more of the examinations must retake those fields within one year. By Graduate School rule, failure a second time automatically results in withdrawal from the University. 

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

After the successful completion of coursework, language requirements, and General Examination, students, now Ph.D. candidates, focus on their dissertation research. The first step is the development of a Dissertation Prospectus, which must be approved by a committee of advisers in the form of a written statement and a public oral defense. The committee includes the primary adviser and two other faculty from within or outside the Department who may or may not have served on the student’s General Examination committee.While there is no set format for the prospectus paper, it consists of a synthetic statement of the dissertation research that candidates develop in close consultation with their primary adviser. On average, it is expected to be a 10 to 15 page-long paper, which includes a clearly defined topic of research, an account of the state of the field and how the proposed research relates to it, an outline of the methodology employed, an account of the sources to be explored, a specific research plan and timeline. The paper may include a preliminary chapter outline. In addition to the paper, candidates should add a substantial bibliography of primary and secondary sources pertinent to the project.

The dissertation prospectus paper must be submitted to the Department at least one week before the oral presentation and will be distributed to the Department faculty and graduate students. At the prospectus defense, the candidate is given about twenty minutes to introduce the prospectus; this will be followed by faculty comments and an open-floor discussion.

The prospectus defense is typically planned according to the following schedule:

General Examination Date Prospectus Presentation
October of 3rd year No later than January of 3rd year
January of 3rd year No later than May of 3rd year

It is the responsibility of the student to observe this schedule. If candidates do not successfully complete the general examination and the dissertation prospectus defense by the end of the third academic year, their reenrollment will be deferred until a successful prospectus defense. 

The possible outcomes of the prospectus presentation are: 1) accepted; 2) accepted with revisions; 3) rejected. If the prospectus is accepted with revisions, the student has four weeks to present a revised version to the committee, which will decide on its acceptance without a second public presentation. If the initial prospectus is rejected, a new date for another public presentation must be scheduled in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. A second rejection results in withdrawal from the University with a terminal M.A.


The University offers graduate students the opportunity to gather teaching experience by leading discussion sections (“preceptorials”) in undergraduate lecture courses. The Department requires all Ph.D. students to have served at least once as a preceptor before being able to schedule the Final Public Oral Examination. Students are eligible to precept after having successfully completed the General Examination. Preceptors are remunerated in accordance with University policy.

Students are encouraged to precept beyond the one-course requirement and should actively seek out precepting opportunities both within and beyond the department. This course may be within or outside the student’s disciplinary or linguistic field of specialization. In exceptional circumstances, the Director of Graduate Studies may waive the teaching requirement.

Before being able to precept, students must complete a two-day training session at the University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning.

Students can also apply to team-teach a new undergraduate course with a member of the EAS faculty. Applications must be approved by the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies and should be sent to the Collaborative Humanities initiative of the Humanities Council.