The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is a research degree focused on making significant original contribution to anthropology. Holding the Master's is a qualification for entry. The Ph.D. program is oriented to preparing for and carrying out a single major research project, and the preparation, presentation, and defense of the report of that research in the form of the Ph.D. dissertation.
The student's program of work, which is based on his/her research interests and proposed field research, is developed in consultation with the student's supervisor and the other members of the committee. Each student selects three tutorial subfields that intersect with the dissertation topic (e.g. anthropology of development, symbolic and semiotic anthropology, southeast Asia). A dissertation research proposal sets out the research problem, theoretical approach, forms of data collection and analysis, and hypothesized outcome of the research.
The ideal time for completion of the Ph.D. program is four to five years. The first academic year is devoted to the preparation of the research proposal which is submitted to the Department at the beginning of the second year. A language examination, normally French, must be passed before an oral examination of the research proposal. Fieldwork starts soon after, and the dissertation is submitted one year after the research is completed.
It consists of preparation of bibliographic essays in three subfields of the discipline, a language examination, and preparation and defense of a research proposal.
There has been an increase in interest for collaboration between Anthropologists and professionals interested in the environment (e.g., Conservation Biologists) both with respect to research and curricular development. Thus, Ph.D. students can enroll in the Anthropology Neotropical Environmental Option, which involves training in Panama and research in the tropics https://mcgill.ca/neo/. This is a particularly interesting time for such an option to be proposed, as it corresponds with McGill's push for greater interdisciplinarity and for increased involvement in the environment.