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Advice for Doctoral students specializing in Ethnomusicology

Requirements: Minimum of *18 (typically: 6 courses) and one approved languages, generally French or German or a field research language. The language requirement is not a credit requirement; it is possible to pass the requirement by taking courses, but also by taking an exam. When the language is not offered at the University of Alberta, alternative arrangements for study and examination can usually be made, via consultations with your advisor. See Department of Music website for more. In addition to the above requirements, MUSIC 505 (Bibliography) may be required of entering students if they have not demonstrated competency in bibliographic and research-methods skills in their previous studies. Bibliography and language courses will not count towards the credit requirements as listed above. A paper from one of the courses must be devoted to a topic outside the primary dissertation research area; the expectation is that this paper can be developed into a publication and its area into a secondary area of specialization.

NB: Please note that all graduate students must complete the Ethics training for Music graduate students, as well as meet the Professional Development requirement.

The supervisor should be selected by the end of the student's first year, and the supervisory committee should be formed shortly after. The committee is empowered to determine required courses, which may exceed the *18 minimum. Your coursework program must be approved by your supervisor.

Courses in the department of Music

Normally you will take 665, 666, proseminars in theory, musicology, and popular music, as needed and available (you should have at least 3 of the 4 proseminars, unless you've already taken something equivalent), plus whichever 5xx courses in ethnomusicology are offered. Also you may wish to audit 102 and 365 (at least to learn how to teach), or take these courses for credit using a reading course number (6xx).

Enrolling in at least one world music ensemble (at the graduate level) is strongly advised, though only one ensemble should be counted towards the *18 credits. Ensembles taken for graduate credit will entail additional academic work (reading and writing) beyond that specified by the ensemble syllabus. This work will be arranged by your advisor in consultation with the ensemble director.

Consider also fulfilling any MA requirements that haven’t yet been met via previous studies.

Courses in other departments

Relevant courses are available in a number of other departments as well. Important theoretical content is available in Anthropology (mainly cultural and linguistic anthropology, especially courses offered by Andie Palmer, Jean DeBernardi, Marko Zivkovic, and others in linguistic or cultural anthropology), English (literary and postcolonial theory courses), MLCS (cultural studies), Political Science, and Sociology (social-cultural theory). Area studies content is available primarily through MLCS (languages and literatures), Middle Eastern and African Studies, East Asian Studies, Sociology, History, Political Science, and Anthropology.

Independent studies

Independent studies should not be taken without a very good reason. It is far preferable to take a course with a developed syllabus.

In your first year, you will also prepare a dissertation proposal. It is advisable to work towards this goal as much as possible throughout your coursework.


Following completion of coursework and fulfillment of the language, ethics, and professional development requirements, work with your advisor to prepare for and pass candidacy examinations at the end of year 2 (if possible), or during the first half of year 3.

See new candidacy requirements in the Graduate Program Manual

The candidacy examination centers on the dissertation proposal, with a preliminary analytical presentation on a piece of music.

After that, you'll move on to fieldwork research, and dissertation writing. When you and your advisor agree that the dissertation is complete, the final oral examination is scheduled, following which the doctoral degree is bestowed at the next University convocation.

Supervisory and Examination committees

Your supervisory committee comprises the supervisor plus two other arm's length committee members; you may wish to include individuals from other departments or faculties. The examining committee charged with the adjudication of the the candidacy examinations comprises the three members of the supervisory committee plus two other members, one from the Department of Music and one (usually) from another department, in addition to a non-voting chair. One of these two additional committee members may be retained for the final examining committee (or replaced by others); the committee of four is then augmented by a fifth examiner external to the University of Alberta (who typically will not attend the exam in person), plus a non-voting chair. Members of the final examining committee are appointed upon the recommendation of the Graduate Coordinator to the Department Chair and the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.


Consider applying for SSHRC and other grants in year 1, and again (if needed) in year 2.

Useful links: