Program Procedures

Graduate Program Procedures

Last updated: 5 December 2021

The purpose of this document is to outline the responsibilities of graduate advisers and to clarify general procedures followed in the EALC graduate program.

Graduate Advisers

Each graduate student has an adviser who is to be consulted on a regular basis (at least once a semester, usually at the time of course selection). The responsibilities of the adviser are to guide and approve student course selection, to provide counseling on the overall course of study, and to serve as mentor, offering the student general academic development and career counseling.

Students must obtain the written approval of their graduate adviser, or the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), before registering for courses. All changes to a student’s semester schedule after registration must also be approved in writing by the student's graduate adviser. Courses not approved in this manner may not be accepted for credit toward the degree. Non-EALC courses may be taken only if they are relevant to the program and only with the explicit approval, by signature, of the student's graduate adviser or the DGS.

A student wishing to change graduate advisers may do so only with the written agreement of the new adviser or the DGS. In the event the DGS is the student's original adviser, the Department Head's approval may be substituted.

Admission to the Graduate Program

Admissions to the graduate program are made by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Students are admitted to either the Master’s (Master of Arts; MA) or Doctoral (Ph.D.) degree program. Students who have not earned a Master’s degree in a related field are eligible for admission into the MA program; students who have earned a Master’s degree in East Asian studies (or the equivalent) either at UIUC or at another university are eligible for admission into the Ph.D. program.

Admission of EALC MA Students into the Ph.D. Program

Students in the EALC MA program who desire to enter the Ph.D. program must apply by December 20 of the year before which admission is sought (e.g. December 2021 for admission in Fall 2022), and must have completed all requirements for the MA by the time of admission. Applicants must submit a letter of application setting forth a plan of study, including the major and minor fields to be offered for the Ph.D., as well as a tentative dissertation topic. A written endorsement from the proposed major adviser, who will normally serve as the thesis adviser, is also required.

As part of the review, the Graduate Admissions Committee will solicit evaluations from the faculty with whom the student has taken courses. Initial decisions on admission to the Ph.D. program for applicants from the EALC MA program are made during the December admissions cycle by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Applicants from the EALC MA program who receive a positive endorsement by the Committee at that time will be admitted to the Ph.D. program contingent upon successful completion of the requirements for the MA, including a grade of either “pass with distinction” or “pass, admit to Ph.D.” on the MA final examination (see MA final examination grading options below).

Guidelines for the M.A. Program

Review and Evaluation of Student Progress

All graduate students in EALC receive regular evaluations of their progress to help them in planning their training. Students in the MA program receive a formal evaluation in the MA final examination. Students admitted into the Ph.D. program receive a formal review of progress, including an evaluation of research capability, at the end of their first year in the program.

Course Requirements: M.A. course requirements are specified here.

MA Final Examination Policy

Students may sit for the MA examination during the semester they expect to complete all other course and language requirements for the degree. Students are responsible for forming a MA examination committee consisting of three members, at least two of whom must be EALC department members, and at least one of whom must be a non-zero-time EALC department member. The committee will construct a written final examination related to the student’s course of study, covering a reading list compiled by the student in consultation with committee members. Students are responsible for scheduling the examination by submitting a “Request to Schedule MA Exam” form with SLCL Graduate Student Services. MA examination is based on a 24-hour take-home format. Students will receive by email two questions from each of the three committee members, must answer four of the total of six questions (each response should be roughly 1,500 to 2,000 words long for a total length of 6,000 to 8,000 words), and must answer at least one question from each committee member. The written examination is returned to SLCL Graduate Student Services as an email attachment in either PDF or Word format within 24 hours of the time examination is received. Each committee member is responsible for grading his or her own submitted questions and must grade the examination within three working days. Each of the four questions answered shall receive one of four grading options: (1) Pass with distinction (2) Pass, admit to Ph.D. (if the student is an applicant to the EALC Ph.D. program) (3) Pass (4) Fail. The final grade for the entire examination shall be the highest grade for which there is unanimous consent, as reflected on the grades received on the individual questions.

Guidelines for MA Thesis Option

In consultation with their academic advisor, students in the EALC Department Masters Degree Program may elect to write an MA thesis instead of taking MA subject examinations. The thesis option offers an opportunity for students to explore in greater depth a topic in which they have a research interest and to produce a substantial thesis that contributes to the field of East Asian studies.

MA students interested in this option must submit the Declaration of Thesis Option form to the SLCL Graduate Student Services prior to their final semester in the MA Program. They must also form a thesis committee that would include, besides their direct academic advisor, two other department faculty members who will serve as readers of the thesis. The DGS may, on a case by case basis, approve one or more readers from another academic department of the university.

The MA thesis will be the product of extensive research in the student’s target language (Chinese, Japanese, Korean). This should include both analysis of primary sources and consultation of relevant secondary scholarship.

The MA thesis should be a substantial work (35-100 pages in length), although the exact length will be determined in consultation with the student’s academic advisor. The thesis may expand upon a student’s seminar paper or other earlier work, but it should be based on new research and incorporate new findings. Depending on the student’s field of study, an annotated translation might be an acceptable substitute for the traditional research paper.

Students interested in availing themselves of this option should notify the DGS and meet with their academic advisor by the end of their first year of study to discuss thesis topic and their plan of writing.

Guidelines for the Ph.D. Program

Fields of Study and Requirements

Field of Study: Refer to The Definition of Discipline, Area and Field for the interpretation of these terms in the course requirements. Students who entered the program before 2017 have the option to follow The Pre-2017 Definition of Discipline, Area and Field. Students may also petition the Director of Graduate Studies to create a “constructed field” not included in the list. The petition, in the form of a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies, must include a clear rationale for the field and a list of relevant courses either taken or to be taken. A letter of support from the faculty member proposed as the student’s adviser in the constructed field must accompany the petition.

Course Requirements: Ph.D. course requirements are specified here.

First-Year Review

First-Year Review: Every student in the Ph.D. program is reviewed during the spring term of his or her first year in the program. The Director of Graduate Studies polls each student's major adviser and other relevant faculty to ascertain whether the student is making satisfactory progress. In particular, the student's ability to carry on independent research is assessed, with special attention to language skills. In the case that a student is adjudged not to be making satisfactory progress, this is communicated to the Graduate Committee, who may recommend to the Head that the student be asked to leave the program at the end of the academic year. This procedure is in lieu of a Qualifying Examination, which is often given at the end of the first or second “Ph.D. year” to assess a candidate's suitability to continue in the Ph.D. program

Preliminary Examinations

The Preliminary Examination: Within two semesters following completion of their formal coursework and before beginning their dissertation research (usually the third year of study), Ph.D. students must pass a “preliminary examination.” The preliminary examination consists of two parts, one written and one oral. Students enroll in a combination of EALC 590: Independent Study, EALC 599: Thesis Research, and other appropriate courses to prepare for the preliminary examination.

Preliminary Examination Committees: There are two interrelated committees involved in the preliminary examination process. A) The written prelim committee consists of the student's advisers in his or her major and minor fields. B) The oral prelim committee is normally identical to the committee that will guide the student's dissertation and consists of at least four voting members, including at least one from each of the student's three fields; at least three must be members of the graduate faculty, at least two of whom (specifically including the committee chair) must hold regular (i.e., non-zero-time) appointments in EALC; at least two members must be tenured. The student is responsible for getting the consent of each individual to serve on these committees.

Scheduling the Preliminary Examination: By the final day of classes in the semester before the examinations are to begin, and in no event later than the tenth day of the semester during which the student wishes to begin taking the preliminary examination, the student files a “Request to Schedule Preliminary Examinations” with the Director of Graduate Studies. The form must be signed by the student and by all members of the preliminary examination committee, giving dates when the examinations will occur. Changes to the preliminary examination schedule must be submitted to the DGS in writing three weeks prior to the date of the examination and must be signed by the student and all members of the examination committee. 

Format of the Written Preliminary Examination: The written preliminary examination shall consist of separate eight-hour take-home examinations in each of the student’s three fields of study (the major and two minor fields), based on reading lists compiled in consultation with the student's preliminary examination committee.

Written preliminary examinations test the student’s command of the relevant field of study. An examiner may ask up to five or six questions from which the student will choose to respond to either two or three questions (number of questions to be determined by the examining faculty member). Regardless of the number of questions asked on each examination, the length of all of the essay(s) should total roughly 5-7,500 words. On the scheduled day of the examination, Student Services in SLCL will email the student at a prearranged time between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM (US Central Time) when the Student Services office is open. The student is expected to return the completed examination to Student Services within no more than eight hours (a timestamp on the emails will record the time the examination was sent and returned). Any exceptions to this normal procedure to accommodate for DRES qualifications, a public health crisis, or any other reason must be communicated to the examining faculty member, the Director of Graduate Studies, and Student Services in SLCL at least one month prior to the scheduled examination. Before scheduling a preliminary examination, the student should read the Student Services’ examination procedures sheet provided at the following web address:

The three written examinations are scheduled over a period of time within one semester, usually one to three months. Each examination is graded by the faculty member who composed it. After each examination is graded, it is circulated for informational purposes among the other members of the committee. Preliminary examinations are graded “High Pass,” “Pass,” or “Fail.”

Retaking Failed Examinations: In the case of a failure in an examination, the student may direct a petition to retake the examination to the DGS. The petition must include a written recommendation from the student's adviser in the field in question and the approval of the preliminary examination committee. Students may not retake examinations in more than two fields. A student retaking an examination must complete the process within the time frame specified in 11 below. If a student does not appear for a scheduled examination, a grade of “fail” will be recorded.

Scheduling the Oral Examination:  The student schedules the oral examination in writing with the DGS on a form provided for that purpose, which must be signed by the student and all members of the committee.

The Dissertation Proposal Defense: The dissertation proposal defense typically takes place as a part of the oral examination. The purpose is to determine whether the student has formulated a cogent, original, feasible research plan that can be carried out with significant results. The dissertation proposal should be prepared with considerable care and include a bibliography of works studied, details concerning materials to be examined, methodologies to be used, and a timetable for completion. The student must submit a copy of the dissertation proposal to each member of the oral preliminary examination committee at least one week prior to the oral examination.

Timetable for Completing the Preliminary Examination Process: The preliminary examination process, including the oral examination, is completed no later than three weeks after classes end for the semester during which the student was examined. A student retaking a failed examination does so in the semester following the semester in which he or she was originally tested. Preliminary examinations are not normally given during the summer.

Admission to Ph.D. Stage III (ABD): Upon successful completion of both written and oral preliminary examination, the student enters Graduate College Ph.D. Stage III; colloquially known as “ABD” (All-But-Dissertation).


The Final Oral Examination: Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must defend the thesis in Final Oral Examination. The examination committee (dissertation committee) must have at least four members, at least two of whom must be members of the EALC faculty and at least two of whom must be tenured. One of these is the thesis advisor. One member of the Committee may be from another university, subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate College. As an interdisciplinary department, EALC welcomes the invitation of external examiners.

The candidate will have submitted draft chapters to the thesis advisor and members of the committee during the course of writing, incorporating suggestions for improvement and revision. The candidate must submit a complete draft of the dissertation, as it is to be defended, and in the format prescribed by the Graduate College, not less than one month prior to the scheduled date of the final oral examination. The candidate will appear in person before the dissertation committee for a two-hour examination on the thesis.

The Deposit of the Dissertation: Upon successful defense of the dissertation and the approval of all members of the dissertation committee, a complete copy of the dissertation in prescribed format must be submitted to the SLCL graduate service and the Graduate College for format review, and then deposit the dissertation with the graduate college. The candidate will then have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. degree.