ETH Program Details

When and how do students enroll?

Students may register for the Ethnographic Studies Certificate program at any time after first enrollment at Princeton. There are no prerequisites. Courses taken prior to program registration may be counted. Students interested in the Ethnographic Studies Certificate Program should complete the ETH enrollment form and meet with the program director or the program manager as soon as possible to plan a tentative program of study.

Program details in viii paragraphs

(i) Two core courses

The core courses are designed for second semester juniors (301A) and first semester seniors (300A); however, they may be taken earlier, assuming adequate preparation. Students planning to concentrate in departments with specific course and/or other departmental requirements in the junior spring or senior fall terms should discuss their plans with the program as early as possible and take one or both ETH core courses earlier, as applicable. Please also see paragraph (vii), on Study Abroad, below.

(ii) Three elective courses

In addition to the core courses, certificate students are required to take three elective courses, including at least one course from each of the two electives categories described below (List 1 and List 2). Normally, students should plan to take their electives from two or more departments. A student who has a compelling reason to seek an exception to this guideline should consult the certificate advisor or program manager. Elective courses for ETH students are approved on an individualized basis.

List 1 electives.  Ethnographic methods and research ethics: Courses from across the University dealing with ethnographic and related qualitative research methodologies and research ethics. The purpose of this list is to encourage students to integrate ethnographic inquiry and the research methods they are learning in their broader courses of study.

List 2 electives.  Ethnographic and cultural contexts: This list consists of courses from across the University focused on cultural analysis in local, regional or institutional contexts, and involving diverse subjects, settings and media.

To plan a course of study or to review elective course options, see the program manager. To receive credit towards the ETH certificate, courses must meet the following requirements:

  • All ETH courses (core and electives) must be taken on a graded basis. A minimum grade of "B" is required for any course counted for the certificate.
  • Since the certificate is intended to supplement or complement the student’s department of concentration, no more than one course taken in fulfillment of the concentration may be counted toward the certificate.
  • Similarly, no more than a total of two courses counted toward other certificates may be counted towards a certificate in ethnographic studies (no matter how many other certificates may be involved).

(iii) Language proficiency

Students conducting research in non-English speaking field sites will be expected to demonstrate adequate proficiency in the local language before undertaking fieldwork. Language instruction and assessment of proficiency are available through regular Princeton courses. Students whose fieldwork requires a language not taught at Princeton should consult the program manager.

(iv) Institutional Review Board (IRB)

ANT 301A prepares students to think deeply about the social relations of ethnographic research as ethical relationships. Several courses on the “methods and ethics” list (electives list 1, above) also deal with issues of research ethics. For additional information on human research protections and IRB protocols at Princeton, please see the IRB website. Students are responsible for the ethical conduct of their own ethnographic research; however, they are not expected to navigate the review process on their own. In addition to course-based support, advising is available from the ETH certificate advisor.

(v) Ethnographic fieldwork

Students are required to undertake ethnographic research (drawing on the diversity of methods acquired in ANT 301A and the “methods and ethics” electives).  Fieldwork may be undertaken in conjunction with study abroad, international or community-based internships, or other positions within or outside of the United States, but – whatever form it takes – it should be the student’s main activity over the course of at least four weeks (normally continuous). ANT 301A (The ethnographer’s craft) prepares students for fieldwork, and must be completed no later than spring of the junior year. Prior to beginning their fieldwork, students will demonstrate proficiency in the relevant field or contact language (paragraph iii above) and acquire IRB approval for research projects involving human subjects, if applicable (paragraph vi above).

While the program does not provide funding for research, funding opportunities are available through normal channels – i.e., through offerings by departments, other programs, and the Office of the Dean of the College.  The program's certificate advisor is available to help ETH certificate students who apply for research funding.

(vi) Advising

All students in the program work closely with a certificate advisor. They also consult regularly – throughout their association with the program – with the program manager. The program manager enrolls students in the certificate, monitors eligible courses and students’ on-going progress, approves course selections (in consultation with the program director) and certifies completion of the program. Summer advising for students conducting fieldwork is available. For students whose ethnographic fieldwork derives from senior thesis research, thesis advising from the student's department of concentration is primary to advising available through ETH.

(vii) Study abroad 

Students are encouraged (but not required) to study abroad. Students who anticipate studying abroad for one semester in the spring of their junior year should take ANT 301A early. Otherwise, with the approval of the program, students may substitute an equivalent course taken abroad, if one is available. Please note that ANT 301A or any “abroad” equivalent must be taken by the end of the junior year. One elective, equivalent to Princeton offerings, may also be counted toward the certificate. The acceptance of a course taken abroad is contingent upon review of the student's study abroad transcript and grade earned at the abroad institution. Students who study abroad during other semesters, or for a full year, should consult the program manager well in advance, to coordinate their course schedules. 

(viii) Senior thesis (writing) requirement

Certificate students are required to develop a thesis topic or discrete chapter that addresses the student’s ethnographic research in some explicit way. In circumstances where a departmental thesis is not required, or where a dedicated chapter is not appropriate, students may write a separate paper of approximately 20-30 pages. The second core course (Ethnography, evidence and experience – ANT 300A) is designed to provide students with theoretical resources for integrating their ethnographic work with their independent senior thesis or special paper. 

ETH Certificate awarded at graduation

Students who complete the program requirements will be awarded a certificate in ethnographic studies upon graduation.  For certificate-related information that cannot be found on this page, please see frequently asked questions at FAQs.

Return to the summary of certificate requirements.

Register to enroll in the program.


Program in Ethnographic Studies
116 Aaron Burr Hall

ethnography@princeton.edu