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Department of Social Anthropology

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The writing-up phase following fieldwork is a period of intensive work, involving regular consultation with your supervisor.  

Writing up should take from one year to a maximum of fifteen months, and includes the process of drafting, revising and finalising your dissertation.  

Your supervisor will arrange a Return From Fieldwork Interview (with your Faculty Advisor also present if possible). The interview will give you the opportunity to reflect on your fieldwork experience, identify your current learning needs and discuss your timetable for completion and address your supervision and other practical arrangements during your writing up.

Producing a clear writing-up timeline is strongly recommended, in close consultation with your supervisor: i.e. when will each chapter be submitted, revised and finalised, to ensure that you complete well in time for your submission deadline.

Writing-Up Students writing up are required by University Regulations to be resident in Cambridge in order to take full advantage of the training and support the Department provides for its research students and to participate fully in the writing-up programme, including the weekly writing-up seminars and Friday senior research seminars.

Toward the end of the writing-up period students may sometimes wish to make a case for permission to reside outside Cambridge for financial or other reasons. In cases of this kind, and always subject to their supervisor's approval, you must  apply for ‘Permission to Reside Outside University Precincts‘ or ‘Leave to Work Away‘ as appropriate. 

On this page:

Notification of return

Writing-up programme

Writing-up timeline 

Writing-up facilities

I.T. provision

Interim appraisal of work 

Notification of return

As soon as you have returned from the field, please complete a Return from Fieldwork Form and return it to the Administration Office. The form will ensure that we have an up-to-date address and other contact details.

You should inform your Supervisor of your return at the earliest opportunity. Your Supervisor should arrange a Return from Fieldwork Interview with you, and your Faculty Advisor will be invited to attend. The interview will give you the opportunity to reflect on your fieldwork experience, identify your current learning needs and discuss your timetable for completion and address your supervision and other practical arrangements during your writing up. 

Writing-up programme

The writing-up seminar

All students returned from the field are expected to attend the writing-up seminars, which are held on Wednesday afternoons during term. Presentations are prepared and circulated in advance via the PhD Writing-Up Moodle Course so that maximum feedback can be given to the presenter. A senior member of staff chairs the seminar but its liveliness and success depend very much on the quality and collegiality that come from the student participants.

The senior research seminar

Held at 4.15 on Friday during term, the seminar is open to all PhD students, including those in the pre-fieldwork year. During your writing up, in particular, you should endeavour to take an active part in the senior seminar. This is an opportunity both to try out your ideas and to acquire professional experience and training in seminar and conference work. As you submit your dissertation you may be asked to give a presentation to the senior seminar.

Anthropological Lives

Anthropological Lives  explores the lives of anthropologists who made striking and distinctive career decisions and/ or unexpected use of their anthropological material.

The series is conceived as a means of 'decentering' the discipline in a constructive and positive spirit of appreciation for its richness and breadth. The series reflects both ongoing and new knowledge and interests on the part of Departmental teaching staff, in addition to contributions from former Department members now based elsewhere.

Anthropology, Beyond the Academy

A series of presentations scheduled throughout the academic year in which speakers from a diverse range of fields reflect on how their study of anthropology has informed their subsequent careers.  The series highlights the many different kinds of lives that may be enhanced through study and research in anthropology.

Highlights in 2018-19 included a visit by artist Sir Antony Gormley, acclaimed author, publisher and philanthropist Dr Sigrid Rausing, and contributors from such fields as advertising, public administration, international health care, and global aid and diplomacy.   

Writing-up timeline

Producing a clear timeline on return from the field is strongly recommended, in close consultation with one's supervisor: i.e. when will each chapter be submitted, revised and finalized  Students have an absolute deadline of up to 4 years from the time of your admission to the PhD course (taking account of any period of intermission), but the Department usually expects you to complete and submit by the end of the first term of your fourth year (i.e. within ten terms).

PhD students will be automatically removed from the Register of Graduate Students at the 4 year point, unless an application to defer is agreed by the Board in advance of the 4 year date being reached.  If you need to go beyond this deadline you may apply for an Extension to Registration date via your self-service account. Applications are granted only for very good reason and must have the full support of your supervisor.   Before applying to extend your registration date or intermit, you should consult with both your supervisor and the Graduate Administrator

Adverse circumstances such as illness may temporarily prevent you from working on your thesis and thus provide grounds for extending your submission deadline. In order to do so you would need to complete an application for intermission for the relevant period via your self-service account. Such applications cannot normally be granted retrospectively, therefore you must apply for this as soon as the illness/adverse circumstances occur.

Once you have submitted your dissertation, the remainder of your registration period can be used to prepare for your viva and pursue other valuable career-development activities such as writing conference papers, participating in and/ or organising workshops and conferences, producing articles and other work for publication, plus teaching and planning further or new research. 

Interim appraisal of work

An interim appraisal is required for ESRC-funded students and Gates scholars and is offered to other PhD students where possible approximately nine months after return from the field. See Interim appraisal

Writing-up facilities

The Department’s writing-up room (room B3) is an open space within the Department for PhD. students to occupy temporary desks in order to undertake their research and writing. Access to the basement is via keypad - please ask the Admin staff for the code. 

All Social Anthropology writing-up students can use the work spaces in the basement writing-up room on an open-access, first-come/ first-served basis (i.e. no personally-reserved desks) for the period of their registration. As these are hot desks, please do not use them for storage, so that spaces are always readily available to those coming in to work. Book shelves and lockers are available for storing your books and papers. 

There are also kitchen facilities, including a fridge and microwave, as part of the area which all students are welcome to use. In order to keep the area clean and hygienic for everyone, we would ask you to observe the following house-keeping rules:

  • Don’t leave dirty cutlery or crockery in the writing-up room or kitchen sink; wash up all items of cutlery and crockery immediately after use.
  • Use the spatter cover when heating food in the microwave.
  • The fridge is for in-date food and drink only. Any items that are past their use-by date or have gone off will be removed.

If there are problems with the cleanliness of the kitchen or other areas, please let the Graduate Administrator know. It is essential that PhD students take responsibility for the basement area by ensuring that any windows they open are carefully closed. Items are left in the building at the owner’s risk, sensible precautions should be taken with valuable or irreplaceable items.

The Hopkinson Loft on the 2nd floor of the Phoenix Building is also available as an additional writing-up space - please ask the Admin staff for the code, and public workstations (PWFs) are available in the SPS Library. Colleges may also have work rooms available for use, and there are also a limited numbers of places available in the Mond work room, allocated via a yearly call for applications.

Lockers are available to Writing-up students to store personal items. Keys are available from the Admin office on payment of a £10 deposit. 

PCs and printers

The Department provides a number of PCs in the basement for use by Writing-up students. These will be configured to allow a student to log onto any of the PCs using their CRS ID. Anyone wishing to use the PCs in the SocAnth basement should contact the IT help desk ( to obtain a password. Printing from personal laptops can be done in one of two ways:
1. Plug the laptop into the smaller printer using the USB cable attached to the printer
2. Use Eduroam wireless and set up the laptop to print through the network to one of the printers. 

I.T. provision

WiFi access

WiFi access (via UniofCam WiFi or Eduroam) is available in both the River Resource Room and the Common Room in the main building for use with your own laptops.

Open-Access computing facilities

In addition to a limited number of networked computers available in the writing-up room, there are a number of Open Access computing rooms (Managed Cluster Services/MCFs) nearby. 

File storage

If you regularly use the MCS PCs (formerly PWFs) that are located around the University and colleges, you are also able to access your data remotely through a browser (DS-Files). This means that you do not need to be on an MCS PC (or Mac) to access files and if you use any of the PCs in the SocAnth basement room B3, or your own machine, you will still be able to access any files you use on the MCS.

The link required for  DS-Files is:


Course Resources


For additional teaching materials please see the PhD Writing Up Moodle Course.

Please note teaching staff and students enrolled on the PhD will automatically be enrolled on the PhD Writing Up Moodle course and you will find a link to the course in the ‘My Home’ section of Moodle.