Graduate Program

EALC offers graduate students advanced training in the languages, literatures, and cultures of China, Japan, and Korea. Our students have combined approaches from cultural studies, literature, film and media studies, and other disciplines to broaden more traditional paradigms and provide a different perspective on the reading of the texts in their fields. By allowing a greater degree of flexibility, our interdisciplinary approach enhances students’ research skills and enables them to become well-rounded scholars. Appropriate cross-registration with other departments allows students to enhance their theoretical and methodological training.


EALC currently offers a Doctorate of Philosophy in East Asian Languages and Cultures. Students seeking a terminal M.A. degree should consider applying to the Ph.D. program instead.

  • A student’s total course credits must amount to 60 units, including 4 units of doctoral dissertation (794ab). The following courses are required:

    • EALC 507: East Asia in Cross-Cultural Theories
    • At least one graduate seminar on premodern Asia and one on modern/contemporary Asia (recommended for current students and required for those admitted after 2021). EALC 507 does not count toward this period requirement.
    • An additional theory and methodology course in EALC or an equivalent course in a related program
    • EALC offers both a teaching practicum and a professionalization seminar. EALC 593 Teaching Practicum for East Asian Studies is usually taught by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and students should take this course at the beginning of the first year of teaching assistantship, typically in the fall semester of the second year. EALC 700 Professionalization Seminar for Advanced Graduate Students is usually taught by the Director of Graduate Studies for students in the ABD stage, and students are advised to take it within two years after their advancement to Ph.D. candidacy.

    No more than four courses at the 400 level may be applied to the total requirement of 60 units. The Graduate Studies Committee in EALC determines the fulfillment of the course requirements.

  • Annual Review

    • The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) conducts an annual review of all Ph.D. students at the end of the Spring semester. By April 1, all students in the program submit an annual progress report, list of all courses taken, and an updated curriculum vitae (CV). Along with faculty assessments, these materials form the basis of the annual review summary provided to each student by the GSC, as well as each student’s one-on-one consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to occur before the end of the semester. All first-year students are additionally required to submit a writing sample and complete a 10-minute formal presentation to the department faculty.

    Second-Year Screening and MA Degree Conferral

    • The Graduate Studies Committee conducts a screening of Ph.D. students at the end of their second year. In addition to the regular documents required for the annual review outlined above, all second-year students are required to submit, by April 1, a research statement (500-800 words), a writing sample (complete seminar paper), and complete a 2nd year 10 minute formal presentation to the department faculty. Also by April 1, primary faculty advisors submit an evaluative report of progress for each of their advisees. The GSC then assesses the students’ academic performance and decides whether to recommend advancement to the qualifying exam stage. Regardless of the outcome of this assessment, all students meeting the requirements can be recommended for conferral of the MA degree.
  • Qualifying Examination

    • Ph.D. students are expected to take their qualifying examination during the 3rd year. Qualifying examinations consist of written exams held over the time span of one or two weeks, followed by an oral exam that is based on the written essays as well as on topics from the reading lists. The purpose of this procedure is to evaluate the students’ ability to undertake independent research in their field(s) of specialization along with their preparedness to teach at an undergraduate level in two minor fields. Upon successful completion of the written and oral examinations, the student officially enters candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

      Students prepare for and take their qualifying examination under the supervision of a five-member guidance committee. Upon passing their 2nd year screening, students will consult with their primary advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in order to determine their three fields and to identify the appropriate faculty members to serve on the guidance committee. The chair of the committee and at least two additional members must have an appointment in the EALC department. Students should make contact with prospective committee members by no later than the early fall of their 3rd year. The committee must be approved by the department and the College at the time the student applies to schedule the qualifying examination.

      Once the guidance committee is formed, it will be each student’s responsibility to actively keep in regular contact with its members. More specifically, a student will work with each of the five members to create three reading lists: one for the major and two for the minor fields. These field lists will vary in length, but generally, readings in each field will amount to 40 to 60 titles. Depending on the student’s consultation with a faculty advisor, a list may consist of primary or secondary sources or the combination of both. Students will submit their three lists to the five committee members at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the qualifying examination.

      The three written exams are administered by the department’s office and are taken at an on-campus location in closed-book format. Each exam will require a student to respond to one or two essay prompts within an allocated time of six hours. Both the content and the number of the essay prompts will have been previously approved collectively by the committee.

      The oral portion of the qualifying examination will be scheduled one to two weeks after the written exams. This meeting will last about two hours and will involve discussion of the written exams as well as more general questions relevant to the selected disciplines.

      There are three possible outcomes for the qualifying examination: 1) pass, and advance to doctoral candidacy; 2) fail, with the option to retake either specific sections of the exam or the whole exam; 3) fail, with the result of dismissal from the program. The retaking of a failed qualifying examination must take place between one and six months from the date of the first examination. A student who fails the qualifying exam a second time is automatically dismissed from the program. If the committee concludes that the written portion of the exam is so weak that the oral portion cannot counterbalance it, the student does not proceed to the oral and the exam is regarded as failed.
  • A student must have professional proficiency in the language of his/her specialization. In addition, the student should acquire or demonstrate competence in a second East Asian language. This requirement may be met by two years’ worth of course work. The Graduate Studies Committee in consultation with a student’s academic advisor will determine whether the second East Asian language should be classical or modern.

  • Dissertation Prospectus

    • As soon as possible and within four months after completion of the qualifying examination, the candidate should consult with the primary advisor and the DGS in order to form a dissertation committee that will review the dissertation prospectus as well as the completed dissertation. The dissertation committee is composed of at least three and no more than five members, who may or may not have served on the guidance committee. The majority of committee members, including the chair, must have an appointment in the EALC department.

      The prospectus is a statement of research design that candidates develop in close consultation with their primary advisor. There is no set format for this document, but typically, a prospectus will run between 10 and 15 pages (2500-3500 words), exclusive of the bibliography, and will include a clearly defined topic of research, a set of research questions and their critical significance, a review of the state of the field(s) and the project’s relation to it, an outline of the methodology employed, and an account of the main sources to be explored. Also, it may include a preliminary chapter outline and a timetable for the completion of the project. A guideline for writing the prospectus can be found here.

      In consultation with the primary advisor, a candidate can choose to submit the dissertation prospectus either before or after the qualifying examination. In the first case, the prospectus will be approved, rejected, or approved pending revision during the oral part of the qualifying examination. In the second case, the prospectus will be approved, rejected, or approved pending revision within six months of the qualifying examination.

    Dissertation Defense

    • The doctoral dissertation should present an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the field of specialization. The dissertation defense is the culminating activity in the assessment of whether this standard has been met. After the primary advisor has agreed that the completed dissertation can be moved forward to the defense, the candidate should schedule a tentative date for the defense in consultation with the primary advisor and the DGS. While the defense is open to the entire EALC community, only the members of the dissertation committee have the authority to recommend acceptance or rejection of the dissertation. Their recommendation must be unanimous, and rejection will be grounds for dismissal of the student from the Graduate School.

  • The certificate in Foreign-Language Teaching provides certification in the theory and practice of second or foreign language teaching for student language teachers concurrently enrolled in graduate degree programs in foreign languages or related graduate programs at USC; for graduates of such programs who are teaching languages; for external candidates concurrently enrolled in similar programs at accredited colleges or universities; or for graduates of such programs who are teaching languages. The certificate is meant to supplement graduate study in the literature or linguistics of foreign languages. It is also meant to supplement classroom teaching.

  • At any stage of the program, regardless of scheduled reviews, a student may receive a warning for failing to maintain satisfactory academic performance. Warning letters are issued by the Graduate Studies Committee under recommendation and submission of evidence by the student’s primary advisor. Each warning must come with a probationary period, and it must specify a set of requirements that the student must meet by the end of probation. A student’s dismissal will be contingent upon failure to satisfy the requirements in the concurring judgment of the primary advisor and the GSC.