At Kyoto University, the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS) comprises a five-year doctoral program. This study program is designed to enable students to engage in academic research and fieldwork for extended periods of time. The chart below provides a general outline and explanation of the schedule for obtaining a doctoral degree over a five-year period, and the way in which graduate students generally spend their time. Please be aware, however, that changes may naturally occur in the years required to obtain the degree, the period required for fieldwork, and other elements due to the content of the research themes and fieldwork, the specific countries and regions involved, language skills, experience the student may have to date with Africa, and other contributing factors. We also recommend the enrolled students to learn Japanese language for enhancing your university life in Kyoto.
During their first semester, first-year students attend lectures and seminars, learn about the diversity of Area Studies, and master the basic knowledge and skills required for upcoming fieldwork. The majority of credits required for graduation, in fact, are earned during this first semester period. Students also gain knowledge about infectious diseases and fieldwork safety. The majority of graduate students depart for Africa on their fieldwork programs around the time of summer vacation or early autumn (August – November). Up to that point, they receive guidance from their supervisors in selecting research themes and research sites.
Once the themes and sites are decided, students gather previous Journal papers and research literature, read the documents, and otherwise obtain basic knowledge about their academic themes. They also search out dictionaries and grammar guides in the local languages, in order to communicate with local people in research area.
This is also when students arrange to get preventive vaccines and purchase the implements necessary for research. Up until actually leaving for fieldwork, presentations are made at the Wednesday Seminar. The term of the local fieldwork normally ranges from three to four months, although some graduate students stay at the research sites for six months.
During this fieldwork, most students engage in research initiatives in Africa for the very first time. They often feel challenged by the sheer difficulty of the fieldwork, local language barrier and other communication problems, although the vast majority find themselves captivated by the Africa. It must be mentioned, however, that certain precautions must be taken by the Japanese government (Monbukagakusho: MEXT) scholarship students doing academic research work in their own native countries. For details, please consult with your supervisor.
Second-year students organize the collected data during their first year of fieldwork, and then present the information at a seminar in preparation for the second local fieldwork opportunity. At the seminar, discussions are held regarding the appropriateness of the theme, research methods, type and volume of data, and the prospects for performing the next research plan. Meanwhile, in May of their second year, students may apply to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists (DC1). The majority of our graduate students do in fact apply for this fellowship, but MEXT scholarship students are not allowed to apply.
After fieldwork for over three months, students give presentations at a Wendsday seminar around October to November. This seminar is used to discuss the logical composition of pre-doctoral theses, present collected data, and examine the logic of the content. The deadline for submitting a pre-doctoral thesis is mid-December.
After submitting their thesis, students work to further refine and polish their logical arguments, data presentation, and discussion section in preparation for the public defense for their thesis in early February. Rehearsals for this public defense are conducted at the Wednesday Seminar in January, as further preparation. Following the public defense, the pre-doctoral thesis is completed and bound into booklet form by the end of February. Some graduate students choose to make oral presentation at the conferences of international academic societies.
Many graduate students make oral presentation of their pre-doctoral thesis at the international conferences. Others also begin to compose paper for submission to academic journals. In the Division o, we encourage our students to actively make their work to public. A considerable number of graduate students also become involved in supporting the education programs as teaching assistants (TA) for lectures and seminars at Kyoto University.
In most cases, the next fieldwork session will be longer in duration than the previous two sessions, with the combined experiences of the initial two serving to empower most graduate students to develop familiarity with the local conditions and form a firm impression of what they truly want to research. Preparations for the next trip to Africa are also made around this time.
Before departing to Africa, presentations are given at Wednesday seminars in order to disclose the collected data, the objectives, themes, and previous research related to the next fieldwork plan and other details. At these seminars, comments are forthcoming from attending faculty members and senior researchers. The fieldwork in the third year is the most important of all research during the five years in our division.
The volume of collected data acquired by third-year students tend to be massive. As a result, organizing the field note data as well as chemical experiment and data analyses require a significant investment of time. When students fail to grasp the methods for classifying the data or conducting tests and analyses, they resolve those issues by turning to faculty members for assistance. They are naturally free to ask any faculty members for help, whether they are supervisors or not, to clear up any questions.
By data organizing, experiment, analysis, and discussions with faculty members, students are able to make a focus on the themes of their doctoral dissertations with greater clarity. In most cases, there will be insufficient data, students depart to Africa for additional data collecting during their fourth or fifth year in the program. Some graduate students will be hired as research assistants (RAs) during this period, thereby working to help support their research efforts.
During their fifth year in the program, students strive to organize the data from their fieldwork, while similarly considering the logical composition and flow of their doctoral dissertation in order to finalize the thesis. At the same time, they participate in discussions aimed at submitting treatises to academic journals and giving presentations at the academic conferences. Some of our graduate students also obtain opportunities to present their work at the academic conferences, symposiums and other gatherings held by researchers. As they continue to present their findings at such academic conferences, meetings and symposiums, students benefit from the opinions and comments expressed by outside researchers.
Depending upon the specific research theme, doctoral dissertations in Area Studies tend to be quite lengthy and, in most cases, turn into voluminous works. The actual writing, therefore, is also an extensive process. Composing a doctoral dissertation over the five-year period can naturally present its fair share of challenges. During their graduate years, however, students enjoy a rich range of experiences as they gain basic knowledge, academic skills and manners as researchers, and draw from that background to eventually complete their doctoral dissertations.
While ASAFAS essentially consists of this five-year doctoral program, it is also possible to compete the pre-doctoral thesis by the second year. In such cases, students may receive a master’s degree and effectively conclude the program at that point.
Finally, it might appear that graduate students have a great deal of free time. In reality, however, there are few boundaries between uptime and downtime in their everyday life, with students tending to stay extremely busy. Whether it is the five-year program mentioned above, the two-year plan, or whichever other plan, the time when they conduct their research as well as other aspects of the research will vary according to the specific theme being addressed. For further details, please feel free to consult with our faculty members by e-mail. Of course, you write e-mail by English. E-mail address is here.