The PhD Program
It is expected that students learn the skills necessary to produce valuable research and present its results. Typically this is done by developing a close working relationship with one or more faculty members and co-authoring research papers with them. In this way the student begins as an apprentice and finishes with a substantial research record. The goals of this apprenticeship include presenting papers at professional meetings, submitting papers to professional journals, and participating in the preparation of grant proposals for research funding.
The requirements in the right column are viewed as the milestones in terms of which student progress is evaluated. If accomplished in timely fashion, the student will merit continued funding. In the final two years the student is expected to gain experience teaching at the university level.
|Coursework: Classical Theory (SOCL 7121), Methods (SOCL 7211), Statistics I (SOCL 7201), and Pro-seminar (SOCL 7903), for a total of 10 credit hours|
|First year spring||Statistics II (SOCL 7203) and two Electives,* for a total of 9 credit hours|
|Second year fall||In addition to nine hours of coursework: (1) Establish committee of three members, (2) Determine whether an empirical research paper or MA thesis will be written, and (3) Determine the content of the paper or thesis.|
|Second year spring||Nine hours of coursework, possibly including six hours of SOCL 8900 for the empirical research paper or six hours of SOCL 8000 for the MA thesis. Complete the empirical paper or thesis.|
|In addition to coursework, (1) Establish General Examination Committee of three members, (2) Determine whether the general exam will be a standard exam or an review paper (see below), and (3) Determine content of exam or review paper.|
|Third year spring||In addition to Pro-seminar (7903) and coursework: Take general exam or review paper.|
|Fourth year fall||Dissertation proposal|
|Fourth year spring||Writing dissertation|
* Although not required for MA degrees, SOCL 7213 (6 credits) and SOCL 7131 (3 credits) are required for PhD degrees. It is recommended that these courses be completed early in the program.
Admission to the Ph.D Program
Students may be permitted to transfer credits at the graduate level from another institution. The maximum number of transfer credits depends upon each student’s situation. Also, students who received a master’s degree at another institution may request for exemption from the empirical research paper or MA thesis requirement after their first two semesters in the program. The student’s committee will review the student’s request (and have meeting with the student, if necessary) and notify the graduate director of their decision in writing. If approved, the student is exempt from the empirical research paper or MA thesis and awarded 6 hours of Research in Sociology (SOCL 8900) or MA Thesis (SOCL 8000).
Graduate students, at the request of the graduate director, will submit an annual report summarizing their academic activities during the past year.
Prior to writing a dissertation, each Ph.D. student must take and pass a general examination. The objective of the general exam is to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the literature in a student’s declared areas of expertise. Students are eligible to write and defend their general exam in the semester they are completing their final course requirements (excluding dissertation credits) or at a later date. A general exam may be taken sooner if their committee allows an exception. The general exam is a committee-driven process. Subject matter and exam structure are determined between students and their chair/committee members, within the parameters outlined below.
Preparing for the general exam starts with selecting a dissertation chair and committee (see below for committee requirements). Together with their chair and committee, each student develops and finalizes a reading list. Because the general exam enables Ph.D. students to gain expertise in broad areas of sociology, the reading list should be much broader in coverage than references for their dissertation. In consultation with their committee, the student selects two or more substantive areas of sociological research for the exam, such as “Work” and “Family” or “Deviance” and “Mental Health.” The American Sociological Association’s list of current sections can be helpful in choosing substantive areas, but is not an exhaustive list of the options available.
The general exam is based on this reading list and includes a written component and an oral defense. In consultation with their committee, the student may select one of two formats for the general exam’s writing component, as outlined below: 1) a written examination OR 2) a review paper. Each option requires an oral defense, typically administered two weeks after the written exam is completed or review paper is submitted to the committee for assessment.
Written Examination: For written examinations, students begin by selecting a target date for the exam and defense. With their chair and committee members, students create a reading list (see above) that organizes their exam preparation. After their reading list is finalized and approved, students should take approximately 3-5 months to study and complete the written exam and oral defense. The written exam can be: a) open- or closed-book and administered on campus, taking a maximum of eight hours (held during one day or two consecutive days) or b) open-book and take-home, taking multiple days (maximum of one week). Committee members will consider the difficulty of each procedure when assessing performance. Example questions are available here.
Review Paper: With the approval of their chair and committee, a student can replace the written examination with a review paper. This paper is a critical review of the literature in the substantive areas of sociology their reading list covers. Once the reading list is approved by the committee, it operates as a working bibliography for the review paper. It is assumed that additional sources will be discovered in the course of writing and that those sources will be added to the list and cited in the paper. In terms of content, the paper should present and analyze the development of concepts, theory, methodology, and substantive issues in the selected substantive areas. It should both analyze and synthesize the literature(s) covered. The concluding section of the paper should: a) summarize major points made in the paper; b) provide evidence of the author’s unique perspective on the areas and their projections of the direction(s) new research in the areas might proceed. Students should take approximately 3-5 months from the time their initial reading list is approved by the committee to complete the review paper and oral defense.
After the reading list is finalized and a time/date is chosen for the oral defense, the student submits the Doctoral Degree Request for Doctoral Examination and Degree Audit form. Every student must consult the Director of Graduate Studies before turning in the form to avoid errors. The form must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the date of the General Exam’s oral defense. After the form is submitted, the Graduate School will choose a Dean’s Representative and will notify the committee chair so they can provide that person a copy of the written exam or review paper prior to the oral defense. If a committee member cannot be physically present and is going to participate remotely, students should review the guidelines for remote participation and, if eligible, should submit a Request for Remote Participation in Graduate Committees form at the same time as the Examination Request and Degree Audit form.
At the General Exam oral defense, the committee chair or graduate secretary prepares the exam results form, which is signed and submitted to the Graduate School after the oral exam is complete. The oral defense often starts with the student delivering a short discussion of their exam answers or review paper. The bulk of the oral defense involves the student answering questions about their exam answers or review paper. Provided that the committee tells them beforehand, students may be asked about questions on the exam that they chose not to answer or readings from the list that they did not include in their paper. Students should meet with their committee chair to clarify oral exam expectations. Once the oral defense is completed, the committee assigns a pass/retake grade. After a retake, a pass/fail grade is given. If a student receives a retake for the review paper option, they may be directed to take the written exam, as described above.
Committee for the General Examination and Dissertation
The student's PhD Committee is composed of a minimum of three graduate faculty members from sociology department and the Dean's Representative (designated by the Graduate School upon General Exam application). The student may substitute one of them for a graduate faculty member from another department, if it is decided appropriate by the committee chair and approved by the departmental chair or graduate advisor. At least two of the three committee members (other than the Dean's Representative) have to be a full graduate faculty. If the student declares an official minor, a faculty member in the minor field must be included in the committee (in addition to the two sociology faculty members).
Before a PhD student begins the dissertation research, approval of a proposal by the dissertation committee is required. The student should submit the dissertation proposal to each of the committee members at least two weeks prior to a scheduled meeting with the committee. Members of the committee may approve the proposal, suggest changes in the proposal, or reject the proposal. After the committee has approved the proposal, one copy with an approval sheet signed by all committee members must be placed in the student's file (see example form linked in #1 below). The proposal defense must be done at least one semester before the final oral exam on the dissertation. Any major changes in the research design must be approved by all committee members.
The proposal should generally include the following items:
Final Examination: Defense of the Dissertation
a. Application for Degree
Go to the Enrolled Student Forms page for required forms.
• Failed: The student is not recommended for the continuance of study toward the degree.
• Probationary Continuance: The candidate is required to remedy certain deficiencies in knowledge and/or to do further work on the dissertation. At least one semester must elapse before the granting of the second examination. The outcome of the second examination is restricted to Pass or Fail.