LSU Sociology Doctoral Program
As a PhD granting department, we admit all students into our doctoral program and guide them through the milestones needed for successful, timely completion: MA Defense, Completing course work, General Defense, Dissertation Proposal Defense, and Final Doctoral Defense. The MA coursework typically takes about two years to complete and most of our students complete the remaining coursework required for the PhD by the end of their third year. All admitted students have seven years to complete their PhD, though most students complete the program in five to six years.
To help us guide our doctoral students, we strive to keep updated records of each student's scholarly accomplishments and activities, and progression through the PhD milestones, through annual reports submitted at the end of each academic year. Annual reports are also necessary to ensure that all graduate students maintain satisfactory academic standing. Annual reports are submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and, after forming a committee, to chair of the doctoral committee.
Transfers from Other Institutions
Students who have completed graduate level courses at other institutions may be permitted
to transfer credits toward course requirements at LSU. The maximum number of transfer
credits depends upon each student’s situation. All incoming students must take all
required core courses at LSU (SOCL 7121, 7131, 7201, 7203, and 7211). Students who
have taken equivalent graduate level courses at other universities have an option
to “test out” of core courses. Students interested in testing out of core courses
should contact the Director of Graduate Studies. Transferred courses must be sufficiently
distinct from courses taken at LSU (for example, a student should not transfer in
a graduate seminar on Stratification and take the LSU stratification course, too).
To request to transfer credits, students should provide course syllabi to their committee
chair. The student’s committee will review the student’s request (and meet with the
student, if necessary) and notify the Director of Graduate Studies of their decision
in writing. The student will earn the LSU course equivalent number of credit hours
for each approved course transfer.
Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)
All PhD students must earn an MA at LSU by completing the required coursework and
defending an empirical paper or thesis. The MA coursework requirements are based on
the philosophy that the MA program should be broad in its orientation. Successful
completion of the degree provides students with a background to conduct meaningful
scholarly research, and to go on to complete a PhD in sociology. The minimum course
requirements include 36 hours of graduate work. Core courses (classical theory, methods,
and two statistics courses) should be completed in the first year. See details concerning
credit-hours and the course sequence under Graduate Course Requirements. Students may be permitted to transfer some coursework at the graduate level from
In addition to completing required coursework, students must successfully write and orally defend before a faculty committee, a thesis or an empirical research paper. This process typically begins with students forming an MA committee by the end of the first year of graduate study. The committee must be composed of a minimum of three graduate faculty members. If it is decided appropriate by the committee chair and approved by the departmental chair or Director of Graduate Studies, one graduate faculty member from another department may serve on an MA committee. At least one of the committee members must be a full member of the graduate faculty (i.e., rank of Associate or Full Professor). If the student has a minor, a representative from the minor department must also be on the committee.
Before the final semester (generally the spring semester of the second year), and in consultation with the MA committee chair, each student must decide whether to write an empirical research paper or an MA thesis. Most students choose the empirical paper option (also referred to as the non-thesis option) which is designed to introduce students to scholarly writing in a form that is consistent with publishing papers in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal in sociology. As empirical research papers are not considered theses, they are not subject to the formatting requirements for all theses and dissertations which are published in a national database. Each student’s committee chair will provide more information about the specific requirements of an empirical research paper, which, at the discretion of the committee chair may build upon research from a previous master's program at another institution and must meet any added requirements of the committee. Those choosing the empirical research paper option may enroll in SOCL 8900 (Research in Sociology) while writing their paper, but this is not a requirement.
The MA thesis option is also available to all our students, and it is sometimes required for international students as a condition of their funding. Students pursuing the thesis option must write an original thesis at LSU. The format of the thesis may be similar to that of the empirical paper, or it may be more expansive and divided into sections or chapters, depending on the guidance of each student’s committee chair and the requirements of the LSU Graduate School for publishing in the national database of theses and dissertations. Students who elect to write an MA thesis must complete six hours of SOCL 8000 (MA Thesis Research), supervised by the MA committee chair. The MA committee chair must agree to the content of the thesis before the student is permitted to enroll in the course. Students who elect to write an empirical research paper should not enroll in SOCL 8000, as this course is strictly for the thesis option.
For both the thesis option and the empirical research paper (non-thesis) options, an oral Master’s Defense is required in accordance with normal procedures of the Graduate School. To schedule a Master’s Defense, the student must submit the following two documents to the Graduate School:
- Request for Master's Defense and Degree Audit
- Application for Degree (online form)
Students should always download paperwork from the Graduate School, to ensure they use the most recent version. Most forms include this instruction: Email submission to email@example.com. To avoid errors, we ask each MA candidate to follow the following procedure:
- Download and complete both forms, following the directions given on the Graduate School website and on the forms themselves,
- Email the Request for Master's Defense and Degree Audit form to the Director of Graduate Studies to check. Email the confirmation of receipt after submitting the online Application for Degree form to the Director of Graduate Studies to keep with our graduate student records.
- Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members, and
- Submit the forms to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and make a copy for your file. The Administrative Coordinator will then submit the forms to the Graduate School via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and copy the student and DGS in the email. After receiving the submissions, the Graduate School will then send the required examination report forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.
Consulting with the DGS before submitting the forms is critical. MA forms must be submitted by the deadline indicated on the Graduate School Calendar, (typically, late January for Spring semester; early September for Fall semester; or mid June for Summer term). Consult the Graduate School Calendar to determine the latest possible date to file in order to graduate in a particular semester. In addition, both MA forms must be submitted three weeks prior to the date of the exam (students planning to defend early in a semester must be aware of the 3-week stipulation). The empirical paper or thesis must be submitted to the student's committee at least two weeks prior to the MA Defense.
On completion of the MA Exam, the MA committee will assign one of four grades to be filed with the Graduate School in a timely manner:
- Pass Plus: The candidate successfully completed and defended the thesis or empirical paper, and is recommended for automatic continuation with the PhD program
- Terminal Pass: The candidate has successfully completed and defended the thesis or empirical paper, but did not demonstrate to the committee adequate academic and professional aptitudes to continue in the PhD program. The student will earn an MA degree, but they will also be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the candidate failed to demonstrate adequate ability
- Retake: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the thesis or empirical paper and that additional analysis and/or writing is required. The committee may also require a second oral defense. The committee will provide specific feedback on the remaining requirements. Only one Retake is allowed; if a retake is assigned and a second defense is scheduled, the only grades that can be reported for the second defense are Pass Plus, Terminal Pass, or Fail.
- Fail: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the thesis or empirical paper. The student will be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the defense was failed.
The PhD program in sociology is designed to prepare the student for a career that
combines both research and teaching in one or more areas of the discipline. A broad
general knowledge of sociological theory and research methods is required of all students.
In addition, students should develop a strong specialty area and establish a research
program in that area.
It is expected that students learn the skills necessary to produce original research. 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, publishing papers in professional journals, and participating in the preparation of grant proposals for research funding.
The requirements in the right column are the milestones in terms of which student progress is evaluated. Starting in the fourth year the student is expected to gain experience teaching at the university level.
|Dissertation: Complete dissertation proposal
|Dissertation: Write dissertation
|Dissertation: Write dissertation
|Dissertation: Defend dissertation
Upon completing an MA (or receiving an exemption), each student must take and pass
a general doctoral defense. The objective of the general defense is to demonstrate
a comprehensive understanding of the literature in a student’s declared areas of expertise.
Students are eligible to schedule their general defense during the semester in which
they are completing their final course requirements (not including dissertation credits,
SOCL 9000) or at a later date. 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 defense starts with selecting a dissertation chair and committee. Though not a requirement, it is common for dissertation committee members to be the same as the MA committee members. The student's PhD Committee is composed of a minimum of three graduate faculty members and the Dean's Representative (designated by the Graduate School). The student may choose one graduate faculty member from another department, if it is decided appropriate by the committee chair and approved by the departmental chair or Director of Graduate Studies. For a PhD committee, at least two of the three committee members (other than the Dean's Representative) have to be a full members of the graduate faculty (usually, associate and full professors have full graduate faculty member status). If the student declares an official minor, a faculty member in the minor field must be included in the committee (in addition to the minimum of two sociology faculty members).
Together with the committee chair and committee members, each student develops and finalizes a reading list. Because the general exam enables PhD 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 Defense 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. Click here for sample general exam questions.
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 prepare for the written exam and oral defense. The written exam can be: (a) open- or closed-book and administered on campus, taking no more than eight hours on a given day (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.
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 likely 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 may begin writing once their outline has been approved by their committee. Students should take approximately 3-5 months from the time their initial reading list/outline is approved by their committee to complete the review paper and oral defense.
After a reading list is finalized, the candidate should consult with the committee
chair to select a date, time, and location (building and room number) for the oral
defense. Every student must consult the Director of Graduate Studies before submitting
paperwork for the General Exam.
To avoid errors, we ask each candidate to follow the following procedure:
- Download and complete the Request for Doctoral General Defense and Degree Audit form from the Graduate School, following the directions given on the Graduate School website and on the form itself.
- Email copies of the completed forms to the Director of Graduate Studies to check.
- Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members.
- Submit the completed forms, signed by all committee members, to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies, make a copy for the student’s file, and submit the forms to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will then send the required examination results forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.
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 from another department 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 Remote Graduate Committee Participation guidelines and, if necessary, complete the required form.
Before the oral exam, the candidate should get the exam report form from the Administrative Coordinator and give it to the committee chair. At the discretion of the committee chair, the oral defense may start 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 on the exam report form. If a retake is assigned, the committee will provide specific feedback as to why the student did not pass. The committee will decide how long the student has to retake the general exam. If a student receives a retake for the review paper option, the committee may direct the student to take the written exam, as described above, for the second attempt. After a second attempt, the committee may only assign pass/fail grades. If a fail is given, the committee will provide specific reasons for why the student did not pass.
After graduate students pass the General Examination, they are “advanced to candidacy” and begin work toward their dissertation and final examination.
Dissertation Proposal Defense
Before a PhD candidate begins the dissertation research, approval of a proposal by
the dissertation committee is required. The candidate works with their committee chair’s
input to draft their proposal. After the committee chair’s approval, 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. At the proposal defense, members
of the committee may approve the proposal, suggest changes in the proposal, or reject
the proposal. The proposal defense is strictly a departmental matter, and the Graduate
School is not notified of the defense date or its outcome. Thus, the attendance of
Dean’s Representative at the proposal defense is optional, although it is recommended
to ask if they are interested in participating as a courtesy. After the committee
has approved the proposal, one copy of the approval sheet signed by all committee members must be placed in the candidate's file. 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:
- Approval sheet and title page
- Subject of the dissertation
- Preliminary review of the literature
- Conceptual statement of the problem or clear explanation of the research questions.
- Research procedure and methodology
- Timetable, including when data are to be collected, when analysis and writing will be done, and target date for completion
- General bibliography (typically in ASA Style)
Final Doctoral Defense
PhD candidates typically work very closely with their committee chair while completing
dissertation research and writing. Candidates should consult with their committee
chair to determine when they will be ready for their final dissertation defense. The
Graduate School considers the written dissertation and the final (oral) dissertation
defense as integrative; it is not possible to pass one and fail the other.
To schedule the Final Dissertation Defense, the Graduate School requires all candidates to submit the following two forms:
- Application for Doctoral Degree (online form)
- Request for Final Doctoral Defense
Candidates should always download the most up-to-date version of these forms from the Graduate School.
To avoid errors, we ask each PhD candidate to follow the following procedure:
- Complete both forms, following the directions given from the Graduate School and on the forms themselves,
- Email the Request for Final Doctoral Defense form to the Director of Graduate Studies to check. Email the confirmation of receipt after submitting the online Application for Degree form to the Director of Graduate Studies to keep with our graduate student records.
- Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members, and
- Submit the forms to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), make a copy for your file, and submit the forms to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will then send the required examination results forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.
The deadlines for submitting forms are listed on the Graduate School’s Calendar (typically, late January for Spring semester; early September for Fall semester;
and mid-June for Summer term). In addition, both forms must be submitted at least
three weeks before the date of the final dissertation defense. Candidates must distribute
their dissertation manuscript to all committee members (including the Dean's Representative)
at least two weeks prior to the final examination. This committee should be composed
of the same faculty members as for the General Examination and who approved the dissertation
proposal, though this rule recognizes exceptions.
The final doctoral examination is an oral defense. At the dissertation defense, the candidate should get the Administrative Coordinator to prepare the Exam Results Form and Doctoral Examination and Dissertation Report from the Administrative Coordinator and give both forms to the committee chair. The committee may render one of three decisions regarding the outcome of the exam:
- Pass: The candidate has successfully defended the dissertation and is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology.
- Fail: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the dissertation. The student will be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the defense was failed.
- Retake: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the dissertation. Additional work, which includes a second oral defense, is required. The committee must provide specific feedback on the remaining requirements. The final grade of Pass or Fail must be filed with the Graduate School by the end of the next regular semester.
After the oral defense, the committee chair and Administrative Coordinator submit
the Exam Report to the Graduate School. For the degree to be awarded at the end of
the semester, candidates must submit their approved dissertation manuscript to the
Graduate School by the Thesis and Dissertation Uploading Deadline (typically, late October for Fall semester; mid-March for Spring semester; and late
June for Summer term). Consult the Graduate School Calendar for the submission deadlines.
The graduate school has more detailed information on final steps and requirements for earning a PhD, including formatting requirements for dissertations and, for those planning to walk, arranging for the cap, gown, and hood needed at the commencement ceremony.