PhD Program Requirements

The PhD program requires course work, successful completion of two comprehensive examinations, and the completion of a PhD Dissertation. Throughout their PhD program, students are expected to be involved in professors’ projects. This work helps students gain first-hand experience in conducting research, from the formulation of the research question to the completion of the research paper. In most cases, students have the opportunity to present their work with professors at professional conferences and subsequently to publish this work.

Course work

Students in the program are required to have two years of residence and to complete ten half-year courses (5.0 FCE). As part of their ten courses, students are required to take the following courses:

  • SOC 6101H Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • SOC 6707H Intermediate Data Analysis
  • SOC 6511H Professional Development Seminar I (taken in the Fall term of the first year PhD program) (beginning with students admitted for the Fall 2017 session)
  • SOC 6611H Professional Development Seminar II (taken in the Fall term of the third year PhD program)
  • SOC 6711Y Research Practicum

[A full-course (Y) counts as two half-courses.] If a student has already taken any of these courses at the graduate level, they may petition the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies to have other courses substituted.

Comprehensive Examinations

In addition to course work, students are required to take two comprehensive examinations in the two chosen major fields of sociology. The comprehensive examination helps students familiarize themselves with the literature in the field and synthesize the literature in order to address research issues, and it provides broad background preparation for teaching in the field in the future. Comprehensive exams may be taken in the following areas: Sociology of Crime and Law; Sociology of Culture; Family; Gender; Health & Mental Health; Immigration and Ethnicity; Life Course and Aging; Political Sociology; Qualitative Methods and Quantitative Methods; Social Demography; Social Networks; Social Policy; Theory; Urban Sociology; Work, Stratification and Markets.

Faculty in each comprehensive area provide a reading list updated on a yearly basis. Reading lists are prepared and available for the eight core areas of specialization in the department (Sociology of Crime and Law; Sociology of Culture; Gender; Health & Mental Health; Immigration and Ethnicity; Political Sociology; Social Networks; and Work, Stratification and Markets) as well as theory and qualitative and quantitative methods. Area committees appoint three committee members to serve as the examining committee for a given year. Areas listed above without lists (Social Policy, Life Course & Aging, Urban Sociology and Social Demography) will have lists created on an adhoc basis when a student wishes to take an exam in this area. Students should notify the graduate director at least six months prior to the start of studying for the exams, so committees may be struck.

Browse the Comprehensive Exam page to see current committees, reading lists and details of our comprehensive exam policy.

We advise students  to take core courses related to the fields in which they plan to be examined prior to taking the exam. These courses are designed to help students understand the major developments and debates in the field.

PhD Dissertation

In preparation for the PhD thesis, PhD candidates must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of a language other than English if an additional language is deemed essential for satisfactory completion of research for the thesis.

The final stage in the PhD process involves completing an independent dissertation research project with the supervision of a committee, normally composed of three members. This begins with a thesis proposal that students defend before their committee prior to beginning their research. The proposal and its defense should demonstrate the students’ knowledge, the importance of the proposed research questions, the strategies for exploring the questions, and the likelihood of completing the research in a reasonable time frame.

Following a successful PhD thesis proposal defense, students advance to the status of Doctoral Candidate and commence their dissertation research, analysis and writing, all in close consultation with their committee members. Upon completion of the research project the final oral exam is scheduled. Once both the candidate and the committee is pleased with the dissertation, they schedule a PhD oral exam. This marks the final step in completing the PhD program.

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