Program Requirements


The PhD program is a six-year degree program. Although students will normally earn a master’s degree on the way to the PhD, we do not offer a stand-alone master’s degree program. All required coursework is meant to be completed within the first three years, although students may continue to take elective courses after the third year. The program is designed in an integrated and streamlined way so that students have ample opportunity to develop research on their own and with faculty and peers. 

Research Collaboration with Faculty

In their first three semesters, students will engage in a required collaborative research project with their faculty mentor. These research collaborations will integrate students into a faculty member’s research.  Students will work closely with their faculty mentor on a particular project, ideally resulting in a jointly-authored publication early in students’ program of study. Research collaborations will often continue informally past the 3rd semester. 

Core Courses

Professional Development

The course serves as an introduction to professional socialization for first-year graduate students. In addition to orientating students to the department and the discipline, the course will demystify various aspects of the academy and provide tips for navigating graduate school and beyond. Sample topics include: the hidden curriculum of graduate school, being a good colleague and advisee, professional organizations, managing references, reading articles and books, research ethics, applying for external grants and fellowships, developing cv’s, giving effective research presentations, the publication process, attending academic conferences, professional networking, public engagement and social media, and preparing for different types of jobs and job markets.


Central Questions and Approaches in Sociology

This is a crash course in some of the most important and prominent questions, research programs, and methodological approaches in the discipline. Students will read a series of major books and articles and discuss current trends, debates, or emerging areas in sociology.  The course also works to connect lines of scholarly research with practical problems. Students will also have a chance to think creatively about where they fit in the discipline: what questions, assumptions, or arguments need further scrutiny and how they might productively engage in central debates in the field through their own emerging research.

Sociological Theory ​​​​​​​

This course will introduce students to classical and contemporary theoretical paradigms that are frequently used in sociological research. Students will be encouraged to consider not just the generally accepted sociological canon, but to assess how that canon is itself sociologically constructed. To that end, students will read not just work by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Goffman, but will also consider other, often overlooked theorists such as W.E.B. DuBois, Ibn Khaldun, and Patricia Hill Collins. This class will thus provide students with a broad overview of theoretical approaches and encourage familiarity with how these paradigms can be used to develop sociological research.

Research Design

This course covers the fundamentals of sociological research design, including the formation of research questions and testable hypotheses, the relationship between theory and empirical research, issues of measurement and sampling, the choice of appropriate data collection methods and analytic techniques, causal inference, assessment and critique of research, and the writing of research proposals. Emphasis is placed on principles that are applicable in various kinds of research, such as surveys, participant observation, comparative historical studies, experiments, qualitative interviews, and secondary data analysis. By the end of this course, students will have developed a concrete research proposal for their master’s thesis. 

Quantitative Methods

This two-course sequence will teach students how to conceptualize, conduct, interpret, and evaluate common statistical techniques used by sociologists. We will cover static and dynamic models for continuous and discrete outcomes, as well as introduce more advanced topics including causal inference and computational methods. Learning will be hands-on and involve working with common sociological datasets as well as communicating analyses and results through writing and presentations. We will also focus on how to find problems with existing data and statistical analyses, and how to best avoid or minimize these flaws. Students will learn how to conduct most of these analyses in STATA, but we will also do some introductory work with R. By the end of this sequence students will be prepared to conduct their own, independent quantitative analyses and to successfully complete additional (optional) coursework or self-directed study on more advanced statistical topics.

Qualitative Methods

The goals of this course are (1) to examine the epistemology, politics, practice, and ethics of qualitative methods, (2) to explore the strengths and limitations of these approaches, and (3) to develop the skills to design, collect, analyze, and write using qualitative data. Students will read exemplary canonical and contemporary books and articles that use a variety of qualitative methods. We will evaluate how different researchers approach developing research questions, field site and case study selection, gaining entrée, building rapport and trust, note taking and audio recording, the nuts and bolts of conducting interviews and observation, and reflexivity in the field, among others. Students will gain hands-on experience with interview and field observation techniques, data analysis, and writing. By the end of the class, students will possess the skills necessary to independently design and undertake a rigorous qualitative research project from conception to write-up, and the ability to evaluate qualitative studies conducted by others.

Professional Writing

This seminar is designed to help students complete their master’s thesis and to guide them through the process of crafting a journal article and submitting it for publication. Students will learn to deconstruct the key elements in academic journal articles, and will revise their own papers accordingly. Topics covered include: refining research questions, building an argument, framing research in the appropriate literature, writing up and presenting data, methods, and findings, bringing elements together in the abstract, introduction, discussion, and concluding sections, selecting journals for submission, and the nuts and bolts of the submission and review process. For the final assignment, students will submit their master’s thesis for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. 


Other substantive or methods courses in sociology will be offered that reflect our faculty’s research and methodological areas of expertise. With departmental approval, advanced methods courses may be taken in other departments and count towards degree requirements. 

Master's Thesis

The Master’s thesis/empirical paper as an important milestone and a major publication opportunity.  Midway through the second year, students will have assembled a committee of three faculty members and received detailed collective feedback on their research. By the end of the summer after their second year, students will complete a draft of their thesis/paper and submit it to their advisor for a feedback. By the end of the fifth semester, students will have polished their thesis/paper in the professional writing seminar, defended it before their faculty committee, and submitted the research for publication. 

Mentored Experiences

Students participate in a Mentored Experience for at least three semesters. At least two of those will be Mentored Teaching Experiences (MTEs), and one may be a Mentored Professional Experience (MPE). Most students will engage in a Mentored Teaching Experience for three semesters.

Mentored Teaching Experience

In the Fall and Spring semesters of the second year, students work with faculty members as they design or revise a course syllabus and assignments, and then engage deeply in the class. This can include, for instance, attending class and helping to facilitate discussions, evaluating students’ work, and meeting with students outside of class.  Doctoral students at this point will also take a Foundations of Teaching workshop offered by the Teaching Center

In the third semester of MTE, doctoral students might rotate to a different style of course (from a small seminar to a larger course, for instance) and will take a more active role in classroom activities.  The student might take responsibility for leading some classes (or parts of classes) with the faculty instructor present; faculty will provide feedback in a follow-up discussion.  While the vast majority of MTE assignments will be in undergraduate courses, it is possible that MTE assignments could be in a graduate course when the department needs and student capabilities make such an assignment desirable. After three semesters of MTE, students would have the option to design and teach their own course in their 4th or 5th years, usually through University College or the Summer School. 

Students who plan to pursue a career in higher education are strongly encouraged to complete the Teaching Center’s Teaching Citation Program.  In addition to five teaching workshops, this program provides for specific evaluation of a graduate student’s teaching in ways that can be completed concurrently with the MTE program. This program provides resources to develop a strong teaching portfolio for the academic job market.

Mentored Professional Experience

Students may elect to take a one-semester Mentored Professional Experience (MPE) instead of a third semester of MTE. This is an initiative by the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences for students to explore career options and develop additional professional skills. This could be an internship or a research project developed by the student in collaboration with a partner organization. In addition to meeting the minimum requirements outlined by the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences, the department would need to approve the specific MPE plan as being sufficiently linked to a student’s existing skills and knowledge or need for additional skill development.  The MPE is just one avenue for facilitating internships and career preparation.  Students will also be encouraged to take internships and build their networks outside the Mentored Experience requirements.

Professional Socialization

Graduate students will be expected to participate in the following activities: 

Departmental Colloquium

Our speaker series, in which scholars from other universities present their research to the department, forms a key part of our departmental intellectual life. In addition to attending and participating in the Q&A discussions, graduate students will be invited to nominate potential colloquium speakers.  

Departmental Workshops

We will periodically offer workshops geared towards the professional development needs of our students. Sample topics might include:  

  • preparing for the academic job market 
  • networking and social media
  • writing for the public
  • grant writing 

Departmental Mini-Conferences

The department holds mini-conferences in which department members, including postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, present and receive feedback on their research.  

Qualifying Exam Paper

After completing the required coursework and the Master’s thesis/empirical paper, students will write one qualifying exam paper that demonstrates their expertise in two particular sub-fields of the discipline. Students will choose two reading lists developed by the faculty, which will contain central contributions to major areas of study, such as Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Family, Immigration, Political Sociology and Social Movements, Economic Sociology, Health, Work and Organizations, Social Policy and Practice, Policing and Criminal Justice, and Education.  Students will be encouraged to add supplemental readings that pertain to their specific emerging research interests.  

After reading the material on the two lists, students will write a single paper that identifies important areas of overlap or divergence in the two sociological sub-fields, applies insights from one sub-field to another, or otherwise reviews the existing research in a novel way. This process should produce a paper with original insights, potentially suitable for publication in one of several journals that explicitly welcomes agenda-setting or review articles. This paper will typically be completed by the end of the third year. 

Dissertation Proposal

After completing the qualifying exam, students should write a dissertation proposal, describing the motivation and plan for their research. They will receive feedback on drafts of the proposal from a committee they have assembled, consisting of at least three faculty members. A final dissertation proposal must be defended before the committee, no later than the second semester of the fourth year.


The Ph.D. dissertation should be an integrated, coherent, and original work.  It may be modeled on a book manuscript that builds from an introduction and description of the research to a series of empirical chapters.  Or it may take a “three paper” format, in which each chapter takes the form of a paper that could be submitted for publication on its own.  According to the Office of Graduate Studies in Arts & Sciences' requirements, the dissertation must be defended before a committee of five faculty members, including at least three faculty members from this department and one person from another department or university. 

Timeline of Coursework and Milestones

Year 1

Fall Semester

  • Research collaboration with mentor
  • Professional Development 
  • Central Questions and Approaches in Sociology
  • Sociological Theory
  • Stats/Quantitative Methods I

Spring Semester

  • Research collaboration with mentor
  • Stats/Quantitative Methods II
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Elective

Summer Semester

  • Research collaboration with mentor

Year 2

Fall Semester

  • Research collaboration with mentor
  • Research Design
  • Electives
  • Mentored Teaching Experience

Spring Semester

  • Electives
  • Master’s Thesis Research
  • Mentored Teaching Experience

Summer Semester

  • Master’s Thesis Research – complete first draft

Year 3

Fall Semester

  • Professional Writing – complete Master’s thesis and submit for publication
  • Mentored Teaching Experience or Mentored Professional Experience
  • Elective(s)

Spring Semester

  • Qualifying Exam Paper
  • Begin developing dissertation proposal

Summer Semester

  • Continue work on dissertation proposal and preliminary dissertation research

Year 4

  • Defend dissertation proposal
  • Continue dissertation work

Year 5

  • Continue dissertation work

Year 6

  • Complete and defend dissertation