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Graduate studies in the Department of Sociology focus on guiding students who have excelled as consumers of knowledge through the transition to becoming producers of scholarship. Students are encouraged to initiate independent research projects early on and to work closely with a range of faculty—through coursework, research assistantships, independent study, and informal mentoring—to develop research skills. Undergraduate concentration in sociology is not a prerequisite for admission. The program is primarily designed for students interested in pursuing academic careers, but it is also oriented toward students with skills and applications that are relevant for employment in government and the private sector.

The course of study is oriented toward two goals. The first is competence in the foundations of sociological analysis, including sociological theory, research methods, and social statistics. The second is demonstrated potential for making significant contributions to the sociological literature, as evidenced by the satisfactory completion of major research papers, mastery of knowledge in specialized fields, and, finally, the dissertation.

The foundations of sociological analysis include: (1) a knowledge of general sociological theory, including its basic concepts, their historical antecedents, and the logic of inquiry; and (2) competence in research methods, including computer applications and qualitative methods.

Students may also obtain a joint degree in sociology and social policy via a collaborative training program through the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.  Students interested in the joint degree have the option of applying to it at the time of their initial application to the Graduate School or transferring into the program after their first or second year of graduate study with the permission of the relevant directors of graduate study.


Students’ programs of study are established in consultation with their academic advisers and with the director of graduate studies and vary according to individual interests, capabilities, and prior training.  The program does not accept transfer credits for previous graduate work at other institutions.

Students normally establish competency in theory by completing the work of the following seminar courses: SOC 501 Classical Sociological Theory, and SOC 502 Contemporary Sociological Theory.

All students must take SOC 503 Techniques and Methods of Social Science and at least two semesters of work in quantitative methods, beginning at an appropriate level given their previous training. In additionl to required courses, students are encouraged to consider additional methodological courses (in statistics, as well as such methods as ethnography, historical methods, network analysis, computational modeling, microsociological analysis, or machine learning) offered in the Department of Sociology and throughout the University. 


Students are expected to master langauge skills necessary for satisfactory dissertation research.

Pre-Generals Requirements(s):

Writing Requirement

Each student is expected to write two empirical papers, exemplifying distinctive modes of sociological inquiry. The papers should be written in a form suitable for submission for publication and may deal with any legitimate topic within the discipline. One of the papers must be a quantitative study, written in conjunction with SOC 505 Research Seminar in Empirical Investigation. The other may be quantitative or qualitative, and is ordinarily advised by two department faculty members with relevant expertise. The second paper must be completed no later than the end of the third year of enrollment.

General Exam:

The general examination is normally taken in the third year, but can be taken as early as the end of the second year if all prerequisites have been fulfilled. It includes both a written and an oral component. Several options for the written component are available.

Qualifying for the M.A.:

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully completes all coursework, passes the general examination, and completes the two empirical papers at a satisfactory level. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.


All students are required to serve as “preceptors” (assistants in instruction) in courses taught by department faculty on several occasions, ordinarily during their second and third years of study.

Post-Generals Requirement(s):

Students must choose a dissertation committee and submit a draft dissertation prospectus no later than the end of this first semester of their fourth year of enrollment (that is, normally by January 15 of the fourth year).  They must submit a final dissertation prospectus to their committee members and meet with their committee no later than two months after the draft prospectus is due (that is, normally by March 15 of the fourth year). The prospectus contains a statement of the problem to be studied, an explanation of its theoretical relevance to sociology, a survey of pertinent literature, and a statement about the sources of data and methodological procedures to be employed. Dissertation plans must be approved by the student's committee before the student is permitted to re-enroll for the fifth year of study. 

Dissertation and FPO:

In their dissertation, students are expected to demonstrate command of a major theoretical issue in sociology and control of the empirical and theoretical literature relevant to their research topic. They must show high-level competence in research procedures, including design, analysis, and evaluation.

The Ph.D. is awarded only after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.

  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Transcripts
  • Fall Semester Grades
  • Prerequisite Tests
  • English Language Tests
  • Sample of written work.

For Ph.D. candidates, tuition and fees during a student’s regular period of enrollment are provided in full from a student’s graduate student financial support, in the form of tuition support from fellowships, assistantships, or external sources.

The annual stipend amount provided to Ph.D. candidates during their regular enrollment is intended to support a single graduate student based on estimated costs. Master’s students or students with spouses and/or dependents may require additional resources to support their living expenses 

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