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Degree Requirements

Graduate study in the department is characterized by both its broad intellectual reach and its scholarly and scientific depth. Our doctoral students are educated by and work closely with a nationally recognized, award-winning faculty who are highly respected in the field. The Department offers training in most major subfields of sociology, organized around seven broad areas of concentration.

Students may also work with faculty to develop individualized areas of specialization.

The Department works to update the Graduate Handbook each year. The follow degree requirements are for the 2019 Cohort and are subject to change for the upcoming 2022 Cohort.

Required Coursework

First Year:

Introduction to Graduate Studies (Fall term) - Sociology 500
Theories and Practices of Sociology I/II (Fall and Winter) - Sociology 505 & 506
Statistics (Fall and Winter term) - Sociology 510 and 610

Second Year:

Logics and Strategies of Sociological Research Inquiry (Fall term) - Sociology 507

First-Third Years:

  • Research Practicum (one of the following)
    • Qualitative Research Methods - Sociology 522 (523 optional)
    • Comparative and Historical Methods - Sociology 532 (533 optional)
    • Quantitative Practicum - Sociology 542 (543 optional)
    • Survey Methodology - Survey Methodology 600 (672, 673 optional)
  • Electives: A minimum of four electives:
    • Culture and Knowledge - Sociology 555
    • Economic Sociology - Sociology 515
    • Gender and Sexuality - Sociology 547
    • Health, Aging, and the Life Course - Sociology 575
    • Power, History, and Social Change - Sociology 560
    • Race and Ethnicity - Sociology 503
    • Social Demography - Sociology 530
    • Social Psychology - Sociology 590
    • Soc of Law - Sociology 653

*If students wish to take an additional sociology research methods course (above and beyond the methods requirements listed above), they may count one methods course as one of their general sociology electives.

*Other soc graduate courses may meet the department elective criteria. Please contact the grad office for specific course approvals.*Other soc graduate courses may meet the department elective criteria. Please contact the grad office for specific course approvals.

  • Cognate Requirements: One course at the graduate level (3 credits or more) offered through a department other than Sociology.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement: A .65 credit course which reviews the federal guidelines related to responsible research.
  • Students who are appointed as GSI’s must also enroll in a one-credit training course (Sociology 993) during or prior to the first semester teaching.

Achieving Candidacy


Preliminary Examination: All students are required to successfully complete two preliminary requirements in their first three years in the program. Usually in the summer after their first year, students will take a prelim exam in one of seven established program areas. Then, to fulfill their second prelim requirement, students will write an essay describing how two of the elective courses they have taken contribute to the breadth of their training by combining to constitute a specialty in an area that is different from their first prelim exam area.

Publishable Paper: Students must produce an original, scholarly paper of publishable quality. In order to enhance their competitiveness for the academic job market, students are encouraged to complete this publishable paper by the end of their third year in the program. At the latest, the proposal for the paper must be approved by the beginning of the fourth year and the paper must be completed and orally defended before a three person faculty committee (at least two of whom are tenured or tenure-track faculty in Sociology; joint program students must include at least one tenured or tenure-track faculty in Sociology) no later than May 31 of the fourth year.

The department also has joint degree programs with Social Work and Public Policy. The requirements of these programs may vary from the Sociology doctoral program – please contact the office for further information.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are expected to have achieved candidacy by the end of their third year. To be advanced to candidacy, the Rackham Graduate School requires:

  • all of the departmental coursework be completed,
  • preliminary examinations passed,
  • 3 cognate credits
  • a minimum of 22 hours of coursework completed.

Writing The Dissertation

Dissertation Prospectus

Students prepare a dissertation prospectus outlining the proposed dissertation research. The student’s dissertation committee will judge the adequacy of this prospectus. This requires that, at the time of the prospectus defense, the Department’s Dissertation Schedule Form be filled out and signed by all committee members.

Human Subjects (IRB) Approval

Any dissertation using direct human contact as a source of data must receive approval to conduct research involving human subjects from the University’s IRB Behavioral Sciences Committee.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee consists of at least four members. The Chair and at least one other member of every dissertation committee in Sociology must be a regular (voting) faculty member in the Department and at least one member has to hold a tenure-level title and have a minimum of a .50 appointment with the Department. Students are also required to choose one faculty person from an academic unit other than Sociology to serve as the cognate member of their committee. Dissertation committees are approved by the Dean of the Graduate School on the recommendation of the Department and may be formally appointed as soon as the student has been advanced to candidacy.

Evaluating the Dissertation

The dissertation committee assumes full responsibility for guiding the candidate’s dissertation work and for evaluating the oral defense. Only upon the dissertation committee’s recommendation may the candidate be awarded the Ph.D. degree.