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This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology

The Ph.D. curriculum and degree requirements are designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to become proficient scholars and teachers. Doctoral students in the department must take required courses for a letter grade if available and are expected to earn a grade of 'B+' or better in each course. Any grade of 'B' or below is considered to be less than satisfactory. Grades of 'B' or below are reviewed by faculty and the following actions may take place: the grade stands and the student's academic performance is monitored to ensure that satisfactory progress is being made; the grade stands and the student is required to revise and resubmit the work associated with that course; or the student may be required to retake the course. The following program requirements apply to students who entered the Ph.D program in 2010-11; students admitted prior to 2010 should consult the department or the Bulletin from their year of admission for requirements specific to their cohort.

Students must complete the following department requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Sociology:

  1. Students must enroll in SOC 305, Graduate Proseminar, in Autumn Quarter of the first year; the course provides an introduction and orientation to the field of sociology, and to the department and faculty. One unit of credit is given for this course; grading is on a satisfactory/no credit basis.
  2. Students are required to complete 45 units of course work in Sociology in the first academic year, then 15 units of Sociology course work in the second academic year. Course work excludes workshop, independent study, and directed reading units.
  3. Theory: Students are required to take at least two courses in sociological theory. One course should be in either macro-sociological theory (SOC 370A), or micro-sociological theory (SOC 370B), in the first year of the program. A second course, in research design, should be taken during the second year in the program (SOC 670 or SOC 372, when offered). Students without a background in Sociology are encouraged to enroll in SOC 370A as well as 370B.
  4. Methodology: Students are required to complete a series of courses in methodology as well as one methods elective. Students with little background in statistics are encouraged to take an undergraduate statistics course in their first quarter of the program. The required methods sequence, to be taken in order, is: SOC 381, SOC 382, SOC 383, then SOC 384.
  5. Survey Courses: Students must complete four broad survey courses to demonstrate command of a range of sociological literatures. Each year the department specifies which courses meet this requirement, and will undertake to ensure that an adequate selection of such courses is offered. A list of courses that generally fulfill this requirement is listed in the requirements section below. Students should consult with their advisor to ensure that the combination of courses selected to meet this requirement exhibits sufficient breadth. This requirement is normally completed by the end of the second year of residency and must be met by the end of the third year of residency. The most current list of approved survey courses is available on the department website.
  6. Workshops: Beginning in year two, doctoral students are required to enroll in at least one workshop each quarter. First year students may attend workshops but are not required to enroll. Sociology workshops are offered for 1-2 units on a credit/non-credit basis only and attendance is required to receive course credit. The Graduate Studies Director may approve a student's petition to attend a workshop when enrollment is prohibited by unit constraints; such attendance is not noted on the transcript. A list of approved workshops that fulfill this requirement is listed in the requirements section below and also on the department website.
  7. Qualifying Exam #1: The first comprehensive examination is designed to ensure that students will enter their second year with a firm reading knowledge of two substantive subfields. Students will write two essays in response to questions provided by the examining committee. The questions are due exactly one week later. Students will choose one out of two questions to write on for each subfield. Examinations will be offered in seven subject areas, based on comprehensive readings lists that will be available at the beginning of each academic year. Each subject area will have one faculty point person or "group leader." Group leaders are responsible for assembling essay questions and agree to meet with students as requested. Exam subject areas and the for 2011-12 are: Economic Sociology and Organizations; Social Inequality; Gender; Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Political Sociology/Social Movements/Collective Action; Historical and Comparative Sociology; Social Psychology. Students may work together to read and discuss the materials on the comprehensive reading lists (and in fact they are encouraged to do so). They may consult with faculty members as they study for the exams. However, once the examination questions are released, all such collaboration and consultation should stop, and students should work independently on their essays.
  8. Qualifying Exam #2: The second qualifying examination is a longer critical essay that focuses on a bibliography devised by the student jointly with their faculty advisor. This exam will provide students with a more focused critical engagement in a specialized subfield or research area, and serves as a test of the student's ability to work and think independently. Exam #2 is due by May 15 of the second year in residence. A two-person committee that includes the primary advisor evaluates the paper. Although the reading committee is usually comprised of two regular faculty members in the department, emeritus and other faculty outside of the department may serve as a committee member with prior approval. Examinations are graded by both committee members, and the grades on these qualifying exams are an important component of the decision to advance a student to candidacy. To accommodate student interests and goals, there are two options for Exam #2, an analytic essay (option 1) or research paper (option 2) – see department website for more detailed information. Students may employ one of the comprehensive examination reading lists (from exam #1) for an area in which they did not take the exam to construct the bibliography. If students would like to be examined in a more specialized sub-area within one of the fields that they took for exam #1, they should consult with their reading committee and receive approval from the Director of Graduate Studies. Students should submit the Second Year Qualifying Paper form to the department (Student Services Officer) by the end of Fall quarter of the 2nd year.
  9. Third Year Paper: In preparation for a career of writing scholarly papers, each student must complete a research paper in the third year of residency. This third-year paper may be on any sociological topic, and may address theoretical, empirical, or methodological issues. The paper is expected to reflect original work and be of publishable quality. Students will select a committee of at least two Sociology faculty members to serve as third year paper readers. To ensure that students are making adequate progress on their paper, students are required to provide a first draft of the paper to readers by April 1st. The final deadline for paper submission is May 15th. The committee will provide a review that speaks to (1) whether the paper is publishable and whether the student should therefore invest in attempting to publish it, and (2) what types of revisions, insofar as the paper is publishable, that the student should be pursuing to ready the paper for publication. These comments will be shared with the Director of Graduate Studies, and copies of the paper and faculty comments will go in the student file.
  10. TA requirement: Students must complete three quarters of teaching apprenticeship in departmental courses, or in other courses by approval. Work as either a teaching assistant (TA) under the supervision of a faculty member or as a teaching fellow (TF) fulfills this requirement. Students are required to take SOC 300, Workshop: Teaching Development, in Spring Quarter of the first year. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of department and University teacher training programs. Students for whom English is a second language are expected to acquire sufficient facility in English to be an effective teacher.
  11. RA requirement: As partial preparation for becoming an accomplished researcher, each student must complete three quarters of research experience, working under the supervision of one or more faculty members, including regular, emeritus, and affiliated faculty. The experience may involve paid (or unpaid) work as a Research Assistant (RA). With the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, research experience may be acquired by involvement in research projects outside the department. It is recommended that students complete their research requirements early in their graduate program; the requirement must be completed by the end of the fourth year of residency.
  12. Students are required to present at least two papers at a major professional meeting (e.g., ASA) in their first five years of graduate study.
  13. In order to demonstrate the ability to conduct independent scholarly work, each student must prepare and defend dissertation prospectus by the end of May during the fourth year in residence.
  14. Dissertation Prospectus and Prospectus Defense: In order to demonstrate the ability to conduct independent scholarly work, each student must prepare and defend dissertation prospectus by the end of May during the fourth year in residence. Students should have their dissertation committee selected by the end of their third year in the program.
  15. Each student must complete and defend a doctoral dissertation. At the choice of the student (and in consultation with her or his advisor), the dissertation requirement may be met either by (1) submitting the usual book-length document of the sort now required, or (2) submitting three independent papers. The papers may address the same topic, but should be written as stand-alone, single-authored papers in standard journal format (i.e., AJS or ASR). None of these papers may overlap substantially with one another, and none of them may be co-authored. (The main criterion in judging "substantial overlap" is whether any standard journal, such as AJS, would regard the papers as too similar to publish both.) The dissertation must be submitted to all committee members at least 30 days in advance of the defense date. The dissertation defense serves as the Oral Examination required by the University. Assessment of satisfactory completion is determined by the student's doctoral committee members. All students are invited to present their dissertation findings at an informal department colloquium.

The faculty are responsible for providing students with timely and constructive feedback on their progress toward the Ph.D. In order to evaluate student progress and to identify potential problem areas, the department's faculty reviews the academic progress of each first-year student at the beginning of Winter and Spring quarters and again at the end of the academic year. The first two reviews are primarily intended to identify developing problems that could impede progress. In most cases, students are simply given constructive feedback, but if more serious concerns warrant, a student may be placed on probation with specific guidelines for addressing the problems detected. The review at the end of Spring Quarter is more thorough; each student's performance during the first year is reviewed and discussed. Possible outcomes of the spring review include: (1) continuation of the student in good standing, or (2) placing the student on probation, with specific guidelines for the period of probation and the steps to be taken in order to be returned to good standing. For students on probation at this point (or at any other subsequent points), possible outcomes of a review include: (1) restoration to good standing; (2) continued probation, again with guidelines for necessary remedial steps; or (3) termination from the program. Students leaving the program at the end of the first year are usually allowed to complete the requirements to receive an M.A. degree, if this does not involve additional residence or financial support. All students are given feedback from their advisers at the end of their first year of graduate work, helping them to identify areas of strengths and potential weakness.

At the end of the second year of residency, students who are performing well, as indicated by their coursework, performance on qualifying examinations, and teaching and research assistantship performance, are advanced to candidacy. This step implies that the student has demonstrated the relevant qualities required for successful completion of the Ph.D. Future evaluations are based on the satisfactory completion of specific remaining department and University requirements. Students who are not advanced to candidacy will normally be terminated from the program and awarded an M.A. degree. In some cases, the department may require that a student complete outstanding work or complete unmet requirements before admission to candidacy. The university requires that all students must be admitted to candidacy by the beginning of the third year in residence in order to continue in the Ph.D. program. Therefore all requirements stipulated by the department must be met before registration for the fall quarter of the student's third year.

At any point during the degree program, evidence that a student is performing at a less than satisfactory level may be cause for a formal academic review of that student.



Students must complete four courses from an approved list. This list is updated and circulated to students at the start of each academic year. Note: class offerings rotate; not all approved survey courses are offered every year. The following courses typically fulfill the survey course requirement:


Required methodology courses are listed below. Students are required to enroll in 384, Sociology Methodology IV: New Models and Methods, in their first or second year of the program.

The following course requirements apply to students who entered the Ph.D program in 2004-05 or earlier.


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