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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, 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 a major research paper, 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 statistical 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.
Sample of written work.
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 in the first and second years must take at least fourteen courses total over the two years. These may include half-semester courses (two of which equal a single course), reading courses, for-credit workshop courses, or precepting (two precepts equal one course).
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. Students must also take a half-semester course in Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, normally in the second year. In addition 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 also expected to attend departmental colloquia and participate in the department’s Proseminar for first-year students.
Students are expected to master langauge skills necessary for satisfactory dissertation research.
Each student is expected to write an empirical paper. The paper must be a quantitative study, written in conjunction with SOC 505 Research Seminar in Empirical Investigation. The paper is advised by the empirical seminar instructor and a second departmental faculty member.
Students must submit a contract at least two weeks before taking the comprehensive general examination. In the contract, students confirm completion of required courses, describe their academic program (coursework and independent study), present areas (with reading lists and examiners) for the comprehensive examination, and describe the qualifying paper (which must be accepted before taking the comprehensive examination).
The general examination, or comprehensive examination, is normally taken at the end of the second year or fall of the third year, after all prerequisites have been fulfilled. Students select and prepare to be examined in three substantive fields of sociology, working with a separate faculty member for each field. The general exam includes both a written and an oral component. Several options for the written component are available, including written examination, syllabus preparation, and dissertation-related literature review.
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 empirical paper 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.
Students must choose a dissertation committee and submit a draft dissertation prospectus no later than October 15 of the third year of enrollment. They must submit a revised and final dissertation prospectus to their committee members and successfully complete a prospectus meeting with their committee no later than March 15 of the third 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 fourth year of study.
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. A three-paper option is possible with the agreement of the dissertation committee.
The Ph.D. is awarded only after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
Director of Graduate Studies
Robert J. Wuthnow
Miguel A. Centeno, also Woodrow Wilson School
Jennifer L. Jennings, also Woodrow Wilson School
Douglas S. Massey, also Woodrow Wilson School
Sara S. McLanahan, also Woodrow Wilson School
Matthew J. Salganik
Kim Lane Scheppele, also Woodrow Wilson School, University Center for Human Values, Sociology
Paul E. Starr, also Woodrow Wilson School
Marta Tienda, also Woodrow Wilson School
Frederick F. Wherry
Robert J. Wuthnow
Yu Xie, also Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
Viviana A. Zelizer
Elizabeth M. Armstrong, also Woodrow Wilson School
Margaret T. Frye
Adam M. Goldstein, also Woodrow Wilson School
Tod G. Hamilton
Ellis P. Monk, Jr.
Brandon M. Stewart
Janet A. Vertesi
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.