The Dissertation

The PhD dissertation is an original contribution to the field of sociology.  Its completion has two stages: (1) the preparation and oral defense of a dissertation proposal, and (2) the completion and oral defense of the dissertation itself.  The dissertation is supervised by at least three committee members, one of whom is the chair, two of whom are members of the dissertation committee. The chair and at least one other member of the committee must be a regular faculty member in the Sociology department.  Students may petition the Graduate Committee in writing for exceptions to this rule.  Students choose their committee before starting the proposal, and while this committee may be changed, the Graduate Committee must be notified of changes.

The preparation and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation proposal should occur during the semester following the successful completion of the second preliminary examination.  The proposal describes the unique contribution to the sociological literature to be made by the dissertation, reviews relevant research, and addresses methods and feasibility for the proposed research. Students are encouraged to prepare their proposals early to expedite the completion of the graduate program and to facilitate obtaining outside fellowships.  Proposals should be presented at a “Brown Bag” by the start of the seventh semester in the program. The dissertation committee, including the Chair and at least one other member, must be present at the Brown Bag. The purpose of this oral presentation is to encourage careful, preliminary investigation of the dissertation topic and to obtain critical advice from faculty and other graduate students. After the Brown Bag the student works with the dissertation committee to revise the proposal, address questions, suggestions, and comments raised at the Brown Bag presentation.  Completion of this phase occurs when the committee has signed its approval of the revised dissertation proposal. 

After the research and writing of the dissertation is completed, the student must successfully defend the written dissertation at an oral examination by a group composed of the dissertation committee and two outside readers appointed by the committee chair.  The dissertation committee and outside readers must receive copies of the dissertation at least two weeks before the defense date. The committee and outside readers will give final approval for the defense to occur at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled defense. Each student is examined orally on the dissertation in accordance with the general procedures of the Department.  The oral defense is considered “passed” if the dissertation committee unanimously votes approval and at least one (1) outside reader votes approval.  After the successful oral defense of the dissertation, the student should prepare a final version of the dissertation taking into account the comments and suggestions of the committee.  After the entire committee has approved and signed the dissertation, a final approved bound copy must be submitted to the department’s Graduate Secretary and one to the Graduate School.

The Graduate School requires that a graduate student complete the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examinations.  The five-year period is not extended when a student takes a leave of absence.  All petitions for extension of time beyond the five-year limit must come before the Graduate Committee of the department.  In general, extensions will be granted only when there is evidence of substantial progress on the dissertation during the previous year and evidence that the candidate has remained current in the candidate’s fields of specialization.