Curriculum and Handbook


The Ph.D. training in the Department of Sociology is designed to give students a comprehensive introduction to the discipline and opportunities for each student to pursue their particular research interests.

First-year coursework/exams and the qualifying paper provide students with a firm foundation in many major subfields as well as the skills required for scholarly research. In years 2 and 3, students complete two special field requirements, alongside a 2nd year Writing Seminar and a 3rd year Dissertation Proposal seminar. Students also complete 4 mentored TAships (Teaching Assistantships) with sociology faculty who are teaching courses in their methodological or substantive areas of interest. Students are expected to defend their dissertation proposals and advance to candidacy by the spring quarter of year 4, and to defend and graduate no later than the spring quarter of year 7. As per the University of Chicago rules, all Ph.D students have guaranteed funding for up to seven years as long as they are making good progress toward their degrees.

More detailed information about degree requirements and funding for the Ph.D. may be found in the outline of the Student Handbook (below). For current enrolled Ph.D. students who matriculated in 2019 or earlier, an older version of the handbook can be found in the Student Handbook (2020).

Students with questions about program requirements and milestones should contact Sociology Student Affairs Administrator Crystal Todoroff ( Students may also contact Brett Baker (, Associate Dean of Students in the Social Sciences, and Amanda Young (, Director of Graduate Student Affairs in UChicagoGRAD.

The Handbook is available below and as a downloadable Word document.

Student Handbook (July 2023)
Section 1: Requirements and Procedures for M.A. and Ph.D. Degrees in Sociology

The Department offers a program of studies leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology and cooperates with the College in providing undergraduate education leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree.

A student entering the program with a B.A. degree can in principle complete the Ph.D. degree in four academic years of study, though more typically the degree takes five to seven years. Satisfactory completion of the first phase of the Ph.D. program is signified by the awarding of an M.A. degree.

The Department of Sociology encourages graduate study by students who have done their undergraduate work in sociology as well as other social sciences, mathematics and other fields. The Department also encourages students who have had work experience, governmental or military service, or community and business experience to apply.

Applications must be created through the University's Online Application for Graduate Studies, beginning in early October for the following academic year.  All applicants for admission are required to submit general Graduate Record Examination scores, along with a CV, a research statement, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. All applicants must provide evidence of English-language proficiency at the time of application. Applicants can learn more about how to provide this evidence at:

Applicants should indicate whether they have received or applied for external (e.g. non University of Chicago) scholarships and fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, or U.S. or foreign government-funded grants. Any admitted applicant who does not have full external funding will receive university funding for up to seven years dependent upon good yearly progress in the program.

The deadline for application is December 1.

The Department of Sociology is invested in the success of all of our students. To help students be able to clearly evaluate their progress in the program, we have established a series of milestones that we expect students to meet for the duration of their enrollment in the Ph.D. program. Each year students will complete a progress report to help the department evaluate their standing in the program.

Formal Requirements for the Ph.D. Program
One part of making good progress in the Ph.D. program is meeting formal deadlines and completing required coursework. Here, we set out formal program requirements that carry the sanction of academic probation if not met on time.  Students facing personal barriers to the timely completion of formal requirements may need to take an official leave of absence from the program.  Please see “Academic Probation” and “Leave of Absence” for more details. For a rough guide to the requirements by year in the program and a timeline, see Appendix F “Suggested PhD Program Timeline”

Pre-ABD Requirements

  • Submit an annual progress report each Spring.
  • Complete five MA Examination courses with a grade of B- or higher and submit M.A. Examination petition [Year One/by end of Autumn Year Two with permission]
  • Do not hold two or more incompletes or blank grades in the same quarter [All Years prior to ABD]
  • Complete required coursework with a B average [Years One-Three]
  • Submit qualifying paper/revisions to qualifying paper [Year Two-Three]
  • Complete the Special Field requirements [Year Three]
  • Complete at least three of the four required Mentored Teaching Experiences (MTEs) [Year One-Three]. Students who come to the Ph.D. program with an M.A. degree may begin to teach in Year 1. All other students are encouraged to do one to two mentored teaching experiences in Year 2 and two in Year 3. All MTEs must be completed prior to scheduling a dissertation defense.
  • Submit an annual progress report to the Department each Spring [All Years]

Post-ABD Requirements

  • Complete remaining MTE(s). Students who have not completed four MTEs during their time in the program will not be able to schedule a dissertation defense
  • Submit an annual progress report each Spring. Post-ABD students must show evidence of progress toward their dissertation research. Progress can take the form of: successfully defending a dissertation proposal, submitting a grant proposal for research funding (whether or not it was successful), submitting a chapter or article draft from dissertation research
  • Hold an annual all-committee meeting within the one-year anniversary of the proposal defense (each year until graduation)
  • All students are required to graduate by summer of Year 7 or face removal from the program.

Informal Expectations and Encouragements for Good Progress
Another important part of making good progress in our Ph.D. program is about taking steps to create a strong research portfolio for a future career. These steps include building relationships with faculty members, participating in an intellectual community, and publishing research. Here we identify a timeline for how to build a strong portfolio as a sociological researcher.

  • In Year 1 and Year 2 students should begin to develop a relationship with at least two faculty members. By Year 3, students should have a good idea of the two to four departmental faculty who will serve on their dissertation committee. To build these relationships, students should meet with faculty, take courses with faculty, and/or ask faculty to be readers on qualifying papers and special field exams.
  • By Year 2, students are strongly encouraged to regularly attend a workshop in their area of interest. By Year 4, students should be presenting at a workshop once a year.
  • By spring of Year 3, students should be able to show evidence of an article under review in a sociology journal and/or of a paper submitted to a professional conference.
  • By spring of Year 4, students should have evidence of a published article or an article under submission or in the revision process. Articles may be solo-authored or co-authored. As students develop a publication portfolio, they are encouraged to prioritize having at least one article that is solo-authored or an article where the student is the first co-author/one of two equal co-contributors by the time they are on the job market.
  • Starting in Year 2 or Year 3, students are encouraged to present at relevant conferences, such as, but not limited to, the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, the Population Association of America, the Social Science History Association, and the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
  • Students are encouraged to seek external and internal research grants and fellowships to support their research when appropriate.

Where to Find Help:
To discuss these formal requirements or steps toward building a strong portfolio, students can seek advice from their faculty adviser(s). Faculty advisers are the best resources for planning coursework, for seeking information about fellowships and grants, for planning a teaching portfolio, and for compiling a dissertation committee. For questions or concerns about meeting deadlines and milestones, students are encouraged to meet with the departmental Graduate Student Affairs Administrator (hence GSAA), or with the Director of Graduate Studies (hence DGS). The GSAA is a permanent staff member assigned to work with graduate students, and the DGS is a position held by a faculty member from the department. The DGS rotates usually every three years to a new faculty member. The DGS approves petitions from graduate students and manages the academic probation for graduate students. Finally, students are also able to meet with the Dean of Student’s Office in the Social Sciences Division. Graduate students usually meet with the Dean of Student’s Office to discuss issues such as leaves of absence, issues with university funding, or disciplinary actions.

Section 2: Overview of General Requirements

We expect Sociology Ph.D. students to be responsible and independently self-driven scholars. This includes establishing good working relationships with faculty by taking and excelling in their classes and seeking faculty advice during their office hours. In addition, the department has established a formal system of academic advising in which every student has a personal academic advisor to help plan their course of study, to discuss potential and actual research projects, and to discuss their progress in the program. There are three types of faculty advisors during the student’s graduate school trajectory: a formal faculty advisor, a qualifying paper advisor, and a dissertation committee chair. They can all be the same person, or they can all be different.

For ease of initial orientation in the program and the university, students are upon arrival assigned a 1st-year formal faculty advisor to serve as their contact person for the first year of their studies in the department. The role of the formal advisor is to counsel the student on all academic issues including the suitability of course options, study strategies, formulation of a teaching plan, and potential research projects.  The administratively assigned faculty advisor can be changed at any point to a faculty member more aligned with the interest of the student (see below for procedure).

During the Spring quarter of Year 1, students are encouraged to select a qualifying paper advisor from among the Sociology faculty who will henceforth serve as their formal faculty advisor in all capacities. Naming the advisor for their qualifying paper before the summer following the first year will allow students to begin the process of identifying a qualifying paper topic in a timely fashion, including using a part of the summer between first and second years for initial qualifying paper research. The qualifying paper advisor should be decided at the latest by the end of second week Autumn quarter of Year 2. Unless the student effects a further change after the qualifying paper has been submitted, the qualifying paper advisor will remain in the role of formal faculty advisor until a dissertation chair is named by the student with the consent of the concerned faculty.

A dissertation chair can be named any time after the qualifying paper has been submitted, but must be named at the very latest in Spring quarter of Year 4 to help the student prepare a proposal and assemble a suitable committee. As soon as a dissertation chair is named, this person will assume all advising roles. It is possible to name two members of the faculty to serve conjointly as dissertation chairs.

Students should make contact with their advisors at least once per quarter during their office hours. The formal advisor also tracks the student’s progress in the program and should be consulted as soon as potential delays in program progress become apparent. In such a case advisor and student can work together on remedies. Program delays that exceed the length of one quarter also need to involve the DGS (see “7. Leave of Absence…”).

All changes in advisors must follow these steps. First, notify the old advisor of the change by e-mail and cc the Graduate Student Affairs Administrator (GSAA). Second,  declare the new advisor who has given her or his consent to the GSAA  in writing  and cc the new advisor.

Students matriculating at Chicago without a prior M.A. degree must pass eighteen courses at the level of B- or higher for the Ph.D. Nine of these must be passed at the B- or higher level for the M.A. These students are expected to complete nine courses in Year 1 and a total of eighteen by the end of Year 3.  Students are expected to maintain a B average.

Students matriculating at Chicago who already have a master's degree (in sociology or another field) from another institution or who have a master's degree from Chicago in a field other than sociology must pass fifteen courses at the level of B- or higher for the Ph.D. degree. These students are expected to complete nine courses in Year 1 and fifteen by the end of Year 3. Students are expected to maintain a B average.

Counting Language Courses toward the Requirement: In general students are not able to count language courses toward their program coursework requirements. However, under special circumstances, exceptions are possible. In cases where students have a demonstrated need to learn a language in order to further a future dissertation project, students can petition the DGS to count up to two courses from an at least three-quarter sequence toward their coursework requirement in Year 2 or 3. For the petition, students must describe how this language sequence will benefit their future research, and secure support for this coursework plan for their faculty adviser in the form of an email. If the petition is granted, students must receive a quality grade of B- or higher in the two courses they wish to count toward their coursework requirement. In addition, students must pass, at the end of their language sequence, an exam demonstrating proficiency at the level needed for the dissertation research with a “P.” The student must submit the result of this exam to the GSAA in order to receive credit toward the coursework requirement.

  • History of Social Theory (SOCI 30003) taken in Year 1 or Year 2.
  • A second theory course of the student’s choice, taught by a member of the Department of Sociology (must be completed by Spring Year 3 – this applies to the 2020 and beyond entering cohorts)
  • Two statistics courses taken in Year 1 or Year 2
  • Pro-Seminar in Year 1 (SOCI 60020, non-credit, taken as pass/fail)
  • Principles in Year 1 (SOCI 30002)
  • Five M.A. Examination courses in Year 1 (must include one course from the Theory/Knowledge Section)
  • 2nd Year Research Practicum with Faculty Adviser (Autumn or Winter)
  • 2nd Year Writing Seminar (SOCI 30006/Spring)
  • 3rd Year Dissertation Proposal Seminar  (SOCI 40238/Winter)

Entering students are required to take SOCI 30002 Principles of Sociological Research during Year 1. Entering students must also register for and participate in the required non-credit first-year colloquium: SOCI 60020 1st-year Pro-Seminar: Research Questions and Design in Autumn of the first year of residence. The Pro-Seminar does not count toward the 18 required graded courses. 

In Year 1 or Year 2, students must take SOCI 30003 History of Social Theory. In Year 2, all students must complete a Research Practicum with the faculty reader for their qualifying paper. Each faculty member has a unique course number assigned for this purpose. This course may be taken in Autumn or Winter of Year 2. In Spring of Year 2, students will use the Writing Seminar (SOCI 30006) to write up their qualifying papers, which are due at the end of the quarter. In Year 3, the Dissertation Proposal course helps students workshop their dissertation projects. It is usually offered in Autumn or Winter quarter. In a rare exception, a student can petition the DGS to take the Dissertation Proposal Course in Year 4, as long as there is support from their faculty adviser.

A basic literacy in statistical methods is necessary to read much of the sociological literature. For the Ph.D., therefore, all students are required to complete for graded credit two quarters of coursework in statistical methods in Year 1 or in Year 2. Students who fulfill this statistics requirement in Year 2 are expected to be pursuing other methods courses in Year 1 that will aid them in the development of their qualifying paper and the completion of one of their special field requirements.

Statistics Course Options: Students whose background in statistics is at or below that offered at the introductory course level are required to take SOCI 30004 and 30005 (Statistical Methods 1 and 2).

Those who have some knowledge of calculus may consider substituting STAT 22000 (Statistical Methods & Their Applications) for SOCI 30004. Those with a solid command of calculus (preferably multivariate) may consider the sequence of STAT 24400 and 24500 (Statistical Theory and Methods 1 & 2) as a substitute for the sociology sequence. This statistics-department sequence is preferable for students who may intend to taken an MS in statistics in parallel with a Ph.D. in sociology, or who wish to pursue a Certificate in Advanced Quantitative Methods from the Committee on Quantitative Methods in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences.

Those who have successfully completed statistical coursework elsewhere at or above the level of SOCI 30004 and 30005 may fulfill the department’s statistics requirement by taking at least two 40000-level courses covering advanced statistical techniques and/or applications in Year 1 or Year 2. Entering students should consult the department before registering as to which option is appropriate given their prior coursework and scholarly plans, since the sociology sequence starts in Winter while some of the alternatives start in the Autumn.

In order to be admitted to the second year of study, a student must have letter grades posted in all nine first-year courses (P's, I's, R's are not counted) and must have a B average or better on the best seven grades. 

Students are strongly discouraged from taking incompletes or blank grades in their courses except in cases of emergency. Students who hold more than two incompletes or blank grades at a time will be placed on academic probation.

We expect students to be in residence in Chicago or its environs during the academic year until they are admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. Exceptions may be made to accommodate field research or specialized training, but those exceptions must be discussed with a student’s academic adviser and approved by both the faculty adviser and the DGS.

Some circumstances, including medical emergencies, the birth of a child, or the need to provide care for a sick parent, present barriers to making timely progress. Students should familiarize themselves with the policies that will inform the related accommodations they can reasonably expect, especially the graduate student parent policy [found here] and the university-wide policy on voluntary leaves of absences [found here].

Students must initiate conversations to plan for any leave period and work with the GSAA, the DGS, and their primary faculty advisor to align expectations about accommodations that can be made to their academic timeline in response. Students facing on-going mental or physical health issues will negotiate accommodations with guidance from Student Disability Services. In cases of significant and long-term personal or medical issues, students will work with the Dean of Students’ Office about taking a leave of absence from the program.

Students are required to complete four mentored teaching experiences (MTEs) during their time in the program. MTEs are intended to help students form working relationships with faculty, to build students’ skills with public speaking and presentation, and to develop students’ capacity to teach a method or area of sociological inquiry effectively. Students will work with their advisers in Year 1 to develop an individualized teaching plan that details their goals for developing pedagogical experience in a particular area, such as sociological theory or statistical methods. The GSAA and the DGS will be responsible for matching students with MTE positions.

Four mentored teaching experiences will be TA-ships in a course taught by a faculty member of the sociology department. Students in the TA role will attend lectures, and will engage in varied kinds of interactions with students, which may include leading discussion sections, leading review sessions, supervising research assignments, grading papers and exams, among other roles. All of these engagements will be advised by the instructor(s) of record.

For students who seek to build a career in a teaching intensive university, the department will allow a fifth MTE in the form of a stand-alone course taught by the student or a co-taught course with a faculty member.

Requesting MTE Exceptions
There are some limited situations in which students may not be able to fulfill the requirements as written (e.g., students with certain disability accommodations, students who are undocumented, or students on military funding). Any student with questions or concerns about their ability to complete their Mentored Teaching Experience should speak with the Director of Graduate Studies as early in their graduate career as possible. If the student is approved for an exception by the Dean of Student’s Office, the DGS will work with the student to create an alternative pathway toward completing the MTEs.

Timing of MTEs
Students typically begin teaching in Year 2, though students who enter the program with an M.A. may be able to begin teaching in Year 1. Students are expected to complete three mentored teaching experiences by spring Year 3. The fourth teaching experience must be completed prior to scheduling a dissertation defense. Students who have not completed four mentored teaching experiences will not be allowed to defend their dissertation and graduate.

First-year Ph.D. students are required to take a total of five sociology (SOCI) courses designated as “exam courses” among their nine graded courses; designated exam courses will vary from year to year. The courses are divided into ten topic areas. Students are required to take one exam course from the Theory/Knowledge Section. For the remaining four courses, students select ONE course each from four additional subject areas. Students are not allowed to count multiple courses from the same subject area or to substitute in courses that are not on the list of designated exam courses for their cohort year.

Students are encouraged to complete the five exam courses in Year 1. However, as different courses are offered each year, a student may complete the fifth exam course in Autumn of Year 2. Failure to complete five M.A. Examination courses be the end of Autumn of Year 2 will result in academic probation. 


In a rare exception, a student may take the fifth exam course in Autumn quarter of Year 2. The student must petition to do this to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and have support from their faculty adviser. The student must provide a clear reason why it will be beneficial to their training to complete the fifth exam course in Autumn of Year 2.

Designating Exam Courses
The DGS will be responsible for creating the chart of designated exam courses each year. An exam course must meet the following criteria: 1) be taught by a sociology faculty member or faculty associate (cross-listed in SOCI); 2) provide a substantial introduction to debates and developments within a general field of sociological inquiry; 3) provide an exam option for first-year PhD students that tests their general knowledge of the field of the course. The structure of the exam is up to the instructor.  Scoring of the M.A. exam is to be on a 1-100 scale.

M.A. examination scores will be collected and recorded throughout the first year by the Graduate Student Affairs Administrator (GSAA) as part of the student’s departmental record and will be included with each student’s M.A. petition (see below).

Petitioning for the M.A. Degree
After completing the nine required courses of the first year with a quality grade of B- or higher, students will submit a petition for an M.A. degree. The M.A. petition will be due no later than September 15th before the start of their second year. In the first faculty meeting of the autumn quarter, the M.A. petitions will be discussed and voted upon. Students who have incompletes or no grade recorded for any of their nine first-year courses will be placed on academic probation and will not be eligible to submit the M.A. petition.

For students who are unable to meet the September 15th deadline or who receive an exception, there will be a second and final M.A. petition deadline of January 5th of their second year. In the first faculty meeting of winter quarter, second-round M.A. petitions will be discussed and voted upon. Students who are unable to meet this deadline due to missing courses, incompletes, or no recorded grades will not be permitted to move on to the advanced program requirements and will be counseled out.

The master’s degree is awarded for completion of nine courses (including the required first-year courses) at the level of B- or higher and completion of the M.A. Examination requirements, including the petition process, as outlined in Appendix A. 

To apply for the degree, the student should apply on-line via the Registrar's website by the beginning of the quarter in which the degree will be awarded and inform the GSAA. Department certification that the student is eligible to take the degree must be given to the Office of the Dean of Students three and a half weeks before convocation. It is the responsibility of the student to make certain all requirements for the receipt of the degree have been fulfilled on time. If all requirements are not met by that date, the student is automatically dropped from the graduation list.

The qualifying paper should represent an original piece of scholarship or theoretical analysis and must be written in a format appropriate for submission to a professional publication. Note that the requirement is “publishable,” not “published,” although many recent papers have been presented at professional conferences and eventually published. The paper is prepared under the direct supervision and approval of a faculty member and may be written or revised in connection with one or more regular courses. Qualifying papers are single authored.  Students entering with M.A. papers may petition to submit a supervised revision to meet the qualifying paper requirement.

In Autumn or Winter of Year 2, students must enroll in a supervised Research Practicum course with the faculty reader of their qualifying paper (see Special Field Requirement for more detail). By June 1st of Year 2, students must submit the final draft of their qualifying paper to the Graduate Administrator. The expectations for a final draft are such: the paper has undergone prior revision based on feedback from the required “2nd Year Writing Seminar” course, from a workshop or conference presentation, and/or from the faculty reader and other faculty in the department.

Following the model of a journal submission, the final draft sent to the GSAA must be accompanied by a one-page cover letter, addressed to the faculty reader, that gives a short overview of the paper and a detailed plan for which journal the student plans to submit the paper in Year 3. Students should identify the accepted word count at the selected journal and edit their paper accordingly. Students who miss the June 1st deadline will be placed on academic probation.

The faculty reader is expected to return the results to the GSAA within one month of the due date. The results can be: accept without revision, conditionally accept with minor revisions, revise and resubmit (major revisions), or fail. Conditional accepts and revise and resubmits will be accompanied by feedback for revision. A failing grade will result in withdrawal from the program.

Any requested revisions to the qualifying paper must be submitted to the GSAA by October 1 of Year 3. Students must include a one-page cover letter that details the changes they have made to the paper. Students who miss this October 1 deadline will be placed on academic probation.

Some Suggestions for Preparing the Paper
Publishable papers take a number of forms.  Some of these can be listed:

  1.     Presentation and analysis of quantitative data
  2.     Review of literature leading to an argument for theoretical advance
  3.     Ethnographic analysis of a particular case or cases
  4.     Comparative historical analysis of a particular case
  5.     Proposal and defense of a methodological advance

The best way to find reasonable forms is to read recent journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, and the like. Typically, a publishable paper in such journals consists of 35 to 50 manuscript pages of material, including text, tables, notes, and references.  Note that a pure review paper (e.g. with no original data) is not acceptable as a qualifying paper.

All good papers involve a puzzle and a solution.  It is wise to begin discussions with a faculty member as soon as you have begun to identify the puzzle about which you wish to write.  Identify important references early and read them.  Prepare an extended proposal for the paper and present it to your advisor for suggestions.


Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate competence in two special fields.  One special field demonstrates substantive competency in a field of study (the “Substantive” Special Field), and the second demonstrates methodological competence (the “Methods” Special Field).

The Special Field Requirement is to be met no later than the end of the third year of graduate study.  Failure to complete both special fields by June 1 of Year 3 will result in students being placed on academic probation. There may be exceptions for students who are unable to complete a required methods course for the special field sequence – though this must be resolved by December 10 of Year 4. Students must complete the M.A. Examinations requirement before meeting the Special Field Requirement. 

Results for Special Fields can be Honors, Pass, Conditional Pass, Fail. A Conditional Pass on a Special Field must be made up before the end of the quarter following the quarter in which the examination was taken. 

A. The Substantive Special Field. This requirement may be met in two ways: by examination or with a review essay. Both options are prepared on an individual basis in the fields of sociology in which the student wishes to develop research competence and should be related to the subject of the subsequent Ph.D. dissertation. Each exam/review essay special field must be overseen by two faculty readers of the student’s choice (see “Procedures” in Appendix C). The examination or essay covers both theoretical and substantive materials. Preparation takes the form of specialized courses and seminars, supplemented by independent study and reading. For either the exam or essay, the student must first construct a bibliography to be approved by both faculty readers; readers must also agree in advance to either the examination or review essay format. 

Examples of previously approved bibliographies are kept on file in the department office and can be made available to other students upon request. In recent years, the fields most commonly taken are urban sociology, organizational analysis, sociology of gender, sociology of education, culture/STS/ knowledge, sociology of health and medicine, economic sociology, political sociology, stratification, social movements/change, and sociology of religion.

B. The Methods Special FieldThe methods special field requirement consists of a sequence of five courses: Three methods courses (e.g. Computational Content Analysis, Ethnography, Involved Interviewing), a Year 2 Research Practicum course with the faculty reader for the qualifying paper, and the 2nd Year Writing Seminar. The result is the student’s qualifying paper, a final draft of which is due June 1 of Year 2.

  • Coursework (3 courses): The three courses chosen in partial fulfillment of the  special field requirements should develop the methodological competence required to conduct their qualifying paper and dissertation research. Students should plan this coursework in consultation with their adviser and with their research plan they develop in Year 1.  Students are expected to take at least 2 methods courses in Year 1 and/or 2 (depending upon when they take statistics), and to complete the third course no later than spring of Year 3. Note: The two required statistics courses cannot be counted toward this requirement.
  • Research Practicum (1 course): In Autumn or Winter of Year 2, students must register in a supervised Research Practicum course with their faculty reader for their qualifying paper. The timing of this course will depend upon the student’s data collection progress for the qualifying paper.  Each faculty member has a unique course number for this purpose. Students are expected to consult with their faculty advisor about their research project by the end of Year 1. They may spend the summer of that year collecting data. The practicum course itself should be spent analyzing these data and constructing an argument.
  • 2nd Year Writing Seminar (1 course): Students will use the required 2nd Year Writing Seminar to write-up the results of their qualifying paper.

Upon the completion of these five courses, students must file for the acceptance of their Methods Special Field.  Students should request the petition form from the GSAA. Students who do not file for acceptance by June 1 of Year 3 will be placed on academic probation.

The Ph.D. dissertation is judged by its contribution to sociological knowledge and the evidence that it shows of a candidate's ability to carry out independent research. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their dissertation advisor on the timing and expectations for a proposal defense, as expectations vary based on methods. For some projects, a proposal defense comes after some preliminary data collection. For other projects, a proposal defense occurs prior to the start of research. Taking this variation into account, the department has set the hard deadline for advancing to candidacy to June 1 of Year 4 – though we strongly encourage students to defend earlier in Year 4.

If a student encounters issues with the dissertation project that make June 1 of Year 4 deadline impossible, the student must ask their dissertation chair to contact the DGS and ask for an extension. No extensions will be offered past Oct 1 of Year 5 for students in the 2021 cohort or after. Students in the 2020 cohort can have an extension until December 10 of year 5.

Students who do not meet this deadline will be placed on academic probation.   

All dissertation proposals should include a timeline that marks deadlines for collecting and analyzing data, writing up results, going on the job market, and graduating. No graduation date can be later than Summer Quarter Year 7. Student should also include a budget and plan for funding their research (if appropriate). Students may choose to use the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Fellowship – a research grant that is open to all students regardless of citizenship status – as a possible model for a dissertation proposal.

Normally, a Ph.D. thesis committee consists of a chair plus minimally two but up to four additional faculty members. At least two members of the dissertation committee, including the committee chair, must be voting members of the Sociology Department at the time that the proposal is defended. Students can check with the DGS to be sure their committee members fit this category. In cases where the chair retires or leaves the University, a co-chair must be designated from the current department faculty. Students may include faculty from other departments and schools on their thesis committee where they have special competence and relevant interests.

The proposal is subject to review by the faculty committee to determine whether the project is feasible and to assist the development of the research. Guidelines for preparation of the proposal are given in Appendix D.

Early in the development of a Ph.D. thesis, a hearing of at least one hour is held with the student and the members of the committee, plus any additional interested faculty. At this hearing, the student's proposal is accepted if it meets departmental standards.  Graduate students are given assistance in modifying, focusing, or expanding their research plans. It is essential that the student pass all other requirements before the Ph.D. proposal hearing is held.  It is also expected that the dissertation committee will approve the proposal before the hearing is scheduled.

The student should distribute copies of the proposal to committee members. The proposal should also be submitted to the GSAA in electronic format at least ten days, preferably two weeks, before the hearing. The cover page should follow the format available in the Department office and specifically should include a list of the members of the dissertation committee. The electronic copy is available upon request to other interested sociology faculty. 

Additional information on the proposal hearing is given in Appendix D.

Yearly All-Committee Meeting for ABD students
Students who have advanced to candidacy are required to hold an all-committee meeting by the one-year anniversary of their proposal defense for the duration of their time in the program. The all-committee meeting is a chance for students to update faculty on research and writing progress and to address any issues that may have arisen. Students should also discuss their publication progress and their plans for the job market. Student who have scheduled a dissertation defense do not need to schedule an additional all-committee meeting. 

Prior to the meeting, students should circulate to their committee members: a current CV, a summary of research progress to date, a chapter draft or conference paper from the dissertation research, and an up-to-date timeline for completion.

Students who fail to meet deadlines for program requirements will be put on academic probation.

Some Suggestions for Preparing the Proposal

  1. State the general idea, describing it in outline form to give an overall picture of the nature and scope of the research. This should not be more than about 200 words.
  2. Describe briefly what has been done by previous investigators in the field which is closely relevant to your proposal. The purpose of this section is to explain to the reader just how your work will add to or improve the existing literature. Normally, one should cite several specific studies, but not a large number.
  3. Expound briefly the theoretical ideas being used, and the abstract nature of the process being studied. Indicate the relations between this specific study and broader issues in sociology.  Mention specific hypotheses to be examined, or questions to be answered by the research.
  4. Indicate the type of data to be used and their availability. Some reference should be made to the possibility of alternate forms or sources of data, and to the completeness and reliability of the data being used.
  5. Describe the analytical organization and the specific techniques to be employed. For any unorthodox or dubious aspects, indicate briefly what your operating assumptions are. When possible explain why the techniques being used were adopted as compared with some alternative ones.
  6. Present an outline, even if only rough or approximate, of the finished dissertation.
  7. Make generous use of section headings and subheadings to improve readability of the proposal.
  8. The typical proposal should run about 15-20 pages. There is no need to report specific results or detail of preliminary runs in the proposal, however, one or two tables can often be used advantageously. The bibliography for the proposal should be brief and illustrative only.
  9. The cover page should include the type of information included on the sample: (a) Ph.D. proposal; (b) student's name; (c) title of dissertation; (d) committee members; (e) quarter and year.

Upon formal acceptance of the dissertation proposal and completion of the other requirements listed above, the Department recommends that the Division of the Social Sciences admit the student to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Students are expected to successfully defend their dissertation and graduate no later than Summer Quarter Year 7. Students should meet with the GSAA to prepare for the process of filing a dissertation within the quarterly departmental and university graduation deadlines. Students who do not defend and graduate by Summer Quarter of Year 7 will lose their student enrollment status – though they will be able to defend at a later date.

Students who have advanced to candidacy and later encounter serious research difficulties that necessitate a change to their approved research design may petition for an 8th year of enrollment and funding on or before June 1 of Spring Quarter in Year 6. Please note: Students who have an incidence of academic probation on their record will not be eligible to submit a petition.

To petition for an 8th year of enrollment and funding, students must submit to the DGS a 3-5 page document that includes a project summary/progress to date, an explanation of the research issue, and a revised research plan that details how the student plans to resolve the issue. The petition must also include a current CV, a revised timeline for a dissertation defense and graduation by Summer Quarter Year 8, and a letter of support from the dissertation adviser.

Petitions will be subject to an all-faculty vote and are contingent upon the student’s record of progress in the program. As an 8th year of enrollment and funding is intended only for exceptional circumstances, students should have a contingency plan in place if their petition is rejected.

The final Ph.D. oral examination is scheduled after the draft of the thesis has been approved by the committee chair and other committee members. The student sets the date and time of the defense with the dissertation committee members and informs the GSAA of the schedule; a room is then assigned by the Department for the defense. An abstract of no more than 350 words is to be submitted, along with the cover page and table of contents of the dissertation, to the GSAA by email attachment (MSWord or pdf document) no less than one full week before the defense. These items are included in an announcement of the defense to the department's faculty.

It is required that the dissertation committee chair and at least two additional committee members be present with the student for the defense unless there are special circumstances. The student is responsible for ensuring that the arrangements for the defense meet departmental requirements.

Dissertation submission
The Dissertation Office's website provides information on online submission of both the draft and final version of the dissertation as well as information on University-wide formatting requirements. The student is responsible for having the dissertation draft thoroughly copy-edited following acceptance by the dissertation committee and prior to submission to the Dissertation Office. 
The dissertation is to include a bibliography though this is not specified in the University-wide requirements. The student should consult with the GSAA regarding submission deadlines and the process for obtaining departmental approval of the dissertation. The Departmental deadline for dissertation submission is always earlier than the deadline posted on the Dissertation Office’s website – our deadline supersedes any deadline noted there. 

Ph.D. Degree
The student should register online for the degree via the Registrar's website by the beginning of the quarter in which the degree will be awarded and inform the GSAA. Department certification that the student is eligible to take the degree must be given to the Office of the Dean of Students three and a half weeks before convocation. It is the responsibility of the student to make certain all requirements for the receipt of the degree have been fulfilled on time. If all requirements are not met by that date, the student is automatically dropped from the graduation list.

In cases in which students are not making progress toward meeting program requirements or toward completing their research, they will be placed on academic probation. Students who are placed on academic probation will receive a letter from the department that details the reason for the probation, the conditions necessary to lift the probation, and the expected deadline for meeting those conditions. The faculty adviser will also be alerted. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their adviser, the DGS, and the GSAA about their plan to meet these conditions.

Once a student has been placed on academic probation, there is a one-quarter grace period for resolving the condition. For example, a missed spring quarter deadline must be resolved by the end of Summer Quarter. Failure to resolve the condition in this time frame will result in a student’s removal from the program.

Each student may be placed on academic probation only twice during their enrollment in the program. Incidents of probation are cumulative (e.g. missing two consecutive deadlines results in two separate incidents of academic probation). A third incidence of academic probation will result in a student’s immediate removal from the program. 

Reasons for Academic Probation
Students who have NOT advanced to candidacy (pre-ABD) will be placed on academic probation in the following cases: failing to meet a formal deadline for a program requirement (e.g. the qualifying paper and the special fields), not maintaining a B average in coursework, holding two or more incompletes or blank grades in the same quarter, and/or failing to complete an annual progress report for the department.

For students who have advanced to candidacy (ABD), academic probation will occur in the following cases: failure to hold the required all-committee meeting, failure to complete the annual progress report for the department; and/or no evidence of progress toward dissertation research, such as a chapter or article draft.


General Required Courses

Year One

ロ        Principles of Social Research
ロ        Pro-Seminar

In Year One or Two

ロ        Stats 1 or more advanced stats course
ロ        Stats 2 or more advanced stats course
ロ        The History of Social Theory

Year Two

ロ        Research Practicum with Faculty Reader for QP (Autumn/Winter)
ロ        Writing Seminar (Spring)

Year Three

ロ        Dissertation Proposal Writing Seminar (Winter)

By the end of Year Three

ロ        2nd Theory Course:      ______________________________________

Individualized Required Courses

Year One

ロ        Exam Course 1:           A Course from Theory/Knowledge Section
ロ        Exam Course 2:           _______________________________________
ロ        Exam Course 3:           _______________________________________
ロ        Exam Course 4:          _______________________________________
ロ        Exam Course 5:          _______________________________________


Year One & Two

ロ        Methods 1:                  _______________________________________
ロ        Methods 2:                  _______________________________________

By End of Year 3

ロ        Methods 3:                  _______________________________________


ロ        MTE 1:                        _______________________________________
ロ        MTE 2:                        _______________________________________
ロ        MTE 3:                        _______________________________________
ロ        MTE 4:                        _______________________________________


ロ        9 Graded Courses with B- or higher by end of Year 1.
ロ        Qualifying Paper submitted by end of Spring Year 2 to GSAA.
ロ        Qualifying Paper revised and resubmitted by Oct 1, Year 3 to GSAA.
ロ        18 (BA) or 15 (MA) Graded Courses with B- or higher by end of Year 3.
ロ        Two theory courses by end of Year 3.
ロ        Substantive Special Field submitted by June 1 of Year 3.
ロ        Methodological Special Field officially approved by June 1 of Year 3.
ロ        Complete 4 MTEs by end of Year 5.
ロ        Advance to Candidacy no later than June 1 of Year 4.
ロ        Successfully Defend Dissertation/File for graduation no later than Summer of Year 7.

Please note this is a rough guide only. Not all PhD students will follow the exact same timeline.


  • Principles of Social Research
  • Pro-Seminar
  • Five MA Examination Courses (One of the Five Required Examination Courses must include a course from the Theory/Knowledge Section)

YR1 or YR2: Stats 1 or more advanced stats course
YR1 or YR2: Stats 2 or more advanced stats course
YR1 or YR2: 1st Theory Course: History of Social Theory (counts as one of the first MA Examination courses)

Advising: Students should discuss (i) course plans with advisor and (ii) MTE interests (see note “a” below)

YR1 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Readings/Research for Qualifying Papers
(ii) Optional: Think about your Special Field requirements (to be completed by End of Year 3)


  • Research Practicum with Faculty Reader for Qualifying Paper (Autumn/Winter)
  • Writing Seminar (Spring) to complete Qualifying Paper. Qualifying Paper must be completed by Friday of Week 10 of Spring Quarter
  • Special Field requirement completed by End of Year 3

YR1 or YR2: Stats 1 or more advanced stats course
YR1 or YR2: Stats 2 or more advanced stats course
YR1 or YR2: 1st Theory Course: History of Social Theory

Optional: MTE (See Note A below)

YR2 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Readings & Preliminary Research for Dissertation Proposal
(ii) Work on Substantive Special Field requirement (to be completed by End of Year 3)(see note b below)
(iii) submit Qualifying Paper for publication or prepare for submission


  • Dissertation Proposal Writing Seminar (Winter)
  • 2nd Theory Course (by end of Year 3)
  • Coursework that feeds into Special Fields and/or dissertation topic. Special Fields requirement must be completed by End of Year 3 (see note b below)

Advising: Students should discuss possible dissertation ideas with advisor(s), preferably before Dissertation Proposal Writing Seminar

Optional: MTE (See Note A below)

YR3 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Work on Dissertation Proposal. Plan on defending sometime in Year 4, and ideally early in the Fall Quarter of Year 4


  • Finish and Defend Dissertation proposal, after which you might consider applying for dissertation research funding. You should finish and Defend by the end of Year 4
  • Optional coursework and/or research that feeds into dissertation
  • MTE if not completed (See Note A below)

Professionalization: you should be presenting your work at workshops and conferences and sending out work for publication in academic journals

YR4 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Dissertation Work
(ii) Keep presenting your work at forums and trying to publish


  • Dissertation Work
  • MTE if not completed (See Note A below)
  • Keep presenting your work at forums and trying to publish

If you are ready, consider finishing your dissertation by the end of Year 6 and go on the academic job market in the fall of Year 6.

YR5 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Dissertation Work
(ii) Keep presenting your work at forums and trying to publish
(iii) If you are reading, prepare for the academic job market for the coming fall (discuss with your advisors)


  • For some: academic job market in the fall
  • Dissertation Work
  • MTE if not completed (See Note A below)
  • Keep presenting your work at forums and trying to publish

YR 6 Summer Possibilities:

(i) Dissertation Work
(ii) Keep presenting your work at forums and trying to publish
(iii) Students should prepare for the academic job market (discuss with advisors)


  • ACADEMIC JOB MARKET (fall through winter)
  • Defend and Complete Dissertation by end of Year 7


(a) Students are required to complete four mentored teaching experiences (MTEs) during their time in the program. Students will work with their advisers in Year 1 to develop an individualized teaching plan that details their goals for developing pedagogical experience in a particular area, such as sociological theory or statistical methods. The GSAA and the DGS will be responsible for matching students with MTE positions.

(b) There are two Special Field Requirements to be met by end of Year 3: (i) Substantive Special Field and (ii) Methods Special Field

Section 3: Registration, Statement on Conduct, Academic Honesty and Embargo

See the University of Chicago’s Student Manual for complete registration information.

Students' attention is drawn to the Student Manual, University Policies. The University expects of all students responsible social conduct reflecting credit upon themselves and upon the University.  Such offenses as simple theft and violation of housing or library regulations will not be tolerated by the University.  Students' attention is especially directed to the statement on non-discrimination and sexual harassment in the Manual. Infractions will result in disciplinary action by the University which may lead to suspension or dismissal. Visit our webpage for the University’s Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct.

The University of Chicago is a community of scholars dedicated to research, academic excellence, the pursuit and cultivation of new knowledge, and robust intellectual exchange among faculty and students. In support of this mission, every member of the University – student, faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers and staff – makes a commitment to strive for personal and academic integrity; to treat others with dignity and respect; to respect the rights and property of others; to take responsibility for individual and group behavior; and to act as a responsible citizen that is part of our academic community and a larger society.

Student conduct that breaches such standards may result in referral to relevant University Disciplinary Systems. Students with questions about standards for student conduct and/or disciplinary systems are encouraged to contact the SSD Dean of Students.

Grievance Policy for Graduate Students establishes procedures by which graduate students can report and seek redress for actions that may constitute abuse of authority by University of Chicago faculty, other academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, or staff. The SSD Dean of Students and the Director of Graduate Student Affairs in UChicagoGRAD are available to discuss the policy and review options for conflict resolution with students.

As students and faculty of the University of Chicago, we belong to an academic community with high scholarly standards of which we are justly proud. Our community also holds certain fundamental ethical principles to which we are deeply committed. We believe it is contrary to justice, to academic integrity, and to the spirit of intellectual inquiry to submit the statements or ideas or work of others as one's own. To do so is plagiarism or cheating, offenses punishable under the University's disciplinary system. Because these offenses undercut the distinctive moral and intellectual character of the University, we take them very seriously and punishments for them may range up to permanent expulsion from the University.

Proper acknowledgment of another's ideas is expected, whether that use is by direct quotation or by paraphrase, however loose. In particular, if any written source is consulted and material is used from that source, directly or indirectly, the source should be identified by author, title, and page number at minimum. Any doubts about what constitutes "use" should be addressed to the instructor.

The public sharing of original dissertation research is a principle to which the University is deeply committed, and dissertations should be made available to the scholarly community at the University of Chicago and elsewhere in a timely manner. If dissertation authors are concerned that making their research publicly available might endanger research subjects or themselves, jeopardize a pending patent, complicate publication of a revised dissertation, or otherwise be unadvisable, they may, in consultation with faculty in their field (and as appropriate, research collaborators), restrict access to their dissertation for a limited period of time according to the guidelines outlined by the Dissertation Office. If a dissertation author needs to renew an embargo at the end of its term or initiate an embargo after graduation, the author must contact the Dissertation Office with the embargo request.

The complete University of Chicago Student Manual may be found here.