The First Two Years


Course requirements include fourteen courses in sociology, as follows. This is the minimum acceptable amount of coursework, not the norm; most students take additional courses in sociology, as well as courses in other departments that relate to their research interests.

Six required methods and theory courses and the teaching practicum, the first four of which are normally taken during the first two years in residence:

Soc. 2204 Sociological Theory: Seminar

Soc. 2205 Sociological Research Design

Soc. 2208 Contemporary Theory and Research: Seminar

Soc. 2209 Qualitative Social Analysis: Seminar

Soc. 2202 Intermediate Quantitative Research Methods (Students who have had sufficient training in quantitative methods before entering the program may substitute a more advanced quantitative methods course for this course if they can satisfy placement procedures designed by the Soc. 2202 instructor.)

Soc. 2203 Advanced Quantitative Research Methods

Soc. 3310 Qualifying Paper Seminar

Soc. 3305, the Teaching Practicum, is ordinarily taken prior to or concurrent with one’s first assignment as a Teaching Fellow.

Seven additional four-credit courses in sociology, two of which must be workshops: 1000-level conference courses, 2000-level courses, up to two 3000-level individual reading courses, and up to two workshops will count toward this requirement. (One of these courses should be Soc. 3310 Qualifying Paper, to be taken during the fall of the third year of residence.) Courses from other departments may be counted only if they are cross-listed in the catalog under sociology, or approved by faculty on the Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD) in Sociology. Two workshops (including one workshop taken twice) are required.

The department expects that students will maintain an average of B+ or better, especially in sociology courses.


There is no language requirement.


The department strongly recommends that students do not take Incompletes unless absolutely necessary and certainly in no more than one course per term. Incompletes are equivalent to Cs; and thus, for each Incomplete there must be an A in order to maintain a B average. Graduate students are not permitted to take a temporary grade of Incomplete in required courses.

Research Paper

A special research paper is required by the end of the fifth term in residence. It should offer some new contribution to knowledge, either in the form of an original interpretation of existing facts, new facts in support or disconfirmation of existing interpretations, or both. The work should be of the same length, quality and finish of a paper acceptable to the major sociological journals. Second-year students are required to appoint a Qualifying Paper advisor and submit a two-page overview of their planned project to the graduate program coordinator. Once the topic and research design have been agreed upon with the advisor, the student should petition the Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD) in Sociology for appointment of three readers.

Master of Arts (AM)

The department does not admit students to study for an AM degree. Students in the PhD program who have successfully completed eight sociology courses (including 2202 or approved substitute, 2203, 2204, 2205, 2208, 2209, and 3310, and not to include Sociology 3305 or workshops), the written examination, and the research paper may apply to receive the AM degree in sociology. A student who passes the written general examination at the AM level but not the PhD level, or who passes the general examination at the PhD level but subsequently decides not to complete the requirements for the PhD in sociology, may apply for a terminal AM degree. The requirements for the terminal AM degree are successful completion of eight sociology courses (including Sociology 2202 or approved substitute, 2203, 2204, 2205, 2208, 2209, and 3310, and not to include Sociology 3305 or workshops), passing the written general examination at the AM level or higher, and completing the research paper acceptable at the AM level or higher. A student who has passed the general exam at the PhD level but will not be completing the PhD program must apply for the terminal AM before the start of a fourth year of study in the department.


All students are expected to accept one-fifth time teaching fellowship (with salary) for one term before completion of the program. Sociology 3305, the Teaching Practicum, should be taken prior to or concurrent with the first teaching assignment. Normally, students do not teach in the first two years; many students teach several sections per year in the third, fourth, and fifth years.


For the first year, prior to the written examination, students are assigned an advisor and also receive guidance from the director of graduate studies. Before the start of their second year, students must choose an advisor, who may be any senior or junior faculty member whose research interests are compatible with those of the student. The selection process is informal and at the students’ initiative. When they have mutually agreed to work together, the student obtains the faculty member’s signature on an Appointment/Change of Advisor form and files it with the graduate program coordinator. Students may appoint a new advisor at any time if their field of research changes or they find the advising relationship is otherwise unsatisfactory.

General Examinations

Written Examination

Students take the written examination in August, prior to the second year in residence. Its purpose is to ensure a working knowledge of the range of subfields that comprise the discipline of sociology. Students need to be prepared for a broad range of questions; they are given a reading list and sample questions from previous years. The results of the examination will be: honors, pass, conditional pass, or fail. The grade of conditional pass is used when just one of the four answers is found not acceptable; the student is allowed to rewrite that particular answer under faculty guidance within the next month. A student who fails the examination will be permitted to take it a second time at a later date.

Dissertation Prospectus

The prospectus should state clearly the objectives of the study and the specific set of problems to be explored; review the relevant literature; and indicate the ways in which the student hopes to make a contribution to existing ideas on the subject. The data to be employed, the research methods and design, and a plan of study should be given in as much detail as is necessary. Normally the prospectus is twenty to thirty pages in length, in addition to an extensive bibliography. When the final draft of the prospectus has been prepared, the student petitions the CHD for approval of the topic and the appointment of three examiners, one being the dissertation advisor. Following CHD approval, the student and prospectus committee schedule a prospectus defense, at which time the student is examined on the proposed research project. The intent of this meeting is to ensure that the dissertation project is viable and that the student is prepared to begin his or her research. Defending the prospectus by the fall of the fourth year is encouraged. Ordinarily, the prospectus should be approved before the end of the spring term of the student’s fourth year in residence.

Dissertation Completion/Oral Defense

The dissertation should build an integrated argument. While individual chapters may be stand-alone papers, the dissertation may not consist of several unrelated papers, published or not, without an introduction or conclusion. Completing the dissertation by the sixth year is encouraged. Ordinarily, the dissertation should be completed by the end of the seventh year in residence. All dissertations must be completed no later than the eighth year in residence. The style should follow The Form of the PhD Dissertation. When student and advisor agree that the final draft is ready, members of the dissertation committee, other faculty, students, staff, and guests are invited to attend the oral defense. At its conclusion, the committee may approve, reject, or require revisions in the dissertation.



Graduate Office
Department of Sociology
William James Hall 602
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138