Department of Sociology
Curriculum and Requirements
Doctoral students are required to complete 60 semester hours of graduate course credit beyond the Master’s degree. Of these, a minimum of 16 credits must be Dissertation Research (SOC 7990); however, no more than 30 credits of SOC 7990 may be applied to the 60-hour requirement. Hour requirements, however, are secondary in importance to breadth and depth of knowledge as evidenced by performance on the major area preliminary examination and demonstrated research competence. The dissertation, a mature piece of scholarship embodying the results of original research, is central to the student’s plan of study. Students are expected to develop a dissertation proposal early in their program.
PhD students are given considerable flexibility in developing their programs of study, although all students are expected to achieve a level of basic competence in theory, research methods and statistics. Most PhD students will choose a major and a minor area of concentration from among the following five areas: Criminology, Demography, Family Studies, Quantitative Methods (minor concentration only), or Social Psychology.
All doctoral students are required to take six core courses in theory and quantitative methods: Classical Sociological Theory (SOC 6010), Statistical Packages (SOC 6090), Statistical Techniques and Applications in Sociology (SOC 6100), Intermediate Methodology (SOC 6110), Intermediate Statistics (SOC 6120), and Research Design (SOC 7130). Doctoral students also must take Teaching Introductory Sociology (SOC 6600).
PhD candidates also sometimes take Readings for Preliminary Examinations (SOC 798) to help them prepare for the exams (see below). Students may take a maximum of 12 semester hours of SOC 7980. In addition, there are occasions when a student will want to work individually with a professor possessing expertise in an area where courses are not regularly offered. Such students have the option of developing independent readings courses (SOC 7850) with interested professors. A maximum of 9 hours of Readings in Sociology, also referred to as Independent Study, may be used by a student to satisfy the PhD degree credit requirements. However, these hours cannot substitute for courses required within the area.
Only grades of A or B are acceptable in required courses. Students who do not achieve a grade of A or B in these courses may be permitted to (a) repeat the course or (b) take a comparable course in another department. Option (b) is available only if the student has first taken the departmental course and achieved a grade lower than B. Any course taken under Option (b) must first be approved by the Graduate Committee and the area faculty. Under no circumstances will an independent studies course be permitted as a substitute for a required course in which the student has earned a grade of C or lower.
A minimum grade point average of 3.2 in graduate work is required to maintain academic good standing at the doctoral level. A student whose grade point average falls below this level will be placed on academic probation and may lose funding. Two consecutive semesters of academic probation status will result in dismissal from the program. Academic good standing is required to take the preliminary examination and to graduate.
A student is considered to be in residence whenever he or she is registered on campus as a doctoral student. The minimum residency requirement for the PhD degree is met by completing 15 hours of course work (not including SOC 7990) on the main campus in two consecutive semesters, with no fewer than three hours of registration in either of the two semesters. It is strongly recommended that the student’s first year of doctoral study be spent in residence.
Advisor and Committees
During their tenure in the program, students select courses, prepare for their preliminary examination, and attend to other departmental and Graduate College requirements in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. In addition, doctoral students select a major advisor prior to the beginning of their third semester of course work. The major advisor is the faculty member with whom the student will work most closely during his/her time in the program and serves as chair of the dissertation committee. Major advisors are selected from department faculty who are members of the graduate faculty. In consultation with his/her major advisor, the student selects a minimum of three additional dissertation committee members. At least two of these committee members must come from within the department. Finally, the Dean of the Graduate College appoints a Graduate Faculty Representative to the student’s dissertation committee.
In addition to the dissertation committee, PhD students also work with their preliminary examination committee. Students are not permitted to choose the faculty constituting their exam committee. Such a practice would undermine the standardization of these examinations that the department seeks to maintain. Although students and their major advisor do choose dissertation committee members (with the exception of the Graduate Faculty Representative assigned by the Graduate College), the composition of examination committees is determined by the department faculty in the respective examination areas. Examination and dissertation committees are separate entities having different functions, although membership may overlap in some instances. The Graduate Faculty Representative is the only member who must be on both the dissertation committee and the major area preliminary examination committee.
Major Area Concentration
All PhD students are required to choose a major area of concentration within the sociology department and take a minimum of 5 courses in that area. Most students will major in Criminology and Deviance, Demography, Family Studies or Social Psychology, but it is possible to major in a departmental area other than one of these four. However, it is the student’s responsibility to discuss such an intent with the Director of Graduate Studies to make certain that there is sufficient faculty expertise in the area to permit specialized advanced study, and that the general course and preliminary examination requirements for the major area of concentration can be satisfied. The student must then submit a formal request along with the appropriate documentation for the new departmental major (i.e., specific courses constituting the major and the faculty willing to offer them and to constitute the major area exam committee) to the Graduate Committee for approval.
Major Area Preliminary Examination Procedures
All PhD students are required to take an eight-hour written examination in their major area of concentration. Because the major area concentration serves to integrate students into a specialized area of the discipline so that they actually become criminologists, demographers, family sociologists, or social psychologists, performance on the preliminary exam should indicate mastery of the subject matter of the area, not only of that material covered in seminars the student has taken. The preliminary examination encourages students to review, internalize, and integrate the wide breadth of ideas, techniques, and issues within their major area of concentration. Exams also serve as gatekeepers in that they help detect, and justify the termination of, students who fail to master the subject matter of their area of concentration.
Preliminary examinations are administered at two times during the academic year: the week prior to the beginning of fall semester (mid-August) and the week prior to the beginning of spring semester (early January). Students who are retaking an exam also may elect to take it the week following the end of spring semester (early May).
Doctoral students are expected to take their major area preliminary examination prior to or during their fifth semester of full-time study beyond the M.A degree. To remain in good academic standing, PhD students must complete the major area preliminary examinations no later than the beginning of their sixth semester in the program.
Doctoral students should recognize that it is to their advantage to complete their preliminary examination as soon as possible; in this way, more time can be devoted to dissertation work. It is expected that that once the required courses for the major area have been completed, the student is ready to take the preliminary examination in that area.
The area program statement identifies the area director and all area faculty who may participate in the examination process. In some areas with many faculty, a rotating subgroup of area faculty participate in the examination process. The area director acts as chair of the examination committee and solicits questions from the other area faculty. Area faculty submit exam questions to the area chair/exam chair, who then constructs a draft of the examination. Area faculty review the draft and approve the final version of the examination. Area faculty serve as graders of the examination.
Questions can be submitted each exam period by area faculty in good standing with the Graduate College (i.e., graduate faculty status) and these become part of the preliminary examination question pool. In this fashion, each area accumulates a number of questions that may reappear on subsequent examinations. In order to accommodate new faculty and new developments in the area, new or modified questions are likely to appear each time the area exam is offered. Copies of all old preliminary exams are available from the area chair or departmental secretary for students to review in preparation for their examination.
Students are encouraged to meet with area faculty before taking their examination. To assist in exam preparation, area faculty will advise students on reading materials, discuss approaches to answering questions, and will, at the student’s request, evaluate sample answers given to questions from old examinations on file.
Examination Format and Content
The preliminary examination is an eight-hour written exam administered in two parts on separate consecutive days or during the morning and afternoon of a single day. Part I will be administered in the morning of the exam day. Students have the option of taking Part II during the afternoon of the same day Part I is taken, or during the morning of the next day. The content of the examination is not limited to material covered in required and elective seminars, but reflects the breadth and depth of the area’s subject matter. The examination is given in two parts:
Part I is a general examination covering theories and methods common to all students majoring in the area, regardless of specialization within that area.
Part II is a specialized examination. Students declare their specialization in one of several pre-approved areas of concentration. Each area explicitly designates the sub-areas available for specialized study/examination in the area program statement.
The chair of the exam committee makes copies of the examination and distributes these to the graders, including the Graduate Faculty Representative assigned by the Graduate College. The Graduate Faculty Representative must be a reader of the examination and must sign the appropriate form notifying the Graduate College that the exam has been completed.
Each committee member independently grades the exam within two weeks of the exam date.
Committee members may award grades of High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail when evaluating individual questions, but only grades of High Pass, Pass, or Fail are reported as final exam grades. The evaluation agreed upon by the majority of committee members determines the final grades reported to the student and to the Director of Graduate Studies. Three grades are reported: one each for Part I, Part II, and Overall.
A student may fail either Part I or Part II of the exam and still pass the other part. In this circumstance the student must retake only the part that was failed. The exam on the failed portion must be completed within one calendar year of the date the exam was first taken. If the failed portion of the exam is not taken within one calendar year of the first attempt, the entire major area examination must be retaken.
Approximately two weeks after the written examination, students will be formally notified of their exam results. For students who have failed any part of the exam, an informal meeting of approximately one hour in length will be scheduled between the student and the examination committee. Students will be given a copy of their answers prior to the meeting. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the reasons for the failure and to formulate a plan of study for re-taking the examination. The grades assigned to the written examination are the final preliminary exam grades, and will not be affected by the informal meeting.
If a student fails the major area written exam twice (either the entire exam or any one part), s/he will be dismissed from the program.
Notification of Results
Once the area committee agrees on the student’s final grades for the written examination, the exam chair will report these grades (High Pass, Pass or Fail for Part I, Part II and Overall) to the student and Director of Graduate Studies via a written memorandum.
Minor Area Concentration
All PhD students are required to choose a minor area of concentration within the sociology department and must take a minimum of 4 courses in that area. In addition, students also may choose, at their option, a second minor from another BGSU department or combination of departments.
There is no minor area preliminary examination. Instead, proficiency in the minor area of concentration is satisfied by completion of a four-course sequence as specified in the area program statements for Criminology, Demography, Family Studies, and Social Psychology. A six-course sequence is required for a minor in Quantitative Methods.
In order for the minor area of concentration to be certified by the department, the student must achieve a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 in the four (six for quantitative methods) area courses (i.e., at least one grade of A and three of B for a minor in Criminology, Demography, Family Studies, or Social Psychology, or one grade of A and five of B for a minor in Quantitative Methods). These courses must be seminar-based or other regularly offered courses; independent studies courses may not be counted among the required minor area courses. Students who fail to achieve the required 3.2 GPA (3.167 for quantitative methods) after taking the specified courses have several options:
Take additional courses in the area until the grades received in any combination of four (six for Quantitative Methods) courses result in a cumulative GPA of at least 3.2 (3.167 for quantitative methods).
After having taken all area courses offered without achieving the required GPA, re-take a course(s) in order to improve and replace the original grade, thus raising the cumulative GPA to at least 3.2 (3.167 for Quantitative Methods) in any combination of four (six for quantitative methods) area courses.
Choose a second area of minor concentration, subject to the same course and cumulative GPA requirements noted above. Students who fail to achieve the required cumulative GPA in this second area of concentration will not be permitted to choose a third area.
Students who have exhausted all of these options without achieving the required minimum GPA to certify the minor area concentration will be terminated from the program.
The dissertation is a mature piece of scholarship embodying the results of original research. Students should develop a dissertation proposal early in their program, and be prepared to publicly defend the research topic no later than during the sixth semester of full-time study. The proposal is a detailed description of the research problem and planned research. Prior to any formal defense, however, the proposal should be reviewed by the student’s entire dissertation committee. The dissertation committee minimally consists of the student’s major advisor, three other full-time graduate faculty, at least two of whom must come from the Department of Sociology, and one at-large Graduate Faculty Representative appointed by the Graduate Dean.
After the committee’s informal approval, a public proposal defense will be held. At least one week prior to the defense, the student will provide all members of the department, faculty and students with their dissertation abstract. At the same time a copy of the full proposal must be made available in the department office. Failure to notify the department at least one week prior to the defense, or the failure to make a copy of the complete proposal available will result in a delay of the student’s defense. The proposal will be revised as necessary following the formal defense. Subsequent to committee approval an abstract of the proposed research must be submitted to the Graduate College so that the dissertation topic and committee can be approved.
Once a student has a dissertation proposal approved by the Graduate College, she/he must be in continuous registration for at least one hour of SOC 7990 per semester, excluding summers, until the dissertation is completed. Students who plan to graduate during the summer session must be enrolled in SOC 7990 that term.
Upon completion of the dissertation, the student must pass a public oral defense conducted by his/her committee. The results of the dissertation defense must be received in the Graduate College by the published deadline set by the College. This date is approximately six weeks prior to commencement. At least one week prior to the defense, the student will provide all members of the department, faculty and students, with their dissertation abstract. At the same time a copy of the complete dissertation must be made available in the department office. Failure to either notify the department or to make available a copy of the proposal at least one week prior to the defense will result in the postponement of the proposal defense. In addition to the dissertation subject matter, the oral examination also evaluates the student’s general knowledge of sociology. The final copy of the completed dissertation must be received in the Graduate College by the published deadline set by the College. This date is approximately four weeks prior to commencement. Students failing to meet the Graduate College deadlines will not be eligible for graduation that semester.
For more information, click to see the Graduate Student Handbook