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Degree Requirements

Annually, the Department updates the Sociology Graduate Program Handbook, which describes in detail degree requirements and our expectations on doctoral students. Our PhD program trains students with foundational knowledge and skills in sociology while providing students with opportunity to develop in-depth understanding on one specialization area of their choice. Our faculty expertise and graduate courses concentrated in the following areas:

·         Crime, Law, and Deviance

·         Environment and Society

·         Health and Medical Sociology·     

·         Social Inequalities

The Department of Sociology offers Ph.D. students many opportunities for professional development to integrate them into the profession and to prepare them for their future careers as sociologists. Opportunities exist to work as research assistants on funded faculty research projects and/or applied sociology outreach programs and to develop teaching skills through employment as teaching assistants. Additional professional development experiences are offered through seminars and workshops organized by the department’s Professional Development Committee and other university-wide professional development programs.

Required Coursework

Core Requirements

Course No.

Course Title


When to Take it?

SOC 681

Quantitative Data Analysis I


Year 1 Fall

SOC 781

Quantitative Data Analysis II


Year 1 Spring


Any approved method course(s)


Any time in Years 1-2

SOC 651

Classical Sociology Theory


Year 1 Fall

SOC 751

Contemporary Sociological Theory


Year 1 Spring

SOC 680

Social Investigation


Year 2 Fall


Elective Requirements

Students must complete a total of at least 36 credit hours, including 21 credit hours to satisfy core requirements. Of 15 credit hours for electives, 12 credit hours must be in the area of their specialization.

Achieving Candidacy

1. Comprehensive Assessment Examination (Year 2, Fall).

In the beginning of the fall semester of the second year, all the students must take the comprehensive assessment exam to test their knowledge and skills in sociological theory and social statistics. The result of the comprehensive assessment exam will be: (a) Pass to move up to the doctoral level, (b) Pass to graduate with the Master’s level, and (c) Fail. If they fail in the first try, students can retake the exam in the end of the 2nd fall semester to pass to graduate with the Master’s level or to move up to the doctoral level.

2. Second Year Research Paper.

After completing research design (SOC 680), students are encouraged to complete a second-year paper following the guidelines of the Graduate School’s Plan B Master’s paper in order to gain research and writing experience before moving on to their dissertation. This is not a requirement, but rather an opportunity for skill development that should be discussed with the student’s advisor.

3. The Qualifying Examination

All Ph.D. students are required to take a qualifying examination comprised of written and oral components. The purpose of the qualifying exam is to demonstrate knowledge, synthesis, and the critical evaluation of key sociological concepts, arguments, and findings within one area of specialization within sociology. Consistent with the Graduate School rules, qualifying exams (written and oral) can cover any material deemed appropriate by the student’s advisory committee. To help students prepare for the qualifying examination, core reading lists should be made available in the specialization area by the advisory committee, often in consultation with the student.

The Department authorizes two exam procedures. First, the written exam can be closed book and last up to eight hours per day. This closed book exam will occur within seven working days, with one day allocated for each exam area. Second, the written exam can be a take-home open book exam to be completed in fourteen calendar days upon receiving the questions.

Writing the Dissertation

1. Dissertation Prospectus

When the student and the Chair of the student’s Advisory Committee feel that the student’s dissertation plans have been sufficiently developed, the student will draft a formal proposal, in consultation with other members of the Advisory Committee. When the student and the Chair of the Advisory Committee agree that the proposal is ready for official review, the student will schedule a meeting of the Advisory Committee for the formal proposal hearing. The proposal hearing is chaired by the Chair of the student’s Advisory Committee, and all members of the Sociology faculty are invited and given the opportunity to comment on the proposal. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Advisory Committee will vote to approve or disapprove the proposal.

2. Human Subject (IRB) Approval

Any dissertation research which involves data collected from human subjects (e.g., survey, interviews) requires an approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the UK Office of Research Integrity. The information concerning the IRB review processes and documentations are available at:

3. Dissertation

The student’s Advisory Committee will supervise the student’s work during preparation of the dissertation, with the Chair of the Committee taking major responsibility. The dissertation will be prepared in the format used in journals published by the American Sociological Association. The student will consult the Office of Admissions and Records in the Graduate School and follow that office’s requirements regarding the dissertation’s format.

4. Oral Examination of the Dissertation

The final oral examination is conducted by a committee appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. This committee consists of the Chair of the student’s Advisory Committee, the other members of the student’s Advisory Committee, and an outside reader appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The exam includes, but is not limited to, a defense of the dissertation.  A majority vote of the full committee determines the outcome of the exam.  In the event of a tie vote, the candidate fails. In the event of failure of the final exam, a second exam will be scheduled if recommended by the student’s Advisory Committee and if approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.  A third exam is not permitted.

Upon passing the final oral examination, the student has 60 days from the final exam date to make any revisions, additions, and corrections required by the examining committee, and to deliver two copies of the dissertation in final form to the Graduate School, with the signatures of the Chair of the Advisory Committee and the DGS. If this deadline is not met, the candidate must undergo a second examination.