The Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is an original contribution to the field of sociology. Its completion has two stages: (1) the preparation and oral defense of a dissertation proposal presentation, and (2) the completion and oral defense of the dissertation itself. The dissertation is supervised by at least three committee members, one of whom is the chair, two of whom are members of the dissertation committee. All three committee members must be regular faculty members in the Department of Sociology. Students may add a fourth committee member from inside or outside the department if desired. Students choose their committee before starting the proposal, and while this committee may be changed, the Graduate Committee must be notified of changes.

The preparation and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation proposal presentation should occur following the successful completion of the second preliminary examination. The proposal describes the unique contribution to the sociological literature to be made by the dissertation, reviews relevant research, and addresses methods and feasibility for the proposed research. Proposals should be presented at a Dissertation Proposal Presentation by the end of the fourth year (eighth semester) in the program at the latest. No later than two weeks prior to the date of the proposal presentation, students must send the student affairs coordinator a dissertation title, an abstract, as well as a list of all committee members. The dissertation committee, including the chair and at least one other member, must be present at the Dissertation Proposal Presentation. The purpose of this oral presentation is to encourage careful, preliminary investigation of the dissertation topic and to obtain critical advice from faculty and other graduate students. After the Dissertation Proposal Presentation, the student works with the dissertation committee to revise the proposal, address questions, suggestions, and comments raised at the Dissertation Proposal Presentation. Completion of this phase occurs when the committee has signed its approval of the revised dissertation proposal. The signed form must be returned to the student affairs coordinator for the student to advance to candidacy, and in order for the student to receive dissertation fellowship funding.

After completing the research and writing of the dissertation, the student must successfully defend the written dissertation at a closed oral examination with the dissertation committee. Members of the dissertation committee should be physically present at the defense. With permission from the director of graduate studies, only one committee member can participate remotely. The dissertation committee must receive copies of the dissertation (a complete dissertation in the form required by the Graduate School except for acknowledgments) at least two weeks before the defense date. In addition, no later than two weeks prior to the date of the defense, students must send the student affairs coordinator a dissertation title page, an abstract, as well as a list of all committee members. Dissertation defenses should occur during the academic year (not to include reading period). Summer defenses are not allowed. Students who wish to attend Commencement in May must defend and file their dissertation by the Graduate School deadline of May 1st. Diplomas are awarded once a year.

The oral defense is “passed” if the dissertation committee unanimously votes approval. After the successful oral defense of the dissertation, the student prepares a final version of the dissertation, taking into account the comments and suggestions of the committee. After the final changes to the dissertation are approved, and the dissertation cover page is signed signaling this approval, the dissertation should be submitted to the Graduate School. The same electronic version (with a scanned copy of the signature page) must be filed with the student affairs coordinator. More information about Graduate School dissertation formatting guidelines can be found here:

Dissertation Guidelines 

The Graduate School requires that a graduate student complete the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examinations. The five-year period is not extended when a student takes a leave of absence. Requests for extensions are granted only when there is evidence of substantial progress on the dissertation during the previous year and evidence that the candidate is current in his or her chosen fields of specialization.