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, 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 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. Students are encouraged to prepare their proposals early to expedite the completion of the graduate program and to facilitate obtaining outside fellowships. Proposals should be presented at a Dissertation Proposal Presentation by the start of the seventh semester in the program. 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 be advanced to candidacy.

After the research and writing of the dissertation is completed, the student must successfully defend the written dissertation at a closed oral examination by 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. Dissertation defenses should be completed during the academic year. 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 considered “passed” if the dissertation committee unanimously votes approval. After the successful oral defense of the dissertation, the student should prepare a final version of the dissertation taking into account the comments and suggestions of the committee. After the final changes to the dissertation have been approved, and the dissertation cover page has been 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 for sharing internally for the department’s faculty and graduate students. More information about Graduate School dissertation formatting guidelines can be found here:

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. All requests for extensions will be granted only when there is evidence of substantial progress on the dissertation during the previous year and evidence that the candidate has remained current in the candidate’s fields of specialization.

Certificate of Completion
If all academic requirements for the degree and all financial obligations have been met before April 1st, the Office of the Registrar will issue a certificate of completion within three weeks of the candidate's reques