Ph.D. Program | Sociology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

masters students

Ph.D. Program


The responsibility for initial advisement rests with the director of graduate studies. As soon as possible, the student, in consultation with the director of graduate studies, will request an appropriate member of the program's graduate faculty to serve as the student's academic adviser. This adviser will help prepare a general plan of study and will be responsible for making sure that her/his student is enrolled in the correct hours each semester and fulfilling all requirements.  It is the student's responsibility to develop, in consultation with his/her adviser, a plan of study leading to timely completion of the comprehensive examinations and a dissertation. This plan of study will be filed in the student’s permanent file. Change of adviser should be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Research Tool Requirement

Doctoral students must complete the following courses: SOC 501, 512, 514, and 526a, 526b, and the Teaching Sociology seminar, SOC 518, with grades of A or B (equaling 22 credit hours).

Petition for Course Recognition: Students entering the Ph.D. program from outside of the program may petition the graduate studies committee to take a proficiency test in SOC 512 and SOC 526a if they satisfactorily completed and received graduate credit for equivalent design and statistics courses. Students must submit a written request to take each exam, provide documentation of credit (i.e., transcript in application), and a syllabus for each equivalent course. Students will then take test(s) (e.g., the final examination for the most recent offering of SOC 526a). The exam will be graded by the faculty who most recently taught the course or, if necessary, another sociology professor who has recently taught the course or is otherwise qualified to grade the exam. Students must earn at least 85% on the exam to waive the respective requirement. The petition, exam, and evaluation must occur sufficiently prior to the term when the courses are offered. If either are offered in a student’s first semester, the petition must occur within 30 days of when the student accepts the offer of admission. If the student does not earn at least 85% on the exam, the student must enroll in SOC 526a and/or SOC 512 accordingly.

In addition to these courses, students must develop research skills that are appropriate and necessary for their dissertation research (see the next section and the timelines for additional requirements and clarifications). It is the responsibility of the student's program adviser to supervise the student's development of these research skills.

Course Work and Readings

While in the Ph.D. program, students must take at least three substantive, 500-level, seminars in sociology (9 credit hours; on a case by case basis, permission may be granted in a related discipline) beyond the research tool and MA seminar requirements. The seminars should be taken prior to the substantive examination. In addition to the regularly offered courses and seminars, the program provides supervised readings and research courses, depending upon the availability of faculty members. Supervised readings and research courses are not to be taken as substitutes for regularly scheduled courses and seminars, and registration in them requires prior written approval by the readings faculty, the student's adviser. The Sociology program form must be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies. Subsequently the registration form and closed section card must be completed, initialed by the readings faculty, and signed by either the adviser, the Sociology chair, or the Director of Graduate Studies.

Credit hours per semester

We require full-time students with full assistantships (i.e., ½ time assistantships) to enroll in a minimum of 8 credit hours per semester. Students with graduate fellowships, Veteran’s benefits, or SIUC scholarships also must take at least 9 credit hours as required by the Graduate School.  Once all requirements except the dissertation are completed, GAs may take 6 credit hours as long as they fulfill Graduate School requirements for 600 credits.

Comprehensive Examinations

Ph.D. students must pass one written comprehensive exam and one written comprehensive review paper: the Doctoral Comprehensive Exam which is taken during the second weekend in January of the second year (prior to the start of 4th semester), and the Substantive Comprehensive Review Paper on the student’s research field which should be finished within one year (i.e., by the beginning of the spring semester in the student’s third year or 6th semester). Students should form their Substantive Review Paper committee within three months after completion of the Doctoral Comprehensive Exam.

Accelerated Option

With adviser's approval, Ph.D students with a SIUC MA may notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing that they wish to take the comprehensive exam in their first year in the Ph.D. program (on the second weekend in January). With this option, the Substantive Comprehensive Exam still must be completed within a year, by the start of spring semester (4th semester) of their second year. See sections below for more details on the examinations.

Doctoral Comprehensive Exam

This examination will be geared towards the demonstration of sociological insights, and its results will be graded by any two faculty members who taught a graduate course or supervised graduate students in the preceding three semesters. All Ph.D. students who have completed their third semester in the Ph.D. program must take the exam.

Using an article selected by the examination committee, students will discuss and provide written commentary and critique on key substantive concepts, theories, method, analysis, and sociological insights or contributions in 15 double-spaced typed pages, 12 pt font. Students will be assessed on their ability to clearly and concisely summarize, discuss, and critique the article and provide alternative theoretical and/or methodological arguments. The examination committee will consist of two faculty members who have taught graduate courses and/or supervised graduate students in the previous three semesters. The examiners will be chosen by lottery conducted by Director of Graduate Studies. The examiners will rotate every exam period. The two faculty members will select a sociological article for the exam at least 2-3 days before the exam. Faculty graders will have up to four full regular semester weeks to grade the comprehensive exams. They will grade the exam and report their individual written results in two weeks afterwards to the Director of Graduate Studies. Results will be Pass or Fail and the grade will be used as one aspect of evaluation for continuation in the program.

Annual Faculty Review

All Ph.D. students will compile dossiers that will be used in a full faculty review of on-campus Ph.D. graduate students (including ABDs), with special focus on graduate students in their second and third years of study. The review will occur in late February or early March [students will be notified by October 1 of the date to submit materials]. Students must submit a CV, along with a statement of purpose for completing PhD studies.

  • Up- to-date curriculum vita: name, address, education, current position, assistantship and work history in program, courses taught, research-paper presentations and publications, professional memberships, and other scholarly activities.
  • One page statement of future direction: i.e. research direction(s) with topics, substantive comp dates, prospectus topic and dates, proposed chair and committee members; if ABD, dissertation topic, date prospectus completed, and date of dissertation completion; chair, committee members.
  • For each student, at least one faculty member must agree to supervise the student through the completion of the Ph.D., and at least three other faculty members must agree to serve on the student’s dissertation committee. This will be done in two separate blind ballots of the full faculty for each non-ABD student. The first ballot will assess willingness to serve as the student’s dissertation chair, and the second will assess willingness of faculty to serve on the student’s dissertation committee. If a student fails to achieve at least one vote on the first ballot, and at least four votes on the second ballot, they will be terminated from the program. For ABD students, the faculty will review your timely progress towards completion of your dissertation.

Substantive Comprehensive Examination

The substantive review paper will assess students’ ability to think and write critically about a subfield within sociology. Students should select the area on which they will write based on their expected dissertation topic. In so doing, the review paper functions to prepare the student for the dissertation and the review paper committee may function as the basis of the dissertation committee, to which additional members will be added later. Typically the chair of the review paper committee becomes the chair of the dissertation committee. In selecting an area and organizing the relevant literature, students should first identify the area they are interested in studying, clarifying their dissertation research topic, and investigate historical/developmental issues in that area, key theoretical perspectives, early and contemporary debates, and trends indicating the state of the field. Faculty may provide broad orienting questions to help the student engage the literature.

In consultation with the chair, a second faculty member will be identified and invited to join the committee. The student will develop a reading list under the guidance of the committee. Each committee member will have the opportunity to suggest changes to the reading list, however this must be done in time to allow the student to complete the review paper as planned (by the start of the 5th semester (for consideration for the DRA) or the start of the 6th semester in the PhD program. A final approved reading list must be completed and given to each member of the committee at least one month prior to writing the review paper (the date of which should be agreed upon and deposited with the Graduate Secretary). An ideal time to begin constituting the committee and compiling the reading list is in the spring of the second year (after the Doctoral Comprehensive Review Paper). This process may take as long as the semester, but need not. Students should familiarize themselves with all relative readings prior to the start of the review paper.

Students should write the review paper over one month during the spring semester in time to allow faculty four regular semester weeks to grade it before the end of term. Alternatively, students may write it over one month in the summer and the faculty committee will evaluate the review paper in the first month of the subsequent fall semester. The review paper should be approximately 40 written pages (excluding references). At the end of the month, the review paper should be turned in to the Graduate Secretary who will attach a cover sheet and distribute it to the committee. This timeline is designed to give the student ample time to write and defend a dissertation proposal so that they may be eligible for faculty nomination of the dissertation of the DRA in early spring of the third year.

Assessment of Substantive Comprehensive Examination: The faculty committee will have up to four regular semester weeks to read, assess, and grade the review paper (faculty are not expected to grade review papers over breaks). The committee members will turn in comments to the Graduate Secretary, who will then give copies to the student. At the discretion of the grading faculty, the student may be asked to defend the review paper orally before a passing grade is awarded. Outcomes include: High Pass, Pass, Revisions, or Fail. A final copy of the approved review paper should be deposited with the Graduate Secretary before the end of the semester.

In the event that revisions are required, the student has one month to complete said revisions and may submit only one set of revisions. If revisions are necessary, members will likely meet with the student to offer guidance. If committee members disagree on whether the student has completed a satisfactory paper, a third faculty will grade the review paper. An oral defense of the revised paper may also be required at the faculty’s discretion. Students who fail the review paper before the end of the third year of the PhD program will result in termination from the program.

IMPORTANT: Students are also required to demonstrate their mastery of a second area through two or more of the following: taking seminars (especially earning a certificate and/or emphasis), teaching undergraduate courses, writing for a scholarly audience (presenting and especially publishing) and appropriate demonstration in the dissertation. The chair of the student’s dissertation as well as at least one other faculty with expertise in that area will certify the student’s competence in a letter of reference. This can be done at any time prior to graduation or entry into the job market, whichever comes first.


The dissertation is the single most important requirement for the Ph.D. degree, and the student should start thinking about potential dissertation topics soon after admission. Information concerning Graduate School requirements regarding the dissertation is contained in the Graduate Catalog.

After completing comprehensive examinations, in consultation with the graduate director and adviser, the student selects a dissertation director who must be approved by the dean of the Graduate School. In consultation with the dissertation director, the student selects a committee consisting of four additional graduate faculty members, including one from outside of Sociology. Students selecting the Criminology/Deviance/Criminal Justice option may have committee members from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice who serve as either inside or outside members. Exceptions to this committee membership will be granted in only limited circumstances.

First, the student must find a dissertation chair, who must agree to serve and who must also be a member of the Graduate Faculty. Second, the student must identify the remaining members of the committee. Five committee members are needed, and at least one must be from outside of sociology. After discussion with current chair/members and new/potential members, students may reconstitute a dissertation committee prior to the dissertation defense. Notification of the new members and chair is needed in writing to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Normally, students are encouraged the use the three members of their substantive comprehensive examination committee as the initial members of the dissertation committee. However, students may change the composition of the committee if necessary

The student then prepares a detailed dissertation prospectus, showing clearly the purpose and scope of the research, its relation to the previous work in the field, its theoretical relevance and significance, and the research methods and techniques. The prospectus must contain a section documenting the student's training and abilities in using the proposed research methods and techniques. When the prospectus is ready for presentation, the graduate director forwards to the Graduate School a dissertation committee roster with the student's dissertation director serving as chair. The dissertation committee will have at least two weeks to read the prospectus before the formal session. During summer months, students should consult with all committee members prior to arranging for any hearings. The prospectus must be approved by the dissertation committee in formal session and filed with the graduate program secretary. A prospectus must be approved no later than the end of the full-time student's sixth semester in the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Defense

The completed dissertation must be acceptable to the chair of the dissertation committee before being circulated among committee members for evaluation. After acceptance of the dissertation by the candidate's dissertation committee, an oral examination will be conducted by the committee in open meeting, as specified by Graduate School regulations. This examination will be based upon the contents and implications of the dissertation. The examination should not be scheduled sooner than four weeks after the completed dissertation has been distributed to the dissertation committee. A public announcement and a copy of the dissertation shall be made available to other faculty of the program at least one week before the examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the oral examination, the student must submit two copies of the dissertation to the Graduate School and another copy, suitably bound, must be deposited in the Sociology library.

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