GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS TO GRADUATE STUDENTS
The Duke Sociology Department has designed a rigorous graduate program to prepare students for successful careers in academic and related fields that demand advanced research and teaching skills. The following materials, together with the University's Graduate Bulletin, should answer most of the questions students usually raise. You should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) if you are in doubt about how the statements made here or in the Bulletin pertain to you. Each student is responsible for knowing and meeting the requirements of the Department and the Graduate School.
The regulations of the Graduate School of Duke University require students for the Ph.D. to register as full-time students for at least six semesters. "Full-time" is defined as twelve credit hours or "units". Each semester-length course typically earns three credit hours or units. The Graduate School grants one semester of credit (i.e. 12 units) to students who have already received a graduate degree from another institution. Once the full-time registration requirement is completed, students need pay only a registration fee each semester until they satisfy all the requirements for the Ph.D. The Graduate School requires that students spend a minimum of one year in physical residence at Duke. Finally, the Graduate School requires that students satisfy their department's special requirements for the Ph.D. and, in particular, pass preliminary examinations and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation. The departmental requirements for a Ph.D. in sociology are described below.
The Department offers expert training in multiple sociological subfields. Students can choose to specialize in one of these areas or create specialty foci of their own, with the guidance of their advisory committee. The specialty area forms the core of each student’s primary field exam, which is constructed by the student and their advisor. Current field areas include:
- Economic Sociology
- Medical Sociology
- Population Studies
- Social Networks
- Social Psychology
Doctoral students must take at least seventeen courses, twelve of which must be in sociology. The DGS determines whether courses taken in other departments are sufficiently related to count toward the seventeen required. All courses must be taken at the graduate level (500 or above), except for two in other departments at Duke, which may be taken below the 500-level. Graduate courses fall into three categories:
(1) Six required core courses - one theory, one research design, two statistics, and two advanced/specialized methods;
(2) Professionalization seminars: (701 – year long; counts as 1 course), (702 – 2 semesters), (703 – 1 semester);
(3) electives taken inside or outside the department. We strongly encourage students to work with their advisors to find courses that fit your primary field area, though no formal requirements tie particular courses to exam areas.
Students entering with a Master of Arts degree in Sociology can, with the permission of the DGS, substitute up to three courses for the departmental requirements. In the case of core requirements, substitution also requires the approval of the professor teaching the core course.
Beginning with the fall 2004 semester, grades in the Graduate School are as follows: A,B,C, F, and I. I (incomplete) indicates that some portion of the student’s work is lacking, for an acceptable reason, at the time the grades are reported. The instructor who gives an I for a course specifies the date by which the student must make up the deficiency. If a course is not completed within one calendar year from the date the course ended, the grade of I becomes permanent and may not be removed from the student’s record. The grade of Z indicates satisfactory progress at the end of the first semester of a two-semester course. An "F" in any course leads to automatic academic probation by the Graduate School. A repetition of low grades (e.g., grades in the "C" range) will lead to a formal evaluation by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student's advisor and other faculty. This evaluation will consider the student's progress and prospects for continuation in the program. It could result in a decision to terminate the student in question.
Graduate students’ professional development occurs continuously from the time they arrive until they complete their dissertation. The graduate program at Duke is organized to provide students with experiences in a variety of professional roles, all under faculty guidance.
For the first year of residence, each student is assigned to a faculty preceptor with whom regular meetings take place. This relationship helps students learn more about sociologists' routine practices in research, teaching and administration. First year students also attend a professionalization seminar (Sociology 701), designed as a broad “graduate introduction to sociology” to acquaint them with the interests and research activities of the departmental faculty, as well as with the current debates and controversies within the discipline.
Our program depends on close interaction between students and their advisors. While we encourage students to work closely with an advisory committee in all phases of the program, there are four specific committee tasks: (1) By March of their 2nd semester, students must choose a faculty advisor. This advisor will guide the 2nd year paper (along with the 702 instructor). (2) By March of the 4th semester, students should have an advisor plus a 3-person committee (4 total, can be larger if you wish) who will guide your primary field exam, (3) students need an advisor and 3-person committee (4-total) to defend the dissertation proposal, (4) an advisor and 3-person committee (4-total) will read the completed dissertation and administer the dissertation exam. Consistency in committee membership is generally productive and thus strongly encouraged, but if research interests evolve, membership in the committee may also evolve. Advising and committee service is at the faculty member’s discretion.
The Department encourages students to do original research throughout their graduate careers. We partially support travel to present papers at professional meetings and participate in research workshops. [Priority is given to students who have passed their Preliminary Examinations.] The department can also assist students in gaining outside funding and, in some cases, offer material support to acquire data and research materials.
Teaching is an integral part of the graduate program at Duke. Graduate students usually get teaching experience through teaching assistantships in a regular course or, for more advanced students, independent instructorships. Assignments of students to courses reflect both the availability of qualified students and the course needs created by undergraduate enrollments. The Department Chair makes these assignments in consultation with the Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies.
THE ANNUAL REVIEW
During the spring semester of each year (usually in mid-February), the faculty assesses all students' academic performance in an Annual Review of Graduate Students. The review is completed in two phases. In the first phase, an initial review report is given to the DGS by the student’s advisors. If this report suggests a need, the students case may the also be reviewed by the full faculty. At the end of the review, a written evaluation of student progress is provided to each student. All materials should be compiled on the web-based annual review forms (link TBA).
The faculty considers the following materials at the Annual Review: (1) A succinct (usually two-page) statement by the student. This statement should include relevant achievements, inside and outside of the Department. It should put the student's program and activities into a general intellectual framework. Ongoing research, participation in professional meetings, paper submissions to journals, work done elsewhere (especially for students who have transferred from other graduate programs), should be enclosed in this statement.
(2) A summary of the graduate courses taken at Duke and grades earned (provided by the DGSA).
(3) Written and verbal comments from the faculty concerning the student's course performance and the quality of other supervised work (e.g., research and teaching assistantships).
(4) Success in meeting key progress milestones:
a) Passing the general examb) Completing a 2nd-year paper c) passing primary field examsd) completing the dissertation proposal e) defending the dissertation.
One objective of the Annual Review is to determine whether second-year students (or in some cases, second-semester students with an M.A.) should progress in the program to the primary field exam. One of three decisions is rendered: (1) that the student is making good progress and should proceed to the primary field exam; (2) that the student is making progress but in certain areas exhibits deficiencies that call for remedial work before the primary field exam can be taken; (3) that the student has not performed satisfactorily, shows little potential for improvement in the near future, and should be terminated at the end of that spring semester. Passing the general exam and completing a 2nd-year paper are necessary but not sufficient requirements for moving forward in the program. Students who are asked to withdraw from the program are eligible to apply for a terminal Masters Degree in Sociology (for requirements, see below). Regardless of their year in the program, all students receive feedback from their preceptor, the chair of their advisory committee, or the chair of their doctoral dissertation committee, summarizing the faculty evaluation.
Our preliminary exam system consists of two parts, with a general exam at the beginning of the third semester (for all cohort members) and a primary field exam sometime in year 3 (timing determined by the student with their committee, no later than March 15 of the 6th semester). Passing the general exam is required for admittance to the third year. Passing the primary field exam meets the university “preliminary exam” requirements meeting the eligibility requirements for “post prelim” resources and is necessary for continuation in the program.
Passing the general exam demonstrates competency in the approaches, methods and questions core to sociology. The exam is distributed in the 2nd week of the third semester, and consists of take-home questions to be answered over a weekend. The exam will cover general issues in social theory, research design and current empirical debates. Content is based on first-year course material, a reading list, and the prior 2 years of ASR and AJS. The exam will be drafted & graded by members of the graduate policy committee and the DGS from questions & topics submitted by the faculty. Relevant courses are theory, statistics, research design and pro-seminar.
Primary Field Exam
Passing the primary field exam demonstrates sufficient expertise in an area to write a dissertation and teach graduate level work in that subfield. The primary field exam is designed by the student with their advisor(s) at the end of year 2 and is completed over the course of year 3. The exam consists primarily of a focused review essay (modeled on the Annual Review of Sociology), a graduate-seminar syllabus, and a poster summarizing a key question or debate in the field. The student may also provide the committee with additional evidence of area competence in the form of prior course papers, related papers published or under review, and/or dissertation ideas at the discretion of the exam committee. The exam committee (dissertation chair and 3 readers) will meet with the student in year 3 (no later than March 15) to discuss the submitted materials. Here, the student should demonstrate fluency in the area and expect to answer substantive questions about all exam materials. This meeting concludes the formal grading requirement of the exam. Students will share posters in a joint presentation held during one of our spring brown-bag sessions.
Primary field areas are guided by faculty concentrations (see list below). Each primary field will construct a short “foundation list” of about a dozen fundamental works, which serve as a starting point for the focus designed by the student with their committee. Individually designed field areas are allowable, provided the student has support of a committee and approval of the DGS.
Current field areas
- Economic Sociology
- Medical Sociology
- Population Studies
- Social Networks
- Social Psychology
The examination committees assign grades of "High Pass," "Pass," or "Fail." Students who fail the general examination may apply to retake the exam the following year, scheduling of the primary field exam for such students will be worked out with the DGS and the advisory committee. Students failing their primary field exam can apply to retake the exam within a year. For both exams, application to retake the exam is considered by the DGS, the students’ advisory committee and the graduate policy committee, and approval to do so is entirely at their discretion. If the examination is failed again, the student must leave the program.
THE MASTER'S DEGREE
A non-terminal Master of Arts degree is awarded to students who have completed at least ten courses (30 credits), passed their primary field examinations and completed a 2nd-year paper. A terminal Master of Arts degree is available to those students who have completed ten courses but do not take (or fail) the general examinations. In this case, the student forms an M.A. committee that will approve the topic for a Master's thesis and determine whether the completed thesis meets the Department's standards for the degree. The M.A. Committee consists of three members of the sociology faculty.
All students are required to prepare a dissertation proposal. It should describe a research project in detail sufficient to permit an evaluation of both its merit and feasibility. The statement should be no longer than twenty double-spaced typewritten pages. The student's Dissertation Supervisory Committee makes the final decision as to the acceptability of the proposal. It is the purpose of Sociology 703, taken in the third year, to help students design their dissertation proposal. By the beginning of the third year, students should form a four-member (advisor plus at least 3 readers) supervisory committee, choosing a faculty member to act as chair. A faculty member from a department other than sociology may be included in the four. Changes in this committee are possible with the concurrence of those being replaced and added, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Dean of the Graduate School. An initial meeting of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee should be scheduled within six months of the student's satisfactory completion of the primary field exam. The student's Dissertation Supervisory Committee should approve the dissertation proposal no later than February 1st of the fourth year of residence.
THE PH.D. DISSERTATION
Procedures and schedules governing the submission of dissertation titles and final drafts are available from the Graduate School and updated annually. The Department requires that one copy of the dissertation be deposited in the departmental library. The student is held responsible for meeting all requirements of format and style as described in the Duke University Guide for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations available in the Graduate School Office.
Students are expected to complete their dissertation within four years of defending the dissertation proposal. Extensions beyond this time can only be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School and are limited to one year.
THE FINAL EXAMINATION
The final examination for the doctorate focuses primarily on the issues covered in the dissertation, but it can legitimately pursue any area in which the student is expected to be qualified. This includes topics represented in the core curriculum and in the student's specialties. The student and the chair of the Dissertation Supervisory Committee are jointly responsible for scheduling the final oral examination and for notifying the Graduate School Office of the examination one week preceding the exam. While any University faculty member can attend the final examination, only members of the Supervisory Committee vote on the adequacy of the student's performance.
CRITERIA FOR FUNDING ADVANCED GRADUATE STUDENTS
The Department provides all graduate students who are making satisfactory progress with financial support for their first five years in residence. "Satisfactory progress" is determined by the faculty during the annular review (see Appendix B). Students are encouraged to seek alternative sources of funding, particularly for their fifth and subsequent years. Leaves of absence do not stop the financial support clock.
Occasionally, funds are available to support a student beyond his or her fifth year. The decision to fund beyond the fifth year is at the discretion of the DGS. Several criteria are used when making this decision. They include course grades, evaluations by faculty who have worked closely with the student, participation in professional meetings, publications, activities within the Sociology Department, performance in the primary field area, timely completion of a satisfactory dissertation proposal, and steady progress in dissertation research. The Annual Review discussions, which cover all these issues, are a significant input to funding decisions. The evaluation of graduate student progress is continuous within the Department, and funding decisions will draw on all the relevant information when they are made.
POLICY ON LEAVES OF ABSENCE
Leaves of absence are granted in extraordinary circumstances (e.g., documented illness or research-based requirements for living/working abroad or elsewhere in the country for an extended time). Leaves prior to a dissertation proposal defense are discouraged. Leaves must be requested from the Director of Graduate Studies by filing the Department's petition form and completing the Graduate School's request form. A meeting with the DGS is also required. Whenever possible, request for leave of absence should be petitioned one semester (4 months) before the expected date of leave to allow time for the department to make adjustment in TA and other related assignments.
APPENDIX A: Core Requirement Summary:
- Classes: 17 classes total, 12 within the department, including: 6 core courses (theory, statistics (2), research design, advanced/specialzed methods (2)), 4 proseminars (701, 702, 703), and electives. Students can take more courses if they wish, this is a lower limit.
- Exams: (1) General Exam, (2) primary field exam, (3) dissertation proposal defense, (4) dissertation defense.
Satisfactory Progress Through the Program
Primary program goal:
- Students should end the program as one of the world’s leading experts in an important sociological topic. This is signaled by building a cumulative research program capped by a dissertation with innovative ideas conducted with cutting-edge research design and analysis.
- Finish PhD in 5 years
- Coauthor at least one peer-reviewed publication with faculty.
- Have 2 sole-authored peer-reviewed publications in the pipeline (R&R) by early fall of year 5 (to include in job-market packet).
- Find external research project support for the dissertation (i.e. NSF dissertation grant, RWJ funding, etc.)
- Teach at least one course independently on your dissertation topic area.
- Attend colloquia & department job talks
- Be an active participant in a research working group
- Contribute to the service and community of the department
All elements are ultimately judged by the faculty at the annual review of students, and there is room for individualized trajectories. Below we sketch one recommended progress through the program elements, deviations should be discussed with your advisors.
|Exam & Committee Activity||
|Meet at least 3 times w. preceptor||
Join ASA, Southerns, etc.
|Find and advisor for 2nd year paper.||Get to know faculty, look for someone to work for over the summer.|
|Summer||Prep for General Exam||Explore feasibility of 2nd year paper w. advisor; start data / Lit collection & organization.||
Research activity w. faculty;
Best to stay in residence
Meet w. 2nd year paper committee at start of semester
Take general exam (2nd week)
|Work on collaboration paper w. faculty member|
|Work closely w. committee to finish 2nd year paper.||Submit 2nd year paper abstract for ASA meeting|
|Summer||Prep for Prelim Exam||Prepare prelim exam reading list with committee, work on dissertation ideas||Submit 2nd year paper to journal. Present paper at ASA meeting|
|Work w. advisor on prelim materials, sketch dissertation plans.||Start another paper|
Prelim exam completed by March 15.
Target for dissertation proposal defense
Submit paper 2 abstract to meeting.
NSF Dissertation improvement deadline: Feb 15
|Summer||Prepare proposal / Dissertation work.||
-Summer training program for dissertation skills.
-Submit paper to journal -Teach a summer course
|(no course requirements, but we encourage you to remain course-active with audits)||Prepare proposal||-Prepare job market materials Get dissertation chapter(s) under review.|
Proposal must be defended before Feb 1st.
Work on dissertation
|-Attend ASA, meet about jobs.|
|Summer||Work on dissertation|
|Work on dissertation||Apply for jobs (deadlines mid Oct, getting earlier…)|
|Spring||Work on dissertation|
|Summer||Defend Dissertation!||Move to new job!|
|Ideally you finish by the end of your 5th year. 6th year students are lowest funding priority for internal funding.|
|Summary||17 total courses: 1 theory, 2 statistics, 1 research design, 2 advanced methods. At least 12 in department (701 counts as 1 course, ½ credit each semester)||Find an advisor early and meet regularly. Finish a 2nd year paper that is publishable. Develop a specialization area you care about. Write an outstanding dissertation.||Become an active member of the discipline. Attend meetings, present papers, read journals, participate in research teams.|