Curriculum, four-year timeline, and information regarding internship, comprehensive exams, dissertation, and grades

The Department of Sociology offers a PhD in sociology, which is focused on training professional researchers at the highest level to follow the discipline's focus on bringing scientific understandings to the study of social issues and problems.  The unique combined requirements of an internship and a theoretically-driven dissertation provides students for both applied and academic careers.  Training in both qualitative and quantitative methods and theory with substantive areas, along with internship placements in governmental, private, and non-governmental organizations, will prepare students to meet the growing demand for applied sociologists who are qualified to address directly the problems facing not only Kentucky, but our nation and the world.


Following is the curriculum (64 total credit hours) and four-year timeline for students pursuing the PhD in sociology:




Year 1

Proseminar (SOC 704, 1 credit hour)
Sociology core/elective courses (9 credit hours total)*

Sociology core/elective courses (9 credit hours total)*

Independent Study (SOC 702, 6 hours) (for GTAs only)


Sociology core/elective courses (9 credit hours total)*

Sociology core/elective courses (3 credit hours total)* and
SOC 702 Independent Study (3 credit hours)
SOC 706 Doctoral Exam Preparation (3 credit hours)

Begin preparing for doctoral exams

Independent Study (SOC 702, 6 hours (for GTAs only)


SOC 706 Doctoral Exam Preparation (6 credit hours)
SOC 707 Internship Preparation (3 credit hours)

Select internship site and negotiate contract;
take doctoral exams

SOC 708 Internship (9 credit hours)

Conduct internship and
write/defend internship report

Independent Study (SOC 702, 6 hours) (for GTAs only)


SOC 710 Dissertation Research (9 credit hours)

Defend dissertation proposal

Doctoral Candidacy

Defend dissertation

*Although students must meet with the Graduate Coordinator to discuss their individual course schedules and overall time-line, during the first and second year, students will take the following core and electives (as available in the course schedule):
SOC 616 Advanced Multivariate Analysis (3 credit hours)
SOC 617 Program Evaluation & Impact Analysis (3 credit hours)
SOC 618 Qualitative Research Methods (3 credit hours)
SOC 619 Fundamental Assumptions of Sociology (3 credit hours)
SOC 625 Social Policy (3 credit hours)
SOC 720 Contemporary Theory (3 credit hours)
SOC 725 Organizational Theory (3 credit hours)
SOC 600+ Electives (9 credit hours total. Students may wish to take an independent study during the summer, which would count toward the electives requirement.
NOTE:  Students may be allowed to take and count toward degree requirements (a) up to six hours of course work outside the department, and/or (b) up to three hours of course work at the 500-level, but neither may be done without the prior approval of the Graduate Coordinator.


Comprehensive Exams
Upon completion of all course work, students will prepare for comprehensive exams by taking nine hours of Comprehensive Exam Prep (SOC 706).  The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to demonstrate expertise in three specific areas of expertise. No student may take the comprehensive exam until he or she has completed all Incompletes or grades of X.  No student who has more than 6 hours of a grade of C+ or below may take the comprehensive exam.  Students will be tested in a methodological, theoretical, and a substantive applied area of their choosing.  A reading list for each of these areas will be prepared by the student with assistance from members of the comprehensive exam committee.

The exam will consist of three questions (one question per area) developed by members of the exam committee.  Students will not be permitted to see the questions until they begin taking the exam.  Students will complete their exams during three four-hour sessions held in a secure setting over six business days.  Students will not be permitted to use books, notes, or any other materials while writing their essays.  After a period of one week and not longer than two weeks, the chair of the exam committee will schedule an oral exam of a duration of not less than two and not longer than three hours, during which the student will respond to questions presented by members of the committee about the written essays. To render a passing grade, all committee members must agree to pass.  Students who fail the exams may re-take the work judged unsatisfactory within the following semester.  Students failing the second attempt will be expelled from the program.

Upon successful completion of comprehensive exams (and completion of SOC 707 Internship Prep, during which the student is expected to defend his/her internship proposal), students will conduct their internship, enrolling in SOC 708 Internship.  The internship will require students to secure a one-semester placement at a governmental, non-governmental, non-profit, charitable, or private organization, agreed upon by the student and his/her major advisor.  Under supervision of the chair of the internship committee, the student will conduct research for the organization in areas such as policy analysis, population need, or social problems  on an issue agreed upon, in writing, by an authorized representative of the organization, the internship committee chair, and the student.  The specific duties and responsibilities, a plan of research, and an outline of what the research report will encompass shall be written into the contract. The internship may consist of secondary analysis of data or the collection and analysis of original data.

The internship report will consist of the following sections: I. Summary of the Topic Being Researched, Purpose of the Research, Research Questions and/or Hypotheses, Summary of Assumptions and Concepts;  II. Research Methods;  III. Findings;  IV. Summary and Conclusions or Recommendations.  Before the report is submitted to the organization, it will be subject to a defense internal to the department, in which the student will present his or her research and respond to questions and criticisms by members of an internship committee.  The committee will consist of three members of the graduate faculty from the Department of Sociology at UofL.  The internship will be required of all Ph.D. students, including those who have completed a Practicum Report as part of the requirements of an M.A. in sociology at the University of Louisville.  The Director of Graduate Studies will oversee the internship component of the program.  Each student’s mentor will supervise the internship.  Students who receive stipends from the host agency will not be eligible for university funding.

Upon successful defense of the internship report, students will take dissertation research hours (SOC 710) and eventually, as needed, enter doctoral candidacy.  Students are required to write and present a dissertation research proposal to a dissertation committee for approval.  The committee will consist of five members: three or four must be graduate faculty in the Department of Sociology; no more than two will be graduate faculty from other departments; and one may be from another university.  The proposal will include a summary of research literature on the topic to be researched, the ways in which the proposed research is expected to expand upon the literature in meaningful ways, an explanation of the theoretical framework and relevant concepts that will, or is likely to, inform the data analysis, the data collection methods to be used, and the source of the data to be analyzed.  Students may propose to use the data collected during their internships, but they must present in their research proposals a sound methodological and/or theoretical argument explaining how the proposed research will address gaps in the literature and why a case study method is an appropriate approach.  After the proposal is completed, the dissertation committee chair will schedule a defense of the proposal, at which the student will address questions and concerns presented by committee members.  Such concerns will be included in a final draft of the research proposal, which the student will distribute to all committee members.

After approval of the research proposal, the student will conduct research for the dissertation, which will include the elements required in the research proposal, as well as a section of findings, analysis and discussion of the findings, and summary and conclusion.  Upon completion of a defensible draft of the dissertation, the student will submit the draft to all members of the dissertation committee.  The student will also place a copy of the dissertation at the front desk in the Sociology Department, which may be read by interested faculty or students.  The committee chair will schedule a defense to be held not less than one week after distribution of the final defense draft and its placement at the front desk of the Sociology Department, and not more than two weeks after its distribution.  In the defense, the student will present his or her work and then respond to questions and criticisms from members of the committee.  The student will be responsible for making any final changes required by committee members.  Upon completion of the final document, it will be distributed to committee members and submitted to the University, following its applicable guidelines.

By combining rigorous courses in quantitative and qualitative research methods and theory with substantive areas (e.g., the sociologies of crime and delinquency; the environment; work, labor markets, and welfare; the family; medicine and mental health; education; and inequalities based on  race, ethnicity, gender, and social class) with internship placements in governmental, non-profit, charitable, private, and non-governmental organizations, the proposed program will provide students with the data gathering and analytic tools needed to investigate and discover new knowledge about social problems, issues, and trends and to offer specific policy recommendations toward the mitigation of such issues in applied settings.  In addition, by requiring the completion of a comprehensive exam, dissertation proposal, and dissertation, the proposed program will provide students with the training and educational guidance needed to advance beyond concrete understandings of specific social issues in localized settings and toward more generalized and theoretically driven explanations of sociological trends.

The strength of this program is that it provides extensive training for students in two career directions, the applied and the theoretical.  Students will prepare for the “real world” of Applied Sociology by completing the 9 credit hours of internship.  They will undergo the rigors of the theoretical aspect of the discipline by completing a dissertation.  When students complete the program they will be prepared to enter the professional work force as applied sociologists or they may choose a more traditional career in academia.

Doctoral students are expected to produce high quality work.  Students who receive a grade lower than a C+, however, may re-take no more than 2 courses for which a grade lower than C+ has been earned.  These courses may be retaken only once each. If the student cannot achieve grades higher than that on the second try, the student will be dismissed from the program.