PhD in applied sociology Degree Requirements

The Department of Sociology offers a PhD in applied 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 - and 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.


Students in the applied sociology program will take a total of 34 credit hours, 28 of which are in core/elective courses and six of which are in dissertation research:




Year 1

SOC 704 Proseminar in Sociology-PhD
SOC 730 Fundamental Assumptions
SOC 735 Classical Theory
SOC elective or independent study    

Student identifies faculty member/dissertation chair and receives exam reading lists by end of semester

SOC 740 Social Policy
SOC 760 Social Stratification
SOC elective or independent study

(SOC 706 Exam Prep) for GTAs, if needed)

Year 2

SOC 750 Program Evaluation
SOC 725 Organizational Theory
SOC elective or independent study

 Student takes comprehensive exams
at end of semester

SOC 795 Dissertation Research (+ Doctoral Candidacy, if needed for full-time status)    

Student defends dissertation proposal

Doctoral Candidacy (each semester/summer until dissertation defended)

Year 3

Doctoral Candidacy (each semester/summer until dissertation defended) Doctoral Candidacy (each semester/summer until dissertation defended)




Regarding the nine hours of electives:  (a) three hours of electives must be outside the department and may not be an independent study in that department, (b) an additional three hours of electives may be outside the department, and (c) three hours of electives may be taken as an independent study in sociology (SOC 790).  No electives may be taken without the prior approval of the Director of Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Exams

Full-time students admitted in the fall semester will take their exams in August of their second year following completion of core/elective requirements; full-time students admitted in the spring semester will take their exams during the second fall semester in which they are enrolled. Students may not take comprehensive exams if they have (a) any courses in which they have earned B- or below, or (b) any incomplete or deferred grades remaining in course work.  Students who have not earned the minimum grade needed in a course must repeat it; students may repeat a course only once and may repeat no more than two courses.  Students who do not earn the minimum grade needed on the second attempt will be dismissed from the program.

Students will be tested in a major and minor area during three four-hour sessions (two for the major; one for the minor) over six business days in a secure setting without the aid of books, notes, or any other materials. The exam in the major* area will include two questions (or two sets of questions), each given on one day of the exam, and the exam in the minor area will include one question (or set of questions) which will be less comprehensive in nature and given on the third and final day. Students will not be permitted to see each question (or set of questions) until they begin taking the exam for that question, and students must answer each question (or set of questions) on the day it is given.  Due to the nature of faculty availability, the areas in which a student may take their major exams may vary from year to year.  Students will determine their major and minor areas by the end of their first semester in the program in preparation for taking exams at the end of their second fall semester.

The comprehensive exam committee will be comprised of three faculty in sociology, two of whom will write the major exam questions (or set of questions) and one of whom will write the minor exam question (or set of questions). Selection of supervising faculty must be based on a mutual agreement between the student and the faculty.  (A student whose minor area of interest is not on the current list of comprehensive exam areas* offered by the department may petition the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to take a comprehensive exam in that minor area only if there is a faculty member willing and able to serve as an exam committee member and write a question (or set of questions) in that area.)  The reading lists for the major and the minor will be prepared by each committee and will vary in length and content depending on the composition of the committee. (The reading list for the minor will be shorter in length than the one for the major.)  Each exam committee will determine the content and number of questions for each exam day, including whether to ask a methods question, and the chair of the committee will administer all of the exams.

*The current major areas include:  collective behavior/social movements; demography; families; leisure/sport/recreation; medical sociology; public policy; race, class, gender; sex and gender; sexualities; and urban sociology.  (These areas may change slightly from year to year depending on the availability of sociology faculty to oversee comprehensive exams in these areas.)

The chair of the exam committee will schedule an oral exam of at least two and no longer than three hours, to take place after a period of one week and no more than two weeks following the last written exam, during which the student will respond to questions presented by members of the committee about the written exam essays.  For successful completion of the comprehensive exams, all committee members must agree to pass.  Students who fail the oral defense will be given a second opportunity to defend by the end of the following semester; however, failure to pass the second oral defense or defend by the end of the following semester after the failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program.

NOTE:  Full-time students who begin the program in the fall semester and who do not take their exams either by the end of their second fall semester will be placed on academic probation.  Students who do not take their exams by the end of the following semester will be dismissed from the program.  (The Director of Graduate Studies will determine the deadline for part-time students and/or those beginning the program in the spring semester.)


Upon successful completion of the oral comprehensive exam, students will take six hours of SOC 795 Dissertation Research.  Students are required to write and present a dissertation research proposal to a dissertation committee for approval by the end of the first semester in which the student is enrolled in SOC 795.  Failure to meet this deadline will result in the student being placed on academic probation in the subsequent semester. Failure to defend the proposal by the end of the subsequent semester will result in the student being dismissed from the program.

Dissertation committees must include five graduate faculty, three of whom must be in the Department of Sociology; one of the other two must be in another UofL department; and the fifth faculty may be in the Department of Sociology, another UofL department, or 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 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 time 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 submit to the department a copy of the dissertation at least one week prior to the scheduled defense for distribution to sociology faculty and graduate students.  In the defense, the student will present his or her work and 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 Graduate School, following its applicable guidelines.


 Students must earn a minimum grade of B+ in all core and B in all elective or independent study courses (with the exception of two courses in which they may earn a B in a core and/or B- in an elective/independent study course) to remain in the program.  A third course in which a minimum grade is not earned must be repeated and may be repeated only once.  Any student failing to earn the minimum grade in the repeated course and/or needing to repeat a second course, as mandated by the guidelines above, will be dismissed from the program.  (Per the Graduate School’s policy, when a student repeats a course, their GPA will be calculated on the basis of the last grade earned, although the original grade will remain on the transcript.)