LSU Sociology Graduate Program

As a PhD granting department, we emphasize our doctoral program. Newly admitted sociology graduate students who have a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree in a different field, complete the MA in sociology at LSU as one of the milestones leading to the PhD. The LSU Graduate School monitors progress toward the PhD by the timely completion of milestones, including completing course work, receiving an MA degree, passing a general defense, and passing a final dissertation defense. The MA Program typically requires two years of graduate study. Those who already have a master’s degree in sociology from another institution may request to be exempt from the MA requirement here at LSU (see below for details). All admitted students have seven years to complete their PhD, though most students complete the program in five to six years.

Annual Reports

The Department of Sociology seeks to maintain comprehensive records of graduate students’ progression through milestones and scholarly accomplishments and activities through annual reports submitted at the end of each academic year. Annual reports are also necessary to insure that all graduate students maintain satisfactory academic standing. Annual reports summarizing academic and nonacademic achievements during the past year must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies and, after forming a committee, to the committee chair.

Transfers from Other Institutions

Students who have previously taken graduate level courses at other institutions may be permitted to transfer credits toward course requirements at LSU. The maximum number of transfer credits depends upon each student’s situation. Transferred courses must be sufficiently distinct from courses taken at LSU (for example, a student should not transfer in a graduate seminar on Stratification and take the LSU stratification course, too). To request to transfer credits, students should provide course syllabi to their committee chair. The student’s committee will review the student’s request (and meet with the student, if necessary) and notify the Director of Graduate Studies of their decision in writing. The student will earn the LSU course equivalent number of credit hours for each approved course transfer.

Students who have already earned a master’s degree in sociology at another institution may request exemption from the MA thesis or empirical paper requirement after their first two semesters in the program. To request to be exempt from the MA thesis or empirical paper requirement, students should provide a copy of their thesis (or equivalent paper) to their committee chair. The student’s committee will review the request (and meet with the student, if necessary) and notify the Director of Graduate Studies of their decision in writing. If an MA thesis is approved, the student is exempt from the MA requirement and will be awarded 6 hours of SOCL 8900.

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Requirements

The MA degree requirements are based on the philosophy that the MA program should be broad in its orientation. Successful completion of the degree provides students with a background to conduct meaningful scholarly research, and to go on to complete a PhD in sociology at LSU or elsewhere. Minimum course requirements are 36 hours of graduate work. Core courses (classical theory, methods, and two statistics courses) should be completed in the first year. See details concerning credit-hours and the course sequence under Graduate Course Requirements. Students may be permitted to transfer some coursework at the graduate level from another institution.

In addition to completing required coursework, students must successfully write and orally defend before a faculty committee, a thesis or an empirical research paper. This process typically begins with students forming an MA committee by the end of the first year of graduate study. The committee must be composed of a minimum of three graduate faculty members. If it is decided appropriate by the committee chair and approved by the departmental chair or Director of Graduate Studies, one graduate faculty member from another department may serve on an MA committee. At least one of the committee members must be a full member of the graduate faculty (i.e., rank of Associate or Full Professor). If the student has a minor, a representative from the minor department must also be on the committee.

Before the final semester (generally the spring semester of the second year), and in consultation with the MA committee chair, each student must decide whether to write an empirical research paper or an MA thesis. The empirical research paper option (also referred to as the non-thesis option) is designed to introduce students to scholarly writing in a form that is consistent with publishing papers in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal in sociology. Each student’s committee chair will provide more information about the specific requirements of an empirical research paper. As empirical research papers are not considered theses, they are not subject to the formatting requirements for all theses and dissertations which are published in a national database. Most students in sociology choose this the empirical paper option. The MA thesis option is also available to all our students, and it is sometimes required for international students as a condition of their funding. The format of the thesis may be similar to that of the empirical paper, or it may be more expansive and divided into sections or chapters, depending on the guidance of each student’s committee chair. Theses must meet formatting requirements as they are all published in the national database of theses and dissertations. Students who elect to write an MA thesis must complete six hours of SOCL 8000 (MA Thesis Research), supervised by the MA committee chair. The MA committee chair must agree to the content of the thesis before the student is permitted to enroll in the course. Students who elect to write an empirical research paper should not enroll in SOCL 8000, as this course is strictly for the thesis option. Those choosing the empirical research paper option may enroll in SOCL 8900 (Research in Sociology) while writing their paper, but this is not a requirement.

MA Defense:

For both the thesis option and the empirical research paper (non-thesis) options, an oral Master’s Defense is required in accordance with normal procedures of the Graduate School. To schedule a Master’s Defense, the student must submit the following two documents to the Graduate School:

  • Request for Master's Defense and Degree Audit
  • Application for Degree

Students should always download paperwork from the Graduate School Forms page to insure they use most up-to-date versions. Most forms include this instruction:  Email submission to gradsvcs@lsu.edu. To avoid errors, we ask each MA candidate to follow the following procedure:

  1. Download and complete both forms, following the directions given on the Graduate School website and on the forms themselves,
  2. Email copies of the completed forms to the Director of Graduate Studies to check,
  3. Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members, and
  4. Submit the forms to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and make a copy for your file.  The Administrative Coordinator will then submit the forms to the Graduate School via email to gradsvcs@lsu.edu, and copy the student and DGS in the email. After receiving the submissions, the Graduate School will then send the required examination report forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.

Consulting with the DGS before submitting the forms is critical. MA forms must be submitted by the deadline indicated on the Graduate School Calendar, (typically, late January for Spring semester; early September for Fall semester; or mid June for Summer term). Consult the Graduate School Calendar to determine the latest possible date to file in order to graduate in a particular semester. In addition, both MA forms must be submitted three weeks prior to the date of the exam (students planning to defend early in a semester must be aware of the 3-week stipulation). The empirical paper or thesis must be submitted to the student's committee at least two weeks prior to the MA Defense. 

On completion of the MA Exam, the MA committee will assign one of four grades to be filed with the Graduate School in a timely manner:

  • Pass Plus: The candidate successfully completed and defended the thesis or empirical paper, and is recommended for automatic continuation with the PhD program
  • Terminal Pass: The candidate has successfully completed and defended the thesis or empirical paper, but did not demonstrate to the committee adequate academic and professional aptitudes to continue in the PhD program. The student will earn an MA degree, but they will also be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the candidate failed to demonstrate adequate ability
  • Retake:  The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the thesis or empirical paper and that additional analysis and/or writing is required. The committee may also require a second oral defense.  The committee will provide specific feedback on the remaining requirements. Only one Retake is allowed; if a retake is assigned and a second defense is scheduled, the only grades that can be reported for the second defense are Pass Plus, Terminal Pass, or Fail.
  • Fail:  The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the thesis or empirical paper. The student will be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the defense was failed.

Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology (PhD)

The PhD program in sociology is designed to prepare the student for a career that combines both research and teaching in one or more areas of the discipline. A broad general knowledge of sociological theory and research methods is required of all students. In addition, students should develop a strong specialty area and establish a research program in that area.

It is expected that students learn the skills necessary to produce original research. Typically, this is done by developing a close working relationship with one or more faculty members and co-authoring research papers with them. In this way the student begins as an apprentice and finishes with a substantial research record. The goals of this apprenticeship include presenting papers at professional meetings, publishing papers in professional journals, and participating in the preparation of grant proposals for research funding.

The requirements in the right column are the milestones in terms of which student progress is evaluated. Starting in the fourth year the student is expected to gain experience teaching at the university level.

Year Term Milestones
1 Fall Coursework:
Classical Theory (SOCL 7121), Methods (SOCL 7211), Statistics I (SOCL 7201), and Pro-seminar (SOCL 7903), for a total of 10 credit hours
Spring

Coursework:
Statistics II (SOCL 7203) and two Electives,* for a total of 9 credit hours

Thesis/Empirical Paper:

  1. Establish committee of three members;
  2. Determine whether an empirical research paper or MA thesis will be written;
  3. Determine the content of the paper or thesis.
2 Fall

Coursework:
A minimum of 9 credit hours

Thesis/Empirical Paper:
Work on thesis/empirical research paper

Spring

Coursework:
9 credit hours of coursework (may include 6 credit hours of SOCL 8000 for the MA thesis)

Thesis/Empirical Paper:
Complete and defend thesis/empirical research paper

3 Fall

Coursework:
9 credit hours of coursework

General Exam:

  1. Establish a General Examination Committee of three members (see section below);
  2. Determine whether the general exam will be a standard exam or an review paper (see section below);
  3. Determine content of exam or review paper (see section below).
Spring

Coursework:
Pro-seminar (7903) and remaining coursework

General Exam:
Take and defend general exam

4 Fall Dissertation: Complete dissertation proposal
Spring Dissertation: Write dissertation
5 Fall Dissertation: Write dissertation
Spring Dissertation: Defend dissertation

* Although not required for MA degrees, SOCL 7213 Specialized Topics in Social Science Methods (6 credits) and SOCL 7131 Contemporary Social Theory (3 credits) are required for PhD degrees and it is recommended that these courses be completed early in the program. Students who completed 2 Proseminar hours (SOCL 7903) before the 2020-2021 academic year will not be required to take SOCL 7904.

General Examination

Upon completing an MA (or receiving an exemption), each student must take and pass a general examination. The objective of the general exam is to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the literature in a student’s declared areas of expertise. Students are eligible to write and defend their general exam during the semester in which they are completing their final course requirements (not including dissertation credits, SOCL 9000) or at a later date. The General Exam is a committee-driven process. Subject matter and exam structure are determined between students and their chair/committee members, within the parameters outlined below.

Preparing for the general exam starts with selecting a dissertation chair and committee. Though not a requirement, it is common for dissertation committee members to be the same as the MA committee members. The student's PhD Committee is composed of a minimum of three graduate faculty members and the Dean's Representative (designated by the Graduate School upon General Exam application). The student may choose one graduate faculty member from another department, if it is decided appropriate by the committee chair and approved by the departmental chair or Director of Graduate Studies. For a PhD committee, at least two of the three committee members (other than the Dean's Representative) have to be a full graduate faculty (i.e., rank of associate or full professor). If the student declares an official minor, a faculty member in the minor field must be included in the committee (in addition to the minimum of two sociology faculty members).

Together with the committee chair and committee members, each student develops and finalizes a reading list. Because the general exam enables PhD students to gain expertise in broad areas of sociology, the reading list should be much broader in coverage than references for their dissertation. In consultation with their committee, the student selects two or more substantive areas of sociological research for the exam, such as “Work” and “Family” or “Deviance” and “Mental Health.” ” The American Sociological Association’s list of current sections can be helpful in choosing substantive areas, but is not an exhaustive list of the options available.

The General Exam is based on this reading list and includes a written component and an oral defense. In consultation with their committee, the student may select one of two formats for the general exam’s writing component, as outlined below: 1) a written examination OR 2) a review paper. Each option requires an oral defense, typically administered two weeks after the written exam is completed or review paper is submitted to the committee for assessment.

Written Examination

For written examinations, students begin by selecting a target date for the exam and defense. With their chair and committee members, students create a reading list (see above) that organizes their exam preparation. After their reading list is finalized and approved, students should take approximately 3-5 months to study and prepare for the written exam and oral defense. The written exam can be: (a) open- or closed-book and administered on campus, taking no more than eight hours on a given day (held during one day or two consecutive days) or (b) open-book and take-home, taking multiple days (maximum of one week). Committee members will consider the difficulty of each procedure when assessing performance.

Review Paper

With the approval of their chair and committee, a student can replace the written examination with a review paper. This paper is a critical review of the literature in the substantive areas of sociology their reading list covers. Once the reading list is approved by the committee, it operates as a working bibliography for the review paper. It is likely that additional sources will be discovered in the course of writing and that those sources will be added to the list and cited in the paper. In terms of content, the paper should present and analyze the development of concepts, theory, methodology, and substantive issues in the selected substantive areas. It should both analyze and synthesize the literature(s) covered. The concluding section of the paper should: a) summarize major points made in the paper; b) provide evidence of the author’s unique perspective on the areas and their projections of the direction(s) new research in the areas might proceed. Students may begin writing once their outline has been approved by their committee. Students should take approximately 3-5 months from the time their initial reading list/outline is approved by their committee to complete the review paper and oral defense.

After a reading list is finalized the candidate should consult with the committee chair to select a date, time, and location (building and room number) for the oral defense.  Every student must consult the Director of Graduate Studies before submitting paperwork for the General Exam

To avoid errors, we ask each candidate to follow the following procedure:

  1. Download and complete the Doctoral Degree Audit & Request for General Defense form, following the directions given on the Graduate School website and on the form itself.
  2. Email copies of the completed forms to the Director of Graduate Studies to check.
  3. Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members.
  4. Submit the completed forms, signed by all committee members, to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies, make a copy for the student’s file, and submit the forms to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will then send the required examination results forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.

The form must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the date of the General Exam’s oral defense. After the form is submitted, the Graduate School will choose a Dean’s Representative from another department and will notify the committee chair so they can provide that person a copy of the written exam or review paper prior to the oral defense. If a committee member cannot be physically present and is going to participate remotely, students should review the Remote Graduate Committee Participation guidelines and, if necessary, complete the required form. 

Before the oral exam, the candidate should get the exam report form from the Administrative Coordinator and give it to the committee chair.  At the discretion of the committee chair, the oral defense may start with the student delivering a short discussion of their exam answers or review paper. The bulk of the oral defense involves the student answering questions about their exam answers or review paper. Provided that the committee tells them beforehand, students may be asked about questions on the exam that they chose not to answer or readings from the list that they did not include in their paper. Students should meet with their committee chair to clarify oral exam expectations. Once the oral defense is completed, the committee assigns a pass/retake grad on the exam report form. If a retake is assigned, the committee will provide specific feedback as to why the student did not pass. The committee will decide how long the student has to retake the general exam.  If a student receives a retake for the review paper option, the committee may direct the student to take the written exam, as described above, for the second attempt. After a second attempt, the committee may only assign pass/fail grades. If a fail is given, the committee will provide specific reasons for why the student did not pass. 

After graduate students pass the General Examination, they are “advanced to candidacy” and begin work toward their dissertation and final examination.

Dissertation Proposal

Before a PhD candidate begins the dissertation research, approval of a proposal by the dissertation committee is required. The candidate works with their committee chair’s input to draft their proposal. After the committee chair’s approval, the student should submit the dissertation proposal to each of the committee members at least two weeks prior to a scheduled meeting with the committee. At the proposal defense, members of the committee may approve the proposal, suggest changes in the proposal, or reject the proposal. The proposal defense is strictly a departmental matter, and the Graduate School is not notified of the defense date or its outcome. Thus, the attendance of Dean’s Representative at the proposal defense is optional, although it is recommended to ask if they are interested in participating as a courtesy. After the committee has approved the proposal, one copy of the approval sheet signed by all committee members must be placed in the candidate's file. The proposal defense must be done at least one semester before the final oral exam on the dissertation. Any major changes in the research design must be approved by all committee members.

The proposal should generally include the following items:

  1. Approval sheet and title page
  2. Subject of the dissertation
  3. Significance
  4. Preliminary review of the literature
  5. Conceptual statement of the problem or clear explanation of the research questions.
  6. Research procedure and methodology
  7. Timetable, including when data are to be collected, when analysis and writing will be done, and target date for completion
  8. General bibliography (typically in ASA Style)

Dissertation Defense/Final Exam

PhD candidates typically work very closely with their committee chair while completing dissertation research and writing. Candidates should consult with their committee chair to determine when they will be ready for their final dissertation defense. The Graduate School considers the written dissertation and the final (oral) dissertation defense as integrative; it is not possible to pass one and fail the other.

To schedule the Final Dissertation Defense, the Graduate School requires all candidates to submit the following two forms:

  • Application for Doctoral Degree
  • Request for Doctoral Final Defense

Candidates should always download the most up-to-date version of these forms from the Graduate School’s Forms page.

To avoid errors, we ask each PhD candidate to follow the following procedure:

  1. Download and complete both forms, following the directions given on the Graduate School website and on the forms themselves,
  2. Email copies of the completed forms to the Director of Graduate Studies to check,
  3. Make any corrections and collect signatures from the committee members, and
  4. Submit the forms to the Administrative Coordinator (Departmental staff person), who will get the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), make a copy for your file, and submit the forms to the Graduate School. The Graduate School will then send the required examination results forms to the Administrative Coordinator in advance of the defense date.

The deadlines for submitting forms are listed on the Graduate School’s Calendar (typically, late January for Spring semester; early September for Fall semester; and mid-June for Summer term). In addition, both forms must be submitted at least three weeks before the date of the final dissertation defense. Candidates must distribute their dissertation manuscript to all committee members (including the Dean's Representative) at least two weeks prior to the final examination. This committee should be composed of the same faculty members as for the General Examination and who approved the dissertation proposal, though this rule recognizes exceptions.

The final doctoral examination is an oral defense. At the dissertation defense, the candidate should get the Administrative Coordinator prepares the Exam Results Form and Doctoral Examination and Dissertation Report from the Administrative Coordinator and give both forms to the committee chair. The committee may render one of three decisions regarding the outcome of the exam:

  • Pass: The candidate has successfully defended the dissertation and is recommended for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology.
  • Fail: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the dissertation. The student will be terminated from the program at the end of the semester in which the defense is taken. The committee must provide feedback to the student on why the defense was failed.
  • Retake: The candidate has not successfully completed or defended the dissertation. Additional work, which includes a second oral defense, is required. The committee must provide specific feedback on the remaining requirements. The final grade of Pass or Fail must be filed with the Graduate School by the end of the next regular semester.

After the oral defense, the committee chair and Administrative Coordinator submit the Exam Report to the Graduate School. For the degree to be awarded at the end of the semester, candidates must submit their approved dissertation manuscript to the Graduate School by the Thesis and Dissertation Uploading Deadline (typically, late October for Fall semester; mid-March for Spring semester; and late June for Summer term). Consult the Graduate School Calendar for the submission deadlines.

The graduate school has more detailed information on final steps and requirements for earning a PhD, including formatting requirements for dissertations and, for those planning to walk, arranging for the cap, gown, and hood needed at the commencement ceremony.