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Graduate Program in Sociology

PhD in Sociology

The PhD program, offered on a full- and part-time basis, is intended to develop research and teaching scholars who can accomplish major, independent research projects, who are able to advance the substantive and theoretical debates in the discipline through professional discourse and publication, and who are able to teach the basic perspectives in the discipline and at least two more specialized fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Academic requirements for the graduate program can be found at

To access past requirements, please visit

For further details regarding the requirements of the PhD program, please see below.

Duration of the PhD Program

All requirements for the PhD must be completed within six years of first registering as a  doctoral student.  During this period, continuous registration at York must be maintained.

Part‑time study does not entitle students to extra time.  Part‑time doctoral study is feasible only if the student can collect data for the Dissertation as part of their job, or if the student can switch to full‑time study for a year or two.

A reasonable rate of progress for a full-time doctoral student who can study throughout the summer terms would be roughly:

Years I and II: completion of all Workshop and course requirements; decide on a dissertation area and select a Supervisory Committee

Years II and III: completion of Comprehensive Field Requirements

Year  IV: Write and submit Dissertation proposal

Year V:

Research and write Dissertation

If a student has not finished at the end of their 6th year (18th term), they will have to withdraw from the program and seek reinstatement when they have completed all outstanding work and have an examinable Dissertation.  In exceptional circumstances, an extension may be granted, and the student will be required to register as a part-time student.  Such an extension requires formal approval by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and is not granted routinely.  Students need the support of their committee supervisor and the Graduate Program Director.  In addition, students must write a petition outlining why they have been unable to finish within the normal time period and submit a detailed work plan for finishing the Dissertation within the requested extension period.

Requirements of the PhD Program

The following requirements must be completed:

The Workshop Requirement. The program organizes a weekly three-hour workshop in the fall and winter terms for graduate students.  The workshops take place on Mondays at 11:30 in the Sociology Common Room (2101 Vari Hall).  The purpose of the series is to provide students with an orientation to sociology, particularly focusing on the way the discipline is conceptualized and practiced in our program and in the field. A range of intellectual and professional sessions are offered over the course of the year.  While some sessions are specifically designed for MA students and others for PhD students, workshops have the same objectives for all students: to showcase faculty and student research, to provide a forum for intellectual exchange, to promote a strong sense of collegiality and engender a sense of community among members of the program.

Attendance is required at a minimum of twelve 3-hour weekly workshop sessions, normally within the first year of study. Ideally, this requirement should be met within the first year of study since it is structured to help students move through the program.  While this is the formal requirement, students are encouraged to attend all research-related workshops offered by the program.

Supervisory Committee.  At the core of a student’s program is the formation of a three-person graduate faculty Supervisory Committee. This committee is a way to establish and maintain close contact with faculty members who share similar orientation and interests.  While the committee is particularly important when working on the Dissertation, if it is in place early enough, the members can also act as academic advisors.  Within the general parameters of program requirements, the Supervisory Committee is largely responsible for advising students on a course of study appropriate to their interests, assessing their work and progress, and for professional mentoring.

The specific composition of the Supervisory Committee is in the student’s own hands, subject to the Director's approval and general Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations which specify the categories of membership which must be filled.  Briefly stated:

The PhD Supervisory Committee MUST consist of a minimum of three members from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, at least two of whom must be from Sociology.  The principal Supervisor must be from Sociology.  In exceptional circumstances, the third, or an additional, member who does not have an appointment to the Faculty of Graduate Studies may be included, but this requires prior approval by the Dean. 

Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations state PhD students must have a supervisor in place no later than their fifth term of study.  Doctoral supervisory committees must be formed no later than the student’s eighth term of study.  Students who do not meet these deadlines will be unable to register unless the supervisor and/or supervisory committee has been approved.

Students must submit a completed supervisor and supervisory committee appoval form to the program office in order for their supervisor and supervisory committee to be formally approved.

The York Sociology Graduate Assocation, with help from the program members, has developed some guidelines to assist you in both choosing and meeting potential committee members. 

Course Requirements.  Four full courses, or the equivalent, including a full course in theory and a full course in methods, if these have not been taken previously.  The Director determines whether the methods and theory requirements have been met elsewhere. (Please note that, in general, transferring credits is discouraged.)  Courses are chosen from those offered at the 6000-level .  With the Director's permission students may take the equivalent of one full reading course (Sociology 6900) and/or the equivalent of one full course in another graduate program.

Comprehensive Requirements

Theory and Methods Requirements

Courses which meet the theory requirement are: 6130; 6132; 6135; 6170; 6180; 6190; 6192; 6195; 6196; 6197; 6200, 6201; 6810; 6894.

Courses which meet the methods requirement are: 6060; 6086; 6090; 6095; 6112; 6120; 6121; 6150.

The program is only able to offer a select number of theory and methods courses during any academic year.   As a result, not all of the courses which meet the theory and methods requirement will be available for you to enrol.

Two Comprehensive Field Requirements

In addition to coursework, students must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge in two fields:

Goals.  The comprehensives are intended to prepare the student for the dissertation, to do research and to teach in a field.  Outside the structure of a course, the comprehensive provides the student with the challenge of examining and synthesizing a body of theory, and usually related empirical research.  Comprehensiveness in a field combines breadth, depth and synthetic ability, without necessarily entailing exhaustive knowledge of the field.  Students are expected to have a broad understanding of the major theoretical perspectives in the field and key debates.  In most fields, comprehensiveness also requires a good knowledge of the alternative approaches to relevant empirical research, key findings and their interpretation in relation to theoretical approaches, and gaps in current research.

It is the responsibility of the program to provide a list of the program's pre-approved comprehensive fields , updated annually, and the names of available faculty with expertise in each field.  Students must have an approved comprehensive request form on file, before the comprehensive can be signed off by the program. With the approval of the student’s faculty group or Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Program Director, comprehensives may be written in fields other than those designated.  Any such additional field, however, must have the same degree of generality as the designated fields.  A more specialized area is better explored as part of the student’s dissertation or other research.  Students usually choose comprehensive fields that are relevant to their dissertations and/or to the fields in which they expect to teach, but this is not a requirement.

Scheduling and Relationship to the Dissertation.  The student will complete the comprehensive requirements by his or her eighth or ninth term of study in the doctoral program, that is, during the third year of registration.  Students are required to complete the comprehensive requirements before the dissertation proposal is approved.  The comprehensives can play an important role in defining the dissertation project and some students may choose their comprehensive fields partially in order to prepare broadly for background in a field related to the dissertation, but the comprehensives should not be seen as the beginning or a direct part of the dissertation.

Faculty Supervision.  There are two options for supervision of the comprehensives.

i.  Each term, the program will have a meeting of students wishing to complete a comprehensive requirement.  One or more groups of students will be paired with a group of faculty who will co-ordinate decisions on their comprehensive fields, preparation of reading lists, and the assessment.  If there are sufficient numbers, students will be divided into groups of 4-8 students.  As far as the number of students and their interests permit, the groups will be identified in relation to the core areas of the program.  For supervision and later assessment of the comprehensive, a faculty member or student whose needs are not fully met by the three-person faculty group may add a faculty member with expertise in the area of the comprehensive.

ii.  The student may form a three-person comprehensive Supervisory Committee for each or both of the comprehensive fields, which may or may not become their dissertation committee. Like the dissertation Supervisory Committee, the Comprehensive Supervisory Committee consists of:


a minimum of three members from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, at least two of whom must be from Sociology.  The principal Supervisor must be from Sociology.  At least one member must have declared themself an expert in the comprehensive field being examined (see list of pre-approved comprehensive fields).

Preparing the Reading List.  The student and the Comprehensive Supervisory Committee will jointly decide on a reading list for each comprehensive; for comprehensive groups this will be done collectively, but will still require student-faculty agreement.  The list will be equivalent to about 25 medium-sized books, with articles counting for about one-fifth of a book.  Students are encouraged to make use of reading lists from completed comprehensives in the program office.  Lists of core readings have been developed in 29 areas, with others in the works. These will be updated regularly.  Students might take 15-20 readings from the core list and add 5-10 to reflect their particular interests, or find a balance that suits them and is acceptable to the faculty group or committee supporting and assessing the comprehensive.

Comprehensive Format.  In each field, a student must demonstrate competence through written work followed by oral discussion.  The written work can take three forms:

  1. Outline of an advanced undergraduate course in the field chosen, to include:  a detailed academic rationale for the organization of a course providing broad coverage of the field; a rationale for the particular selection of topics; and a list of twenty-five two-hour lecture sessions, with readings to accompany each session; and the full text of a final lecture that identifies broad strengths of the field, major gaps in theoretical work and empirical research, as well as describing important issues the course could not address.  This exercise provides opportunities to discuss how such a course would provide advanced undergraduates with a broad knowledge of the current state of the field, to show how the instructor would integrate major debates, to locate key empirical findings in relation to theoretical approaches, and to address gaps in current knowledge.  The written lecture will be approximately 25 – 30 pages.
  2. A review of research in the comprehensive field.  The paper (approximately 40 pages) must demonstrate an understanding of the major theoretical approaches and findings of the important bodies of empirical research, perhaps including comments on alternative methodological approaches.  The paper should identify critical current debates in the field and identify significant theoretical and research gaps in the literature.  This review is not an opportunity to explore specialized theory or empirical research.
  3. A take-home exam.  The exam, consisting of two questions, shall be designed to elicit responses that reflect an understanding of the major theoretical approaches and the findings of the important bodies of empirical research as they pertain to the comprehensive field.  Exams will be held three times per year:  in September, January and May, within a two-week period announced by the program office.  Three months before the proposed exam date, students will submit to the program office:  a reading list; a 300-500-word rationale for the list; and 3-5 exam questions, all of which will be developed by the student in consultation with their supervisor and committee members.  For the exam, the committee will develop two questions, based on the issues covered by the questions developed in conjunction with the students; these two questions may be from amongst the three to five questions submitted earlier.   The supervisor will send the two exam questions to the student by e-mail and cc the Program Office.  Students will respond to these questions in 3000-4000 words, each, over the course of one week (7 days).  Students must inform the Program Office of the 7-day period in which they will be writing the exam.  When students submit their responses to their comp committee, they are also required to send their responses to the Program Office at this same time.  The committee will assess the responses, hold an oral discussion, and make an evaluation, normally within one month of receiving the responses to the written portion of the exam.  (If, due to extenuating circumstances, such as extended illness, a student is unable to take the exam during the scheduled period, the program will assist in making alternative arrangements as needed).

    Option 1 may be used for  completing ONLY one of the two comprehensive

Evaluation of the Comprehensives.  It is the responsibility of the student’s faculty group or Supervisory Committee to organize the evaluation of the student’s work.  In each field, a student must demonstrate competence through her or his written work.  Assessment of the written work is to be completed in the context of an oral discussion of the field between the student and her or his entire faculty group and/or Supervisory Committee.  This will include a presentation by the student, followed by questions.  The assessment of the group/committee will be that the student has passed or failed.  A field requirement is considered passed if no more than one member of this group/committee casts a negative vote. 

The process is constructed to be both evaluative and educative.  In the case of an assessment of “Fail,” one of the committee members (typically, the supervisor) will provide the student with feedback and guidance (concerning revisions, preparation for the take-home exam, or preparation for the oral discussion, as appropriate), directed to enable the successful completion of the comprehensive.  In the case of Option 1 and Option 2, the student should aim to be re-examined in the field, by the original committee members, within three months of the first attempt.  In the case of Option 3, the student should be re-examined, by the original committee members, at the next scheduled exam date.  In principle, the reexamination should be based on the original list of 3-5 questions, though the reexamination questions must be new.  Regardless of the option selected for completing a comprehensive, two failures will require the student’s withdrawal from the program.

When the student has passed the oral exam, they must submit a signed comps exam approval form, along with a copy of the comprehensive, to the program office.

Dissertation Proposal.  Students must develop an acceptable Dissertation proposal.  When this has been approved by the Supervisory Committee, one copy of the proposal, a signed proposal approval form,  signed copies of the human participants research forms,a TCPS certificate and a copy of the informed consent document, all available at, must be sent to the program office, which seeks the Dean’s approval.  This must be done at least 6 months before you are ready to take the oral. For more information on what is required to be submitted to the Program Office, please see the Guidelines, Policies and Forms section of this website.

Proposals written by former students may be consulted, but not borrowed, in the program office.

Dissertation.  Carry out research project and report the results in appropriate Dissertation format (  Information on what you're required to submit to the Program Office for a dissertation defense can be found in the Guidelines, Policies and Forms section of this website.

Dissertations  written by former students may be consulted but not removed, from the Common Room (2101 Vari Hall).

The Oral Examination.  When the Dissertation is judged examinable by the Supervisory Committee, an Examining Committee is appointed.  It consists of the following:

  1. The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies or her/his representative, who will be at arm's length from the supervision of the dissertation, and who will serve as Chair of the examining committee;
  2. One external examiner, from outside York University, at arm's length from the dissertation;
  3. One graduate faculty member at arm's length from the dissertation, and noramlly from outside the Program;
  4. Two graduate faculty members from the supervisory committee, or one member from the supervisory committee and one graduate faculty member from the Program

      Note that this Examining Committee varies from the composition of the Supervisory Committee.

      Instructions on how to schedule an oral defense can be found in the program's "how to schedule a dissertation defense" document.

      There are important deadlines to be observed if you intend to graduate in June or October.  Please consult the Faculty of Graduate Studies website,, in good time.  THEY WILL NOT BE WAIVED.

Language and Cognate Requirement.  Depending on the Candidate’s qualifications and intended research, demonstrated competency in a foreign language and/or demonstrated competency in a technical skill, such as statistics, may be required at the discretion of a student’s Supervisory Committee.