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HANDBOOK Ph.D. Program in Sociology Northeastern University

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HANDBOOK Ph.D. Program in Sociology Northeastern University
HANDBOOK
Ph.D. Program in Sociology
Northeastern University
2013-2014
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 1
SECTION A - BASICS ................................................................................................... A-1
1. Admission Process and Requirements ........................................................................ A-1
2. Role of Department Chair ........................................................................................... A-1
3. Role of Graduate Director ........................................................................................... A-1
4. Role of COGS ............................................................................................................. A-1
5. Funding Process .......................................................................................................... A-2
SECTION B - ADVISING............................................................................................ B-1
SECTION C - COURSE WORK .................................................................................... C-1
1 Masters Level Requirements........................................................................................ C-1
2. Doctoral Level Requirements ..................................................................................... C-1
3. Concentration Requirements ....................................................................................... C-1
4. Year By Year Course Schedule And Requirements..................................................... C-2
5. Directed Studies ......................................................................................................... C-3
6. Cross-Registration....................................................................................................... C-3
7. Transferring Credits From Other Programs ................................................................ C-4
8. Incompletes ................................................................................................................. C-4
9. Evaluations of Student Progress ................................................................................. C-5
SECTION D – QUALIFYING EXAM .......................................................................... D-1
1. Purpose........................................................................................................................ D-1
2. Scheduling................................................................................................................... D-1
3. Format ......................................................................................................................... D-1
SECTION E - COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS ................................................................ E-1
1. Purpose........................................................................................................................ E-1
2. Committee Composition ............................................................................................. E-1
3. Comprehensive Reading List ...................................................................................... E-2
4. Guidelines on the Candidacy Examination from the Committee on Graduate Studies
(COGS) ........................................................................................................................... E-2
SECTION F - DISSERTATION ...................................................................................... F-1
1. Committee Composition .............................................................................................. F-1
2. Proposal and Dissertation Format and Scheduling ...................................................... F-1
SECTION G - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ..................................................... G-1
1. Research ...................................................................................................................... G-1
2. Teaching ...................................................................................................................... G-1
3. Citizenship .................................................................................................................. G-1
4. Business Cards............................................................................................................G-1
SECTION H - RESOURCES ......................................................................................... H-1
1. Computer, Email, Copying, etc. .................................................................................. H-1
2. Graduate Sociology Society GSS ............................................................................... H-2
3. Offices within Northeastern ........................................................................................ H-2
4. Professional Organizations ......................................................................................... H-2
5. Additional Reference Sources ..................................................................................... H-2
SECTION I - TEACHING................................................................................................I-1
SECTION J - WEBSITE ................................................................................................. J-1
SECTION K - UNIVERSITY POLICIES ...................................................................... K-1
1. Professional Conduct .................................................................................................. K-1
2. Sexual Harassment ...................................................................................................... K-1
SECTION L - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS .................................................. L-1
INTRODUCTION
This document contains rules, procedures, and suggestions for students as they move toward
completion of the Ph.D. in Sociology. Faculty members and enrolled students should use this
handbook, as it provides up-to-date information about the practices and procedures the
Department has embraced.
About the Program
The Department of Sociology offers a graduate program leading to the Ph.D. degree. The Ph.D.
in Sociology is conferred in recognition of rigorous, original scholarship within the discipline.
As such, the Ph.D. equips students to compete for fulfilling positions within an array of fields;
most students will, however, elect to pursue positions within either academic or applied
institutions. Students who enter the program without a Master’s degree in Sociology earn that
degree en route to the Ph.D., and some may exit the program after obtaining the Master’s.
However, the program is designed for students who know from the beginning that they aspire to
complete the Ph.D.
The graduate student career encompasses three distinct but overlapping stages, each of which
requires extensive reading and writing. The first stage consists of classroom work. Here,
coursework falls into two distinct types: (1) required core courses in theory, methods, and
statistics, which provide a platform for all subsequent study in the program and, (2) seminars that
are devoted to the five substantive areas covered in the program (globalization; class, race, and
ethnicity; urban sociology; environment and health; and the sociology of gender). In the second
stage of graduate studies, students write two comprehensive examinations, which are designed to
attest to the student’s mastery of recognized subfields within the discipline. On completion of
these examinations (which, collectively, constitute the “Candidacy Exam,”) students are
expected to have the skills and knowledge required to undertake the complex scholarly work
involved in the writing of a doctoral dissertation. The third and final stage of graduate study
involves the dissertation itself. In this stage, the student must assemble a faculty committee that
provides guidance during the planning and writing of an original dissertation. Involved here is
the writing of a dissertation proposal, which must be formally approved by the committee, and
then the writing and defense of the dissertation itself. Following a successful defense and
submission of the final approved version of the thesis, students have completed the Ph.D.
1
SECTION A - BASICS
1. Admission Process and Requirements
Prospective Graduate School students must apply on-line using the “ApplyYourself” system.
Please note that all letters of recommendation must also be submitted on-line via ApplyYourself.
Please go to the following link for additional information on application procedures and
requirements.
http://www.northeastern.edu/casgraduate/admissions/
NOTE: January 10 is our priority deadline for funding consideration for the Ph.D Program.
Questions regarding admission can be directed to the graduate coordinator at 617-373-2686.
All students are admitted directly to the Ph.D. program, and obtain an M.A. degree en route to
the Ph.D. (if they lack that degree). Students are admitted to the graduate program on the
assumption that they plan to obtain the Ph.D. Students admitted with a Master’s degree in
Sociology from another institution may be exempt from taking the Qualifying Exam that is
required of all first year students (see below). Such students may also petition to waive out of
the “core” Master’s-level coursework in Theory, Methods, and Statistics if they have taken
comparable courses in their M.A. program. Students admitted with a Master’s degree in a field
other than Sociology may also petition to waive out of core coursework, though this is generally
limited to Methods and Statistics (since such students typically lack requisite training in
Sociological Theory). Continuation in the Ph.D. program is contingent on students’ successful
completion of the Qualifying Exam.
2. Role of Department Chair
The Department Chair is primus inter pares – first among equals among the Department’s
colleagues. The Chair’s duties include the overall administration of the department’s resources,
oversight of faculty recruitment and development, and the tenure and promotion of the faculty.
The Chair is also a member ex officio of the Committee on Graduate Studies (COGS).
3. Role of Graduate Director
The Graduate Director is a faculty member appointed by the department chair. The Graduate
Director is responsible for overseeing all aspects of graduate training including: admissions,
curriculum, advising, and program evaluation.
4.. Role of the Committee on Graduate Studies (COGS)
COGS is chaired by the Graduate Director, and has a number of responsibilities, including:
decisions regarding admissions, nominations for awards of Stipended Graduate Assistantship
A-1
positions, oversight of graduate advising and curriculum, and program development. COGS also
considers student appeals and petitions.
COGS consists of several faculty members, appointed by the Department Chair, who are
centrally involved in the life of the graduate program. COGS also includes two elected graduate
student representatives who enjoy full voting rights. Students must be in good academic
standing to participate. Owing to the need to respect student confidentiality, the student
representatives must recuse themselves when individual student cases are discussed. Normally,
COGS meets on a monthly basis.
The Department recognizes that special circumstances may warrant exemption from one or more
program requirements. Any student may petition COGS at any time for such consideration. The
petition should state why the student wishes to be exempt from one or more requirements.
Petition letters are to be submitted to the Graduate Director. Students should ensure that copies
of all petitions are placed in their department files and retain a copy of all petitions in their own
files.
A-1
5. Funding Process
The Department endeavors to provide financial assistance for as many of its incoming students
as possible for their first five years. Beginning in 2013, the department adopted a policy
whereby all students admitted to the PhD program are offered funding.
A) Major Funding Sources
Two primary kinds of financial support are awarded by the department to graduate students:
Stipended Graduate Assistantship (SGA) slots and Graduate Student Scholarships (GSS).
Stipended Graduate Assistantship (SGA) slots may take the form of Teaching Assistantships
(TAs), Senior Teaching Assistantships (STAs), and Research Assistantships (RAs). These
positions generally provide tuition remission, a living stipend, and fringe benefits such as health
insurance. In the past, some PhD students have been supported on GSS awards, though those
will increasingly be used to support students in terminal MA program. Students who have
completed their coursework and who are unfunded may apply for part-time positions as adjunct
instructors as long as the student has achieved candidacy. When funding lines become available
(owing to leaves-of-absence, etc.), we consult with the College regarding possible re-deployment
of the award. When allowed, decisions regarding re-allocation are based on three
considerations:
1. Number of years of funding students have previously received
2. Academic merit (as judged by GPA and the performance on comprehensive and
qualifying examinations)
3. Timeliness in progressing through the graduate program
Note that students are not considered eligible to teach their own courses (whether as STAs or as
adjunct instructors) until they have completed all coursework for the degree and have achieved
candidacy. Normally, students cannot serve as TAs and adjunct instructors at the same time.
B) Minor Funding Sources
In addition to the two major forms of funding just discussed, a variety of minor funding sources
are sometimes available. These include:
a. Part Time Lecturer positions that pay a fixed salary for teaching a specific course if a
student has completed coursework and achieved candidacy
b. Tuition assistance which covers the cost of some or all tuition costs.
c. Hourly positions, either working on faculty research projects or providing service to the
department. NOTE: Students who have received a Stipended Graduate Assistantship in
the form of a TA, RA or STA award for the academic semester can simultaneously fill an
hourly position. This is considered an Overload. The student must fill out a form
describing the nature of the work and the student cannot work more than 6 hours per
week. First year students cannot carry an Overload. Students who have received a GSS
A-2
award (tuition remission only) can also simultaneously fill an hourly position.(Students
can work more than the 20- hours during spring break or the holiday intercession. They
would need to be hired through JobX and file an I-9 with Student Employment Office.)
d. Positions as Graders or exam readers (e.g., working in support of faculty teaching large
courses).
e. Work-Study programs for students meeting federal eligibility requirements.
Students may also choose to pursue outside sources of funding that advance their professional
goals, such as teaching at other institutions or obtaining student loans. Such funding requires
the student’s initiative to find out about opportunities and to apply for them. These opportunities
arise at various times throughout the year and can be for periods as short as a few weeks or as
long as a few years.
C) External Grants & Fellowships
A variety of fellowships are available from external sources. The procedures and stipends
attached to these change from time to time, as do the rules of eligibility. See the Graduate
Director for suggestions and updated lists of funding agencies maintained by the Department.
Students interested in applying for externally funded research grants or fellowships should
contact the Research Department located on the web at http://www.northeastern.edu/research/.
Note that the Institutional Review Board must often be informed prior to the pursuit of external
funding.
A-2
SECTION B – ADVISING
Incoming students are assigned a temporary advisor based on the research interests stated on
their graduate school application. Initial assignments are made by the Graduate Director.
However, students are welcome, and even encouraged, to select their own advisors after having
entered the program. Students generally select an advisor who shares at least one of the
following: substantive interests, methodological approach, and general orientation to sociology.
However, the most important criteria are the ability to communicate easily and honestly with
one’s advisor. Advisors are expected to help the student plan a course of study and to give
advice about topics such as courses, research resources, financial resources, degree requirements,
research ideas, publishing, teaching, and other aspects of becoming a Sociologist. This person
remains the student’s primary advisor until, and if, the student selects a different advisor; usually
by the end of their second year.
At the very least, all students are encouraged to have one meeting per semester with their
advisors to discuss progress in course work, comprehensive exams, dissertation proposal, and
dissertation. It is vitally important that students keep their advisors updated of their progress and
(where applicable) problems in the program, as advisors typically serve as informants and
advocates for their advisees during the annual Graduate Student Academic Progress (GSAP)
review performed each April.
When a student chooses a comprehensive exam and/or dissertation committee, this committee
becomes the advising committee and the chair of those committees becomes the student’s major
advisor. The student should inform the department’s Graduate Administrative Assistant (Joan
Collins) when a committee is formed or when a change is made so that the student’s files can be
updated. In addition, students should retain copies of all documents in their own files.
Although each student will have a primary advisor, students are encouraged to develop working
relationships with other members of the department as well — typically through course work and
comprehensive exams. Obtaining multiple perspectives on both intellectual and professional
development issues is critical for a student’s development as a Sociologist and scholar.
B-1
SECTION C – COURSE WORK
Required courses cover the core areas of Sociological Theory, Research Methods, and Statistics.
All students must take courses in these areas regardless of their areas of specialization. These
courses are offered every year. Students must fulfill these requirements during their first year in
the program. Students entering our program with a Master’s degree from another institution may
be able to substitute courses taken at the prior institution for some or all of these requirements.
Application for this kind of credit should be made to the Graduate Director.
1. Masters-Level Requirements
Thirty semester hours of academic work are required to obtain a Master of Arts degree in
Sociology. The student must maintain a B (3.00) average or better. Students must successfully
complete four required class (Theory I & II, Statistics, and Methods) and six elective courses.
2. Doctoral Level Requirements
A minimum of 24 semester hours of graduate work beyond the Master of Arts degree is required
to obtain a Ph.D. in Sociology. Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.A. in Sociology
from another university will be required to take the core requirements courses unless they can
provide evidence of the completion of equivalent courses during their Master’s degree work.
Credits earned for Master’s-level core requirements do not count toward the doctorate. Students
are also required to take two Advanced Methods courses (selected from a list maintained by the
department: http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=49) while completing their Ph.D.
coursework.
3. Concentration Requirements
Students who entered the program in 2009 or after are expected to specialize in at least one of the
department’s five areas of concentration: gender; globalization; class, race and ethnicity;
environment and health; or urban sociology. The second area of specialization may also be in one
of these five sub-fields, or may be an alternative area (subject to approval by COGS). Note that
areas of concentration are designed to be widely recognized subfields within the discipline – a
point that students should consider if and when they propose comprehensive exams in areas other
than the five standing departmental concentration areas. Students should also take existing
departmental strengths into account when proposing an area exam other than the five standing
fields.
Completing a given area of concentration requires completing the foundation course along with
at least two electives in that area of concentration (for more information, see:
http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=43. And, for questions regarding the “elective”
status of a course in a given area of concentration, see the Graduate Director). These courses
prepare students to take the comprehensive examination in that field (see Section E below for
more details). No more than one of the courses that counts toward an area of concentration may
C-1
be taken outside of the Sociology department. Students should consult the Graduate Director
before enrolling in a course outside the department, to ensure that the course is an appropriate
and helpful choice for a particular concentration.
C-1
4. Year-By-Year Course Schedule and Requirements
For students entering the program without an M.A. in Sociology:
1st Academic Year
Students are expected to take three courses in the Fall Semester and three courses in the Spring
semester. Four of these courses are required (Theory I, Theory II, Methods, and Statistics) and
the other two are electives. Students must also complete the Qualifying Exam (see Qualifying
Exam Requirements, section D below) at the end of their first academic year.
2nd Academic Year
Full-time students are expected to take a three course load each semester. Note that completion
of the Ph.D. requires that students take two additional Advanced Methods courses (beyond
Methods and Statistics training occurring during the first year). A list of approved Advanced
Methods courses can be found on the Sociology website under PhD program – Course
Requirements. These courses can be taken during the second and/or third academic years.
Many students will complete 30 semester hour credits (10 courses) necessary for the M.A. at the
completion of the Spring semester of year two. Credits earned beyond the required 30 hours will
be applied toward the doctoral degree requirements. The M.A. will be awarded at the conclusion
of the Spring semester if all requirements are completed at that point. Note that students must
petition for the degree to be awarded.
3rd Academic Year
If they have not yet taken them, students should complete the Advanced Methods course
requirements by the end of this academic year. In addition, all course requirements for the
student’s areas of concentration should be completed by the end of this year.
4th Academic Year
This is one of the most challenging years for our graduate students. In addition to teaching their
own courses as STAs for the first time (assuming candidacy has been achieved), preparation for
the comprehensive exams also begins (though in some instances, students will take their first
comprehensive exam during their final semester of coursework). Students should register for
SOCL 8960 (Exam Preparation) during the Fall semester. (Students only register for Exam
Preparation once. Even if a student is unable to complete their first comprehensive exam during
this semester, they will not register for Exam Preparation again.) Students should register for
SOCL 9986 (Research) during the Spring Semester.
As mentioned above, students may begin work on their first comprehensive exam during late
spring of their 3rd year. The idea here is to have students complete the written and oral portions
at the very beginning of the fall semester in the 4th year. Then, students can undertake work on
the second comprehensive exam during the fall semester of the 4th year, completing the oral part
of the exam by the end of the fall term. Such a timeline may not be feasible for all students, of
course. As a general rule, though, COGS expects students to have both comprehensive exams
completed no later than early Fall in the 5th academic year.
C-2
After each comprehensive exam, students should forward a copy of the comprehensive exam
questions and written answers to the department’s Graduate Administrative Assistant (Joan
Collins) for inclusion in student’s file.
5th Academic Year
Upon completion of both comprehensive exams, students will have achieved Ph.D. candidacy
(and will then have five subsequent years to complete the dissertation). Assuming the
achievement of Ph.D. candidacy occurs before Fall semester of the 5th year, students are directed
to register for SOCL 9990 (Dissertation), which is meant to prepare students for the composition
of a Dissertation Proposal. This proposal should be completed no later than the end of the Fall
semester of the 5th year. A dissertation proposal must be submitted and defended within six
(academic) months of completing the final comprehensive exam (excluding summer). Ideally,
approval of the dissertation proposal will occur early in the 5th year, allowing students to
commence work on the dissertation while still enjoying financial support. In the Spring
semester, students should once again register for SOCL 9990 (Dissertation).
6th Academic Year
Students must register for SOCL 9996 (Dissertation Continuation) every semester until the
dissertation is completed, successfully defended, and approved by the Graduate School. It is
ideal if the dissertation can be concluded by the end of the 6th academic year, although that may
not be possible for all students. Students are urged to have their dissertations completed by the
end of the 7th year in the program.
C-2
5. Directed Studies
Directed studies are based on arrangements made between a professor and one or more graduate
students to study a mutually-agreed-upon subject intensely for one semester. From a credit point
of view, directed studies are treated by the department and by the University as identical to
seminars (3 Semester Hours). Students are limited to two such directed studies during the time in
the graduate program.(This limit excludes Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies classes)
Students wishing to take a directed study should submit a detailed syllabus (outlining all readings
and assignments, a weekly meeting schedule, and other pertinent details) and the appropriate
petition form (see Graduate Administrative Assistant for a Directed Studies Contract) to the
Graduate Director at least three weeks prior to the beginning of the applicable term of study.
6. Cross-Registration
At Northeastern
Students are encouraged to take classes within the Department of Sociology. However, a student
may take a course offered by another department if it is deemed applicable to the student’s
interests by the student’s Advisor and the Graduate Director. Registering for courses within the
College of Social Sciences and Humanities requires no special registration procedures.
Outside of Northeastern
Students may take courses in the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies (GCWS) – an
interdisciplinary program based at MIT. More information about GCWS can be found at
http://web.mit.edu/gcws/.
C-3
7. Transferring Credits From Other Programs
Credits from courses that counted toward a degree earned at another institution may not be
transferred to Northeastern. That said, there are circumstances where the “knowledge” – but not
the credit – may be transferred to satisfy a program requirement. For instance, if a student took
an Advanced Statistics course in another Master’s program, this course could count toward
satisfying the Advanced Methods requirement in our program (though the student would still
have to earn the 3 credits in question by taking another elective). Students wishing to transfer
credits from other programs should discuss this with the Graduate Director upon entry into the
program.
8. Incompletes
The Department’s expectation is that the work associated with a given course will be completed
during the semester the course occurs. In other words, we strongly discourage grades of
“Incomplete.” Having even one Incomplete frequently impairs a student’s ability to complete
subsequent work on time. Multiple Incompletes constitutes a serious problem. Students who are
unable to complete all the requirements for a course may receive the grade of “I” (Incomplete) at
the discretion of the instructor, though it is important to understand several features of the
Department’s policy on Incompletes.
First, not all instructors give grades of Incomplete, and those who do each have their own criteria
for determining the suitability of this grade (which must be discussed before the end of the term).
Second, the Department expects that students, even when permitted the option of taking an
Incomplete, will complete all their coursework within six weeks of the end of the semester. This
policy is necessary to maintain students’ progress through the program. Failure to comply will
be taken as a cause for concern, and may have bearing on decisions about Stipended Graduate
Assistantship awards. On rare occasions, exceptions may be made to allow a student to carry an
Incomplete for a longer period, but only when there are compelling intellectual (e.g. papers
requiring extensive research) and/or personal reasons (e.g. medical) for doing so. Incompletes –
both those that are completed within six weeks and those that are carried longer – will be
discussed during the evaluation of student progress (e.g., at the GSAP meeting). Students should
be aware that carrying Incompletes at any time becomes a matter of record in their file. A record
of Incompletes will negatively impact evaluations, funding decisions, and even the possibility of
registering for classes.
A student who requests and receives an incomplete must file an Incomplete Grade Contract with
the Dean’s Office. This form can be found on the Registrar’s site under Forms – Forms for All
Students. It must be completely filled out and signed by the student, the instructor and the Dean’s
Office. Failure to do so may result in students being asked to return any federal loans they
borrowed during the semester in which they received the incomplete and/or being audited by
Graduate Student Financial Services.
C-4
9. Evaluations of Student Progress
Evaluation of student progress is an essential feature of our graduate program. The fundamental
purpose of the evaluation is to ensure that students complete the program in the most rewarding
and successful way possible, by achieving the highest standards of excellence in their
development as scholars. Such evaluation offers students substantive guidance about their
projects, and reminders to be timely in the completion of their work. In short, faculty members
are committed to periodic evaluation as a constructive process.
The primary instrument for periodic evaluation is the annual Graduate Student Academic
Progress (GSAP) process, which occurs annually at the end of the Spring semester. The GSAP
process considers the student’s entire record – especially GPA, the quality of written work, and
performance in core courses. After the GSAP meeting, COGS will either approve a graduate
student’s progress or, in rare cases when the record supports it, make a recommendation that the
student be withdrawn from the program (see below).
Students are advised to periodically meet with their advisor to discuss their progress,
accomplishments, and goals and plans for the next year. .
The following specific criteria are used for evaluation:
1. Course grades. Attention is given to both the student’s distribution of grades and the
overall GPA.
2. Performance (and progress) on Qualifying Exam, Comprehensive Exams, and on the
Dissertation. The department will consider the quality of these aspects of the student’s
work and the timeliness with which they are completed.
3. Incompletes. Carrying Incompletes, and/or a recurrent failure to complete coursework on
time, will be considered a cause for concern.
4. Other factors. The faculty may also consider additional factors, including: a student’s
performance in core seminars, his or her ability to respond thoughtfully to faculty
commentary on written work, the breadth of a student’s course of study, and compliance
with the university’s code of ethics.
Ideally, the faculty will reach a consensus evaluation of each student, and particularly of those
who are having difficulties. The faculty may vote to initiate a set of procedures designed to steer
a student who is having problems back towards satisfactory progress, and/or towards a clear
assessment of his/her fit with the program. If, after a careful review, the student’s progress is
deemed unsatisfactory, COGS may be compelled to recommend that he or she be withdrawn
from the graduate program.
C-5
SECTION D - QUALIFYING EXAM
1. Purpose
In the spring of their first year, students take a qualifying examination in Social Theory that must
be passed if the student is to continue in the Ph.D. program beyond completion of the M.A.
degree. The exam is based on the material covered in Classical and Contemporary Theory
courses. Possible grades are "pass," "conditional pass," and "fail." The examining committee
consists of faculty members who are well-versed in either Classical or Contemporary Theory.
The department chair is an ad hoc member of the examining committee, and casts the deciding
vote when the other two committee members disagree.
A student who receives a "pass" (as is true of the overwhelming majority of cases) will be
allowed to continue in the program. A "conditional pass" requires the student to rewrite part of
their exam (usually within a 30-day time frame). If the rewrite is deemed acceptable by the
examining committee, the student will have passed the qualifying exam. A student who fails the
exam will be asked to re-take the exam in its entirety prior to the beginning of the Fall semester.
If the student does not pass the exam on the second attempt, he or she will be asked to leave the
program after completing the requirements for the M.A. degree.
2. Scheduling
Students are consulted regarding the timing of the examination, though it is normally given
within two weeks following the end of the spring semester (e.g., early May). Note that students
are given a long list of example questions several weeks ahead of the examination itself, from
which the actual exam questions will be chosen.
3. Format
The examination is “take-home” in format. Typically, the test consists of answering three
questions selected from a large set of options. One of the questions will involve Classical
Theory, a second will involve the relation between Classical and Contemporary Theory, and a
third will address Contemporary Theory. The exam normally runs approximately 7 doublespaced pages per answer, or a total of 20-25 pages in all (plus references).
D-1
SECTION E - COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS
1. Purpose
The purpose of the Candidacy Examination (constituted by two comprehensive exams) is to
ensure that a student has mastery in two substantive areas of sociology. COGS requires that at
least one of the exams be in a departmental area of concentration. Students are expected to
complete the area foundation course and two area electives before taking each comprehensive
exam. The second exam can also be in a standing area of concentration (with similar
requirements), or it may be taken in field of specialization that is not institutionalized with the
program, but which has broad recognition in the field of Sociology (following approval by
COGS). We suggest that students wanting to specialize in a different substantive area analyze
how the American Sociological Association (ASA) defines the subject in terms of sessions at
sociological meetings, positions for hire, journals, publications, and sections of the ASA.
Students may also pursue a “publishable paper” option to fulfill the requirements of their second
comprehensive exam. Details on this option are available on the department website under
Forms and Resources, ( http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=61).
The Candidacy Exam is the culmination of a student’s formal graduate training. It covers
Theory, Methods, and the substantive area(s) relevant to the student’s two primary fields of
interest. Preparing for the exam helps students to synthesize and organize the knowledge gained
through coursework and identify gaps in their knowledge. It also enables them to narrow down
their area of interest for their dissertation project and to get ready to teach their own courses.
2. Committee Composition
A student must form a committee of three faculty members to administer the exam in each area
of specialization. For instance, for an exam focusing on the sociology of gender, the student may
choose three faculty members with expertise in this area. For a second area, such as urban
sociology, the student may choose three entirely different faculty members to administer that
exam. There may be some overlap of faculty members on each committee. The expectation (but
not the rule) is that faculty serving on both candidacy examination committees will also serve on
the dissertation committee of the candidate.
One member of an exam committee is designated as Chair and coordinates the administration of
the exam, including informing the department and the student of the results. All three committee
members should be chosen from our department unless a compelling case can be made for a
committee member from another department (or university). However, the Chair of the
committee must be from our department. Students interested in including a faculty member from
outside the department must petition COGS for approval. Petitions should clearly state the
rationale for the request (e.g., “Professor X, from State U., is the nation’s leading expert on Y –
an area where our department currently lacks a third faculty member with requisite
expertise…”).
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Since the student-committee relationship is an important one, students are encouraged to
establish their candidacy exam committees as early as possible in their residency so that a
working relationship can be developed. Students are strongly encouraged to take classes from
the faculty members they desire to serve on their candidacy committees.
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3. Comprehensive Reading Lists
The department maintains reading lists for some of the areas of concentration. These are updated
periodically by the faculty, and are posted on our website. Students have some flexibility in the
construction of their reading lists for a given exam: specifically, at least half of their list must
derive from the department-maintained list. The other half will be guided by the student’s
specific research interests, subject to agreement by the student’s committee. If no departmentmaintained list currently exists, students will construct their entire list in collaboration with their
committee. Further, when taking an exam in an outside area (approved by COGS), students
should work with their committees in constructing an acceptable reading list.
4. Guidelines on the Candidacy Examination from the Committee on Graduate Studies
(COGS)
For a document offering comprehensive discussion of the comprehensive exam process, see the
Forms and Resources section of our website, Comprehensive Exam Information, Guidelines for
Candidacy Examination in Sociology.
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SECTION F - DISSERTATION
In the dissertation, the student must show command of a major theoretical issue in sociology and
control of the empirical and theoretical literature relevant to the research topic. The student is
expected to demonstrate high-grade competence in research procedures, including design,
analysis, and evaluation. The purpose of the doctoral dissertation is to allow the student to
demonstrate competence in research and inquiry. The dissertation must be an original work that
modifies or enlarges upon what has previously been known.
The dissertation will engage most of the student’s time and energy for a year or more. It will
also define a professional identity in the early stages of a career. Thus, a dissertation topic
should be developed with care. Ideally, students work closely with faculty mentors, so the
interests and skills of department faculty should be a consideration in choosing a topic.
1. Committee Composition
Frequently, selected members of comprehensive examination committees serve on the
dissertation committee. Successful students generally begin to constitute a dissertation
committee while completing their required coursework, before taking their comprehensive
exams. Beginning such consultation during the second or third year of coursework provides
information about faculty interests and availability and aids students in refining research topics.
In forming a committee, the student should normally first seek a faculty member who will agree
to serve as dissertation chair, and then consult with that person regarding additional committee
members. The committee has a total of four committee members: three from our department,
and one from another department or University. The committee Chair must be a faculty member
from our department. Questions about the composition of the dissertation committee should be
directed to the Graduate Director.
2. Proposal, Dissertation Format, and Scheduling
The traditional Sociology dissertation is written in the monograph style, with a single overall
argument carried throughout the entire document. The typical chapter-by-chapter format for the
monograph approach to the dissertation is as follows (with some room for variation, of course):
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I.
Introduction
II. Theoretical Background
III. Data and Methods
IV. Empirical Analysis Chapter #1
V. Empirical Analysis Chapter #2
VI. Empirical Analysis Chapter #3
VII. Discussion of Findings
VIII. Implications and Conclusions
While the monograph approach is, by far, the most common in Sociology, some students may
choose to write their dissertations in the “three-article” style popular in economics, public health,
and other fields (with appropriate Introduction and Conclusions chapters to “book-end” the three
substantive, “article-style” chapters). The guidelines for such dissertations are as follows:
1. The three-article format of the Ph.D. dissertation requires that a student produce three
manuscripts prepared as journal articles as well as introduction and conclusion chapters
framing these articles for a total of at least five chapters.
To utilize this format, the student must first get the dissertation committee to agree to the threearticle format. The student’s committee will decide whether or not a three-article format is
suitable for the proposed dissertation.
2. Next, the student will need to get a dissertation proposal approved just as for a
dissertation in the traditional monograph format. Such a proposal should introduce and
outline each of the three articles. If, for some reason, at a subsequent point the student
decides that the traditional monograph format is more desirable for her or his dissertation,
the student can petition the dissertation committee requesting a shift to the traditional
monograph format – a request that will be routinely granted.
3. The three articles must all be in the same subarea of sociology. The student’s committee
will make the determination as to how closely linked the articles can be or must be. No
articles written prior to entry into our graduate program can be counted. The three
articles must be based on original quantitative or qualitative empirical research.
However, with the permission of the dissertation committee, the student may be allowed
to include one article that does not fit this criterion (e.g., theoretical articles, policy
essays, and methodology articles).
4. Students are urged to submit their articles for publication as early as possible. If an
article has been published prior to the defense of the dissertation, the student must obtain
the copyright permission from the copyright holder in order to include the article in the
dissertation.
5. The resulting corpus of five chapters must be approved by the student’s committee as
representing a contribution to the field at least comparable to that of a typical monograph
style dissertation in our department. The final determination of dissertation acceptance
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will be based on the quality of the research and the importance of the overall contribution
of the work as reflected by the articles as a set.
Regardless of the model followed, the critical steps in carrying out the dissertation are as
follows:
A) Selecting a Dissertation Committee (described above).
B) Writing the Dissertation Proposal. In consultation with the dissertation advisor, the
student next writes a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal is typically
developed gradually, as a result of the student’s preliminary research and discussion with
her/his committee members.
C) Defending the Dissertation Proposal. The proposal must be defended in an oral
examination before the student’s dissertation committee. Upon successful defense and
approval, the proposal is placed in the student’s file. At this point, the student is
informally considered “ABD” (All But Dissertation).
D) Research for the Dissertation. The committee (especially the dissertation advisor) must
be kept informed of the student’s progress at regular intervals, and should monitor the
candidate’s work and assist in its development. In so far as possible, the committee
should attempt to give the student ample and early warning of any reservations
concerning the student’s progress and, if necessary, should specify the changes required
for dissertation acceptance.
E) Writing a Dissertation “Draft.” A draft of the dissertation (or chapters thereof) should be
submitted to the dissertation advisor and/or to any or all members of the dissertation
committee according to terms agreed upon by the student and by committee members.
Often, the student will provide drafts of chapters of the dissertation as they are written;
other times the student and dissertation advisor will determine that it would be best to
have a completed draft all at once. This is a matter for the student and his or her
committee members to work out individually and, preferably, explicitly. However, regular
feedback and frequent revisions are typically important ingredients of an excellent
dissertation.
F) Revision of the Dissertation Draft. In accordance with committee members’ comments,
draft chapters and/or a draft of the entire dissertation will be revised until the dissertation
is deemed ready for defense. Again, this may take several rounds of revision.
G) Defending the Dissertation. Once the committee is satisfied that the dissertation is ready
to be defended, the dissertation advisor will give the student permission to set a date for
defense. When the dissertation committee deems the written work ready for public
defense, the Graduate Director and front office should be contacted at least three weeks in
advance of the defense date so that a public announcement can be made and the faculty
and graduate student body invited to attend. It is the responsibility of the student to
schedule a mutually agreeable date and time for the defense. The defense must be held at
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least four weeks prior to the commencement at which the degree is to be awarded. .
Except by special prior permission of the Graduate Director, the defense will take place
in the conference room and the student and all members of the committee must be
present. However, use of Skype and/or conference call may be permissible if one
committee member is unable to be physically present. Upon successful defense of the
dissertation, committee members will sign the appropriate form (available on our
website) and the “signatures” page of the dissertation itself. At Northeastern, approval of
the dissertation must also be forthcoming from the Department Chair, who certifies that
all requirements have been met for the Ph.D. degree.
H) Final Revisions. Even dissertations that pass a defense generally require some further
revisions. These are typically carried out in consultation with the dissertation advisor,
who is given the authority to “sign off” on the completed manuscript (i.e., forward it to
the Department Chair for his/her final approval). Students should be advised that this
final stage of revisions (i.e., after a successful defense) is an important and non-trivial
part of the dissertation process. . It is expected that final revision will not take more than
a few weeks.
I) Formatting and Printing the Official Version of the Dissertation. The final draft of the
dissertation should be prepared in strict accordance with the instructions given in
theCollege’s Graduate Thesis Guidelines link, available on our website.
J) Protection of Human Subjects in Research. Northeastern University, like all higher
education institutions receiving Federal funding, requires that no activity involving
human subjects be undertaken until those activities have been reviewed and approved by
the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB). Accordingly, all university research
involving human subjects must first be reviewed and approved by the Office of Human
Subject Research Protection.
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SECTION G - PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The graduate program seeks to provide training and preparation that fully equips students with
the research, teaching, and citizenship skills they need to compete for highly-fulfilling
professional positions. Below is an outline of the practices maintained by the program with these
professional development needs in mind.
Research
Students are encouraged to demonstrate publication productivity during their graduate studies,
since doing so is a mark of accomplishment and distinction that often multiplies the opportunities
students will enjoy. Toward this end, the program has adopted several practices:
A) The department, pending the availability of funds, maintains an annual program of minigrants, often between $1500-2000, which is designed to foster graduate student
involvement in faculty-driven research. Where possible, the department also provides
modest funding in support of dissertation-related costs.
B) The department offers a limited number of hourly summer research positions on a
competitive basis. This program is especially appropriate for international students, who
often face sharp constraints on their employment activities.
C) The Graduate Student Government organization provides funding for conference,
competition, and activity travel on a reimbursement basis for associated expenses,
including registration fees, travel and lodging. Students are eligible for funding up to the
amount of $375 per academic year. (See Graduate Student Government website at:
http://www.northeastern.edu/gsg/?page_id=57) In addition, the department provides
support for graduate student travel to professional meetings. This is a vital part of
professional development, in that it provides an indispensable opportunity for intellectual
exchange and sociability. Generally the student must have a paper accepted for inclusion
on the program, and is then eligible to receive up to $400 for such purposes. But students
must first apply to the Graduate Student Government organization.
D) Finally, the department maintains an ongoing program for professional development,
holding workshops on various professional matters, and hosting intellectual exchanges
via each of the areas of concentration.
Beyond these practices, students are encouraged to work with faculty to revise papers written
during their coursework with an eye toward publication in peer-reviewed journals.
Teaching
The graduate program has long-emphasized the importance of active mentoring for graduate
students as they enter the classroom. For this reason, the program has maintained a number of
practices in support of this goal, including:
A) The Teaching Tutorial, a co-curricular program, is designed to provide an apprenticeship
experience for graduate students as they begin to assume teaching responsibilities.
Students typically participate in the Tutorial in the Fall of their fourth year of study
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Strongly recommended for all students who are teaching for the first time, the Tutorial
enables students to discuss the craft of teaching in a supportive group setting, under the
leadership of a faculty mentor. The Tutorial fosters active, practical discussions about
teaching strategies and techniques, coping with classroom problems and issues,
examination giving, course design, and other issues of importance to successful
instruction. The tutorial enables students to develop a teaching portfolio (including
syllabi, in-class evaluations, and a statement of teaching philosophy), which all students
are expected to compile by the completion of their degrees.
B) To ensure that all graduate students are well-prepared to assume teaching duties, the
program also requires that all students undergo a formal in-class evaluation by a faculty
member of their choosing. This evaluation, which will generate a written report, is meant
to ensure that students receive meaningful guidance and mentoring regarding pedagogy.
An important benefit to the student, apart from the content of such evaluations, is that the
in-class evaluation attests to their teaching skills, thus positioning them to compete for
the most fulfilling positions. The teaching evaluation becomes an important part of the
teaching portfolio.
Citizenship
Whether in academic or applied research positions, students will need to develop an
understanding of effective organizational participation. The program is committed to supporting
growth in this respect, and makes active allowance for student participation in the life of the
graduate program. Specifically:
A) Students are granted rights of participation on COGS, through their two elected
representatives, who enjoy full voting rights. Students are expected to convey their
concerns to their representatives, and to approach the Graduate and/or Chair to raise any
concerns about departmental practices.
B) Students are expected to attend periodic Town Hall meetings, to facilitate communication
in all directions. Such meetings provide an important source of information for the
Graduate Director and Chair, and a mechanism that enables all constituencies to raise
concerns and suggestions of importance to themselves.
Business Cards
As long as the budget allows, the department will provide business cards for ABD students who
are on the job market. Exceptions to the ABD policy are made for pre-ABD students who are
actively engaged in research and may need the cards for fieldwork.
Students interested in Business Cards should email the Graduate Administrative Coordinator for
the Graduate Program: [email protected]
Pre-ABD students should detail the nature of the research they are conducting.
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SECTION H - RESOURCES
1. Computers, Email, Copying, etc.
A. Computer and Email Resources. All students are entitled to University computer and
Email accounts –these accounts are important since Department news is commonly
distributed via Email. The Department uses the student’s official “NEU” email account
for all correspondence. Students who rely primarily on alternative accounts (e.g., Gmail)
should set their NEU mail to forward to that account (to avoid missing important
announcements, etc.). The department has a computer lab available to all graduate
students. These computers contain Microsoft Office Suite 2010 and various quantitative
and qualitative software programs. .
Important: Graduate Students should only use their official NEU email account to
communicate with undergraduate students.
B. Mail Services. Each graduate student has a departmental mailbox. These are located in
the mail room in 549 Holmes Hall. It is a good idea to periodically check your mailbox
because important notices are sometimes distributed in that way.
C. Copying, Printing, and Supplies. Graduate students may photocopy documents if they
are assisting in a course and/or assisting a faculty member with research. Photocopying is
generally limited to material directly related to the student’s duties. For personal use, the
university allots up to 400 pages of free printing at any of the printing centers located
across the campus. Additionally, there is limited printing allowed in the computer lab in
the department.
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2. GSS
The Graduate Sociological Society (GSS) is a graduate student organization created to access
Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) funding and sponsor student-led events
throughout the academic year. Each spring, the GSS works with department administration to
host the annual Awards Ceremony at the end of April.
3. Offices
Space is at a premium in the department (as is often the case nationally). Graduate students
serving as TAs and STAs are giving priority on space, and are generally asked to share an office.
All of these arrangements, of course, require that students act with mutual respect and sensitivity
with regard to office routines and schedules. When additional space becomes available, it is
provided to students whenever possible.
4. Professional Organizations
A. National:
American Sociological Association (ASA) 1307 New York Avenue NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005; (202) 383-9005; Fax: (202) 638-0981; http://www.asnet.org
Association of Black Sociologists (ABS) 4200 Wisconsin Avenue NW PMB 106-257
Washington, DC 20016; (202) 365-1759; E mail: [email protected]
Society for the Study of Social Problems Department of Sociology University of Tennessee
901 McClung Tower Knoxville, TN 37996; (865) 974-7026
http://funnelweb.utcc.utk.edu/~sssp
Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS) University of Rhode Island Chafee Social Science
Center Kingston, RI 02881; (401) 874-9510 www.socwomen.org
B. Regional:
Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) William Patterson University 300 Pompton Rd. Wayne,
NJ 07470 (973) 720-3689 [email protected]
5. Additional Reference Sources:
Pauline Bart and Linda Frankel. 1986. The Student Sociologist’s Handbook (4th ed.), Random
House, 1986.
Howard S. Becker. 1986., Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis,
Book, or Article, University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Anne S. Huff. 1999. Writing for Scholarly Publication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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Lawrence F. Locke, Waneen Wyrick Spriduso and Stephen J. Silverman. 1987. Proposals that
Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals (2nd ed.), Sage Publications,
1987.
Robert L. Peters. 1997. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a
Master’s or Ph.D. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.
Paul J. Silvia. 2007. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
David Sternberg. 1981. How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation, St. Martin’s
Press, 1981.
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SECTION I –TEACHING
As noted elsewhere, the program is designed to equip all students with the opportunity to
develop teaching expertise. Normally, students begin by serving as Teaching Assistants, ideally
for courses in areas of their own research interest. By observing and participating in courses
taught by full-time faculty members, students gain a familiarity with teaching routines and
course design. TAs ordinarily support instructors by: attending class sessions, holding office
hours to provide students with guidance, helping grade exams and papers, running review
sessions, and, sometimes, by providing guest lectures (when interested in such) to gain
experience in instructional delivery.
When students have achieved candidacy and transition into the Senior Teaching Assistant (STA)
role, they begin to assume the role of the instructor of record, designing and offering classes
independently. The Teaching Tutorial (see above) is an important part of this process. Normally,
STA positions are held during the 4th and 5th years of graduate study. Students are not eligible to
teach their own courses, whether as STAs or as part time instructors, until they have completed
all coursework and have achieved candidacy.
After serving as STAs, students are eligible to serve as part-time instructors (as are students who
have not served as STAs), depending on the departmental need and availability of resources.
Criteria governing the distribution of STA and part-time teaching positions are described
elsewhere in this document.
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SECTION J - WEBSITE
The Department maintains a website where the following can be located:
A list of current faculty members and their research interests -http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=63
Comprehensive Exam Reading Lists -http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=61
Forms and Resources (including petitions mentioned above) -http://www.northeastern.edu/socant/?page_id=61
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SECTION K - UNIVERSITY POLICIES
1. Professional Conduct
Graduate students in the department are expected to abide by general University policies. The
Department and University place strong emphasis on quality education for undergraduate
students, and expect graduate teaching assistants to abide by the highest standards of professional
conduct in the classroom. Teaching assistants should be aware of expectations regarding
appropriate relationships with students, as outlined during the University’s TA orientation
program.
All graduate students should become familiar with the guidelines for professional conduct and
community civility, including policies dealing with academic honesty and plagiarism, sexual
harassment, discrimination, and the rights and responsibilities of students and teachers. Students
are encouraged to read the student handbook, which discusses most of these issues.
2. Sexual Harassment
The following statements are taken from the Northeastern University Student Handbook:
No employee, agent, supervisory personnel, or faculty member shall exercise his or her
responsibilities or authority in such manner as to make submission to “sexual advances,
requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” as an
explicit or implicit term or condition of evaluation, employment, admission,
advancement, or reward within the University. Neither shall any employee, agent,
supervisory personnel, or faculty member make submission to or rejection of such
conduct the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting any employee or
student. Neither shall any employee, agent, supervisory personnel, or faculty member
conduct himself or herself with respect to verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature
where such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an
individual’s work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or
offensive work or classroom environment.
Though sexual harassment will not be tolerated, the University recognizes that it is
difficult to regulate emotional relationships between consenting adults. However, a
consensual relationship may be suspect in instances in which one of the individuals has
authority over the other. Therefore, no faculty or employee involved romantically or
sexually with a student may teach or supervise that person either individually or as part
of a group in any activity connected to the University.
Any student, teaching assistant, employee, or faculty member who feels that he or she has
been the victim of sexual harassment may bring the matter to the attention of the Director
of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equality. Copies of the sexual harassment
grievance procedure can be obtained from the Office of Institutional Diversity and
Equality, 424 Columbus Place.
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Definition of sexual harassment: Unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that relates to
the gender or sexual identity of an individual and that has the purpose or effect of
creating an intimidating or hostile environment for student, work, or social living.
Institutions of higher learning across the country have adopted similar policies in
response to court actions that recognize two forms of sexual harassment under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
Quid Pro Quo – The “quid pro quo” (literally, “this for that”) claim involves harassment
in which the supervisor or teacher demands sexual favors in exchange for job or
academic benefits over which that person has some control or influence.
Hostile environment – The “hostile environment” claim involves unwelcome behavior of
a sexual nature that creates an intimidating environment for study, work, or social living.
This claim includes intentional behavior, as well as behavior that has the reasonably
foreseeable effect of interfering with an individual’s ability to work or study.
This policy is consistent with the strong commitment to academic freedom and to social
interaction between faculty members and students. Both inside and outside the
classroom, the University welcomes discussion of controversial subjects and expression
of ideas with which some or most members of the community strongly disagree.
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SECTION L - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I am planning to write a “qualitative” dissertation. If I’ve worked this out with my advisor and
he/she is satisfied with my plan, why can’t I waive the statistics requirement?
The department is committed to the principle that all graduate students need to learn certain core
areas of the discipline of Sociology regardless of what they later decide to specialize in. These
core areas are Theory, Methods, and Statistics. Although you can control the substantive area in
which you decide to work, you cannot control the work of others that you will have to read in
order to do a thorough literature review in your chosen subject. It is very likely that some of this
literature will use statistical methods which you will need to be able to follow with
comprehension.
Which sorts of questions should I be taking up with the Department’s administrative staff and
which with the Graduate Director or Department Chair?
Faculty sets policy; staff implements policy decisions made by faculty. If you already know the
department policy (on, say, teaching summer courses or making up an incomplete – just to take
two of many possible examples), but you are not sure about the mechanics of actually getting it
done, then you should talk to a member of the administrative staff. If you want an exception
made to a departmental policy or you want to suggest a change in policy, you should talk to the
Graduate Director or Department Chair. If you are not sure what a specific policy is, talk first to
a staff member. If it is a matter of interpretation, they will refer you to the appropriate faculty
member or dean.
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