PhD Program

The department offers two options leading to the PhD degree: the regular PhD program and the PhD with CSPT option.

Students entering the PhD program are expected to have completed basic graduate courses in social theory, qualitative methods, and quantitative methods. Students without the necessary background are required to complete these courses as a part of their doctoral program. The PhD program is designed to build on this foundation and offers students the opportunity to receive advanced training in qualitative methods and/or quantitative methods.

Students who wish to specialize in social theory can apply to participate in the Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT) program.

Program of Studies

The PhD program requires a minimum of 7.5 credits of coursework (i.e., five courses) beyond the Master's degree and successful completion of a three-part Candidacy Examination as well as a dissertation.   Unless equivalent courses have been taken as part of a previous graduate program in sociology, students will, by the end of their doctoral program, be required to complete two graduate-level social theory courses (SOCI 503 and SOCI 504) as well as graduate-level courses in qualitative (SOCI 515) and quantitative (SOCI 507) methods.

In addition to meeting these basic requirements, all PhD students (except those taking the CSPT option) are required to take one advanced course in social methods (SOCI 608 or SOCI 616) and one substantive area course (chosen from SOCI 520, SOCI 525, SOCI 535, SOCI 545).


Doctoral students must be registered in SOCI 693 (Ph.D. candidacy examinations) from the time a student first enrolls in the PhD program until candidacy requirements have been met.

Sociology doctoral students are encouraged to take graduate courses from the department’s list of elective graduate courses.   They may also take 1.5 units from other departments to enhance their studies, subject to approval by the graduate adviser and the student's supervisor.

Students are encouraged to take the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LATHE) program, which is jointly offered by Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies (ELPS), the Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC), and the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).

Courses  Units
Courses 7.5
PhD Candidacy Examinations 3.0
Dissertation 21.0
Total 31.5

Candidacy Exam

The candidacy examination process is designed to ensure that students have both a solid basis of knowledge in the broad area of sociology in which they will pursue their dissertation research, as well as the theoretical, methodological, and more specific knowledge necessary to embark upon the dissertation project. The exam also assesses a student's ability to read, interpret, synthesize, and critically engage with relevant literatures at a level necessary in order to successfully complete a piece of independent, original research.

There are three parts to the candidacy examination. Students first write a broad-based paper that addresses a central topic in sociology (e.g., political sociology, health, or gender), followed by a more narrowly-focused written paper that addresses the student's proposed area of dissertation research (including theoretical and methodological approaches relevant to that area of study), and finally all students complete an oral examination on both written components.   For students doing the CSPT option, the CSPT candidacy exam substitutes for the first, broad-based paper and must be completed according to the regulations of the CSPT program.

Examining committees are comprised of three members, who oversee all components of the examination. Students and their supervisors are responsible for assembling the examining committee. The process of compiling the reading lists that guide the writing of the exam papers is a collaborative one between the student and the examining committee.

The examination should normally be undertaken during a student's second year of study. At the latest, it must be completed within 36 months of first registration in the doctoral program, as per Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations. For further details please see the department's "Guide to Graduate Studies."


Students are required to complete and orally defend a dissertation proposal before their supervisory committee, normally within 6 months of passing the candidacy exams. The proposal and oral defense must be considered satisfactory by the supervisory committee before the student may proceed to the dissertation.

All students are required to submit and defend a dissertation worth 21 units of credit.