Ph.D. Requirements

The Ph.D. Program (Years 3-6)

The Ph.D. in Sociology is awarded to students who successfully complete:

All of the M.A. course requirements (as listed above) or equivalent

  • At least 12 additional credits of coursework (including SOCI 501)
  • Two comprehensive examinations
  • A dissertation proposal
  • A dissertation
  • A defense of the dissertation in a university examination

Year 3: Ph.D. Coursework and Comprehensive Examinations

Total Credits: 6

Term 1 (3 credits):

  • SOCI 501: Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • Comprehensive Area 1 Examination
  • Professional Development Seminars

Term 2 (3 credits):

  • SOCI Elective Course (3 credits)
  • Comprehensive Area 2 Examination
  • Professional Development Seminars

Year 4: Dissertation Prospectus

Total Credits: 6

Term 1 (3 credits)

  • Dissertation Prospectus
  • SOCI Elective Course (3 Credits)
  • Professional Development Seminars

Term 2 (3 credits)

  • Prospectus Defense/Dissertation
  • SOCI Elective Course (3 credits)
  • Professional Development Seminars

Year 5: Dissertation

Term 1 

  • Dissertation
  • Professional Development Seminars

Term 2 

  • Dissertation
  • Professional Development Seminars

Year 6: Complete Dissertation

Term 1

  • Dissertation
  • Professional Development Seminars

Term 2

  • Dissertation Defense
  • Professional Development Seminars

Each incoming Ph.D. student is assigned a Temporary Advisor in their offer of admission. The student should contact this faculty member in the summer prior to beginning the Ph.D. program in order to discuss course selection (i.e. prior to registering for courses for the coming year), preparing a fellowship funding application, and other matters. As soon as possible (ideally within the first six months in the program) the student should identify a Supervisor with competencies appropriate to the student's topical interests, and, if his/her agreement is obtained to serve as Supervisor, notify the Sociology Graduate Secretary accordingly so that this may be properly documented in the student’s file.

In addition to consulting with the Temporary Advisor, students may ask the SGSC for help with arranging supervision. Students are free to ask any member of the faculty with a regular appointment to serve as Supervisor. Students can change supervisors at a later date if necessary, but this should be done in consultation with the SGSC. The Supervisor assists the student in establishing a program of study and selecting areas of concentration for the comprehensive exams. Please note that a faculty member can normally serve as Supervisor for a maximum of five graduate students, and that not all faculty are on campus or accessible 12 months a year, especially when they are on leave, at conferences, or between teaching terms.

The SGSC and the Head of the Department are ultimately responsible for ensuring that graduate students obtain adequate supervision.

The Sociology Ph.D. program involves successful completion of at least 12 course credits (including SOCI 501). Incoming students who have not already completed courses which are deemed to be close equivalents to the required courses in years one and two will be required to complete the missing courses in addition to the required 12-credit program. At least 6 course credits should be from departmental seminars. Where appropriate, students may take additional coursework in Sociology and/or other relevant fields, although it may be advisable to only audit courses that are not needed for credit. The SGSC, Supervisor or Advisory Committee may recommend or require that a student take specific or additional courses. Please note that students are required to register for specific courses each term. Students who are not enrolled in any graduate-level courses must register for the dissertation course (SOCI 649) to be considered registered full-time and to be eligible for awards.

Advanced Methods Elective Course (Year 4)

In year 4, students are required to complete a 3 credit advanced methods course. This course, which can be focused on either qualitative or quantitative methods, is intended to provide a student with more specialized methodological training in order to facilitate the student’s dissertation research. The course does not have to be a Sociology course and can be an advanced (3 credit) methods course offered in other units on campus (e.g., Education, Nursing, and Psychology) or beyond (e.g., another university). In selecting which course to take, students should consult with their faculty advisor as well as the UBC course catalog for considering potential options. Please note that, for some courses, students may need to contact the course instructor in order to obtain permission to enroll in the course.

Students are required to write two separate comprehensive examinations which are normally taken in the third year of the program and must be completed prior to commencement of the fourth year of the program. Whenever possible, students should select comprehensive examinations that build upon their prior coursework and training. Students who do not pass both comprehensive examinations will not be advanced to candidacy and may not continue in the program. A student failing a comprehensive examination may repeat it once.

The Department offers comprehensive examinations in 10 areas. Below is the list of these areas and potential faculty examiners for each area:

  1. Community and Urban Sociology: Carpiano, Fu, Hanser, Lauer, Lauster, Mawani, Richardson, Tindall
  2. Culture: Abrutyn, Duina, Ghaziani, Hanser, Veenstra
  3. Family: Elliott, Johnson, Lauster, Martin-Matthews, Qian, Stecklov, Yodanis
  4. Gender: Creese, Currie, Elliott, Fuller, Ross, Qian
  5. Health: Abrutyn, Carpiano, Fu, Martin-Matthews, Richardson, Veenstra
  6. Race/Ethnicity: Creese, Elliott, Mawani, Roth, Stecklov, Wilkes
  7. Social Inequality: Corrigall-Brown, Creese, Fu, Fuller, Guppy, Hirsh, Lauer, Roth, Veenstra, Wilkes, Yodanis
  8. Social Movements: Corrigall-Brown, Ghaziani, Tindall, Wilkes
  9. Sociological Theory: Abrutyn, Duina, Kemple, Mawani
  10. Work/Economy: Creese, Fuller, Hanser, Hirsh

For further information go to :

Examination Committees

Each Comprehensive Examination Committee consists of three faculty members. The student, in collaboration with her/his Supervisor, is responsible for inviting faculty members to join a Comprehensive Examination Committee. At least two of the three members of a Comprehensive Examination Committee - including the Committee Chair - should be regular members of the Department. Faculty members in the department are generally expected to serve on Comprehensive Examination Committees when asked, although no faculty member is obliged to serve on more than five such committees per year.

Exam Area Reading Lists

The Department has approved a reading list for each of the abovementioned areas. These lists are posted on the Sociology Department website (and can be accessed via pressing the “control” key and clicking on the weblinks in the exam area list above). In addition to the faculty-approved readings contained in each area-specific list, the student will, in consultation with her/his evaluation committee, supplement the list with an additional 10-15 readings that pertain to a specific subtopic of personal or dissertation-related interest within the comprehensive examination area. For example, such supplementary readings could entail (but are not limited to) aging and life course issues in a health exam, and sociology of sexualities in a gender exam.

In all cases, the student’s list of supplemental readings for each comprehensive exam must be approved in writing by the student’s examination committee and submitted to the Graduate Secretary’s Office for inclusion in the student’s file.

Examination Timing and Process

Comprehensive examinations will be offered three times per year, typically during the last week of classes each term (or the last week of August for Summer Term).  Students will respond in writing to essay questions supplied by the Examination Committee.

Comprehensive examinations will proceed as follows:

  1. Each evaluator will submit 2 essay questions to the Exam Chair following the approval of the student’s reading list.
  2. Once the student has finished reading (presumable at end-of-term), the Chair will supply the student with 4-6 essay questions.
  3. The student will choose three of these questions to answer, with a limit of 2500 words per answer.
  4. The student will have one week to complete the written exam.
  5. The week-long exam window will typically take place during the last week of classes for Term 1 and Term 2, or the last week of August for Summer term. Any exceptions to this timeline must be approved in writing by the Comprehensive Exam Chair advance.
Evaluation Process

Each evaluator must read the student’s response to the essay questions and then submit written notification to the Chair of the Comprehensive Examination Committee which indicates i) "Pass," ii) "Specified Revisions" or iii) "Fail and Redo (once)".

When two or more examiners select the third option, the candidate is deemed to have failed the Comprehensive Examination. In this case, a written report highlighting weaknesses must be submitted to the student and to the SGSC. In the event of failure, that same Comprehensive Examination Committee (with replacements determined by the SGSC if necessary) will conduct a re-examination at a later date. Alternatively, the student may choose a new area after a failed examination in which case a new Comprehensive Examination Committee will be formed. The student will be allowed to write such a new comprehensive examination only once.

Comprehensive Examination Committee members are expected to provide the student with feedback on the written exam. Once the essay exam is completed, the Chair of the Comprehensive Examination Committee must submit a written form to the SGSC describing the timing and outcome of the comprehensive examination.

The Professional Development Seminars will consist of several one-time events held each term that cover important professionalization issues. Some examples of recent Pro-D seminars include “Professional Networking” (Fall 2012) and “Publishing” (Spring 2012). Pro-D seminars will be co-organized by graduate students and the Director of Graduate Studies, who, together, will select specific focal topics and recruit appropriate faculty panelists to participate. The dates and times of the Pro-D seminars will be announced at the start of each term.

It is expected that all graduate students attend each Pro-D seminar as well as all other departmental seminars, such as the visiting distinguished speaker series and job talks given by candidates for a department faculty hiring. Participation in these events will be one factor considered each year in evaluating each student’s standing in the program as well as in deciding teaching assistantship placements and other potential funding allocations. Further details about these seminars are details in Appendix G.

The Advisory Committee for the Ph.D. dissertation is comprised of at least three faculty members, including the Supervisor, and need not necessarily overlap with either of the Comprehensive Examination Committees. The Supervisor serves as chair of the Advisory Committee. At least two members of the Advisory Committee must be regular members of the Department. Co-supervision is allowed as long as one of the supervisors is a regular faculty member in Sociology. Please note that students risk not being able to find an Advisory Committee that is suited to their interests if they do not officially confirm their committee in writing by the end of their third year of study. Membership of an Advisory Committee can be changed, but changes cannot be made within a two month period prior to the scheduled date of the candidate's departmental defence, and all committee changes must be approved by the SGSC.

After satisfactory completion of coursework and comprehensive examinations, a dissertation research proposal may then be formulated for acceptance by the student's Advisory Committee. The specific contents of the proposal document are to be determined by the student’s committee, but generally include a discussion of the study aims and hypotheses, background literature motivating the project, methodology, and estimated project timeline.

While there are no formal procedures regarding the conduct of the proposal defense, the Advisory Committee is expected to meet with the student to discuss the proposed research. A common format consists of the student first presenting to the committee a brief (15 minute) powerpoint presentation of their proposed project and then engaging in a question and answer session with the committee members. Doctoral students cannot begin any formally supervised work on the dissertation proposal until all coursework and comprehensive examinations have been completed and the dissertation proposal has been formally approved by all members of the Advisory Committee.

Students normally will be “advanced to candidacy” when they have completed the residency period, completed all required coursework, passed the comprehensive examinations, formed an Advisory Committee, and their Supervisor has certified that their dissertation proposal has been approved by all members of the Advisory Committee. Advancement to candidacy is noted on the student's official transcript. G+PS expects that a typical doctoral student will be advanced to candidacy on completion of a two-year residency period. A student who is not advanced to candidacy within a period of three years from the date of initial registration will be required to withdraw from the program, although extension of this period may be permitted by the Dean of G+PS under exceptional circumstances.

In helping Ph.D. students to prepare for opportunities in the labour force, principally in higher education, teaching experience is increasingly vital. Ph.D. students are encouraged to gain some experience as Teaching Assistants, but beyond this we also strive to offer opportunities to teach undergraduate classes. After being advanced to candidacy, Ph.D. students may qualify to teach UBC courses on approval of the Dean of G+PS if there is evidence of good progress through the program and if appropriate teaching opportunities arise. However, they are permitted to do so only if it does not interfere with their Ph.D. research. A graduate student should have been advanced to candidacy at the time he or she applied to be a sessional instructor. In order to give a teaching opportunity to as many Ph.D. candidates as possible, the number of credits to be taught by any one student is limited to 9 credits while in the Ph.D. program. G+PS does not normally allow students who are on an extension, that is beyond six years in a PhD program, to teach courses. Therefore, students should plan accordingly.

Ph.D. students are required to complete a dissertation that makes an original contribution to knowledge. Dissertation work is supervised and evaluated by the student's Advisory Committee. As well, the dissertation is evaluated by two examiners from UBC outside the Advisory Committee and one examiner external to UBC. Copies of completed dissertations are available in the AnSo Thesis Room.

When the Advisory Committee agrees that the candidate's dissertation is ready to be defended, a Departmental Examination may be held at the discretion of the Supervisor.  The Departmental Examination will be conducted by the Advisory Committee members and will be chaired by the Supervisor. The goal of the Departmental Examination is to prepare the candidate for the submission of the thesis to the External Examiner and for the University Examination.  In lieu of a Departmental Examination, the Supervisor may call a meeting of the Advisory committee and candidate to discuss the dissertation and any necessary revisions before submitting the thesis for review by the External Examiner.

After the Departmental Examination or Advisory Committee meeting, the thesis will also be evaluated by an "External Examiner" who will submit a written report and who may attend the University Examination. The Supervisor and the Head of the Department or Chair of the SGSC will submit the names and addresses of at least two prospective external examiners to the Dean of G+PS. No contact should be made between members of the Department and the prospective external examiners.

Following a Department Examination or Advisory Committee meeting, and upon completion of any required revisions, the candidate is ready to advance to the University Examination. The dissertation must be sent to the Dean of G+PS prior to the scheduled date of the University Examination. See G+PS guidelines and regulations regarding the submission of dissertations for examination. The University Examination Committee include two or more members of the Advisory Committee, two “University Examiners” from UBC (at least one of who comes from another UBC Department), an “External Examiner” from another university, a Chair and any other persons appointed by G+PS. The two university examiners are chosen by the Advisory Committee. The departmental Graduate Secretary will schedule the University Examination in consultation with the student, the Advisory Committee and G+PS.

Following a successful University Examination, copies of the final version of the approved dissertation must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and to the Sociology Graduate Office. Consult G+PS deadlines for submitting dissertations for graduation.

Students are advised to consult the guide to procedures on the completion of degrees issued by G+PS, which outlines the style and format required for UBC theses and dissertations.

The first year of study is typically devoted to coursework and preparation for the comprehensive examinations. The second year combines comprehensive examinations and work on a dissertation proposal. The third and subsequent years are devoted to dissertation research and writing. It is a requirement of the G+PS that doctoral students be advanced to candidacy no later than before commencing the fourth year of study in the program.

Full-time Ph.D. students are required to have completed their program within six years of registration. Students are normally required to spend at least one winter session (September - April) at UBC, although it is strongly advisable for students to remain in close, regular contact with their Advisory Committee, fellow students and the university community throughout their studies. Students may request from G+PS a year of leave for reasons of health or personal crisis. This year will not be counted towards the six-year time limit. Parental leave is available upon request. Extensions beyond the time limit are not normally granted, and in those cases where an extension is considered, evidence of a nearly completed dissertation is required. All course requirements and comprehensive examinations should be completed prior to registration for a fourth year of Ph.D. study.

If the time in a degree program has expired, the student must apply for “readmission” rather than reinstatement. Upon readmission, the student may receive up to 12 credits toward the degree at the Department's recommendation. In exceptional instances, the Department can recommend “reinstatement”. Reinstatement implies that the student never left the program and that tuition fees must be paid for the time away.

For doctoral students registered in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, Fail (F) for individual courses is defined as below 68%. Some graduate programs may require a higher passing grade for specific courses.

Grading Scale

Percentage (%) Letter Grade
90-100 A+
85-89 A
80-84 A-
76-79 B+
72-75 B
68-71 B-
0-67 F (Fail)

If a course is repeated, both marks will appear on the transcript. The higher mark will be used to determine promotion in a program and in any decision to admit or withdraw a student from a program. For all other purposes, averages will be calculated using both marks.


M.A. and Ph.D. students are evaluated twice a year by the Sociology Graduate Studies Committee. Students are also evaluated in May by all faculty members at an annual departmental meeting. Evaluations are generally based on coursework, progress on the thesis proposal, and research and writing of the thesis/dissertation as appropriate and according to specified time limits.