About | M.A. Requirements | Ph.D. Requirements | Other Issues Related to Doctoral Studies

About Graduate Requirements

This document is effective for all students entering in the Fall of 2023 and thereafter. The regulations covered in this document relate specifically to the Department of Sociology.  It is the responsibility of the student also to be aware of regulations, policies, and procedures set forth by the Office of Graduate Studies at Case. These may be found in the General Bulletin of the University. All graduate students (except undergraduate students participating in the Integrated Graduate Studies, or IGS, program) are admitted to the Ph.D. track, and should expect to spend approximately 3 years in coursework and at least two years completing their dissertation project. Ph.D. students may petition for an M.A. upon completion of those requirements (outlined later in this document). IGS students must also meet these same requirement for their M.A. degree.

Please note that in many instances, the requirements of the department surpass the minimum degree requirements set forth by the Office of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Handbook


M.A. Requirements

Students are normally not admitted for the M.A. degree. However, Ph.D. students may wish to apply for the M.A. after completing the requirements below.

To receive the M.A., students must fulfill the following program requirements pertaining to (1) course-work and (2) comprehensive examinations.

1. Minimum of 30 hours of course-work, as specified below:

Students must select one area of concentration (Sociology of Age and the Life Course, Medical Sociology, or Social Inequality) for their M.A. training. M.A. students must take two out of the three seminars (6 credits).

Sociological Theory and Research Methods (12 credits)

    • SOCI 400: Development of Sociological Theory (3)
    • SOCI 401: Contemporary Sociological Theory (3)
    • SOCI 406: Logic of Social Inquiry (3)
    • SOCI 407: Social Statistics (3)


Required Seminars (6 credits)

    • SOCI 469: Aging in American Society (3)
    • SOCI 443: Medical Sociology (3)
    • SOCI 449: Social Inequality (3)


Electives in Sociology (12 credits). Two of the elective courses must be in the selected area of concentration [Sociology of Age and the Life Course, Medical Sociology, or Social Inequality] and the remaining elective course outside of the concentration.  Information on which specific courses meet these criteria can be obtained from the graduate director or graduate advisor(s).

NOTE: One of the two courses in the area of concentration must be a 400-level course. No more than 9 semester hours at the 300-course level may be included in the requirements for the M.A. degree. For those not having taken a course in statistics and probability in their previous work, STAT 201 or PSCL 282 (or its equivalent) is required. However, these do not count toward the 30 hours needed for the M.A.


2. One Comprehensive Exam in the Sociology of Age and the Life Course, Medical Sociology, or Social Inequality

Students pursuing the Ph.D. may apply for the M.A. degree after completing the course work listed above and after having passed a comprehensive exam in one of the concentrations listed above. 


Ph.D. Requirements

Requirements for the Ph.D. degree are as follows: (1) 48 hours of coursework; (2) pass two comprehensive examinations; and (3) successfully defend an original dissertation project (with a minimum of 18 SOCI 701 hours of dissertation work). Ph.D. students will earn an M.A. in Sociology as part of the completion of doctoral requirements.

1. Completion of 66 credit hours, including 48 hours of coursework and 18 hours of SOCI 701 dissertation hours, as specified below:

These core requirements set forth the Department’s view that the specialization in the Sociology of Age and the Life Course, Medical Sociology, Social Inequality and Research Methods must build upon competence in both sociological theory and research methods.  In addition, elective courses from other substantive areas of sociology are included in the curriculum.  This course list is subject to additions and changes.  Check with your advisor before making selections.


Sociological Theory (6 credits)

  • SOCI 400: Development of Sociological Theory (3)
  • SOCI 401: Contemporary Sociological Theory (3)


Research Methods (12 credits)

  • SOCI 406: Logic of Social Inquiry (3)
  • SOCI 407: Social Statistics (3)
  • SOCI 509: Advanced Statistical Analysis (3)
  • SOCI 514: Qualitative Research Methods (3)


Required Seminars (6 credits)

  • SOCI 443:  Medical Sociology (3)
  • SOCI 469:  Aging in American Society (3)
  • SOCI 449: Social Inequality (3)



Students must select two areas of concentration for their graduate training and complete a minimum of 6 credit hours in each concentration beyond the required seminars that are part of that concentration. These are the substantive areas of their comprehensive exams. While students are only required to take 6 credits (two courses) of electives in their area of concentration, it is the position of the faculty that students should strive to take 3 electives in their concentration areas to maximize learning and chances of success on the comprehensive exams.

Medical Sociology

  • SOCI 411: Health and Social Behavior
  • SOCI 413: Sociology of Stress and Coping
  • SOCI 419: Sociology of Institutional Care
  • SOCI 444:  Health Disparities [Pending]
  • SOCI 445: Sociology of Mental Illness
  • SOCI 464: Disability and Society
  • SOCI 465: Health Care Delivery


Sociology of Age and the Life Course

  • SOCI 413: Sociology of Stress and Coping
  • SOCI 419: Sociology of Institutional Care
  • SOCI 461: Sociology of the Life Course
  • SOCI 464: Disability and Society
  • SOCI 496: Aging and Public Policy
  • SOCI 477: Population Dynamics & Change in Societies


Social Inequality
Foundational (2 required):
SOCI 428: Capitalism, Cities, and Inequality
SOCI 484: Sociology of Sex(ex), Gender(s), and Sexuality(ies)
SOCI 486: Race and Racism
SOCI 444: Health Disparities
SOCI 457: Sociology of Human Rights
SOCI 461: Sociology of the Life Course
SOCI 480: Social Movements and Social Change


Research Methods

  • SOCI 415:  Comparative/Historical Methods
  • SOCI 427:  Narrative Methods
  • SOCI 485:  Ethnography
  • SOCI 525:  Multilevel Models


Electives in other Areas of Sociology (6 credits)

  • SOCI 410: The Individual in Society
  • SOCI 447: Sociology of Education
  • SOCI 455: Special Topics
  • SOCI 470: Sociology of the Family
  • SOCI 472: Work and Family
  • SOCI 474: Using Law to Designate Public Private Boundaries for Social Policy



  • SOCI 701: Dissertation Ph.D.

NOTE:  A limited number of elective courses may be taken outside of the Sociology Department with the prior approval of the department graduate committee.  Check with your advisor for requirements and additional information.



Independent “Readings and Research” courses (601) are allowed as elective courses on a limited basis.    Students must petition for these arrangements, and have the prior approval of both the faculty member and Director(s) of Graduate Studies.  Please Note:  A one-page description of the projects must also be submitted to the Director(s) of Graduate Studies by the beginning of the semester.  That description will be included in the student’s file.  To receive a pass at the end of the term, the student must satisfactorily meet all requirements set forth in that plan.

Those students who enter the program with an M.A. degree in Sociology may petition to use up to 9 credits (3 courses) of previous Sociology coursework to satisfy Ph.D. degree requirements. To note, it is not possible to receive an M.A. in your pursuit of the Ph.D. in Sociology from CWRU if you have received approval to use 9 hours of prior work toward the M.A., unless additional course work is taken.  The department will not provide tuition credit for such course work.  All petitions must be submitted in writing to the Director(s) of Graduate Studies, with a copy of the syllabus.  Determinations are made on an individual basis.


Taking a grade as an Incomplete is a serious matter.  It should only be done for reasons of serious health or personal problems – and only in extraordinary cases will these be considered outside of typical Graduate School sanctioned reasons.  To earn an Incomplete, students must provide the faculty member of record for that course with a written request.  This is to be submitted along with the Office of Graduate Studies Arrangement to Resolve an Incomplete Form.  Copies of this paperwork should be submitted to the Department Administrator of Sociology.  This form requires that an explicit date of completion be noted and all requirements necessary for its resolution be met at that time.  Incompletes that are not resolved by that date result in the grade of “F” on the student’s permanent record.


2.  Two Comprehensive Examination

Students will complete comprehensive exams in two areas of department specialization, Sociology of Age and the Life Course, Medical Sociology, Social Inequality or Research Methods.

The Sociology of Age and the Life Course; Medical Sociology; and Social Inequality comprehensive exams are “reading list” based, meaning that in addition to the required and relevant course work, the student is expected to have mastered the materials provided in the respective reading lists, which include, but are not limited to the syllabi for the required and recommended elective courses in that concentration.  The Research Methods comprehensive exams are a mixture of readings-based and course-based materials.  Students interested in these comprehensive exams are strongly encouraged to discuss this with the Methods or Inequality curriculum committee.  Students are also expected to have reviewed the recent literature in the field (past 2-3 years) as represented by the major journals in the respective areas.  Students may begin taking exams before all course work is completed, if the student has completed the required and elective course work in that specialization area.

Students must submit a Graduate Concentration Form to the Director(s) of Graduate Studies, listing the courses taken in a particular specialization area and his/her intent to take the comprehensive exam.  The (Co-)DGS, in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor, will approve taking the exam.

Comprehensive exams are offered once per semester, in August and February. The format of the comprehensive exam is a 75 hour “take-home” exam.  Students have access to their materials and resources, but are restricted from seeking help from other persons.  The typed exam is submitted both electronically and in paper form to the Department of Sociology. It is then graded by the comprehensive exam committee in that area of concentration. There are three possible grades. Students demonstrating excellence in the area will receive a grade of Distinction; students demonstrating general competency will receive a Pass; and students failing to demonstrate general competency will receive a No-Pass.

In order to remain in good standing, students must begin taking these exams no later than the semester after the completion of course work (typically the second semester of the third year of the program), and must take (or re-take, in the case of a No-Pass outcome) at least one exam each semester until both exams are completed. A failed exam must be retaken before another exam is attempted.  Requests for extensions or alternative arrangements must be submitted to the (Co-) DGS and are approved on a case-by-case basis.

The exams will be given by an Examination Committee of at least three faculty members with expertise in the area. Exams are NOT given during the summer session.

Per Graduate School policy, students who twice earn a No-Pass on a comprehensive examination in a single concentration will be recommended to the School of Graduate Studies for academic separation. 


3.  Original dissertation defended successfully. (A minimum of 18 credit hours must be successfully completed.)

The Dissertation Committee consists of at least four Case Western Reserve University faculty members, including one whose primary appointment is outside the Department of Sociology.  This is typically three Sociology regular faculty and is pending the approval of the student’s requested Chair.  Requests for an outside member who is not a faculty member of CWRU must follow Graduate School protocol for acceptance, pending Dissertation Advisor’s approval.

At the beginning of the fourth year, each student must submit a Dissertation Progress form to the Director(s) of Graduate Studies.  This form requires original signatures of committee members, indicating their willingness to serve on your committee.  No change can occur to dissertation committee composition without the original signature of the new member and professional communication to the member who is leaving the committee.


The dissertation process begins with the development and completion of a prospectus.  The prospectus for the dissertation should be discussed in a private meeting (or series of meetings) between the student and his or her committee members.  The committee must have the complete prospectus at least two weeks in advance of the final private defense of the prospectus.  Once the committee deems the students ready for a public hearing, a date for the public hearing may be set.  In order to ensure maximum opportunity for all students and faculty to attend the defense exam, they are normally not scheduled during the first or last weeks of the semester, or during the final exam period.  They are also not typically scheduled during either the fall or the spring break periods.  Exceptions will be made only to accommodate faculty schedules.

An announcement of the prospectus defense must also be posted and circulated by the Department to all faculty and students at least one week in advance of the hearing. Students do not announce their own defense dates.


Once a student has completed his/her dissertation, then he/she is ready to begin the defense process.  The steps are outlined in detail in the Graduate Handbook. Please note that this process, including the Graduate School requirements for the defense, requires planning and is the responsibility of the student to plan accordingly and communicate effectively with committee members. The final stages of the dissertation process take a significant amount of time and planning.  Students are strongly advised to be aware of the timing required, Graduate School deadlines, and to plan ahead accordingly.  In most cases, the dissertation needs to be completed – or nearly completed – at the end of the prior semester before one seeks to graduate.

Other Information

A complete copy of the dissertation must also be provided to the main office one week before the defense.  An announcement of the dissertation defense must also be posted and circulated to all faculty and students at least one week in advance of the hearing.  Please ask the Department Administrator to post these announcements at least one week before the deadline.

On the day of the final defense, the student is responsible for providing the committee members with the official signature forms from the School of Graduate Studies. It is also the student’s responsibility that these forms are submitted to the School of Graduate Studies by the designated deadline.

In order to ensure maximum opportunity for all students and faculty to attend the defense exam, defenses are normally not scheduled during the first or last weeks of the semester, during the final exam period or during fall or spring break.  Exceptions will be made only to accommodate faculty schedules.  Members of the faculty are on 9-month contracts, and students should therefore be sensitive to this in making work-related requests that fall outside of the academic year.  Formal committee meetings, prospectus hearings, and final dissertation defenses will be scheduled during the summer months only at the discretion of the committee.


Other issues related to doctoral study:


At the start of doctoral study, the student will select a Dissertation Chair, who is also the Instructor of Record for Soci 701. This does not change the Advisor in SIS, which will remain the Director(s) of Graduate Study.  A DGS will meet with each student at least once per semester to discuss registration and progress in the program.

Planned Programs of Study

All first-year students must submit an official Planned Program of Study form to the Graduate School by the end of the first year of study (May).  The form is submitted via the SIS online system.  The Director(s) of Graduate Studies can assist with this form and will provide specific details.   A separate Planned Program of Study must be submitted if the student decided to also apply for the MA degree.  An updated Planned Program of Study should be submitted at the time of advancement to candidacy.

Maintaining Good Standing in the Department

While the Department is committed to the overall success of students to the greatest degree possible, renewal of support will depend upon academic performance and progress, pending available resources, which can vary annually.  Annual written reviews assess performance and progress as well as determine whether or not a student is in good standing.  Reasons for being  “not in good standing” include, but are not limited to, having one or more grades of “incomplete” that have extended for more than one semester or failure to attempt comprehensive exams as outlined.  Students should review the Graduate School policy on Incomplete coursework, as it may affect student standing.  Students who are not in good standing at of the end of the academic year, will NOT be considered for tuition or stipend support for the next academic year.

A student who earns a C in a course will be placed on department probation and be sent a letter of warning; a student who earns a second C may not be awarded an assistantship in the following academic year, nor be eligible for an Advanced Study Fellowship.  The CWRU Graduate Handbook specifies other conditions for remaining in good standing; students are responsible for being familiar with these conditions.

Research Assistantship Policy on Work Hours

Stipend-funded students are expected to fulfill the conditions of the assistantship, including performing the requisite 20 hours per week for faculty mentors.  Consistent with University policy, the terms of the graduate stipend are continuous from the beginning of the school year in August through May, and provide for no holiday time off during this period – including Spring and Fall Breaks.  Nevertheless, some faculty mentors may choose to provide students one week off    during the winter holiday break, generally the week of December 26 – December 30.  Beyond that, students are expected to work normal hours.  Research assistants who wish to be away for a longer time should discuss work arrangements with the appropriate faculty mentors.  Only the faculty member(s) to whom the RA is assigned can approve alternative arrangements, such as working from home or implementing flexible work time.  Students seeking to defer work obligation during the final exam period – or any other time – should discuss this in advance with the faculty mentor.

Out of Area Policy

For personal or scientific reasons, students may need to move out of the local university area.  These students should submit an Out of Area form to the (Co-) DGS with updated contact information.  Students who are still taking coursework or have a funded research assistantship must submit a request to (Co-)DGS for alternative arrangements.  Students should not presume that assistantship responsibilities or academic work will be approved to be performed from outside the local area.  Terms for continued department support may include requirements to return to campus on a regular basis.

Travel Support

The department is able to provide limited support to graduate students for travel to conferences or workshops.  Students must submit a request in writing to the Chair, stating the purpose of the trip in advance of the travel.  For conference travel, it is not required that you present a paper or poster to receive funds, but the support level may be lower than for presenters. Travel support is contingent on the department budget and is administered on a first-come, first-served basis.  Requests for support can be made at any time in the year, so those with anticipated conference activity in spring should plan accordingly.  Presently, the limit is $200 annually per person, but requests for slightly more funding can be considered on a case-by-case basis.  The Graduate School also provides some travel support to students.  You should be aware of these resources as well.

Petition to the Department of Sociology for Reinstatement in the Doctoral Program

If a student is separated due to academic performance issues wishes to be considered for reinstatement in the doctoral program of the Department of Sociology, he/she must submit a written petition that presents significant new evidence of academic progress or growth in identified areas of weakness.  Applicants must demonstrate discernible progress and/or provide significant new information concerning competence or skills (e.g., additional training).

In reviewing such petitions, the department faculty will consider the likelihood of success in the program.  The faculty may impose specific conditions for reinstatement and may appoint a specific faculty member as the “point person” for advising/overseeing the student’s work and progress.

As part of the deliberation, the department may request a detailed timeline and plan for completion of the program.  This plan may include, as applicable:  plan of study, timeline for taking comprehensive exams, timeline for completion of prospectus and/or dissertation.  If requested, this plan could also detail measures to be undertaken to maximize success in the program or accomplish the conditions of reinstatement.

Ph.D. students enrolled Fall 2022 and earlier have the option of completing the degree requirements in effect when they entered the program or the current program.  Students entering Fall 2023 or later will be required to meet the current requirements.

For additional information and for admission application materials click here.