A PhD in Sociology is a research degree that also qualifies one to teach in a college or university. Our PhDs in sociology hold teaching, research and administrative positions in public and private agencies and research organizations in Hawaiʻi and throughout the world. Our doctoral program provides a strong foundation in the theories and methods of sociology (both qualitative and quantitative), specialized graduate seminars in a variety of subfields of sociology, and a series of opportunities to deepen particular areas of knowledge and develop professional research, writing, and presentation skills under the guidance of a faculty committee.
Our very international faculty and graduate students form a close-knit, supportive community centered on common research interests. Our students also have opportunities to develop their teaching skills through serving as teaching assistants in the department and then teaching independently in face-to-face and online courses offered through the university’s summer session and extension programs. Much of the initial required coursework overlaps with the MA program, but students with sufficient background and promise may be admitted directly into the doctoral program and earn a Plan B MA when they pass the qualifying review.
Our sociology graduate program is unique in its expertise and research focus on the sociology of Asia and the Pacific. Graduate students from all over the world gather here to study American sociology with a particular applicability to Asian and Pacific societies, working closely with internationally recognized research scholars who study the sociology of Asia and the Pacific. Virtually all members of our faculty have specialized expertise and do research related to Hawaiʻi, Asia, or the Pacific. We offer graduate seminars within the sociology department that focus on specific Asian societies as well as seminars that take a comparative perspective. Graduate seminars on standard subfields of sociology are also enriched by the Asian and Pacific research experience of our faculty and graduate students. With a critical mass of faculty and graduate students who focus on Asia, particularly East Asia, we offer an unparalleled environment for sociological study that draws from and relates to Asia and the Pacific.
Phase I of the Ph.D. program consists of basic training in theory, methods, and research.
When students enter the doctoral program, they are assigned a temporary advisor from the department faculty, based on the student’s experience and interests. It is the student’s responsibility to make an appointment to see the advisor to discuss courses, formation of a guidance committee and taking the qualifying review. The temporary advisor serves in this capacity until the student forms a guidance committee.
During Phase I of their program, students must complete at least 30 credits of course work as follows:
Please see the documentation on course identification for definitions of theory, methods, statistics, and substantive courses. All courses must be passed at the B level or above to count towards the degree.
If an entering student’s transcripts do not show evidence of appropriate coursework in sociological theory and/or statistics, as determined by the graduate chair, then the student needs to demonstrate preparation in the deficient subjects before proceeding to the corresponding graduate-level courses. Passing Sociology 321 (Sociological Theory) or 476/L (Statistics) with a grade B or higher will be seen as sufficient to demonstrate preparation for Sociology 611/612 or 605, respectively. Alternative methods for demonstrating competence may be deemed sufficient at the discretion of the graduate chair. For students without previous methods coursework, Sociology 300 is useful but not required as preparation for Sociology 606.
Students with previous graduate-level coursework at other universities may bypass required theory, methods, or statistics courses upon written confirmation from the graduate chair that the required courses are equivalent to the earlier work. Students who have taken post-bachelor unclassified courses at UHM do not need to take these courses again. In either case, however, the bypassed courses must be replaced with alternative courses as follows: A course must be replaced by another department course in the theory, methods, or statistics category, unless the student obtains written approval from the graduate chair.
As part of their course requirements, students must take a directed reading course (Soc 699) to prepare an academic article-length paper, typically in their third semester. This paper can (but is not required to be) the source of one of the papers for the qualifying review. The faculty member with whom the student takes Sociology 699 must be one of the members of the student’s guidance committee, and the topic and format of the paper must be approved by the faculty member in advance. The purpose of this requirement is to acquaint students with independent research and to help prepare them for their QR. For papers involving collection of data from other people, it is recommended that, with the advice of the faculty member, students obtain prior human subjects approval from the university’s Committee on Human Studies. This ensures that use of the data on a later dissertation, conference paper, and/or publication does not violate university and federal guidelines.
By the third enrolled semester in the PhD program, a student must form a guidance committee of three or more faculty members (usually three), with one member designated as the committee chair. The committee takes over primary responsibility for academic counseling from the student’s temporary advisor. It can but does not need to include the temporary advisor as a member. The guidance committee usually forms the core of the student’s later dissertation committee, hence its members should typically be university graduate faculty, and the chair should be a regular or affiliate faculty member of the Department of Sociology. One member (other than the chair) from outside the department is permitted, but an outside member is not required until the Phase II dissertation committee stage. Students are strongly advised to exercise great care and forethought in selecting committee members. Each student should attempt, as much as possible, to include faculty with expertise in each scholarly subject that she or he is looking to pursue and the ability to provide professional counseling and mentoring relevant to her or his aspirations.
The guidance committee is not officially established until the student has obtained the signatures of all members on the internal department Guidance Committee Form and has submitted it to the graduate secretary, so this should be done promptly. If at some later point a student wishes to change the composition of the committee, she or he must submit a new form with the signatures of all members of the revised committee.
For the qualifying review (QR), one paper that has been completed while the student has been in the PhD program is submitted for evaluation by the department. Students are required to pass the QR to move on to Phase II of the program. Students are encouraged to take the QR by the fourth semester of enrollment in the program, and must do so by the sixth semester to remain in the PhD program. The QR will test whether a student has developed the following skills at a sufficient level for doctoral level work in sociology: understanding and creating theoretical and methodological material, thinking analytically, and writing effectively.
It is recommended that students discuss candidate QR papers with their guidance committee chair by the beginning of the semester in which they plan to take the QR so that they may receive feedback on which paper is most suitable and so that they may revise the paper as necessary. By a deadline specified in advance by the graduate chair (typically the seventh week of the semester), a final draft of the QR paper must submitted by the student to her or his guidance committee. If the student is in the fifth semester or earlier, the committee can determine that the student is not ready and require that the student wait until a subsequent semester to take the review.
If the student is proceeding with the QR, she/he must submit the completed QR paper to the department via the graduate secretary within two weeks after the deadline for submitting it to the guidance committee (typically the ninth week of the semester). Those who fail to do so will not be allowed to take the QR. Within the same two week interval, each member of the student's guidance committee should write a separate confidential evaluation of the paper and the student by using the department QR Guidance Form, and turn the form in to the graduate secretary. Other than copyediting, the only changes a student may make between the final draft turned in to the guidance committee and the completed paper turned in to the department are those that have been explicitly and specifically approved by the guidance committee.
Every semester, the graduate chair will select a qualifying review panel composed of three or more faculty members in the department. This panel reads the papers and committee evaluations for all candidates undergoing the qualifying review that semester, and decides whether each student passes the review, using the department QR Evaluation Form. Members of the panel will recuse themselves from judging the paper for a candidate if they are on the candidate's guidance committee, and the panel must be constituted in a way so that each paper is read and evaluated by at least three members. A student passes if and only if she or he receives an average score of "acceptable" for the paper from the panel. The panel's decision and comments are conveyed to each student and the student's guidance committee.
If a student passes the qualifying review, she or he may be admitted to candidacy in the doctoral program. The student must prepare the top portion of the Office of Graduate Education Doctorate Student Progress Form I and submit it to the graduate secretary in order for this to occur.
Students who have passed the qualifying review and have completed their Phase I course requirements are eligible to receive an MA en route to PhD, unless they already have an MA in sociology from UH or another institution. The MA en route is recorded on the transcript as an MA in sociology. Once the student is eligible to receive the MA en route and the graduate chair has submitted that information to the Office of Graduate Education, the student must apply directly to the Office of Graduate Education to graduate en route and pay a small graduation fee.
Students who fail the qualifying review on their first try are allowed to retake the QR one more time in the enrolled semester subsequent to the one in which they first took the exam. They may submit the same or a different paper for the second review, based on advice from their guidance committee. Students who fail the qualifying review a second time are dropped from the doctoral program. PhD students who have not passed the QR are eligible for a terminal MA degree from the department, provided they have completed their Phase I course requirements and their guidance committee deems that the QR paper provides evidence of MA-level skills in theory and methods, analysis, and writing.
Phase II of the program consists of advanced training in areas of concentration and a dissertation.
Completion of Phase I course requirements, along with passing the QR exam, place a student in Phase II of the PhD program. The only course requirement beyond this is one additional substantive course (3 units) at the 600 level or above, for a total of 5 substantive courses for Phases I and II. However, it is typical and recommended that PhD students take more courses than is required in order to obtain a broader academic background and knowledge.
Subsequent to entering Phase II of the program, a student forms a dissertation committee, subject to all Office of Graduate Education requirements. The dissertation committee replaces the guidance committee as the student’s main source of academic supervision. Members of a student’s guidance committee may serve on the dissertation committee as well, but this is not required. Attention should be paid to finding members with expertise in specific areas that the student expects to cover in her or his dissertation. The dissertation committee typically has five members (the Office of Graduate Education minimum), and it is recommended that additional members be included only if they provide expertise that is missing in the rest of the committee.
In order for the committee to be formally established, a student must obtain the department Dissertation Committee Form (PDF download), obtain signatures from each committee member, and turn the form in promptly to the department graduate secretary. A student who wishes to subsequently modify the composition of his or her dissertation committee must submit a new form with signatures of all members of the modified committee, as well as the Office of Graduate Education Petition to Revise Thesis or Dissertation Committee.
After the dissertation committee has been formed, the student is allowed to move to the comprehensive examination stage. The comprehensive exam is a week-long take-home essay examination on two fields of sociology, followed by an oral examination before the dissertation committee. The student selects the two fields for the exam, subject to approval by the committee. The fields should be selected to define broad areas of specialization and to provide sufficient background for the student’s planned dissertation research. The fields should also align with the expertise of the dissertation committee sufficiently so that the committee is in a position to very competently judge the student’s mastery of the fields.
Once the fields are approved, the student prepares a bibliography for each field, and submits them to the committee members for review and approval. Each bibliography must provide a complete overview of the main theories, debates, and findings in its field and include the field’s most influential works. A field bibliography will therefore be significantly longer than the reading list for a typical advanced graduate-level seminar. When a field has widely accepted and well-defined subfields, each major subfield should be represented and the bibliography divided accordingly into sections. The student is responsible for reading and being familiar with each work listed in the bibliography, so the list should not be so long that this is not feasible.
Upon approval of the bibliographies, a date for commencement of the written exam (typically on a Monday) is agreed upon by the student and committee, with sufficient lead time to allow the student to gain familiarity with the readings in the bibliographies. This date can be rescheduled by similar agreement if it later turns out to be unworkable.
At least three weeks before the written exam is scheduled, the committee chair solicits essay questions from each of the committee members, and writes one or more questions as well. The questions should together provide a thorough and rigorous test of the student’s knowledge of and ability to analyze the set of readings. They should focus on the two fields and not require knowledge of material outside the bibliographies, beyond what would be expected of any student in good standing at a similar stage in the PhD program. The chair may specify to members the fields and subfields for which each should ask questions, in order to ensure full coverage of the readings. The chair can request revision or replacement of questions.
All the questions, including the chair’s own, are assembled into an examination. The exam should require the student to write essays in response to three or four questions, with possible latitude for choice. The questions are submitted to the department graduate secretary at least one week prior to the scheduled start date for the exam. The graduate chair then reviews them and can either approve or request changes. Although the graduate chair and committee should make every effort to come to agreement on the questions in time for the scheduled start date, if this is not possible the start date can be rescheduled.
The student picks up the exam from the graduate secretary on the morning of the day the exam commences, and has until the same time one week later to answer the questions and return the completed exam to the department secretary. Students may consult existing written sources, but may not receive assistance from anyone in preparing their answers. Essay length should be enough to state a clear argument and provide convincing evidence from the readings. Typically, this is 2500 words or more per essay. When the exams are returned to the department, they are distributed to the committee members.
An oral exam is scheduled approximately two weeks after the end of the written exam, by which time the committee members should have read all the answers. The oral exam is an extension, but not repetition, of the student’s written exam. Hence it should focus primarily on having the student clarify, elaborate, and extend their written answers to the exam questions. The committee may probe perceived weakness in logic or evidence in the answers, and ask the student to defend them. It may also ask the student to discuss the implications of the ideas expressed in their answers for related theoretical and empirical debates in the two fields. It is permitted to extend the exam over more than one meeting if sufficient time is not available to complete the oral exam to the satisfaction of the committee.
When the oral exam is completed, the student is again asked to leave the room while the committee evaluates the exam. The committee may reach a consensus to issue a pass, fail, or conditional pass for the combined written and oral exam, denoted on the Evaluation Sheet for Comprehensive Exam. In the case of a conditional pass, the committee should specify necessary and sufficient remedial actions that must be taken, as well as a deadline for fulfilling these conditions. If a consensus cannot be reached, a majority decision is made on whether to pass or fail the student. The student is then invited back in and informed of the committee’s decision. If the student has passed the comprehensive exam, it is typical for the committee to use the final part of the meeting to briefly discuss the student’s dissertation topic and schedule for writing a dissertation proposal.
Subsequently, the committee chair fills out the comprehensive exam evaluation from to be provided by the student, including any requirements applied to a conditional pass. In case of a conditional pass, the chair must also submit a second memo informing the graduate chair whether the student has met the conditions specified by the deadline. A student who fails to meet the conditions by the deadline is judged to have failed the exam unless the committee by consensus agrees to extend it prior to its expiration.
Should the student fail the comprehensive examination, she or he may take it a second time, in which case she or he should follow a similar procedure as with the first exam to schedule the dates for the written and oral portions. A second failure means that the student is dropped from the PhD program.
After successful completion of the comprehensive examination, a student proceeds to the dissertation proposal stage. A dissertation proposal must provide enough information to show that the student’s dissertation has major intellectual promise for the field of sociology, can feasibly be completed in a timely fashion, and is consistent with professional ethical norms. The proposal must introduce the research topic, review the relevant literature, and outline the methods that will be used for the dissertation. It must also contain a proposed chapter outline and timetable for completion. Where applicable, the proposal must include plans for obtaining human subjects approval for data collection from the Committee on Human Studies. The length of the proposal can vary, but it should be sufficient to provide the committee with sufficient information to make a decision with confidence. A student’s proposal must be evaluated and approved by consensus of the dissertation committee before she or he can move to the dissertation stage.
After approval from the committee, a student must complete the top portion of the Office of Graduate Education Doctoral Student Progress Form II, obtain approval signatures from all members of their committee, and submit this to the graduate secretary. If applicable, a student must also obtain human subjects certification and submit this certification along with the form. Completion of these requirements makes the student eligible to register for Sociology 800 (Dissertation Research), which allows students who must maintain full-time enrollment to do so while only enrolled for a single unit.
A dissertation should not be approved until the dissertation committee by consensus believes that it makes a major original scholarly contribution to the field of sociology and brings credit to the student, the department, the university, and the committee members whose signatures appear on its cover page. While the lengths of dissertations can vary, they should be comparable in length to a typical scholarly book in the field of sociology. A student must also pass an oral defense of the dissertation. Please remember that the Office of Graduate Education has a seven year limit on a student’s time to PhD, so each student is encouraged to aim to complete their dissertation well in advance of this limit, thus allowing for additional time in case of unexpected obstacles.
Initial examination of dissertation chapter drafts should be undertaken by the chair, with other committee members brought in as needed for expertise. Once the chair believes that the complete draft is reasonably close to being ready, it is submitted to the entire committee, who indicate whether they believe the student is ready for an oral defense or further major revisions are needed. At that point or earlier, the student should be informed whether it is possible that she/he may graduate in the following semester, so that proper arrangements can be made (see documentation on graduation procedures). Once the entire committee feels they know when the dissertation is likely to be ready, a date for the oral defense should immediately be scheduled by mutual agreement, well in advance. The defense is open to the public, and the committee chair should submit to the department a memo at least three weeks in advance, addressed to the Office of Graduate Education, announcing the defense.
The student should bring to the oral the signature page of the dissertation, which she or he has prepared in accordance with Office of Graduate Education style requirements, as well as Office of Graduate Education doctorate Student Progress Form III with the top portion filled out.
The oral defense begins with a 15-20 minute presentation by the student of the dissertation’s main points, aimed at a general social science audience that is not familiar with the dissertation. Each committee member then has the student respond to questions about the dissertation, following a format designated by chair. Questions should focus primarily on summarizing or elaborating on the content of the dissertation, as well as defending against any perceived weaknesses. Efforts should be made to couch questions and answers in a manner that is appropriate for a public forum. After the committee members have completed their questions, the floor is opened for questions or comments from the audience, until there are no more questions or the time allocated for the defense (which must be at minimum one hour, and typically longer) is running out. For further instructions, please refer to the section on Dissertation and Thesis Procedures.
Note: This sequence represents one possible plan which will satisfy PhD program requirements in six years. The Office of Graduate Education time limit for completion of the degree is seven years. Substantive courses listed here are at the 600 level or higher, as is the additional methods or statistics course. Candidates who come in without coursework in theory and/or statistics may take longer to complete coursework. Time for preparation of a dissertation will depend in part on the nature of topic and research methodology. Please discuss matters with your advisor if you have any questions.
|Semester 1||Semester 2|
| SOC 611
| SOC 612
| Additional Methods or Statistics Course
Form Guidance Committee
| Substantive Course
| Substantive Course
Form Dissertation Committee
Comprehensive Exam Reading List
| SOC 699
| SOC 699
Dissertation Proposal Defense
|SOC 800||SOC 800|
|SOC 800|| SOC 800
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