PhD Program Overview


The PhD program in Sociology aims to prepare students for either an academic career in teaching and research in university settings, or a career in research in the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. The program is designed so that students who already have a strong background in Sociology will deepen their knowledge in sociological theory and in one of the substantive fields offered, and become highly independent sociological thinkers and skilled researchers capable of pushing the boundaries of knowledge in their chosen field.

These objectives will be achieved through course work, seminars and discussions, qualifying examinations, teaching or research assistantships, a dissertation, and public presentations of research findings. Students are expected to conduct independent research, participate in professional and other conferences, and work toward publishing in scholarly journals.

Graduates of the program will be expected to demonstrate theoretical and methodological competence at an advanced level, competence at the cutting edge of knowledge in their chosen field, autonomy in conducting research, mature scholarship and research, and well-developed communication abilities.

Program Duration

Normally, the dissertation must be formally submitted within twelve semesters. The maximum program duration is eighteen semesters.

The PhD program is not offered on a part-time basis. All students are required to register in the program full time until they have completed twelve semesters in the program. Note that transfer to part-time status does not change the number of semesters in the "grace" period between program completion and maximum program duration (up to 6 semesters for the PhD). Students registered on a part-time basis will not be provided with funding or office space.

Fields of Specialization

The PhD program consists of four fields (listed in alphabetical order) within the discipline of Sociology:

Crime and Social Control

The field of Crime and Social Control reflects sociological interests into how crime is defined, measured, explained and reacted to by society. Within this field students will be exposed to scholarly material on a broad range of topics including: cyberbullying, victimization, legal responses to homelessness, intimate partner violence, drug policy, school violence, feminist criminology, critical criminology, restorative justice, sociology of risk, policing, the social construction of crime, inmate re-integration, youth justice, wrongful convictions, and life course criminology.

Environment, Food, and Communities

The field of Environment, Food, and Communities reflects sociological interests in understanding societal-ecological interactions more broadly. The specific focus may include environmental/natural resources/food systems and environmental justice/community sustainability. Students specializing in this field will be encouraged to draw on established methodologies in the field, including the comparative and historical approach. Attention will be given to the ways in which structure/power/culture and class/gender/race and ethnicity play out in at least one of the substantive topics comprising this field.

Identities and Social Inclusion

The field of Identities and Social Inclusion reflects sociological interests in the study of intergroup relations, with special emphasis on struggles over influence and power. Students specializing in this field will acquire a deeper understanding of the complex intersection as well as the overlap of forms of identity and group mobilization based on ethnic, linguistic, regional, class, gender, racial and other forms of social division. The field also provides students with the opportunity to study Indigenous issues and policies related to multiculturalism, equity and local or regional autonomy.

Work and Organization

The field of Work and Organization reflects sociological interests in changing patterns of work and employment in comparative contexts, labour markets, gender and work, industrial and organizational change, economic restructuring and work, organizations and protest, education for work, and the regulation of work. These trends are located in the broader processes of globalization, economic restructuring and fundamental shifts in public policy. Students specializing in this field will be encouraged to focus on the dialectical relationship between the configurations of gender, class, race and ethnicity, and the transformation and re-organization of work.

Collaborative Program in International Development Studies

The four fields of specialization can be combined with the collaborative PhD program in International Development Studies. Students receive a PhD degree in their selected discipline with the added designation International Development Studies. Please visit the IDS Graduate Studies website for more information.

Admission Standards

Normally, only applicants with a recognized MA degree in Sociology and with high academic standing (80% or higher) in their graduate-level studies will be admitted into the program.

Students are normally expected to have successfully completed master's-level courses in sociological theory as well as master's-level qualitative and quantitative methodology courses in Sociology. It is also expected that students will have taken courses across the breadth of Sociology.

Applicants who do not have a recognized MA degree in Sociology might be considered for entrance into the program. If admitted to the program, they will be expected to complete additional graduate-level courses in sociological theory as well as graduate- level qualitative and quantitative methodology courses in Sociology. Students without a background in Sociology are expected to develop a solid grounding in the discipline. It is incumbent upon the student and the advisory committee to ensure that this objective is met.

Application Requirements

Graduate students are admitted into the program in the Fall semester only. The application deadline is January 15.

Visit the Graduate Studies website for information about the application process and for instructions on how to upload the application documents.

The application package must include:

  • A two to three page well-defined statement of research interest.
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended.
  • Two letters of reference from professors familiar with your most recent academic work. Referees must complete their assessment in confidence.
  • The online application.
  • TOEFL scores or other English-language test results, not more than two years old, from applicants whose first language is not English.

An electronic Referee Assessment Form will be sent directly to the referees listed in your online application. These documents will also be submitted electronically on your behalf.

Applications are not considered complete until all the information has been received. Applicants must identify a willing and available PhD Advisor as part of their application.

  1. Critically analyze historical, global and local interconnections across social injustices.
  2. Demonstrate competency across quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods for social research.
  3. Interrogate the epistemological and ontological assumptions that underlie diverse foundational and contemporary theoretical perspectives and debates.
  4. Apply appropriate theory and methods to design original, rigorous, and ethical research to advance social justice.
  5. Demonstrate a commitment to understanding theoretical and methodological pluralism, including engaged scholarship.
  6. Create and mobilize knowledge in clear and accessible written, oral and visual forms with and for multiple audiences to affect social change.
  7. Engage in ethical, professional, accountable and socially responsible behaviour through scholarly interactions.

PhD students are required to successfully complete a minimum of four graduate courses, normally during their first two semesters in the program:

  • PhD professional seminar (SOC*6750). This is a two-semester (Fall & Winter) course that consists of a combination of several required and elective components and is expected to be completed within the first year of the program. Some elective sessions may be offered in subsequent years of the program.
  • Advanced Topics in Sociological Theory (SOC*6800). This core PhD course is required of all first-year doctoral students and must be taken in the Fall semester of the first year of study.
  • Advanced Issues in Mixed Research Methodologies (SOC*6200). This core PhD Course is required of all first-year doctoral students and must be taken in the Winter semester of the first year of study.
  • One required graduate course in one of the four departmental fields of specialization, as determined by the student’s area of specialization; students advancing to the PhD program from the MA program in Sociology at the University of Guelph who have successfully completed the existing graduate course in their field of specialization are required to take an elective graduate course offered by the department or a graduate course offered in another department at the University of Guelph (selected in consultation with the student's advisor).

Note that other than in the case noted above, no electives are required, but can be taken at student/advisor discretion.

Because admission to the PhD program normally requires a recognized MA degree in Sociology, it is anticipated that the vast majority of students entering the PhD program will have successfully completed a graduate course in sociological theory, a graduate Sociology course in qualitative methodology and a graduate Sociology course in quantitative methodology. However, if students have not successfully completed these courses prior to entering the program, they will be required to take these courses before entering the program or in rare cases, in addition to the required courses listed above as part of their program.

Students who do not have a background in Sociology are strongly encouraged to select additional courses offered in the Sociology program to develop a strong disciplinary knowledge base. In other words, students are expected to develop sufficiently broad sociological knowledge that goes beyond their specific field of expertise.

Students must also successfully complete a qualifying examination, a research proposal, and produce and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that has been approved by the advisory committee.

PhD students may take specialized graduate reading courses, which are equivalent in credits to other graduate courses. As such, students should expect a course load equivalent to other graduate courses (i.e., approximately 12-15 hours per week for 12 weeks). The procedures and restrictions pertaining to specialized reading courses are as follows:

  • Procedures: Students must find a faculty member willing to supervise a reading course. The student is then responsible for creating, with guidance from the faculty member, a detailed course outline. This outline must specify readings, grading criteria, deadlines for submission of work, and a schedule of meetings. The student must complete a Reading Course Agreement form (signed by both the student and the faculty member); the form is to be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant.
    • Students may not request reading courses that are similar in content and/or purpose to existing departmental courses. Students must take their mandatory courses as regular courses and not as reading courses.
  • Restrictions:
    • In cases where a student takes a reading course with the faculty advisor, a second reader must be appointed to also assess the student's work.

Graduate Grade Schedule and Interpretation

Please see Appendix I for details on graduate-level grades and grade interpretation.