Graduate Handbook

The Department of Sociology Graduate Handbook (hereafter Handbook) summarizes the rules and policies that define our graduate program. Students admitted to graduate studies in sociology at the University at Buffalo must follow policies of the Graduate School and the requirements of the Department of Sociology.

Some of the rules for graduate degrees in sociology are established by the Graduate School; others are departmental rules. Only a few of the Graduate School requirements are reproduced below. You should become familiar with appropriate sections of the Graduate School Policies and Procedures Manual. All rules are subject to revision by the Graduate School or by the Department. 

Jump to

MA Program

The goal of the MA program is to ensure that every student who receives an MA degree possesses a strong foundation in theory, research methods, and substantive topics in Sociology. Students may choose to follow a career-oriented or an academic-oriented path to earning the Master’s degree. Sociology graduate students are expected to complete the MA degree within two years. 

MA Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts degree is conferred when students complete a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours and successfully complete either a Master’s project or a Master’s portfolio. Students must have a combined GPA of at least 3.0 (B). No more than 3 credit hours may count towards the MA for courses taken outside the Department. There is no assumption that courses taken outside the Department will count towards a graduate degree in Sociology; written approval for such courses is required.

The 30 credit hours of Master’s level courses must include SOC 567 (Classical Sociological Theory), SOC 606 (Social Research Methods), and SOC 504 (Introductory Statistics for Social Science). For students in the BA/MA in Applied Social Research program, 3 electives must be research-focused sociology graduate courses, such as Multiple Linear Regression, Qualitative Research Methods, or Categorical Data Analysis.

All full-time master’s level students will take the three required courses and attend the proseminar during the first year of study, and are expected to complete coursework and the Master’s project or portfolio no later than the end of the fourth semester of residence for full time students.

Other policies regarding MA-level coursework are:

  • All first year students are required to attend the weekly proseminar/colloquium series. The proseminar is organized to jumpstart graduate students’ transition from consumers to producers of knowledge and to foster professional socialization.  
  • Twenty-four credit hours (including required courses) must be in regular courses, not Selected Topics Readings (SOC 575) or Project Guidance. For students completing a portfolio in the career-oriented option, twenty-seven credit hours (including required courses) must be in regular courses.
  • Students may (but are not required to) register for 3 credit hours of Master’s paper or portfolio guidance.
  • Students may (but are not required to) register for the second statistics and theory courses, SOC 607 and SOC 568, respectively. MA students who intend to apply for the PhD program should take SOC 568 and SOC 607, which must be completed with a grade of B or better for the PhD. They must also complete the Master’s project. The portfolio option will not be sufficient for admittance to the PhD program.
  • Students at the MA level may register for no more than 3 credit hours of Selected Topics Readings (SOC 575). These credits only count towards the MA degree for those pursuing a project, not a portfolio.
  • Students at the MA level are expected to register for 12 credit hours to be considered full time. Students may not register for more than 12 credit hours in a semester.
  • A grade of C in a required course is the minimal passing grade for a course that may count towards credit for meeting the requirements for the MA. However, a C grade does not meet standards for graduate work and does not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for the PhD. Grades of C- or lower do not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for either the MA or the PhD.

The Graduate School specifies the maximum number of credit hours or courses that can be transferred, waived, or exempted by graduate programs at the University and the circumstances under which such actions can be considered. The Department of Sociology has additional requirements beyond the minimum specified by the Graduate School for graduate work that counts towards graduate degrees in sociology. The Department makes the final decision which, if any, credits are accepted for graduate work completed at other institutions or outside the Department.

  • Up to three credit hours may be taken in an approved field or discipline outside sociology to count towards credit hour requirements of the MA, but approval is not automatic. A written petition to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will consult as appropriate with the Graduate Committee and/or the student’s faculty advisor and/or committee chair, should be explicit about what contribution such outside courses will make to the student’s program of graduate study in Sociology.
  • Up to six credit hours of graduate level work in sociology from another institution taken prior to enrollment at UB may be accepted as counting toward the MA degree. Approval for transfer of such credit is the responsibility of the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Graduate Committee and knowledgeable regular faculty. Students must petition to transfer credit during their first semester at UB; transfer is not automatic.

Applying for Graduation

Master’s degree students apply for graduation/degree conferral in HUB after completing two or three semesters of full-time enrollment with a GPA of at least 3.0. In no case, however, should the Application for Graduation be submitted less than one semester before the completion of the Master’s degree.  When students are ready to determine their graduation/conferral date, they should:

  1. Refer to the deadline dates for applying for graduation in HUB (see below)
  2. Log into your HUB Student Center and follow directions on how to apply for graduation
  3. Complete the Intent to Apply for Graduation for Master’s Degree form
  4. Immediately after applying, email the completed form to the Graduate Coordinator, Susie Sheron, at hsheron2@buffalo.edu

If you need to change your conferral date after you apply for graduation in HUB, you must do so by completing the Petition to Change Expected Conferral Date form and then email the form to hsheron2@buffalo.edu.

If you plan to finish
your requirements by the end of:
Your conferral date is officially:  Your Intent to Apply for
Graduation form is due by:
Fall semester February 1 October 15
Spring semester June 1 February 22
Summer August 31 July 15

Master's Advisor and Committee

Advisors are assigned to each student in the beginning of their first semster of the program to guide their initial time in the program, but students are expected to change (or formalize) their advisor before the end of their second semester using the Academic Advisor/Committee form below.

Whether pursuing an MA Project or Portfolio, students must form a committee consisting of at least two regular faculty members in Sociology, at least one who will serve as committee Chair/Advisor. A student may include a third committee member if they choose, and this person may be from inside or outside the Department. In all cases, committee members should be selected in consultation with the MA committee chair/advisor, not later than the second month of the third semester in residence, but ideally in the second semester. The student then cultivates a plan for develpment and completion of the MA Project or Portfolio with their Advisor and Committee.

 

Master's Project

A Master’s Project results in a 30-50 page manuscript of publishable quality structured similarly to a publication in a leading sociology journal, and which is:

  • An empirical study involving the analysis of data, or;
  • An original theoretical contribution, or;
  • An “issue” or “problem” paper in which students identify a major issue or debate in sociology and examine it critically, bringing their own analytic viewpoint to bear, or;
  • A critical review of the literature in a specific sub-field, similar to an Annual Review of Sociology article.

The Master’s project is required of students who intend to continue graduate studies into the PhD program. The resulting manuscript should approximate the format of standard journal articles, not exceed 50 pages including tables and references, and conform to the style requirements of the American Sociological Review or other appropriate journal. One criterion for evaluation of the master’s project is its potential publishable quality. While some acceptable papers may not be of publishable quality when submitted, the MA committee should use as its standard the potential for publication if all recommended revisions are undertaken. The student will also give a 10-minute presentation (evaluated as pass/fail) on their project in the fall or spring semester closest to graduation as part of a Department-wide symposium, usually scheduled for the second-to-last week of classes. Only when all degree requirements are met does the Master’s committee sign off on the M-form, the multipurpose form that certifies completion of degrees, required by the Graduate School.

Master's Portfolio

A Master’s Portfolio consists of a set of materials that summarizes and displays the student’s sociological knowledge, skills, and problem-solving capabilities beyond an academic audience. It should also showcase the ability to design, manage, operate, and report on topics typically required for professional employment. While the project option requires the student to research one specific topic, the portfolio option emphasizes the student’s competence across several areas within sociology. The materials in the portfolio must be assembled and presented in a professional manner. The Portfolio should include:

  • A 2-page statement of academic experiences and professional goals that could form the foundation of a professional cover letter or an “about me” section of a professional website;
  • A résumé that clearly highlights the skills and strengths the student has gained through the MA program (we suggest working with UB Career Services on both the professional statement and résumé);
  • A written product based on informational interviews (recorded, transcribed, and submitted to the committee) with 2-3 people working in an industry or field of interest to the student. The written product could take several forms:
    • A 10-12 page research paper that addresses a problem, policy issue, or an organizational process that incorporates sociological theory, methods, and/or substantive coursework;
    • A 10-12 page white paper to help general readers understand a sociological issue or social problem. Student may consult a guide such as http://www.impactonthenet.com/wp-guide.pdf for assistance with writing and structuring a white paper. Generally, white papers provide an overview of a problem, background on that problem, and potential solutions to solving that problem;
    • 2-3 short policy briefs that apply sociological theory, methods, and/or research to a particular policy or set of policies. Policy briefs should model those found on the Scholars Strategy Network, Work + Family Researchers Network, or The National Council on Family Relations. Briefs can address policies at organizational, community, city, state, or national levels;
    • Another written product of comparable length approved by the student’s MA committee and the Graduate Committee.
  • A website that showcases the student’s skills and goals. The website should include an “about me” section that features the statement of academic experiences and goals; the student’s résumé; a writing sample (ideally a policy brief, white paper, or research paper); and any other skills, abilities, etc. that the student wants to highlight to potential employers. Students can opt for a fully developed LinkedIn profile or a presentation to the department as part of the MA project symposium instead of the website with approval of their committee.

 

Method of Evaluation

The written document is assessed by the student’s committee to determine whether the student passes Master’s degree requirements. Please note that it is customary to give the committee at least two weeks to assess student work and prepare comments. The final grade for the MA paper or portfolio can be Pass, Pass with Revisions, or Fail. Students who receive the grade Pass with Revisions must complete revisions in response to Committee comments within 30 days, at which point the work will be re-evaluated and assigned the grade of Fail or Pass. Every component of the Master’s paper or portfolio must be approved unanimously by the Master’s Committee.

All requirements for the MA degree should be completed within two years of full-time enrollment in the MA program. All students should successfully complete all MA requirements in time for May commencement in the 2nd year. Students should not expect faculty members to meet, review drafts, or give feedback during the summer months when they are off contract. Meeting the spring deadline for completing MA requirements is particularly critical for MA students who will seek admission into the PhD and who want to remain eligible for TA funding in the subsequent year. A passing grade on the requirements for the MA degree does not automatically guarantee admission into the PhD program.

Final Steps for the MA & Paperwork

The responsibilities of the student, Master’s committee chair, and the graduate program administration are listed below.

Candidate:

  • Follow the specifications of the Graduate School and the Department guidelines for a Master’s paper, in consultation with the MA committee.
  • Make sure that the Graduate Program Coordinator has a properly executed copy of any form submitted directly to the Graduate School.
  • Complete a manuscript-length MA paper or full portfolio as described above.
  • Provide Graduate Program Coordinator an electronic copy of approved MA paper/portfolio.

Master’s Committee Chair:

  • Prepare appropriate forms certifying that the paper or portfolio has been approved by all committee members and that final revisions (if required) have been made. The m-form is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator
  • Make sure that the Graduate Program Coordinator retains a signed copy of any form (to be included in the student file) which is submitted directly to the Graduate School.
  • Ensure smooth execution of departmental activities related to the process.

Graduate Program Coordinator:

  • Maintain the records in the student file verifying that the various requirements for conferral of the MA have been met.
  • Provide the Master’s chair with the appropriate approval forms at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled defense.

Director of Graduate Studies:

  • Certify to the Graduate School that all requirements for the MA have been met.

 

All graduating students need to verify that the Graduate School has their correct graduation date on record and that they have conformed to all deadlines for conferral of degrees. Students should use the Master's Degree Checklist at the end of this Handbook to be sure they comply with all Graduate School and Department requirements.

When all coursework requirements are fulfilled, the Master’s paper/portfolio requirements have been met, and any revisions are completed, the MA committee chair will obtain signatures from each member of the MA committee on the m-form. The m-form will then be signed by the Director of Graduate Studies who certifies on behalf of the Department that the work is complete and that departmental criteria for the Master’s degree have been fully met. The Graduate Program Coordinator will transmit the information to the Graduate School.

Students continuing in the PhD program and receiving an MA as an interim degree should complete all the steps leading to the timely conferral of the Master’s degree.

PhD Program

The goal of the PhD program is to ensure that each individual who receives a PhD possesses the highest level of theoretical ability, methodological skills, substantive expertise, and creative scholarship for which the degree is awarded.

PhD Degree Requirements

The requirements for the PhD degree include 72 credit hours of graduate study, including successful completion (grade of B or higher) of at least 6 additional credit hours of advanced methods coursework beyond that required for the Master’s degree. At the PhD level, students take at least 30 additional credit hours of graded course work beyond the MA or its equivalent and up to 12 hours of dissertation supervision. Written approval must be obtained before taking courses outside the Department that will count towards meeting the credit hour requirements for Sociology graduate degrees. No more than six credit hours from courses taken outside the Department are counted towards meeting the PhD credit hour minimum requirements, including the three hours that may be counted at the MA level. Students with an MA degree in Sociology applying from another program may be able to transfer in course credits or waive some required courses, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Committee will also review that student's MA thesis and determine whether an additional MA will be required or not. For students with an MA degree not in Sociology, we generally do not transfer in credits, so those students will complete an MA degree en route to the PhD. The Department’s graded course work requirement and course transfer policy are more stringent than the Graduate School’s.

The Doctoral degree is completed by:

  • Obtaining an MA in the Department (or its equivalent).
  • Taking at least 42 additional credit hours of graduate-level course work beyond the MA (or its equivalent), including at least 30 credit hours of PhD level graded course work and which is to include at least two additional 3 credit hour courses in advanced research methods (for example, in field/ethnographic research, mixed methods, qualitative methods, advanced quantitative techniques, comparative/historical), and up to 12 credit hours of dissertation supervision. No courses over 10 years old will be counted toward the Doctoral degree without permission of the graduate committee.
  • Completing all required coursework. Required courses include the Sociological Theory core courses (SOC 567, SOC 568), Research Methods and Statistics core courses (SOC 504, SOC 606, SOC 607), and at least one advanced methods elective.
  • PhD students must earn grades of B or better in all required courses. Students who earn a grade below B (including B-) when retaking a required course will be dismissed from the program. A C grade does not meet standards for graduate work and does not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for the PhD. 
  • Counting no more than nine credit hours of Selected Topics Readings (SOC 575) towards meeting the minimum requirements for graded course work, including the 3 credit hours of SOC 575 which may be taken at the MA level.
  • Maintaining continuous registration in the program required by the Graduate School. Continuous registration is maintained by registering for at least one credit hour per semester.
  • Students may register for more than 12 credit hours in a semester only in extraordinary circumstances and only with permission from the Graduate Committee.
  • Passing PhD qualifying examinations in two substantive areas listed below in the Qualifying Examinations section. Students may petition the Graduate Committee to take an examination in a self-defined area.
  • Completing a doctoral dissertation and passing its oral defense.

PhD Qualifying Examinations

All PhD students are required to pass two qualifying exams before they write and defend their dissertation proposal and advance to candidacy. The purpose of qualifying exams is to define areas of specialization, develop expertise in those areas, and prepare for the dissertation. Qualifying exams will ensure that students have adequate foundational knowledge in core areas of the discipline before they advance to the next phase of doctoral training.

Areas for Qualifying Examinations

Students should choose two exam areas from the substantive areas below. In exceptional cases, students may petition the Graduate Committee to take an examination in a different area.

  • Aging & the Life Course
  • Community & Urban
  • Criminology
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Sociology of Family
  • Sociology of Gender
  • Sociology of Health
  • Law & Society
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Social Stratification
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Theory & Culture

Reading lists and sample questions are posted on the Sociology Department UBlearns website. Since the lists are routinely updated to include important new research and developments in the field, the most recent list should be downloaded when beginning preparation for the exams. Reading lists generally include 65-75 works (articles, books, book chapters, review essays).

Structure of Qualifying Examinations

A.  Timing of the Qualifying Examinations

Exams should be taken in the student’s second year of the PhD program; if both exams are not passed by the end of the 4th year in the PhD program, the student will be dismissed from the program. If unexpected or exceptional circumstances prevent a student from taking the qualifying examinations by the suggested time, they can petition the Director of Graduate Studies for a one-semester postponement of their exams.  

Students should notify the Graduate Coordinator of their intentions to take an exam approximately 4 months before the exam (by April 1 for fall intentions and September 1 for spring exam intentions). Students who fail to notify the graduate coordinator by those dates may not be permitted to sit for an exam.

Qualifying examinations will be offered by the Department over one full day during the week before the start of each semester. (Dates may be subject to change due to room availability; it is the student’s responsibility to verify the date of the exam).

3-year tentative schedule for upcoming qualifying exams:

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2020
  • Wednesday, January 20, 2021
  • Wednesday, August 25, 2021
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2022
  • Wednesday, August 24, 2022
  • Wednesday, January 25, 2023

B. Format of Examinations

Examinations are taken in the department over one full day the week before the start of the fall and spring semesters. All exams will take place in the computer lab. The morning session is 8:30 am-11:30 am, and consists of answering one broad question that centers on core issues and debates in the field. The second session is 1:00 pm-5:00 pm, in which students answer two narrower questions about specific topics or theories. Students for whom English is not their native language will be allowed an extra half hour per session, so that they may end the first session at 12:00 pm and the second session at 5:30 pm. Students are given a choice of questions to answer in both sessions. Students may not bring or consult primary source materials during the exam, but they may bring notes that they have written on the reading list itself (double sided and printed as full page). Students are strongly encouraged to spend 10-15 minutes outlining their essays before they begin writing. Readers expect to see in-text citations, but a reference page is not necessary.

C. Grading of Examinations

Examinations in each area are graded by two anonymous area faculty members. In the event of disagreement about the merit of a particular examination, a third reader (designated prior to the examination) from the area will mediate the dispute and make the final determination of the student’s grade. Students are assigned a grade of Pass, Fail, or Pass with Distinction. If a student fails an exam, they must re-take that exam the following semester. If the student fails a second time, they will be dismissed from the program.

Meaning of scores:

Pass: A passing exam demonstrates a capacity for PhD-level research, independent thought, and the ability to critically evaluate key works, issues, problems, and debates in the subject area. The passing exam discusses relevant works at a level of detail that demonstrates that they have been read and understood; shows critical thinking about the readings and provides reasoned judgments about their worth and utility; synthesizes diverse perspectives and findings in a way that has potential to extend existing literature; and is organized well and written coherently for all three questions on the exam.

Fail: A failing exam fails to meet one or more of the above criteria.

Pass with Distinction: In rare circumstances, a student will earn a pass with distinction when all three essays far exceed expectations.

D. Preparing for Exams

The most important way to prepare for qualifying exams is by taking coursework in the exam area. The courses offered in the Department form the foundation for the reading lists, and seminar discussions provide important background for each field. Students should also dedicate significant time to independently read and synthesize the material on the reading lists. Finally, students should consult sample questions in each exam area that are posted on the program’s UBlearns page. It is good practice to work through the sample questions in advance of taking the exam.

Once each academic year, the Department will offer a proseminar on qualifying exam preparation, which is strongly recommended. Your advisor or other area faculty are also available for consultation if you have specific questions about works on the lists.

 

Advancement to PhD Candidacy

Students apply to the Dean of the Graduate School for advancement to candidacy for the PhD degree after they have completed six (6) semesters of full-time enrollment (or its equivalent) with a grade point average of not less than a B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). Guidelines for applying for advancement to candidacy are part of the Application to Candidacy Form. Once candidacy is granted, students are no longer required to register for 9 hours (students with teaching assistantships) or 12 hours (other students) to maintain full-time status. In no case should the Application to PhD Candidacy be filed less than two semesters before the completion of the degree. Students may not register for dissertation guidance hours until they have applied to candidacy. An unofficial transcript must be attached to the Application to Candidacy form.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee will have at least three faculty members, one of whom will be its Chair and who will have primary responsibility for directing the dissertation. All three members must be UB graduate faculty. The Chair and at least one other member of the Committee must be regular faculty in the Department of Sociology at the University at Buffalo. Additional members from outside the Department or the University at Buffalo may be added by mutual consent of the student and other committee members. The Graduate Committee will review any requests for subsequent changes in the committee after its initial formation.

Constituting a Dissertation Committee is a professional decision made by students in consultation with the Committee Chair and the prospective members. Students should select their committees with care, considering the contribution, expected time commitment, and appropriateness of each member invited to participate, given the research the student will pursue. Faculty are under no obligation to participate as members of any student committee; students should keep in mind that faculty may resign from committees. Similarly, students are free to replace or add committee members; these issues should be handled directly and professionally. Be aware that changes to committee composition may delay completion of work. Changes, while at the discretion of the student, should always be discussed with the Chair of the student’s Dissertation Committee.

Once the Dissertation Committee is constituted, its composition can be changed at any time at the request of the student who must notify the Director of Graduate Studies, submit a new Faculty Academic Advisor/Committee Members form to the Graduate Program Coordinator, and submit a petition to Change Expected Conferral Date/Amend ATC. Under most circumstances, the committee that approves the dissertation and oral defense will be the same committee that approved the dissertation proposal. The student and his/her Dissertation Committee will determine mutually understood procedures for advancing the work and a timetable for reviewing the dissertation in progress.

  • The Dissertation Committee (jointly or individually) and the student should communicate formally at least once a semester to review the dissertation in progress. Understand that failure to maintain regular communication may lead to faculty withdrawing from the committee.
  • Students should prepare their dissertation or proposal in consultation with their Chair and schedule a defense when the Committee has had ample time to review the document in its entirety. No dissertation or dissertation proposal defenses will occur without at least 2 weeks’ public notice. Defenses should take place during the academic year and not during the summer months when faculty are off contract.

 

Doctoral Dissertation and Proposal

The goal of the dissertation is to ensure that each student demonstrates substantial independent scholarship. The dissertation can take two forms: it can be traditional in its form, resembling a scholarly monograph in form and substance, or it can be the synthesis of a research program presented as a set of several interrelated papers (generally three) on a single topic (with each paper representing one aspect of the dissertation topic, suitable in quality and contribution to the discipline for submission to a scholarly journal for peer review and publication), linked with an introductory chapter that establishes the dissertation theme (situates the work in the appropriate sociological research and methodological literature) and a synthesizing final one.

Graduate School policies indicate that no more than seven consecutive years may pass between the beginning of doctoral studies and the awarding of the degree. 

Doctoral Dissertation Proposal

Students prepare and defend a dissertation proposal that outlines the dissertation topic, discussing its theoretical relevance, research design, data sources and research procedures. The student provides the dissertation proposal to the Committee at least two weeks prior to its public defense. Students must submit a title, abstract (300 words or less), names of dissertation committee members, the time and date of the defense, and a complete draft of the dissertation proposal to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the defense so that public notice of the defense can be posted in the Department. All dissertation proposal defenses require at least 2 weeks public notice. The proposal may be assigned one of the grades Pass, Pass with Revisions, or Fail. In the event that the student receives a Pass with Revisions, the student has 30 days to revise the proposal in response to Committee comments. The revised proposal will then be given a final grade of Pass or Fail. If a student receives a grade of Fail, she or he may attempt to defend another dissertation proposal, without penalty, before the end of the next semester (excluding summer). Students who fail a proposal defense twice will be dismissed from the PhD program. Once the proposal passes, the student should fill out the Proposal Defense Form, signed by the Dissertation Committee Chair and all Dissertation Committee Members certifying that the proposal has passed. Student must also provide Graduate Program Coordinator an electronic copy of the approved proposal.

Dissertation and Oral Defense

Appropriate dissertation styles include the traditional monograph model, for which there are many examples available in the Department library or an article-style dissertation. Students should fully discuss this decision with their dissertation advisor, and must have the agreement of their entire dissertation committee to write an article-style dissertation. An article-style dissertation must have at least three substantive chapters that are suitable for review and potential publication in a refereed professional journal. The Dissertation Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the Graduate Committee must approve any exception to this minimum requirement of three substantive chapters for an article-style dissertation. In addition to three chapters, there should be introductory and concluding chapters that describe the unifying themes of the substantive chapters. The dissertation chapters must be sole-authored original work. Co-authored work is not eligible for inclusion in the dissertation. Beyond these departures from the traditional monograph model, all other rules and regulations governing the traditional dissertation apply to the newer article-style dissertation. Whether the traditional monograph or article-style approach is selected, research competence and independent scholarship are required to earn a PhD in sociology and must be demonstrated in both the dissertation and its oral defense. The format of the dissertation must conform to the requirements of the Graduate School: Guidelines for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission.

The student should submit a complete draft version of the dissertation to the Dissertation Committee at least two weeks prior to the expected date of the oral defense. Some committees may require even more time to review the complete draft version of the dissertation. Students who provide the draft dissertation too late for adequate committee review prior to scheduling an oral defense risk postponing the defense, or having their graduation delayed if extensive revisions are then required by committee members after the oral defense. The oral defense is considered a public meeting to which the Department faculty and students, and other interested members of the University community are invited. Students must submit a title, abstract (300 words or less), names of dissertation committee members, the time and date of the defense, and a complete draft of the dissertation to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the defense so that public notice of the defense can be posted in the Department. All dissertation defenses require at least 2 weeks’ public notice. This requires careful planning; keep in mind that it is inappropriate to expect committee members to be available during June, July, and August for formal activities related to thesis preparation and defense, except in the most extenuating circumstances.

Passing will be determined by a unanimous vote of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee that both the written document (including required revisions, if any) and oral defense meet standards in the discipline for conferral of the Doctor of Philosophy degree. All members of the Dissertation Committee are required to attend the defense for its duration. All other members of the Department and the University are invited to attend and participate in the questioning of the candidate. Immediately after the defense, the committee will meet to decide what additional revisions, if any, will be required for final acceptance. Only when the committee unanimously agrees that the work (and its revision, if required) is satisfactory, indicated by signatures from each committee member on the m-form, will the m-form be signed by the Director of Graduate studies certifying that the work meets the standards for conferral of the PhD by the Department of Sociology and the approved dissertation be filed with the Graduate School.

Paperwork and Final Steps for the PhD

All graduating students need to verify that the Graduate School has their correct graduation date on record and should be sure to consult the Graduate School guidelines for dissertation formats and submission requirements several months before the expected defense. They will need to provide the Graduate School with a final, certified correct (revised if necessary) properly formatted version of their dissertation, and (of course) monitor the expeditious routing of the fully executed m-form.

When all coursework and continuous registration requirements are fulfilled, the qualifying examinations, oral defense of the dissertation, and the dissertation is complete and any revisions are completed, the Dissertation committee chair will obtain signatures from each member of the dissertation committee on the m-form. The m-form will then be signed by the Director of Graduate Studies and given to the Graduate Program Coordinator, who will forward it to the Graduate School.

The final paperwork for the dissertation involves the Graduate School more than the Department and most of the forms that must be filled out are Graduate School forms. Also keep in mind that the Graduate School has precise specifications on the format of the dissertation and other matters. Early in the process, the student should review the Graduate School guidelines describing how to format and submit the final dissertation and to fulfill all the administrative requirements for graduating.

The guidelines regarding completion of dissertations and application for graduation can be complicated. The responsibilities of the student, dissertation chair, and the graduate program administration are listed below.

Candidate:

  • Follow the Guidelines for Thesis and Dissertation Preparation and Submission in the Graduate School guidelines for preparation of the dissertation.
  • Make sure that the Graduate Program Coordinator has a properly executed copy of any form submitted directly to the Graduate School.
  • Notify the Graduate Program Coordinator of the time and date of the planned oral defense and to submit a complete draft of the dissertation at least two weeks in advance so room arrangements can be reserved and a two-week public notice of the event be posted, leaving ample time for revision before all documents are due to the Graduate School.
  • Circulate a copy of the dissertation abstract to all Department faculty members with an announcement of the date, time and place of the oral defense. This will be done at least two weeks in advance of the date.
  • Complete a dissertation with a defense of its key contributions to the discipline in a public oral defense.

Dissertation Chair:

  • Prepare appropriate forms indicating that the dissertation has been approved and that the candidate passed the oral defense. The m-form is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • Make sure that the Graduate Program Coordinator retains a copy of any form (to be included in the student file) which is submitted directly to the Graduate School.
  • Help coordinate departmental activities related to the process.

Graduate Program Coordinator:

  • Maintain the records in the student file verifying that the various requirements for graduation have been met.
  • Arrange a time and place for the scheduled dissertation defense to take place, and to publicize it.
  • Provide the dissertation chair with the appropriate approval forms at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled defense.

Director of Graduate Studies:

  • Certify to the Graduate School that all departmental requirements for the PhD have been met.

Final Steps for the PhD

  • In order to receive a PhD from the University at Buffalo, the student must be registered for at least one credit hour during the semester of graduation. Students planning to graduate should notify the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Program Coordinator at least 9 months ahead of time so that there are no unanticipated problems with meeting continuous registration requirements.
  • A convenient time and date for the oral defense, with at least two weeks public notice, will be selected by the student and his or her Dissertation Committee. All Committee members are required to attend the defense for its duration. In extenuating circumstances, faculty member attendance can be by telephone conference call.
  • A minimum of two weeks must elapse from the time that a draft copy of the complete dissertation is filed with the Graduate Program Coordinator and public notice of the oral defense is given, and the occurrence of the defense. Keep in mind that program requirements dictate that Committee members should receive a properly formatted complete dissertation draft at least two weeks prior to its defense, but that professional courtesy demands that committee members should have six to eight weeks to do the work. Any exception to the six to eight-week time frame should not be assumed, but should be agreed upon by each member of the committee. The two week period for publication of the defense is the absolute minimum in conformance with Department policies and professional standards.
  • At least two weeks before the oral defense occurs, provide the Graduate Program Coordinator with the final title of the dissertation and an abstract (300 words or less) that will be used to provide public notice of the event as well as a completed draft of the dissertation.
  • Upon successful completion of the oral defense and any revisions the Dissertation Committee requires to the dissertation, the student’s Dissertation Committee Chair should notify the Director of Graduate Studies that the student has passed.
  • Well in advance of the conferral deadlines listed on the academic calendar (see here) the student should verify that all required forms, etc. are on file with the Graduate School and that all administrative requirements have been fulfilled (consult the Graduate Program Coordinator and the PhD graduation checklist). Students also need to provide the Graduate School with a final (certified correct, with any required revisions), properly formatted version of their dissertation. Completing all of these activities early enough in the final semester in the PhD program to meet Graduate School and Department deadlines is particularly important for students planning to finish in the spring semester and seeking May conferral of degrees. This activity is the responsibility of the individual student.

 

Student Evaluation and Progress

Graduate students are evaluated by the regular faculty of the Department each spring with reference to a number of criteria.

Evaluation Procedures

Information will be collected from each student (a self-evaluation, due to the Graduate Program Coordinator after April 1) and from faculty with direct information about each student’s progress. The faculty as a whole assess performance and the Director of Graduate Studies communicates the faculty assessment in a letter to each student that is both summative and evaluative, recognizing progress made during the past year and suggesting directions for the future. The Graduate Committee uses annual evaluation information and other materials for several purposes: to acknowledge students’ accomplishments, to consider whether Master’s students applying to the PhD program will be admitted, and to carefully review the circumstances of students struggling in their graduate studies to determine whether they should be placed on probationary status in the program, or whether their best interests are served by leaving the program. Students on probationary status will be given guidelines for the actions they must take (clear incompletes, constitute committees and meet deadlines, etc.) to normalize their status. Students on probation who do not meet these guidelines and conditions in the following semester will be dismissed from the program.

Evaluation Procedures

The faculty will meet as a whole to assess graduate student progress. Each student who intends to remain in the program for the next academic year will prepare a brief statement outlining his or her progress and accomplishments for the current academic year. The Graduate Committee will provide a template for student statements to standardize information solicited from each student. Student statements, along with information from faculty with direct knowledge of student progress and accomplishments (i.e., worked on research together, was a student in seminar, served as TA or RA, observed at professional meeting), will be evaluated. Faculty will receive a list of all current students at least one week before the student evaluation meeting occurs, and should be prepared to summarize their knowledge of student progress (in person at the meeting, by communicating their summary to another faculty member who speaks on their behalf at the faculty meeting, or briefly in writing) so that each student receives appropriate consideration of their progress and appropriateness for continued graduate study by the entire faculty.

The consensus of the faculty regarding the progress of each student will form the basis for letters documenting student progress. These letters will be evaluative, noting both strengths and weaknesses. When warranted, the letter will express the determination of the faculty that a particular student will be placed on probationary status or not be allowed to continue in the program.

Specifically, students are evaluated according to criteria such as:

  • cumulative GPA and GPA for current academic year
  • evaluation of performance by faculty members who supervised assistantship, who instructed, or served on student committee
  • length of time in assistantship, and quality of work performed
  • length of time in degree program, plus quality and progress
  • satisfying Master’s degree/core requirements by May of the second year in residence if continuing to the PhD
  • passing PhD qualifying examinations and required courses on schedule
  • earning grades of B or higher in required courses (theory, methods, statistics)
  • existence of incomplete grades, and length of time incompletes are outstanding
  • indication of professional socialization including awards, honors, publications, and presentations at professional meetings
  • participation in Department activities

Basis for Funding Reappointment

Teaching assistants who perform poorly in their TA duties, or who perform poorly in their coursework (earn grades lower than B, accumulate incompletes) risk not being reappointed as teaching assistants.

Students not funded in one year are eligible for funding consideration in a succeeding year, based on results of their annual evaluation results and available resources.

Basis for Probation or Dismissal from the Graduate Program

Probation refers to a process by which students are informed of deficiencies in their progress towards the degree. Students are formally notified of probationary status and the steps they must take to remedy that. Failure to remedy probationary status will result in dismissal from the program or loss of funding. The Graduate Committee may decide that a student will not continue in the program for the following reasons:

  • GPA below 3.2
  • Grades below B (including B-) in any required course. Students who earn a grade below B (including B-) when retaking a required course will be dismissed from the program. A grade of C in a required course is the minimal passing grade for a course that may count towards credit for meeting the requirements for the MA. However, a C grade does not meet standards for graduate work and does not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for the PhD. Grades of C- or lower do not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for either the MA or the PhD.
  • Breaches of academic integrity
  • An unsatisfactory annual review which results in probation, if the basis for the unsatisfactory review and probation are not remedied on schedule
  • Failing program components (MA paper/portfolio, qualifying examinations, dissertation proposal, dissertation defense)
  • Accumulation of incomplete grades. Having two incomplete grades simultaneously may result in probationary status. Four incompletes may be the basis for dismissal from the program
  • Inability to form a committee
  • Inadequate progress towards meeting degree requirements
  • Failure to maintain continuous registration in the program
  • Exceeding Graduate School or Department time limits

 

TA Responsibilities

Until students acquire credentials adequate for university instruction of undergraduates (Master’s degree in Sociology plus university-provided TA training), TAs are assigned to professors as assistants for undergraduate courses. Third-year and later graduate students usually have primary responsibility for course instruction. International students must pass the SPEAK test in order to teach their own courses.

Teaching assistants must be residence in Buffalo for the entire term of their semester-long teaching assistantships. This requirement to be in residence is not negotiable. Any exceptions will be specified at the beginning of each term by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students are expected to be in residence at least 2 working days prior to the semester until final grading is complete and all of their teaching obligations are discharged. If you are a TA, the precise end date will be determined by for whom you are working.

Students who are funded by the Department as Teaching Assistants are required to attend the University-provided graduate student teacher training or its departmentally-approved equivalent.

TAs who assist a professor with an undergraduate course learn how to prepare courses they may later teach themselves. The professor and the TA should meet as soon as class assignments are made, usually before the semester begins. The professor and the TA should agree on TA responsibilities for the semester, which may reasonably include any/all of the following:

  • Grade papers and exams
  • Acquire material to assist in preparation of lectures
  • Hold office hours
  • Maintain course records
  • Mentor/advise undergraduate students
  • Meet periodically (negotiated) with professor to discuss course related matters
  • Attend, prepare, and/or deliver lectures
  • Facilitate discussion
  • Other administrative tasks

The Department’s expectation is that any student funded as a TA will do excellent work in that role.

During the first two years of graduate training, TAs are exposed to different professors with different teaching styles. This involves the student in a variety of teaching-related issues and course-planning apprenticeship roles, to help prepare the student for organizing and teaching their own courses.

Once they have earned the MA in Sociology, passed the SPEAK test if an international student, and completed University-provided TA training, TAs typically prepare and teach their own undergraduate courses. The Department prepares the student for this role by offering training opportunities, teaching prosems, and learning experiences in apprentice roles during the first two years as TAs. All graduate students who are funded by the Department to teach Sociology courses to undergraduates are required to attend a University-sponsored graduate teaching assistant training course or its Department-approved equivalent, to be completed before the first course they teach at UB. Normally, students funded as teaching assistants should attend that course (traditionally offered the week before classes begin in the fall semester or early in the fall semester) before beginning their first TA assignment.

 

 

Other Policies and Practices

Policies and procedures that guide the graduate program, including academic integrity, grading standards, and more.

Other Policies and Practices

Academic Integrity and Ethical Conduct
The Department of Sociology adheres to the ethical standards of the University at Buffalo and the American Sociological Association Code of Ethics.

An academic community is built on trust and the Department of Sociology depends on trust among its members for its sense of community. Academic dishonesty is a rare occurrence in the Department of Sociology. However, in order to safeguard the standards of the Department, the discipline, and the broader academic community at the University, policies for handling accusations of academic dishonesty provide a structure for handling the rare instances that occur and to safeguard the rights of all parties involved in accusations of academic dishonesty by having policies in place to deal with them.

Academic dishonesty could involve plagiarism, cheating, or falsification of data. Graduate students are directed to read and understand these threats to academic integrity and to avoid them at all cost. Graduate students should refer to the Graduate School policies regarding integrity.

Note: Keep in mind that faculty members differ in opinion regarding whether or not it is proper to submit a similar paper (or parts of the same paper) to meet requirements for more than one course. Do not assume that it is appropriate to do so, as this may be considered a breach of integrity by some faculty. ASK. Consult with each faculty member involved well prior to the submission of papers to determine the particular faculty member’s position on that issue. Submitting the same work for grades for two different courses (whether taken in the department or elsewhere) is NEVER appropriate.

While academic misconduct is rare, if a student is accused of academic misconduct (cheating, plagiarism, falsifying data, etc.), the following steps should be taken:

The individual professor or student who is making a formal accusation of cheating will bring the case to the attention of the Department Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. Every effort should be made to settle the issue informally between the professor and the student. However, if they cannot resolve the issue, the parties involved will use the Graduate School procedures for dealing with academic dishonesty. The issue will be considered resolved when all parties agree, in accordance with University policies and regarding the merits of the accusation and implementation of sanctions, if any. If the matter cannot be resolved internally to the satisfaction of all parties, the Graduate School will have responsibility for adjudicating the case.

Faculty Advisor
Each student should have a faculty advisor at all times. For incoming students, the Director of Graduate Studies will initially assign a faculty advisor engaged in graduate training. Students will subsequently select a faculty advisor of their own choice (by the beginning of the spring semester) in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the faculty member they select as their academic advisor. There is absolutely no penalty for changing advisors, either from an appointed to a selected one, or from one selected advisor to another, as student and faculty interests evolve. There is no expectation on the part of the student or the faculty advisor that the faculty member selected for that role will necessarily serve as a chair or member of any Master’s or PhD committee, except at the invitation of the student.

The faculty academic advisor is responsible for helping the student develop a plan of study leading to the degree. The advisor may (but does not necessarily) direct the MA paper/portfolio or the PhD Dissertation Committee, may be a committee member, or may give advice independent of any other formal committee role. The role of faculty advisor must be by mutual consent of the professor and the student. This ensures that the advisor is willing to assume the responsibility of guiding the student through his/her studies, and that the student will work responsibly with the advisor. As interests change, students are free to change advisors. When this occurs, students must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing, as well as any faculty members affected by a change in advisors. Students should note that few faculty enter into an advising role lightly, and that faculty, too, may wish to resign from the capacity of faculty academic advisor. When faculty decide to resign from the role, they should discuss options with the student and ensure that the Director of Graduate Studies is notified, in writing, of any change.

Students should formally consult with their faculty advisor (if different from committee chair) and committee chair at least once during each term concerning their progress to date and to discuss their plans for the coming term. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule such meetings.

Grades
Students are required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above at all times and must earn grades of B or better in all required courses (theory, methods, statistics). Students with GPAs below 3.2 risk receiving a probationary letter.

Grades of Incomplete
According to Graduate School policy, “Incomplete” grades are not to be assigned routinely, but only when a student cannot complete course work due to unforeseen and compelling circumstances, such as an illness. If an “I” is given, the maximum amount of time students have to complete the work and have a letter grade assigned is no more than two additional semesters plus the intervening summer (12 months). If course requirements are not completed by that date, the “Incomplete” is automatically changed to an “Unsatisfactory” (U) grade. Graduate School grading guidelines establish the longest period an incomplete can remain on a student record without assignment of an unsatisfactory grade. Individual faculty may establish shorter periods for required completion of incomplete coursework. No faculty member is required to assign incomplete grades without compelling evidence of unforeseen circumstances. Failure to complete courses on time jeopardizes a student’s academic standing and positive annual assessment.

Grading Standards
Grades in Sociology graduate courses adhere to the following standards:

A
Exceptional performance. Student’s achievement is (1) outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements, and (2) all course requirements were completed in a timely fashion.

A-
Significantly exceeds standards. Represents significantly exceeding standards and signifies that the work was either (1) completed but at a level of achievement that significantly exceeds the standards of performance for a graduate student but was not truly exceptional or (2) was exceptional but all course requirements were not completed in a timely fashion.

B+
Exceeds standards. The student’s achievement exceeds standards but does not significantly exceed standards. Signifies that the work was either (1) completed at a level of achievement that moderately exceeds the standards of performance for a graduate student or (2) significantly exceeds standards but all course requirements were not completed in a timely fashion.

B
Meets standards. The student’s achievement meets the course requirements in every respect. Indicates that the student’s work was either (1) completed but at a level of achievement that merely meets standards of performance for a graduate student or (2) exceeds standards but all course requirements were not completed in a timely fashion.

B-
Below Standards. Signifies that (1) the work was completed but at a level of achievement that is slightly-to-moderately below standards of performance for a graduate student or (2) some work (a minor amount) was not completed but the completed work met or exceeded standards.

C or lower
Significantly below standards. Represents failure to meet standards and signifies that the student’s work was either (1) completed but at a level of achievement that is significantly below standards of performance for a graduate student or (2) was not completed and there was no agreement between the instructor and the student that the student would be awarded an I (incomplete). A grade of C in a required course is the minimal passing grade for a course that may count towards credit for meeting the requirements for the MA. However, a C grade does not meet standards for graduate work and does not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for the PhD. Grades of C- or lower do not count towards meeting credit hour requirements for either the MA or the PhD.

Graduate Program Policy IssuesGraduate Committee

The Graduate Committee of the Department of Sociology is comprised of a number of faculty consistent with the Department by-laws, plus the Director of Graduate Studies. The committee has four main functions: (1) reviewing admission requests to the Department; (2) dealing with policy issues affecting the graduate program and making recommendations to the faculty as a whole; (3) reviewing and approving the programs of individual students, including petitions for waivers, exemptions, etc.; (4) ensuring the efficient operation of the graduate program.

Matters of graduate program policy are considered by the Graduate Committee which makes recommendations to the Department faculty as a whole prior to changing policies affecting the requirements or operations of the graduate program. Any faculty member or graduate student may bring a problem or suggestion concerning policy to the Graduate Committee for consideration. When a proposal or recommendation is submitted to the Graduate Committee, it will be discussed by the Department faculty as a whole as soon as is practical. Discussion of issues or proposals regarding graduate program policy brought to the faculty by the Graduate Committee will include the student representative to faculty meetings.

The Department itself or its subcommittees retain the following powers:

  • Admission to and retention in the Department
  • Funding offers proffered by the Department
  • Approval of MA papers/portfolios and PhD dissertations
  • Evaluation of qualifying examinations
  • Conduct of defenses
  • Individual student programs of study
  • Annual evaluation of students
  • Designation of Department honors and awards

The Director of Graduate Studies consults as appropriate with other members of the Graduate Committee or other knowledgeable faculty and acts on recommendations or petitions from individual students and faculty for actions such as:

  • Student petition for waiver or exemption from any Department policies or requirements
  • Student requests to take courses outside the Department
  • Student petition notifying of change in advisors
  • Student petition to establish or change the Master’s or PhD committee
  • Student petition for self-directed PhD qualifying examination
  • Student petition to take a leave of absence
  • Faculty recommendations regarding admission to PhD program
  • Master’s or doctoral dissertation committee recommendation for termination of a student before completing the degree.

Petitions should clearly state what is requested and include all relevant information needed to reach decisions. The Graduate Committee meets to consider petitions and suggestions as needed.

Grievance Procedures
It is usually in the best interests of student and faculty to negotiate informal agreements to settle disputes. However, more formal grievance procedures may be required when disputed issues cannot be resolved informally. Departmental grievance procedures are governed by the Department of Sociology by-laws and by procedures set forth by the Graduate School.

Harassment and Discrimination
Students should familiarize themselves, both with regard to their roles as student and as teacher, with the University at Buffalo Standards which prohibit harassment and discrimination (here).

Leaves of Absence
Program requirements include timely progression towards completing work for the degree and continuous registration in the Department. Timely completion of degree requirements once course work begins may be complicated by unexpected events in student’s lives. In such instances, leaves of absence may be granted for one year.

A student must petition for a leave of absence in writing, explaining the reason for the request and the anticipated date of return, with a copy to the Dean of the Graduate School. Before applying for a leave of absence, the student should discuss the matter with his/her Faculty Advisor, Committee Chair, and the Director of Graduate Studies. After Department approval, the leave request is sent to the Graduate School, which will make the final decision and notify the student. Students with approved leaves of absence will remain in the graduate program, although they are neither enrolled in courses nor registered for course hours. Leaves of absence are granted on an annual basis; extensions can be granted but are not automatic. Note that the Graduate School specifies that a Leave of Absence is for only one year. In extenuating circumstances, it may be possible to petition for another year of leave. Students should be aware that Leaves of Absence, in such instances, are at the discretion of the Graduate School and are granted on a year-by-year basis.

Conditions for reinstatement from leave are ordinarily set when the leave is granted, and include completion of outstanding work. Petitions for reinstatement will be considered by the Graduate Committee and the Graduate School. Students who remain unregistered for more than one year without an approved extension of their leave will be removed from the program. Such students who are removed from the program when a leave of absence expires may reapply for admission to the Department under current admission criteria in the event that they wish to continue their graduate studies at some future date.

Regular Faculty
In this document, the term “regular faculty” refers to tenured or tenure track, full-time professors in the Department of Sociology who are eligible to supervise graduate work.

Residency Requirements
There are several issues surrounding residency that graduate students should be aware of, including establishing in-state residency for domestic out-of-state students who study at UB. Funded domestic students who do not establish in-state residency in a timely way will likely have their funding terminated by the Graduate School. Residency also refers to the criteria for maintaining continuous enrollment in the program from the beginning through the end of graduate studies. These policies are established by the Graduate School; consult the Graduate School website for a detailed explanation of residency and continuous enrollment regulations.

Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA)
The Sociology Graduate Student Association ensures that student concerns are addressed within the community of graduate students in the Department and are represented in departmental decisions. It provides sociology graduate students with the opportunity to develop professional leadership skills through active participation in departmental decision-making and activities, helps foster collegial peer and faculty relations within the Department, and provides a framework for students to develop and share professional and academic information and ideas.

 

Forms