The Department of Sociology
The Department of Sociology, established in 1893 by Albion Small and Charles A. Henderson, has been centrally involved in the history and development of the discipline in the United States. The traditions of the "Chicago School" were built by pioneers such as W. I. Thomas, Robert E. Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and William F.Ogburn. It is a tradition based on the interaction of sociological theory with systematic observation and the analysis of empirical data; it is interdisciplinary, drawing on theory and research from other fields in the social sciences and the humanities; it is a tradition which seeks to fuse together concern with the persistent issues of social theory and attention to the pressing social and policy problems of an urban society.
Continuous developments in social research have marked the department's work in recent years. The department has pursued a balance in effort between individual scholarship and the development of group research approaches. Faculty members have been engaged in the development of systematic techniques of data collection and in the statistical and mathematical analysis of social data. Field studies and participant observation have been refined and extended. There has been an increased attention to macrosociology, to historical sociology, and to comparative studies, in which the institutions of other societies are compared with those of the United States. The staff is engaged in individual and large-scale group projects which permit graduate students to engage in research almost from the beginning of their graduate careers. The student develops an apprenticeship-type relation with faculty members in which the student assumes increasing amounts of independence as he or she matures.
The study of sociology at the University of Chicago is greatly enhanced by the presence of numerous research enterprises engaged in specialized research. Students often work in these centers pursuing collection and study of data with faculty and other center researchers. Students have the opportunity for experience in the following research enterprises: the William F. Ogburn/Samuel A. Stouffer Center for the Study of Population and Social Organizations (Edward Laumann, Director); the Joint Center for Poverty Research (Susan Mayer, Director); the Population Research Center (William Parish, Director); the Committee on Demographic Training (Robert Michael, Director); NORC Research Centers (Norman Bradburn, Director); the Center for the Study of Politics, History, and Culture; the Center for Health Administration Studies (Edward Lawlor, Acting Director); the Rational Choice Program (Gary S. Becker, Director); the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children, and Work (Linda J. Waite and Barbara Schneider, Co-Directors); and the Center on Demography and Economics of Aging (Linda J. Waite, Director). These provide an opportunity either for field work by which the student brings new primary data into existence or for the treatment of existing statistical and other data. The city of Chicago provides opportunities for a variety of field investigations, and the department also encourages cross-national and foreign studies. The faculty have research interests in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Faculty and students may take advantage of an extensive computer system dedicated to research and teaching activities. The department participates fully in the Social Sciences Research Computing Center, which is a fully articulated network of personal computers, minicomputers and small mainframes. Access to the system is available through many work stations on campus. A large library of social science programs and data sets has been collected, with applied demographic routines being an area of particular strength.
Prospective students are referred to the regulations of the University and of the Division of the Social Sciences concerning admission to graduate study. All applicants for admission are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores. Students whose first language is not English are required to submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A writing sample is a welcome addition to any application.
The department welcomes students who have done their undergraduate work in other social sciences and in fields such as mathematics, biological sciences, and the humanities. The department also encourages students who have had work experience, governmental or military service, or community and business experiences to apply.
The Degree of Master of Arts
The A.M. degree in sociology is available for students planning to study for the Ph.D. degree, and completion of the first stage of the Ph.D. program meets the A.M. requirements. The department retains the right to award a terminal master's degree to students whose performance on the preliminary examination or on the A.M. research paper gives insufficient promise of success in the doctoral program.
The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
The doctoral program is designed to be completed in five to seven years of study by a student entering with a bachelor's degree (completion within four years is possible). Those students entering with the master's degree in sociology from another university will ordinarily be able to complete the Ph.D. a year or two sooner. Deficiencies in undergraduate training can usually be made up in the course of graduate study. Satisfactory completion of the first phase of the Ph.D. program also fulfills the program requirements for the A.M. degree.
Common core course requirements. To complete the requirements for the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees, students are required to complete for credit a two-quarter sequence, Sociological Inquiry I and II, as well as History of Social Theory, during the first year of residence.
Methodology and statistics requirement. For the Ph.D. degree, also during the first year, students are required to complete for credit Statistical Methods of Research I and II. For students entering with a strong quantitative background, the department may approve alternative sequences.
Cross-National Competence requirement. The department believes strongly in sociology as an international enterprise, just as it is itself an international community of faculty and graduate students. For many years, this belief was embodied in a simple language requirement, which itself derived from a period when English was not the dominant language of scholarship. Recent deliberations have persuaded us that the underlying aim we now see in our language requirement is that students will have a serious command of nations or cultures other than those from which they come. We feel this command can be demonstrated not only by command of a foreign language but also by serious scholarly work on another nation or culture. To that end we have restructured our language requirement into a cross-national competence requirement. Option A: High pass on one of the foreign language proficiency examinations administered by the universitys Office of Test Administration. Option B: Completion of a substantial paper, equivalent to the level of an A.M. paper, that makes extensive use of materials from one or more societies outside the anglophone world. This paper is in addition to the A.M. paper. Like the A.M. paper, it must be submitted to and approved by a regular member of the faculty. Students whose high school or college degrees were done at schools not conducted in English are exempt from this requirement, but are very strongly encouraged to write, during their stay at Chicago, a substantial paper on a nation or culture not their own.
Preliminary examination. This is an A.M. final/Ph.D. qualifying written examination designed to demonstrate competence in several major subdisciplines of sociology. The examination is based on the common-core courses, Sociological Inquiry I & II and History of Social Theory, and a special supplementary bibliography. The preliminary examination is normally taken at the beginning of the second year of residence. On the basis of the student's performance on this examination, in course work during the first year, and in the A.M. research paper, the department determines whether the student is allowed to continue for the Ph.D.
The A.M. research paper. The A.M. requirement is to write a publishable piece of work. Normally this will be an independent research article, in some cases it maybe a review piece or purely theoretical argument. The requirement is designed to allow for a broad range of types of paper and to set a standard of professional form and quality. Typically, it is done in the second year. Students entering with an M.A. that required a major paper may petition to have this requirement waived.
Special field examinations. Each student is required to pass two special field examinations usually during the second and third years of residence, but in any case after passing the preliminary examination. The examinations are prepared on an individual basis in fields of sociology in which the student wishes to develop research competence. One special field is ordinarily closely related to the subject matter of the subsequent dissertation. The examinations will cover both theoretical and substantive materials and the methods required for effective research in those fields. Preparation takes the form of specialized courses and seminars, supplemented by independent study and reading. The fields most commonly taken are community structure; demography; human ecology; economics and work institutions; culture; educational institutions; family and socialization; formal organizations; mathematical sociology; methodology; modernization; personality and social structure; political organization; race and ethnic relations; small groups; social change and social movements; social psychology; social stratification; and urban sociology. Fields other than those listed, whether they fall entirely within the competence of the Department of Sociology or involve cross-disciplinary study, may be established on petition by the student accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography.
Dissertation. The student prepares a research plan under the guidance of a specially appointed committee. The plan is subject to review by a faculty committee appointed for each student to determine whether the project is feasible and to assist in the development of research. Upon approval of the dissertation proposal and completion of the other requirements listed above, the department recommends that the Division of the Social Sciences formally admit the student to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. When the dissertation is completed, an oral examination is held on the dissertation and the field to which it is related. The Ph.D. dissertation is judged by its contribution to sociological knowledge and the evidence it shows of ability to carry out independent research.
The Department of Sociology provides teaching opportunities which give graduate students increasing responsibility for classroom instruction. After passing the preliminary examination, students may apply to become course assistants with the opportunity to discuss course design, teach under supervision of a faculty member, and review student work. After completion of the A.M. portion of the program students who have served as course assistants may apply to become teaching interns with increased responsibility for course design and student evaluation in addition to leading class sessions. Students who have completed an internship are eligible for consideration as independent instructors of College-level courses.
Students in sociology are invited to participate in the program of Graduate Workshops in the Humanities and Social Sciences, a series of interdepartmental discussion groups that bring faculty and advanced graduate students together to discuss their current work. At the workshops, Chicago faculty and students or invited guests present portions of books or other projects in which they are currently engaged. Workshops in which students and faculty in the department participate include those addressed to the following topics: Demography; East Asia/Society, Politics and Economy; Gender and Sexuality; Organizations and Markets; Organizations and State Building; Political Communication and Society; Reproductions of Race and Racial Ideologies; Semiotics: Culture in Context; Social Theory; Sociology and Cultures of Globalization; Urban Education Reform; Urban Policy, Urban Social Processes; Working Families.
This text was last revised on 11/7/2002.