Princeton University Shield Princeton University


The graduate program in sociology seeks to fulfill three primary academic objectives:

  1. provide students with the basic theoretical, methodological, and statistical skills needed to be successful practitioners of the discipline;
  2. expose students to a breadth of knowledge in the discipline so that they can be competent teachers, colleagues, and consumers of the sociological literature; and Graduate Studies in Sociology 
  3. develop in-depth expertise in one or more areas of specialization, thereby ensuring that students can contribute original research in these areas.

Achieving these objectives is accomplished in a variety of ways, depending on studentsí previous training, interests, and preferred style of learning. 

Basic Skills
These are generally acquired during students' first year in the program. Students generally take a two-semester sequence in classical and contemporary sociological theory, a two-semester sequence involving one general course in statistics (choosing among several available options) and one course in social statistics that emphasizes sociological applications, and a two-semester sequence in quantitative and qualitative methods. Normally, students are asked to do short written exercises in the theory courses, computational exercises in the statistics courses, and a short research proposal in each of the methods courses. Students may also opt to fulfill the basic skills requirements by passing examinations given by instructors in charge of the relevant courses or, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Study, by proposing alternative seminars or reading courses in the department or in other departments. The department also requires that competence be demonstrated (prior to taking the General Examination and prior to the fifth semester of enrollment) in at least one language besides English. 

Breadth of Knowledge
This is obtained normally in the first and second years of the program either by fulfilling a standardized set of departmental requirements or through a contract proposed by the student. The standardized option involves taking one full-semester seminar and four half-semester seminars (or their equivalent), and sustaining final examinations in each of the four half-semester seminars. In order to ensure breadth, the half-semester seminars must not be in the studentís primary area of specialization. The contract option requires the student to identify three areas of specialization that in themselves are sufficiently broad to ensure exposure to a wide variety of work in the discipline (more below on the contract option). 

This is accomplished in either of two ways. Students who choose the standardized option (above) identify one major field as their area of specialization and also designate two related fields. The related fields are intended to complement work in the main area of specialization. For example, a student whose main area is political sociology might designate sociology of culture and social movements as the two related fields, limiting reading in each of those fields to works that pertain to political issues. The student then prepares for the General Examination by doing work in each of these fields. Under the contract option, students identify three areas of specialization that are somewhat broader in scope and more autonomous from one another than under the standardized option. Students prepare a contract (normally by the fall of their second year) by stating briefly their justification of each field, by indicating the various seminars and reading courses they will take, and by appending a detailed reading list that gives an idea of how they are approaching each field. Contracts must be submitted to the department faculty for approval and are intended as a preview, subject to later revisions, of what the student plans to do, rather than a retrospective statement of what the student has already done. One of the three areas may be taken primarily outside the department as long as justification for doing so is provided. These three fields then become the basis for the General Examination (examples of studentsí contracts are available in the department office). 

To fulfill the requirement of gaining in-depth specialized knowledge in one or more fields, students must also submit two major papers of publishable length and quality. Both papers must include the analysis of empirical data. One of the two must include analysis of quantitative data. The other may also utilize quantitative data or may be based on analysis of qualitative data gained from archival or ethnographic research. Both papers are normally written during the second year. The quantitative paper is normally written in conjunction with the Seminar in Empirical Investigation and is supervised by the instructor in charge of that seminar. The other paper is normally written in conjunction with one of the departmentís workshops. Students are encouraged to participate in one or more of these workshops each of the years they are in residence. Both papers must also be approved by a second reader.