PhD Learning Goals and Assessment
The doctoral program in Sociology trains students to conduct original, theoretically informed sociological research that advances disciplinary knowledge and increases public understanding of pressing social issues. We are a broad and diverse department organized around a number of overlapping research clusters. We encourage students to develop their individual intellectual voice situated within the rich intersections of the department.
Learning Goal 1 for Students: Acquire broad understanding of the major theoretical debates and areas of substantive concern within the discipline of sociology, while also acquiring in-depth knowledge of at least two substantive subfields.
Assessment of student achievement of Goal 1:
- Satisfactory participation in the Proseminar for first year students.
- Grades in required theory and methods courses as well as in elective seminars.
- Review by faculty of student progress with close advising and mentoring.
- Qualifying papers evaluated by a committee of three faculty members, engaging with at least two substantive subfields.
Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 1:
- Introducing students to the broad field of sociology and faculty research interests through the Proseminar for first year students.
- Encouraging active participation of students in departmental colloquia as well as in specialized and interdisciplinary workshops within their areas of interest.
- Close ongoing advising of students, including:
- Appointment of a “First Year Faculty Adviser” upon arrival and subsequent student selection of a Primary Adviser at the beginning of the student’s second year in the program.
- Participation of three faculty members on the reading committees for each of two qualifying papers, with only one overlapping member between the two committees. As a result, students must work closely with 5-6 faculty members on successive drafts of the qualifying papers.
- Requiring students to meet with their qualifying paper committees at the start and completion of each paper.
- In “sign-on” meetings, proposals for literature reviews and empirical research are developed and refined.
- In “sign-off” meetings, the final paper is evaluated and preparation for subsequent publication is discussed.
- Annual review of student progress by the complete faculty.
- Students communicate progress in written yearly reports, which are reviewed by the Graduate Program Director and the full faculty.
- Student progress in coursework, qualifying papers, dissertation research and professionalization is discussed and assessed by the faculty.
- Yearly letters are written by the Graduate Program Director to each student summarizing faculty assessments and offering suggestions for future progress.
Learning Goal 2 for Students: Conduct original, theoretically engaged research grounded in highly skilled methodological techniques.
Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 2:
- Grades in required classes in sociological research methods.
- Committee evaluation of theoretical contribution and empirical research skills as demonstrated in the two qualifying papers.
- Preparation and defense of the Ph.D. dissertation proposal.
- Assessment of the quality of the Ph.D. dissertation:
- Public defense of the dissertation.
- Critical reading of the dissertation by a committee of graduate faculty members and a committee member from outside of the Rutgers sociology graduate faculty.
- Submission and acceptance of peer-reviewed articles and conference papers based on the dissertation.
- Publication in disciplinary journals, presentations at disciplinary and interdisciplinary conferences, and recognition through scholarly awards.
- Placement in academic and nonacademic jobs that engage research skills and sociological knowledge.
Role of the graduate program in helping students achieve Goal 2:
- Provide training in cutting edge sociological methodologies via required methods coursework, including:
- An introductory methods class.
- A two-semester sequence in statistical analysis.
- At least one additional methodology class of the student’s choice (qualitative, historical and comparative, ethnographic, social networks, etc.).
- Provide an early introduction to sociological research by means of the qualifying papers, including mentoring by committee members on research techniques.
- Provide in-depth mentoring of the dissertation research by the dissertation supervisor and other committee members.
- Conduct professionalization workshops on relevant themes such as developing dissertation topics, managing ideas and information and managing projects to completion.
- Facilitate the maintenance of adequate funding levels during the research phase, both through internal departmental funds (including TAs/GAs as well as small research grants) and by encouraging applications for external and university grants and fellowships.
Learning Goal 3 for Students: Enter the sociological profession as accomplished scholars and teachers engaged in knowledge production and critical intervention in academic, policy and/or public arenas.
Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 3:
- Review of evidence of paper presentations, publications, awards and professional networking.
- Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of graduate student instructors.
- Collection of data on career placement.
- Survey of alumni on career patterns and accomplishments.
- Tracking of interventions of current students and alumni in public debate and policy discussions via media appearances, blogs, op-ed pieces, advisory panels, government service, public speeches and other public contributions.
Role of the program in helping students achieve Goal 3:
- Hold regular professionalization workshops targeting students at various stages of their graduate careers, on topics including academic publishing, conference attendance, professional networking, developing CVs and websites, applying for external funding and preparing for the job market.
- Encourage participation in teaching workshops developed by the Teaching Assistant Project and the Rutgers Academy for Scholarship on Teaching and Learning.
- Encourage students to present papers and posters at professional conferences beginning at an early stage in the program, and provide faculty support for conference networking.
- Encourage students to submit manuscripts from their qualifying papers for peer-reviewed journal publication and advise them about the process of peer review.
- Encourage student membership in professional associations as well as the submission of papers for student paper awards in these associations.
- Acquaint students with a wide array of career options, including those at research universities, teaching colleges, research institutes, government agencies, the private/non-profit sector and other non-academic venues.
The Graduate Program Committee of the Sociology Department will regularly review the structure and content of the program and the feedback received from assessments and surveys. Every 5-6 years the program policies and guidelines as outlined in the Graduate Program Handbook will be reviewed by the graduate committee and revisions will be proposed to the Sociology graduate faculty. This review will ensure that the Sociology Graduate Program is providing the strongest possible support for the achievement of the highest standards of excellence in scholarship and teaching on the part of our students in preparation for productive careers as professional sociologists.