Program of Study

Program Description

Sociology's doctoral program welcomes students interested in pursuing critical studies of labor, migration and capitalism, carceral and surveillance, or power and the politics of resistance. Faculty expose students to a wide range of critical theoretical perspectives. These include post- and decolonial theory, intersectional feminist theory, critical race theory, Marxism, world-systems analysis and world-ecology.

Sociology's doctoral program is distinct in its global breadth. While most sociology departments focus on the US, our faculty expertise covers nearly every region of the world. Many faculty study transnational processes such as migration and translocal diasporic worlds as well as global systems such as capitalism as world-ecology. Our program attracts faculty and students from around the world.

Our department offers graduate student a uniquely transdisciplinary learning environment. Our faculty include historians, geographers, anthropologists and political scientists along with sociologists. This reflects our department's history as an intellectual space where people could critique social scientific inquiry as artificially cordoned off from historical inquiries. Today, our department draws together faculty with a shared appreciation for historical research as well as ethnographers from across the disciplines.

Program of Study

The doctoral program consists of coursework, demonstration of competencies (in a chosen field of inquiry and writing for publication), and the dissertation.


During the first two years, students take courses. These include courses on classical and advanced topics in theory (critical race theory; gender studies and feminist theory), as well as courses on methodologies (ethnography, oral history, archival and historical sociology). Substantive seminars will also be offered covering each of three clusters. We offer students a grounding in the history of capitalism (introduction to world-systems analysis; contemporary capitalism, historical perspectives on race, class and gender) as well as substantive seminars. In recent years, these have included: The Global Carceral State, Political Sociology, Counter-revolution and Fascism and States and Social Policy. A full listing of regular courses is available in the BU Bulletin; current course offerings are listed in the BU Brain system.

During the second year, the student completes remaining course requirements (9 for those with an MA, 12 for those with a BA). This includes a required course on writing for publication and the possibility of taking an Independent Studies course (SOC 697) arranged by agreement with a selected faculty advisor. Those students who come with a masters, may petition to waive the fourth semester of coursework.

  • Demonstration of Competency in the Craft of Writing for Publication

    Students will demonstrate their competence in the craft of writing scholarship for publication by formulating, researching, writing, presenting and revising a paper that they could develop into a publishable paper during their second year of the program. To do so, they will form a committee of two sociology faculty members, one who serves as chair, to supervise the project. Students will identify their chair, by the end of the second semester and formulate a proposal for the paper by the start of the third semester. To support them in completing this paper, students will take a course on writing for publication during their second year. The aim of the course will be to orient students to the peer review process, familiarize students with a variety of forms that published scholarship can take, and support students in completing the initial draft of the research paper. To further support students in completing the paper, students will select one of the courses they take in their second year to use as a venue in which to workshop their paper. Upon receipt of feedback from both workshop participants and their committee, the student will then revise the paper. The paper need not be longer than 8,000 words. They will submit the paper to their committee for final evaluation by the end of the fourth semester.

    The paper should formulate a compelling rationale for the project, be it an empirical puzzle or theoretical debate, elaborate a well-reasoned argument and support it with in-depth or systematically gathered evidence. The particular form that the paper takes, however, can vary, and the evidence need not be primary. The aim of the second year paper is to help students begin the process of writing for publication early on in graduate school. As such, students may want to devise their paper with an eye towards a specific scholarly publication venue. The paper should represent the beginnings of what could become a publishable paper. The decision of whether the paper passes rests solely with the committee. If, after securing their committee's approval of the second year paper, students publish their paper or submit their paper to a peer-review journal and receive a revise and resubmit, they will pass their first competency with distinction.

  • Demonstration of Competency in an area of inquiry

    Students will demonstrate their competency in engaging critically with scholarly debates by writing either an area paper or a critical review essay. Either should be directed at developing their dissertation research project by the end of their fifth semester (fall of their 3rd year).

    Students form a committee of two faculty members, of which one will be the chair, by the end of their fourth semester. Students will develop a list of approximately 50 items in consultation with their committee relevant to a particular field or area of inquiry by the first week of September in their fifth semester. They will write an essay which demonstrates their mastery over and critical engagement with their chosen area of inquiry. Models for such an essay can be found in the annual review of sociology. It will give an overview of scholarship in a particular subfield as well as offer a critical reflection on that field. It should be no longer than 8,000 words.

    Students will submit their demonstration of competency, whether area paper or critical review essay, by the end of the first week of December to a committee of two faculty members from the sociology department and a reader who may be from outside the department. The student will also defend her area paper or critical review essay orally to her committee and reader before the end of the fifth semester. If the committee does not pass the written or oral portion of the review essay, then the student will have the option to trigger a process of revision and re-evaluation as detailed in Appendix B.

  •  Dissertation prospectus
    Students will form a dissertation committee of three by the end of their fifth semester. It is preferable that the dissertation committee have the same faculty members as the competency committee. The committee will be made up of the chair and at least one other member of the sociology department's faculty. If the third member is from another University, they must be someone that meets the graduate school's requirements for external reviewers (faculty at another graduate degree granting university). The student will defend the dissertation prospectus orally by the end of the third year, to their committee of three.

Typical Program of Study for Those Entering with a BA

  • Year One: Satisfactory completion of 6 courses; advisor selected.

  • Year Two: Satisfactory completion of coursework, including a course on Writing for Publication, and the possibility of one Independent Study (SOC 697); completion of second year paper; The MA may be awarded upon completing 32 credits.

  • Year Three: Successful completion and defense of critical review essay or area paper; and defense of dissertation prospectus

  • Year Four: Satisfactory reports from student's committee on dissertation progress.

  • Year Five: Satisfactory reports from student's committee on dissertation progress.

International Student Information

The department makes every effort to attract and retain international students. This includes close liaison with the Office for International Student and Scholar Services. International students should carefully review application requirements and U.S. immigration regulations, including SEVIS requirements and full-time certification. On this and related matters, please contact the International Student and Scholars Services (ISSS).