Program Requirements

Complete details for all program requirements can be found in the program handbook.


Credit Requirements

You’ll need a minimum of 82 credits to graduate. Here is the breakdown:

  • 56 credits of graduate coursework, of which
    • 32 credits will be for the M.A., 24 of which will transfer to the Ph.D.
    • 24 additional credits of coursework for a total of 48 towards the Ph.D.
      Note that 30 credits of the 48 credits of graduate course work for the Ph.D. must be 700-level or above. 9 credits of coursework may be supervised research taken to fulfill the research paper requirement.
  • 24 credits of dissertation research (students may take more, but only 24 will be counted toward the degree)
  • 2 credits of exams, of which
    • 1 credit is for the qualifying exam
    • 1 credit is for the comprehensive exam

You’ll need a minimum of 74 credits to graduate. Here is the breakdown:

  • 48 credits of graduate coursework, of which
    • 30 credits must be 700 level courses or above
    • 9 credits may be supervised research taken to fulfill the research paper requirement
  • 24 credits of dissertation research (students may take more, but only 24 will be counted toward the degree)
  • 2 credits of exams, of which
    • 1 credit is for the qualifying exam
    • 1 credit is for the comprehensive exam

Deficit Coursework

Students with insufficient background in psychology will take an additional psychology course during the second year, chosen in conjunction with their advisor and the program director.

Students with insufficient background in sociology will take a graduate theory course in sociology, generally SOC 711.

Language or Breadth Requirement

Some students may need to take additional credits to satisfy the language or breadth requirement.


General Requirements

The curriculum of the program extends over a minimum of four years and includes multiple requirements outlined below. Please see the program handbook for details.

The core theory component is a two-semester sequence required of all first-year students. It is team-taught by the social psychology faculty and typically includes the following topics:

  • Collective behavior
  • Culture
  • Deviance and social control
  • Emotion
  • General theory
  • Health
  • Psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Language and discourse
  • Law and justice studies
  • Legitimation of social inequality
  • Personal relationships
  • Religion
  • Small groups and group decision processes
  • Social cognition and attitudes
  • Socialization

The methodological component consists of three methods and three statistics courses.

Methods Courses
  • Applied Research Methodology — a psychometrics and scaling course
  • Research Methods in Social Psychology — a team-taught overview of the major methods of the discipline
  • Survey Research Methods — a professional seminar
Graduate Statistics
  • Intermediate Statistics I
  • Intermediate Statistics II — focuses on regression, structural equations, and linear models
  • Advanced Statistics —choices include Advanced Design & Data Analysis, Special Topics in Social Psychology: Structural Equation Modeling, and other opportunities that are announced by the program director

You are strongly encouraged to use other social psychology statistical offerings as some of your required program seminars in order to best prepare for a career in either academia or applied research settings.

The qualifying exam is given at the end of the first year within one month of the end of the spring semester. The exam is viewed by the committee as serving two purposes:

  1. as an evaluative measure of qualification for continuation into the more advanced coursework and research demands of the program, and the ability to master the theory, methods, and major concepts of an interdisciplinary social psychological approach, and
  2. as a diagnostic tool that the committee will use to share information with students who have demonstrated an acceptable level of overall exam performance, as to specific areas where they seem to need additional work in order to meet program expectations.
    Results are used to establish a second-year plan for mastering skills or substantive areas in need of improvement for students who will continue in the program.

You must have satisfactorily completed all of the first-year program requirements (with a GPA of 3.0) before taking the qualifying exam.

This exam is a synthesizing and integrative written exam, covering the materials presented during the first year. The qualifying exam is offered only once to each student and it is necessary to pass this exam in order to move into the second year of the program.

The exam is take-home and is typically administered in two 27-hour segments with one day off in-between.

The exam is graded by the qualifying exam committee, although they can seek additional input from other social psychology faculty members when deemed appropriate.

The program director meets individually with each student, after the committee’s review, to discuss results and progress. Students who pass the overall exam but fail (or inadequately answer) specific questions may be required to rewrite their responses to those particular questions.

Your overall exam results will be in one of three categories:

  1. Ph.D. Pass: awarded to an exam that meets the level of mastery required to continue in the doctoral program.
  2. MA Pass: awarded for a lower level of performance, deemed sufficient for successful work at the master’s degree level, but insufficient for the Ph.D. The M.A. Pass allows the student to move into a track for completing a terminal Masters of Arts degree in Social Psychology. Funding for students in the master’s degree track may have less priority or lower levels than in the doctoral track.
  3. Nonpass/Fail: indicates that the student’s performance was insufficient for demonstrating the mastery needed to complete either the Ph.D. or M.A. degree. Students with an exam in the Nonpass category may not continue in the program.

You must select a research adviser from the program faculty prior to the beginning of the fall semester of your second year of study. The research adviser must agree, in writing, to serve as your primary adviser for the second year project and potential dissertation committee chair.

Students are encouraged to select their research adviser during their first year in the program in order to effectively move ahead with developing a draft of their proposal for the second year research project.

The research paper requirement entails three consecutive semesters of supervised research, typically at the start of your second year. During this time, you’ll work collaboratively with your general adviser on your research project and complete an empirical research paper under faculty supervision.

The research may derive from the faculty’s ongoing research program, or be negotiated with your adviser. You are expected to play a major role in the project, including preparation of a written proposal, initiative in securing/collecting data, and responsibility for analyzing the data and drafting a report.

The research paper requirement includes an oral presentation to an appropriate audience. Ideally, the project will result in a presentation at a professional meeting and/or a publication. You will be encouraged to practice your presentation by sharing your findings at one of the brown bag luncheons sponsored by the program.

The order of authorship for the paper should be discussed in advance of the project. All publications and presentations resulting from this project should follow APA guidelines of authorship, with you and your faculty adviser receiving appropriate authorship and reflecting the relative contribution of each person.

View our suggested timeline for your supervised research.

You are required to take either one or two advanced seminars per term during your second and third years, as offered by social psychology program faculty.

Breadth courses do not count toward meeting social psychology content coursework and are not reported on the University’s doctoral program of study form. An email to the program director from a student’s adviser (and confirmed by the student) should identify the two breadth courses the student will be taking and the justification for their selection.

The breadth requirement consists of two courses, outside of social psychology content area, which typically help prepare students for their dissertation or career path. Breadth courses are identified by the student in consultation with their adviser. Breadth courses may be taught by any professor but cannot be included in the social psychology content/seminars.

Students frequently meet their breadth requirements with additional statistics or research methods courses taught by other programs.

Proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended, however, there are no foreign language requirements.

If a student attends a summer workshop/seminar at another institution (such as the ICPSR or Kansas/U Conn/Stanford statistical training) they can, with the approval of their adviser, register for 701 (Directed Readings) credits and complete a product for the supervisor of that 701 to meet a breadth requirement. To receive three credits of 701, the hours of attendance and product development need to be consistent with that of a three-credit course at this University (that is, 45 hours of course/lecture/workshop attendance plus 90 hours of out of class time in product development, or some combination of these two areas).

Breadth requirement course credits are in addition to the total regular program credit requirements.

Students must acquire a fluency in a foreign language. In order to demonstrate fluency in a foreign language, students must successfully complete (or have completed) a 4th semester (undergraduate level) of a language sequence or demonstrate their competency at that level on a language test.

In some instances, with the permission of one’s adviser and the program director, a student may be excused from the foreign language requirement but must instead satisfy a breadth requirement.

In order to satisfy the breadth requirement, a student may take two additional courses in a discipline or on a topic outside of social psychology. The substitution of these two related courses outside social psychology, and related to the area of scholarly interest and the intellectual development of the student, will then satisfy the language requirement. This substitution requires the written permission of the student's adviser and approval of the program director.

If a student has completed coursework in a foreign language that is near, but below, the 4th-semester level, the program director may combine foreign language coursework and one breadth class in order to meet the program requirements.

Breadth requirement course credits are in addition to the total regular program credit requirements.

You should secure the participation of five faculty members on your dissertation committee no later than the first month of classes of your third year of study.

When inviting faculty to serve on your dissertation committee, you must clearly explain that the faculty role on the committee will also include participation in the development, administration, and assessment of your comprehensive exam.

The dissertation committee must include:

  • Member 1: Dissertation chair—a social psychology faculty member
  • Members 2 & 3: Two additional social psychology faculty members
  • Member 4: A faculty member from a department in a field related to the dissertation topic
  • Member 5: A faculty member who is not part of the social psychology program— this person’s role is as a representative of the Graduate School, sometimes called a ‘university-at-large’ member

Social psychology adjunct faculty may service as a dissertation committee member from the program or as a co-chair of the dissertation but they may not serve as the sole chair of the committee.

All dissertation committee members need to have graduate faculty status. Find a list of all University graduate faculty members through the Graduate School.

You may request the appointment of a committee member from the faculty of another university or from a relevant discipline or profession, providing the prospective member has achieved a record of distinction. Faculty from another university may not serve in the “graduate school representative” role (that is, they may be the 4th member, but not the 5th). To consider having a committee member from another university, you’ll need to work closely with your adviser, the program director and the Graduate School. You may have more than five committee members but are cautioned to consider increased potential for issues with scheduling meetings that can arise as committee size increases.

For further information on the role of the committee members, please see the University catalog.

The committee must meet at least once in the fall semester of your third year to complete the program of study form and to begin planning for your comprehensive examination.

The program of study form lists all the courses and other credits that you have taken, and plan to take, to satisfy the requirements of the doctoral degree. You must complete the paperwork to be in compliance with Graduate School requirements, to demonstrate timely progress toward attainment of the degree, to plan ahead and to be well prepared. View the Graduate School’s program of study.

You should make educated projections and fill out your program of study in a manner that reflects how you plan to complete your doctoral degree, including your dissertation credits. If there is a change in committee membership or the courses proposed on the original program of study form, a change in program of study form is also available through the Graduate School.

You should plan to meet with your dissertation committee at the beginning of the fall of their third year of study to develop a plan for the design of and preparation for the comprehensive exam. You should bring a completed program of study form to this meeting and obtain the signatures the dissertation committee members. Students also typically bring their current vita to the meeting.

Prior to the committee meeting, you may disseminate to the committee members a brief summary of your research interest, specifically as related to the forthcoming dissertation, and a reading list of materials proposed for the comprehensive examination. Committee members may add or subtract materials from that list both before and during the first committee meeting.

The comprehensive exam is developed by the student's dissertation committee and is typically given in late spring of the third year of study but no later than September of the fourth year. You must satisfactorily complete all of the program requirements set forth in the first three years prior to taking the comprehensive exam.

The comprehensive exam will be geared to your specific areas of interest but will also reflect the field of social psychology, to the satisfaction of your dissertation committee and adviser. Students may retake the comprehensive examination one time on the recommendation of the dissertation committee and adviser.

The comprehensive exam includes a written component and an oral component. You must bring a prepared doctoral degree admission to candidacy/comprehensive examination report form from the Graduate School to the oral examination to be completed by the dissertation committee.

The comprehensive exam will typically consist of a take-home exam written over a five day period (i.e., one week), followed by a two-hour oral exam two weeks after the submission of the written portion.

Prospectus Meeting: You will arrange with the dissertation committee and adviser a time to review and evaluate your dissertation proposal for discussion and ultimately, for the approval of the committee. The first meeting to discuss the dissertation proposal should occur no later than at the beginning of the fall semester of the fourth year, following the comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Dissemination: All students are required to defend their dissertations in an oral examination before their dissertation committee. As a matter of courtesy, committee members should receive the final version of their dissertation at least two weeks before the date of the dissertation defense. Dissemination of the defense document to the committee members should only take place after the draft has been approved by the dissertation chair.

Dissertation Defense: All students must meet with their dissertation committees for a period of at least two hours to defend the final draft of their dissertation, once the draft has been approved by their dissertation chair.

You must bring a prepared copy of the doctoral degree notice of completion from the Graduate School to this meeting. Before the committee members sign the document they may ask you to make changes in the final draft. Once signatures are obtained, the completed form should be returned to the Graduate School. Check with the Graduate School for deadlines.

You should also review the Graduate School dissertation filing guidelines for information regarding the formatting requirements and the electronic submission of the final dissertation document. Following Graduate School submission policy is the responsibility of each student.

Graduation: You must formally apply to graduate and must do so very early in the semester that they intend to graduate, typically by the last day of late registration for the semester. View the Graduate School’s graduation and deadlines information.