Program details

Credit requirements

  • Credit requirements for doctoral degree

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

    • 48 credits of graduate coursework, of which
      • 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.
      • Up to 6 credits of coursework may be taken outside of the program ( flex credits)
    • 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
  • Credit requirements for the M.A. degree (optional)

    You’ll need 30 credits to obtain with an optional M.A. degree. This degree is en route: students can obtain this degree during the regular course of their pursuit of a Ph.D.

    • 30 credits of graduate coursework, typically 700-level coursework completed during students’ 1st and 2nd year in the Ph.D. program

    All 30 credits applied to the M.A. degree en route can also be applied to the Ph.D.

  • Deficit coursework
    • Students who are admitted with fewer than 6 undergraduate credits in sociology will need to take a graduate theory course in sociology. This is either SOC 710 or SOC 711, which students typically take during their second year in the program.
    • Students who are admitted with fewer than 6 undergraduate credits in psychology will need to take a graduate course in psychology. The course is chosen in conjunction with their advisor and the program director, and students typically take this course during their second year.

    Note that this course is an admissions requirement deferred and does not count toward the requirements of the Ph.D. However, for those students choosing to earn a Master's degree en route, this deficit coursework will count toward the requirements of the Master's degree.

General program details

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.

  • Core theory component

    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:

    • Aggression
    • Attitudes
    • Attributions
    • Collective behavior
    • Culture
    • Deviance and social control
    • Emotion
    • Gender
    • Health
    • History of social psychology
    • Intergroup relations
    • Language and discourse
    • Law and justice studies
    • Legitimation of social inequality
    • Organizational psychology
    • Personal relationships
    • Personality
    • Prosocial behavior
    • Religion
    • Role theory
    • Small group processes
    • Social cognition
    • Social networks
    • Social support
    • Socialization
    • Symbolic interaction
    • Theory in Social Psychology
  • Methodological component

    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, Structural Equation Modeling, and other opportunities that are announced by the program director

    You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of other course offerings in research methods and statistics to best prepare for a career in either academia or applied research settings. This includes courses in qualitative research methods.

  • Qualifying exam

    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. Students must have the ability to master the theory, methods, and major concepts of an interdisciplinary social psychological approach.
    2. As a diagnostic tool to share information with students who have demonstrated an acceptable level of performance. Results may be 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.

    Students must have satisfactorily completed all of the first-year program requirements (minimum GPA of 3.0; no first-year course grade below B-) before taking the qualifying exam.

    This exam is a four-day take-home exam, which is offered only once to each student. Students must pass this exam in order to move into the second year of the program.

    The exam is graded by the qualifying exam committee, which does not know the identity of the students. Upon review, the committee issues a Pass/Fail recommendation to the program director. The program director is charged with making the final determination whether a student passed or failed, and is typically bound by the qualifying committee's recommendation. However, the program director will seek additional input from other social psychology faculty members, and following such consultations may set aside the committee's recommendation. This is likely to occur when a student's overall performance in the program has been much better than indicated by the qualifying exam.

    After the committee's review and the decision-making process, the program director meets individually with each student to discuss the exam outcome. This is also an opportunity to review the student's progress in the program and discuss their strengths and areas of future development.

    The 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.
  • Selection of an academic advisor

    Students are generally admitted to the program with an academic advisor in mind. If this does not occur, students are encouraged to select their academic advisor during their first year in the program. This is critical for students to effectively move ahead with developing a proposal for the second-year research project.

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

  • Research paper requirement

    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.

  • Advanced seminars

    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.

  • Flex credits

    Recognizing that students may have diverse research and career interests, students have the option of taking two advanced graduate courses (6 credits) outside of the program, with the credits still counting toward their Ph.D. in social psychology. As part of these flex credits, students may also wish to take up to 3 credits in a directed reading course. However, given the program's interdisciplinary nature, taking courses outside of the program or taking a directed reading course is not mandatory. Students can take all of their courses within the interdisciplinary program.

  • Formation of a dissertation committee

    You should secure the participation of five faculty members on your dissertation committee during your third year of study.

    The dissertation committee must include a dissertation committee chair (your academic advisor) and at least four faculty members. Of the five members of your dissertation committee, at least three must be program faculty. Social psychology affiliate faculty may serve as dissertation committee members from the program or as a co-chair of the dissertation, but they may not serve as the sole chair of the dissertation committee.

    Up to two committee members may be faculty members from a department in a field related to the dissertation topic, who have Graduate Faculty status, but who may or may not be faculty members of the program. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, the inclusion of any "outside members" (i.e. non-program faculty) is not required. However, the inclusion of non-program faculty members is encouraged if their contribution is likely to ensure a high quality of the dissertation project.

    All dissertation committee members must have Graduate Faculty status.

    One of the dissertation committee members must serve as the "Graduate School representative." His or her official role is to serve as a representative of the University's Graduate School and to assure compliance with Graduate School regulations and procedures. The person designated to be the Graduate School representative cannot be from the same academic department as the dissertation committee chair.

    The dissertation committee must meet at least during your third year of study 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.

  • First committee meeting

    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.

  • Comprehensive Exam

    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.

  • Dissertation research

    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.