Graduate Student Handbook
This handbook is designed to furnish graduate students with the key information needed to understand their opportunities and obligations while at McGill. The Department is governed in vital bureaucratic matters (such as residency, additional session, level of performance, leave of absence, withdrawal, reinstatement, plagiarism and cheating) by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS), and it can be useful to consult the Course Calendar when you need information on anything not contained here. Help and advice is also available from the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC), especially on bureaucratic matters, and from the Graduate Program Director (GPD), especially on academic matters. Their contact information can be found at http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/contactus.
Table of Contents:
There are two programs of graduate study in the department, one at the master’s level, the other for doctoral work. Both involve serious training in theory, research design and in quantitative and qualitative methods. The basic requirements for each program are as follows:
All master’s students must take at least four (4) required courses: Soci 652, 600, 580 and 504 in addition to elective courses. Further bibliographic methods courses and thesis courses or research paper courses are also required for the full complement of the degree (see http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/ma/). Students may gain the degree by a non-thesis or a thesis route. The former route generally requires seven (7) courses, including both elective and required courses, and a research paper; it can normally be completed within a single calendar year. The latter route generally requires five (5) courses, including both elective and required courses, and a thesis. This does not make the acquisition of a degree any easier. To the contrary, thesis work often extends study at the master’s level to a full two (2) years. Finally, it is important to know that there is a wide variety of options at the MA level, sometimes with slightly different requirements. These can be consulted at http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/ma/
The doctoral program is designed for students who have completed a Master’s degree in Sociology. Such students enter the program at the PhD2 level. They are required to take six (6) courses: Soci 505 (Quantitative Methods 2) and five (5) electives. Further bibliographic methods courses are also required for the full complement of the degree as well as the language requirement, two (2) area exams, and thesis proposal (see http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/phd/). Students who have taken the equivalent of Soci 505 already will be required to take another elective course in its stead. Students who have not taken one (1) or more of the courses required during the MA at McGill (Soci 652, 600, 580 and 504 or their equivalents) will be required to take those courses in addition to the regular six (6) PhD-level courses. In some exceptional cases, students with a BA may be considered for admission directly into the PhD program as a way of ‘fast-tracking’ them. In such cases they are admitted to the PhD1 level, which means that they take one (1) additional year of courses in which they are expected to take the required MA level courses (Soci 652, 600, 580 and 504) and two (2) electives for a total of six (6) courses. Students with a Master’s degree in a field other than sociology may also be considered for admission at the PhD1 level.
The PhD program offers one specialization option in gender. For details please consult http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/phd/. This concentration is an interdisciplinary program for students who meet the requirements in Sociology and who wish to earn six (6) credits of approved coursework focusing on gender and women’s studies, and in issues in feminist research and methods. The thesis or set of articles must relate to issues of gender and/or women’s studies.
NOTE: Incoming MA and PhD graduate students who need to take SOCI 504 (Quantitative Methods I) will be required to demonstrate an adequate level of preparation before enrolling. Preparation will be assessed by an exam given to incoming students. This exam will be the final exam from our undergraduate statistics course (SOCI 350) or its equivalent, subject to consultation and approval by the instructor of 504. To qualify for 504, a student must pass the exam with a score of at least 75 per cent. Those who do not qualify by exam will have to take SOCI 350 and earn a grade of B+ or higher in it before they will be allowed to enroll in 504.
At McGill University, we are committed to helping you finance your education. The Sociology Department strives to offer graduate students competitive funding to the extent that our resources permit. Our funding, coupled with Montreal’s low cost of living, makes graduate studies at McGill a wise educational investment.
To the extent possible, PhD students will be offered four (4) or five (5) (for PhD1 entrants) years of funding consisting of a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships and research assistantships. All graduate students are required to apply for all external funding for which they are eligible and the Department actively helps students to find such funding opportunities, but it remains the student’s prerogative to apply for this funding. In the interest of the most equitable distribution of our limited resources, those who receive external funding may only be allowed to keep a part of their internal departmental funding.
1. Tuition Fees
If students are unable to pay their tuition fees in one (1) lump sum, they can request a deferral by consulting the information at http://www.mcgill.ca/student-accounts/awards-assistance/tuition-fees-payment-deferral
2. Regular Financial Payments
The Department starts to pay out Teaching Assistantship monies by the middle of September. In order to be paid on time, be sure to complete and return all of the documents mentioned in the letter of offer and ensure that your banking information is on MINERVA. It should be inserted in the “Bank account used for student-initiated payments” section under Direct Deposit Bank Account menu on Minerva in order to receive payments as a direct deposit. If bank information for payroll-initiated payments is the same as for student-initiated payments then simply press “Copy to student bank information” button and submit change. If your banking information has not been added, you will not receive payment of any kind from the university including Teaching and Research Assistantships as well as various awards allocated to you as part of your funding package.
3. Research Assistantships
Payments cannot be made until the time at which the work is undertaken. Some students will do the work early on, others at a later date. The Research Assistantship is not under the Department’s control, but is given out by individual professors, albeit with departmental knowledge. A student can hold a Research Assistantship with any professor who has work available. Students must take the initiative to contact professors to find available funded research projects.
4. Financial Offer
Financial guarantees made by the Department are always honoured, but they are baseline guarantees. If a student’s earnings are greater than or equal to the funding guaranteed in a given year, then the Department’s financial obligations will be considered as having been met.
5. Award Listing
Visit http://www.mcgill.ca/gps/funding/students-postdocs/students for a listing of all awards for Canadian and international students. Applications for some fellowships may be made before arrival at McGill.
6. Quebec Health Card
Incoming out of province students are encouraged to change their health card to a Quebec health care card by the end of September in their first year, so as to make them eligible for FQRSC awards (given out by the Quebec government) in their second year at McGill. Information about these awards can be found at http://www.fqrsc.gouv.qc.ca/fr/accueil.php.
1. Reading and Research
Students are permitted to take one (1) reading and research course in the Department which would count as one of the elective courses required for the PhD Program. Reading and research courses provide a chance for individuals to study a topic of particular interest in greater detail in an independent way. These courses are organized between the student and a professor on an individual basis. Students must complete the Reading and Research form available at http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/forms/ detailing the nature of the work involved and the method of evaluation. The form is to be signed by the professor and returned to the GPC.
2. Courses outside the Department
Students are also permitted to take one (1) elective course in a related discipline outside the Sociology Department. A copy of the course outline must be submitted to the Chair of the Graduate Committee to confirm that the course is equivalent to a graduate level course in our Department. If students would like to take more than one (1) elective course outside the Department, additional approval is required from the GPD.
3. Area Exams
i) Scheduling/Registration for Area Exams
Students are required to be examined in two (2) substantive areas by the end of the PhD3 year. The exams are offered three (3) times a year: during the last week of August, the last week of May and during the second week of January. The area exams in Sociology provide an opportunity for students to read comprehensively in areas of sociological interest, after which they are required to write an exam that proves that they know enough about the area to teach it in the future. Preparation necessary to pass these exams is intensive, and it usually takes students between two (2) and three (3) months to read and prepare for each exam. Students register for the following two (2) area exam courses: SOCI 700 PhD Area Examination 1 and SOCI 701 PhD Area Examination 2 in the term that they expect to write the exam. Should students need (with permission) to delay a scheduled exam, the grade for the course will show as an 'HH' (to be continued) and the exam must be taken at the next earliest convenience. Students who fail to complete both of their area examinations by the end of the PhD3 year will be put on “probationary standing.”
ii) Examination Areas
For each area in which the Department offers an exam, there is a committee of at least three (3) Faculty members responsible for administering the exam (see http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/phd/). One responsibility of the chair of each committee is that of ensuring that the core reading list, generally comprised of twenty (20) books and twenty (20) articles (or some equivalent to this), is up-to-date. A second responsibility is to work closely with the student so as to create a more specialized reading list, comprised typically of a further twenty (20) books and twenty (20) articles (or some equivalent to this), so as to ensure coherence and coverage. The total reading list for each comprehensive exam is thus forty (40) books and forty (40) articles (or their equivalents). A proposed reading list should be established no later than two months before the exam and a final (approved) list no later than six weeks before the date of the exam. Finally, the chair of the committee will set up the questions and format of the exam, and will organize with the other two (2) comprehensive exam readers. Graduate students are required to give written notice to the Faculty member responsible for the area thirty (30) days prior to the date of the examination. To obtain a copy of the reading list and/or previous exams, please e-mail the erin [dot] henson [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Graduate Coordinator).
iii) Area Examination Format
The format of examinations will be three-day open book examinations. Students are sent the exam via e-mail at the agreed upon day/time and are to return the responses 72 hours later at the same time of day. Three (3) answers are required, at least one (1) of which must be from the core reading list. The exams may be written in either French or English. An additional day to answer the questions is given to students whose mother tongue is neither French nor English and to students whose first language is French, but who choose to write the exam in English. There will be no editing privileges for non-French or non-English students.
iv) Results of Area Examinations
A student can pass or fail. The results of the exams appear on the student's transcript following the area exam course(s). Passing an examination at the PhD level will require that a student display more than a capacity to repeat the readings listed for the area. The student is required to display an intelligent and critical perspective on an area. Students will receive written or oral feedback on their exams from the respective area exam committee within four weeks after taking the exam. If the examining committee deems it necessary, the student may be required to take a supplemental oral examination in the same area. If an examination is failed, the student must retake the exam at a date convenient to the student and the examining committee, before or at the next scheduled area exam date. In such instances, the student is required to retake the exam in the same research area.
4. Thesis Proposal
It is the responsibility of each student to find a Faculty member willing to serve as his or her advisor for the thesis. The first step is to seek out Faculty members and informally discuss possible topics for the thesis. The student, however, is not bound by the outcome of any exploratory meetings. Ultimately, this will lead to subsequent meetings with one Faculty member who will become the supervisor. Once a supervisor is chosen, the student presents the thesis supervisor with ideas and a first draft of a dissertation research proposal. While there is no absolutely uniform standard for the proposal, students are advised to state their problem clearly, to review the relevant literature so as to justify the significance of the proposed research, to generate specific hypotheses, to relate these to appropriate data and methods, and to give some indication of the likely structure of the thesis and of the time required to complete it.
Two other Faculty members must be found to form a “PhD Dissertation Committee”. The committee members are normally all within the Sociology Department at McGill, but approval for members from other departments and universities may be obtained from the Graduate Committee. The formation of a committee is always required, but the extent and type of involvement of each of the committee members will be determined on an individual basis. Generally, the dissertation committee is charged with reading and commenting on a student’s proposal (and later on subsequent thesis drafts and making sure the thesis is of sufficient quality to recommend submission for oral defense).
The proposal is defended orally to the PhD Dissertation Committee. The student must register for SOCI 702 PhD Proposal Approval during the term that the proposal is defended. When approved, the PhD Proposal Approval Committee Form is completed (http://www.mcgill.ca/sociology/grad/forms/) and returned to the GPC and a grade of Pass is submitted. The PhD dissertation proposal should be approved no later than the beginning of the third year in the program (regardless of being admitted into PhD1 or PhD2).
5. The PhD Dissertation
The last years of the PhD program are focused on producing a creative work that adds to the sociological literature. This represents the student’s individual contribution to the field of Sociology and specifically their own research field. The dissertation reports the research undertaken as part of the project proposed above. There are two (2) formats for a dissertation at McGill Sociology: the manuscript and the paper format. A manuscript requires the completion of a book manuscript. The paper format requires the completion of three (3) or four (4) article-length papers that are meant for publication (and may indeed be published before the completion of the PhD, though publication does not ensure that the dissertation passes either during submission or at the oral defense), with an introduction, and a conclusion explaining the coherence of the papers. Previous dissertations can be found for reference at the McGill library and from the Department of Sociology. The dissertation is read by the Dissertation Committee, who will recommend changes or recommend that it be submitted for oral defense.
Dissertations must pass both the written submission stage and the oral defense in order for the student to graduate. The Oral Defense Committee is composed of the following:
- Thesis Supervisor
- Departmental Chair (or delegate)
- Committee member 1 (may have been involved in the dissertation)
- Committee member 2 (may not have been involved in the dissertation)
- External member (outside of the Department but preferably within McGill)
- Pro-Dean (selected by the Thesis Office)
Defenses are open to the public, and entail an academic presentation followed by a question and answer period and finally an announcement as to whether the candidate has passed their examination. Upon completion of the oral defense, the candidate may be given a list of changes from the examiners, and submission of the dissertation is expected within short order. This is the last stage before the candidate is eligible for graduation.
For additional information on the thesis committee, oral defense and thesis submission please visit http://www.mcgill.ca/gps/thesis/guidelines/oral-defence. GPS also has information about thesis preparation and submission guidelines at http://www.mcgill.ca/gps/thesis/guidelines/preparation.
6. Time Limitations
7. Language Requirement
PhD candidates must demonstrate ability to read French with high proficiency or to read another language relevant to their field of research. The language requirement should be met by the end of the third year and may be satisfied by taking approved language courses at McGill (please discuss with the GPD prior to registration), or by a written examination in the Department or by exemption.
For the examination, a Faculty member is asked to select an excerpt of French sociological text of approximately 1,000 words. The student translates the document from French to English and has the use of a French dictionary. The Administrative Officer/GPC coordinates the time and place of the exam and the student has three (3) hours to complete the translation. Graduate students intending to take this examination should inform the Administrative Officer/GPC at least one month prior to the expected examination date.
The Department operates in a decentralized manner making many of its decisions through various committees. Among these are: the Undergraduate Committee, dealing with the undergraduate program; the Recruitment Committee, responsible for recommendations on hiring; the Graduate Admissions Committee which decides on the admission of new students; the Graduate Committee which deals with all other matters relating to graduate student affairs; and the TA Committee which assigns teaching assistantships in accordance with the collective agreement (http://tas.agsem-aeedem.ca). In doing so, the committee attempts to match up the interests of the professor and student where possible. Recommendations from these committees that require Departmental discussion and ratification are debated at Departmental meetings convening all regular Faculty members of the Department. The Department takes the final decision on all matters not delegated to the committees. Graduate students have two (2) representatives at Departmental meetings.
The Graduate Committee is of special importance to you. It is made up of a small group of Faculty members, including the GPD and the GPC, and includes one (1) student representative. The Committee handles the following matters:
- Registration of graduate students;
- Recommendations of graduate requirements;
- Recommendations of graduate curriculum;
- Approval of requests for examinations in special fields;
- Evaluation of graduate students;
- Recommendations on termination;
- Appeals and petitions from individual graduate students.
For information on grievance procedures please contact the GPC.
Student representatives may not be present in a Graduate Committee meeting whenever the cases of particular students (either current or potential ones) are discussed, whether these involve the ranking of students, admissions and fellowships meetings, the discussion of a particular student's case, or the like.
The Graduate Committee will review the progress of graduate students throughout the year. In May, the Graduate Committee meets together to evaluate the performance of all graduate students, and decides in each case whether the student should be permitted to proceed. Students will be evaluated on the basis of their course grades, on their progress through the program, and on the quality of their work in general. Letters based on recommendations from this meeting are sent to students shortly following this evaluation. Problem cases will be brought and discussed at the next Department meeting.
Graduate students are always welcome to contact the GPC or GPD, the Chair of the Department, the President of the MGSSA, or their supervisors, if they have questions or are in need of assistance.
Last updated, Oct 2012