The Joint PhD in Sociology and Social Policy

The PhD in Social Policy and Sociology is a joint degree of the Department of Sociology and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. It is available to students only after completion of at least one year of graduate study in either the Heller School or the Department of Sociology's PhD program. To apply, students should submit their application by April 1. Applications require a letter of support from the Director of the home department. If the student is accepted by the complementary department (admission is not guaranteed) the following procedures apply. There is a three-year residency for the joint degree.

Students pursuing this joint degree are required to take a total of 18 courses, 9 in Sociology and 9 in Heller with requirements as follows:

Heller Courses
  1. HS 508A Theory of Social Policy and Change

  2. HS 401b, Research Methods

  3. HS 510a, Applied Design and Analysis

  4. HS 404b, Stats/Regression Analysis (including applications lab)

  5. HS 403b, Qualitative Research

  6. Other Heller concentration or methods course

  7. Other Heller concentration or methods course

  8. Other Heller concentration or methods course

  9. Other Heller concentration or methods courses

  10. Dissertation Seminar (non-credit) (2 semesters)

Sociology Courses

Students are expected to complete a minimum of eight Sociology courses, comprising at least four Brandeis Sociology graduate seminars (courses numbered 200 or higher), plus the Approaches to Sociological Research pro-seminar. Students must participate in Soc 300a, Approaches to Sociological Research during each semester they are completing coursework following matriculation into the Joint Degree program At least one of the Sociology courses must be in theory.


Each student must complete a "comprehensive paper" as required in The Heller School PhD curriculum. In Sociology, students must show competence in two substantive areas following the Sociology Qualifying Portfolio and Defense (QPD) requirements described on pp. 4-6. QPD Committee membership and chair must be approved by the Sociology Graduate Committee (by petition) by December 1 of the student's third year in the joint degree program. The QPD Committee meeting must be completed by December 1 of the student's fourth year in the joint degree program.

Dissertation and Defense

Step 1: Approval of the Dissertation Prospectus and Advancement to Candidacy

A dissertation prospectus should be submitted to a Dissertation Committee soon after the Comprehensive examination and QPD processes are completed. The Dissertation Committee should consist of five members—two Brandeis faculty members each from the Sociology Department and the Heller School (one designated as chair) and one outside reader. Students must submit paperwork for committee, proposal hearing, and defense 12 approvals to both programs following each program's respective procedures. The following procedures outline Sociology rules only; the student should also consult the Heller School guidelines at to be sure that both programs' expectations are being met.

Each student is responsible for forming a Dissertation Committee—that is, securing agreement from each member and then petitioning the Graduate Committee for approval. If a student selects a Heller School faculty member as Dissertation Committee chair, the student's QPD chair will continue as the student's official Sociology Department advisor, and official link between the Department and student, unless the student petitions for a change.

The dissertation prospectus elaborates a student's dissertation topic and explains the research the student plans to undertake. It should clearly state the research question, situate this question in a review of relevant literature, and describe the methods that will be used to answer the question. The prospectus should also provide a tentative timeline for completing the project. If the proposed research involves data collection with human subjects, the student must also seek approval from the Brandeis Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (BCPHS) by the date of the scheduled defense. Examples of dissertation proposals are available on the shared Graduate Student Latte site.

When the Dissertation Committee determines that the proposal is ready, a dissertation prospectus defense is scheduled. The defense is open to the public and must be announced at least two weeks in advance within the Sociology Department; the student should issue a request to the Sociology Department Administrator to make this announcement at least one week prior to when the announcement is to be distributed. At least two weeks in advance of the defense, the student must post a copy of the prospectus on the section of the shared Latte site titled, Dissertation Prospectus for Defense. The proposal defense meeting typically begins with the student giving a short (10 minute) presentation on his or her work before answering questions from the faculty. After the defense, the Dissertation Committee meets in private to decide on one of three grades - No Pass, Conditional Pass (meaning that specified further work is needed), or Pass. This grade will be noted on the Dissertation Prospectus Defense Report (available on the shared Latte site), which must be signed by all Committee members and deposited with the Sociology Department Administrator. After a student's prospectus has been passed, a completed PhD Degree Audit Checklist Update Form must be submitted to the Registrar. At this point, the student has advanced to candidacy.

Step 2: Approval of the Dissertation

The joint PhD dissertation may be accepted by the Sociology Department and the Heller School upon the recommendation of the Dissertation Committee. Committee members will have one month to read a complete draft, comment on it, and require revisions. Once all Committee members agree that the dissertation is ready to defend, the candidate should schedule the dissertation defense, which is a public final oral examination. The defense must be scheduled at a time all Committee members can attend. At least two weeks before the defense, a copy of the dissertation must be made available for review by members of the faculty. This can be done either by placing a print copy in the Sociology Department office, or by placing an electronic copy on the shared Latte site. The defense is open to the public and must be announced at least two weeks in advance within the Sociology Department. The student should issue a request to the Sociology Department Administrator to make this announcement at least one week prior to when the announcement is to be distributed, and at this time should also inform the Department Administrator whether the dissertation will be made available in print or electronic form.

After the dissertation and defense are approved, a report signed by the Dissertation Examining Committee (available on the Shared Latte Site) certifying the candidate's successful performance on the oral exam is submitted to the University Registrar and to The Heller School Office of Student Records. Please see the instructions under PhD in Sociology above regarding the process for filing the dissertation. The forms required from Heller can be obtained from Cheryl Sweeney, Program Administrator of the Heller PhD program.