Ph.D. Training Plan

Overview and Scope

The individually designed Ph.D. Training Plan is a coherent set of four graded courses and an associated a written rationale that, when completed, will ensure that the student develops the particular, advanced methodological skills (broadly defined) or knowledge necessary to undertake their planned dissertation.  Ph.D. Training Plans can include either four courses that together demonstrate methodological specialization (e.g., four courses in advanced quantitative methods) or a set of four courses that together provide a student with the specialized skills or knowledge necessary for their proposed research.  We expect that in many cases, courses included in the Ph.D. Training Plan will be offered in units other than Sociology.

Examples of courses that could contribute to a student’s Ph.D. Training Plan include:

  • CSSS courses;
  • Courses in field work and/or qualitative methods;
  • Area studies courses, including language courses;
  • Courses in public health epidemiology;
  • Courses taught in eScience;
  • Courses in geography and spatial analysis;
  • Other courses that provide a foundation for the student’s research specialization, and are deemed by the advisor and GPC to be distinct from the topic of the student’s qualifying exam.

Specific Ph.D. Training Plans will be developed by students in conjunction with their advisors, and may include courses already completed.  While Ph.D. Training Plans should be individually tailored to reflect each student’s research orientation, we anticipate that Ph.D. Training Plans developed by students working on related problems may resemble one another, and we see this as a strength.

Note that only two courses from the Ph.D. Training Plan may also cross-count as a Sociology Graded Elective.  i.e., if using three or four Sociology classes as part of the Training Plan, this will directly increase the number of graded Sociology electives taken by the student.

Minimum Grades

Students should earn a minimum grade of 3.0 in all courses included in their Training Plan, and should maintain a 3.5 GPA in these courses.


Students should complete the Ph.D. Training Plan form, attach a brief narrative rationale for their training plan outlining how these courses will prepare them for their dissertation, and secure their advisor’s signature.  This form will then be turned into the Graduate Program Advisors, approved by the Graduate Program Coordinator, and kept in the student’s file.


If at any time the student decides to modify the Ph.D. Training Plan, s/he may do so by filing a modification form.  This form will identify course(s) that will be removed from the Training Plan, and course(s) that will be added.  This request for a modification should include a brief statement explaining the reasoning behind the change, and should be signed by the student’s advisor.


Initial Ph.D. Training Plans may be submitted anytime after the student has been advanced to the Ph.D. Program, and must be submitted before the General Exam is scheduled.   All courses included in the Ph.D. Training Plan must be completed before the final defense of the dissertation.

CSSS Certificate

Students who complete a Ph.D. Training plan that consists of coherent set of four CSSS courses and who have enrolled in at least one quarter of CSSS 590 (Weekly Seminar) may request a letter of completion from CSSS.