Guidelines for the preparation of the Thesis Proposal - PhD in Sociology

These guidelines outline the format that students and supervisors should follow when preparing the dissertation research proposal for the doctoral program in sociology. The proposal consists of 25 to 40 pages (excluding the bibliography, the timetable, and the methodological tools –questionnaire, interview grid, etc.). The document should be formatted as follows: 1.5-line spacing, title page, numbered pages, 12-point font, 1-inch margins. Please refer to the APA or Chicago-style manuals for reference presentation and general presentation rules.

The components of the proposal are presented below. Explanatory approaches in sociology, however, can exist on a continuum ranging from an inductive and iterative approach to a strict hypothetico-deductive logic. Consequently, though all proposals will have the components listed below, their order of appearance can vary.

  • Objective (s), question (s), key arguments and/or hypotheses and their relevance: Indicate the principal objective(s) that guide your research proposal: what is the social, theoretical and empirical relevance of your proposed research? Formulate the specific research question (s) that you will try to answer with your study. State the central conceptual ideas, explanatory strategies, or hypotheses that structure your proposed research, providing a general indication of the direction you propose to follow. Establish the scope of the proposed research: how will your research help to produce original knowledge? And especially how will it contribute to the advancement of knowledge / knowledge in sociology theoretically and empirically?
  • Literature Review and Statement of the Problem (Problematization): Introduce the topic proposed for your dissertation.
  • If you are proposing empirical research, identify your empirical question and discuss how it is covered and discussed in the sociological and other pertinent literatures. Take stock of the relevant literature on the subject and describe the main questions, disputes or debates they raise: survey what is known about your subject and identify what merits further research. Specify the research problem that your dissertation seeks to address and explain its relevance (lacuna in our empirical knowledge, insufficient current understanding of the subject, etc.). This section should convincingly present the "what" and "why" of the topic of your dissertation.
  • If you are proposing theoretical research, introduce the problem, and discuss how it is covered and discussed in the sociological and other pertinent literatures. Examine the most salient and significant theoretical contribution to the problem under study; describe the main questions or debates it raises: explain the current state of the field(s) in which your problem is embedded and account for its (their) development. Specify the research problem that your dissertation seeks to address and identify its contemporary relevance (lack of theoretical knowledge, lack of current understanding of the subject, new social perspectives and insights, unexplored interpretative repertoires, etc.). This section should convincingly present the "what" and "why" of dissertation topic.
  • Framework or theoretical context: Identify the concepts or the theoretical framework(s) relevant to your proposed research – traditions or lineages, debates, theoretical and conceptual strategies, and key concepts from previous research in sociology (and in other areas where appropriate). Your goal is not only to explain the theoretical tools you intend to mobilize, but also to identify the traditions, or lineages, and concepts fueling your inquiry, explaining why and how you position yourself epistemologically  and conceptually. A theoretical framework is not a catalogue of concepts; it is a hierarchical network of well-defined conceptual relations that are assumed to have explanatory power. For some authors, the framework or the theoretical context is part of the literature review and statement of the problem (the problematization), especially in the proposals following an inductive approach.
  • Methodological framework: Present the methodological strategy that you plan to use to meet the objective (s) of your study - approach, method (s), type (s) and data sources, spatial and temporal dimensions, and ethical issues. Show clearly how this methodological strategy will allow you to gather and analyze the data required to test, broadly understood, your central explanatory strategy and answer your research question (s). Explain how it is aligned with your theoretical framework. Show its feasibility in terms of temporal, economic limits and access to information. If applicable, discuss methodological concerns relevant to your study (ethics, power, otherness, etc.). In a theoretical dissertation, explain how your explanatory approach provides evidence for your arguments.
  • Preliminary plan of the dissertation: Propose the title of the dissertation, chapters titles and a brief overview of the proposed content for each chapter.
  • Dissertation Production Schedule: This timeline should include all the necessary steps in your research process (from ethical approval to completion of the dissertation through data collection, processing and analysis, and the writing of chapters).
  • Bibliography: Include bibliographic references from all sources cited in the research proposal.


If a dissertation research proposal is not successful, i.e., receives a grade of non-satisfactory, candidates are entitled to a second attempt if and only if they do not already have a failing grade in the program. Two failing grades in the program, either for a course, the comprehensive examination or the dissertation research proposal, leads to withdrawal from the program.

Students are responsible for sending their dissertation research proposal to their supervisor, committee members and the School by email. Committee members who wish to obtain a paper copy must inform the students at the time of submission.

Students must submit their dissertation research proposal before the end of their eighth session after registration. After the end of the eighth session, an NS (non-satisfactory) will be given, i.e., a failing grade. In cases where students have started the program in January, or a qualifying program has been completed, the deadline is the end of the tenth session after registration. Any waivers or exceptions must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Studies. The above information applies to students who started the program after September 1, 2019.

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