Program Overview

We take pride in working with each student to create an individualized program of study and research. In the first year students are offered a variety of courses in theory and methods. The second year of the program revolves around seminars, workshops and independent research leading to completion of a required second year paper. By the end of the third year, students are required to write a special field paper to show command of the literature in their chosen subfield. Work beyond the third year is directed toward the dissertation, research seminars, and workshops.

There is virtually no area of sociological inquiry that students cannot pursue at Northwestern. A look at faculty interests and recent dissertations attests to the variety of topics members of our community have investigated. The Department had particular strength in four substantive areas: culture; law, economy, and organizations; social inequality; and comparative-historical sociology.

Culture consists of three areas of inquiry: the study of how systems of ideas interact with, reproduce, and transform other social structures and social identities; the study of cultural products, such as art, literature, music; and ethnographic analysis of the patterns of social interaction of groups of people. Northwestern offers special strengths in cultural theory, political culture, sociology of the arts, and cultural aspects of gender, class, and ethnic relations.

Law, Economy, and Organizations utilizes departmental faculty expertise and builds on the department's strong relationships with the Kellogg School of Management, the Northwestern Law School, and the American Bar Foundation. In the field of law and society, we have particular strength in crime and justice, human rights, international law, discrimination, health, business regulation, legal consciousness, and the legal profession. Focuses in economic sociology and organizations include bankruptcy, taxes, welfare states, quantification, technology, corporate governance, management, and mass communication.

Social inequality includes the study of the origins of inequality and its different forms; analysis of its major dimensions such as race, gender, labor market position, social networks, income, etc., and how these vary among and within societies; examinations of what kinds of social systems generate particular forms of inequality such as slavery, class differentiation, residential segregation, environmental racism, and seniority systems or other forms of age grading; and investigation of the consequences of inequality.

Comparative-historical sociology involves the examination of social structures and events across societies and historical time. In its simplest form, parallel events or social structures in two societies are examined. In its more complex variants, a range of similarities and differences across many societies may be studied. The goal of comparative-historical sociology is to unite differences and similarities in a single, comprehensive framework in order to make sense of diversity in social forms and historical outcomes.