2022-23 Edition

Social Ecology, Ph.D.

For more detailed catalogue information regarding doctoral programs in the School of Social Ecology, please select the appropriate department for which the program is offered.

The training program that leads to the Ph.D. in Social Ecology allows students to develop a tailored course of graduate study that draws upon the knowledge of several traditional academic disciplines. The emphases of this training program are in keeping with the academic mission of the School, namely, its emphases on an interdisciplinary approach to theory and research, and the application of research to policy and intervention. Students are encouraged to integrate the diverse theoretical and methodological insights of several disciplines to analyze important psychological, social, legal and environmental problems from a perspective of breadth as well as depth.

Course Requirements

The following five core courses are required:

A. Complete:
SOCECOL 200 Seminar in Social Ecology
SOCECOL 264A Data Analysis
SOCECOL 264B Data Analysis
B. Select one of the following:
Research Methods
Research Design
Research Methods in Psychology
C. Complete one additional approved graduate research methods or statistics course.
D. In addition, students must take a minimum of six elective courses, chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor.

Second Year Research Project Requirement

Students are strongly encouraged to become involved in research very early in their graduate careers by participating in the research projects of the faculty. Students complete a supervised research project before they begin work on their doctoral dissertation. Research is broadly construed to include experimental methods, questionnaire and interview studies, systematic field observation, secondary analyses, legal analyses, etc. Students should begin work on this second year research project during their first year and should complete the project during the second year in residence (preferably by the end of the winter quarter of the second year). The research project must be evaluated and approved by a committee of three faculty, the majority of whom are in the School of Social Ecology. Normally, one faculty member will serve as the chair of the committee and the major advisor for the research, but students should consult with all three members of the committee about their research plans. [Note: Students who wish to submit the written report of their research as a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the M.A. must have the membership of their thesis committee approved by the Associate Dean of the School acting on behalf of the Dean of the School and must be advanced to M.A. candidacy the previous quarter. Please see information on M.A. in Social Ecology]. Please contact the Social Ecology Graduate Affairs Coordinator if you have any questions.

A written report of the research must be prepared for evaluation by the members of the committee. The report typically will be comparable in scope and format to articles that appear in leading journals in the social and behavioral sciences. Approval of the student's research project must be certified by obtaining the signature of each committee member on a form that is available by contacting the Assistant Director of Graduate Affairs.

Breadth Requirement

Students complete the Breadth Requirement during their third year of study, through which they demonstrate mastery of theory, research, policy, and practice on two social or environmental problems relevant to Social Ecology, or two papers on a single problem provided the two papers are clearly distinct (e.g., a review of research literature on the problem and a separate empirical analysis bearing on the problem). Writing one paper for each of the two problems selected, or the two papers on a single problem, meaning a total of two papers written, satisfies the Breadth Requirement. The papers should be different from the second-year research project and demonstrate an interdisciplinary understanding of relevant research bearing on these two problems and show how that research can inform policies, programs, or practices designed to solve or mitigate these problems. Each student’s plans for completing the Breadth Requirement are developed in consultation with a committee of three faculty, the majority of whom are in the School of Social Ecology, and the Faculty Graduate Advisor. Students are encouraged to assemble and meet with this committee as early as possible during their graduate career, and are required to do so by no later than the third quarter of their second year of study. Please contact the Social Ecology Graduate Affairs Coordinator for details.

Once the student's plans have been approved and implemented, the committee will review the student's work to evaluate whether the Breadth Requirement has been fulfilled and to recommend additional work if it is deemed necessary. The Breadth Requirement must be completed before the student can advance to candidacy for the Ph.D.

Advancement/Prospectus Requirement

The fourth year of study is devoted to developing and defending a dissertation proposal and conducting dissertation research. The normative time for advancement to candidacy is four years. Students complete the dissertation in their fourth or fifth year. See additional information under Advancement and Dissertation. Please take special note of the School of Social Ecology deadline that requires students to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. by the end of their fifth year of study.


The final years of doctoral study are devoted to developing and defending a dissertation proposal and conducting dissertation research. The student must compose a doctoral dissertation committee that is comprised of three voting members of the University Academic Senate. A majority of the committee, but not necessarily all, shall be affiliated with the program. In order to successfully defend their dissertation, the student must schedule and complete an oral defense that is open to the academic community in addition to the doctoral committee.

Students should strive to complete all requirements for the Ph.D. in Social Ecology by their fifth year of study, but those requirements must be completed no later than their seventh year of study, adjusted for any approved leaves of absence that the student may have taken. Failure to complete all degree requirements by the end of the seventh year may result in initiation of steps to terminate the student’s status as a doctoral student.