The Ph.D. program emphasizes community, regional, and state organizations, as well as the world system and development processes in these contexts. The program offers preparation for research, for the application of sociology in public-service work, for development work in the United States and other countries, and for college teaching in sociology, rural sociology, and related fields.
For the Ph.D. degree, students are expected to demonstrate (1) a thorough knowledge of social theory, with special emphasis on theories in their major concentration, (2) knowledge of previous and current research pertinent to the concentration, and (3) knowledge of multiple research methods, with special emphasis on research design, data collection, and analytical techniques relevant to study in the concentration.
Although the field awards an M.S. degree, it is expected that students earning the M.S. degree will pursue the Ph.D. degree. Therefore, students are admitted into the M.S./PhD. program.
Research and study opportunities
Faculty in the field rely on a wide range of domestic and international funding to support research and graduate students. Some field members use New York State Agricultural Experiment Station funding to support studies of sustainable agricultural practices; small-town growth and decline; employment trends in non-metropolitan areas; the social organization of agriculture; multi-county and regional development; environmental problems; and the social impact of advanced agricultural techniques.
Research abroad includes studies of small-farmer agriculture in the context of globalization, processes of village and regional development, political ecology, and social demography. Students and faculty members are actively conducting research in South America, Latin America, China, Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Many of these studies deal with the relationship of agricultural production to social organization, the conditions of growth (and marginalization) for communities and regions, and the relation of demographic trends to all of those.
Members of the field also participate in International Agriculture programs, in the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and in the area studies programs for Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Several of those programs have supported dissertation research overseas. The department is also home to the Polson Institute for Global Development, which funds assorted working group research initiatives in the U.S. and abroad.
Although most doctoral dissertations are based on field-collected data, the field and the university have rich secondary-data resources for the study of New York State and the United States, located in the Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research (CISER) and the various libraries on campus.