Western University SociologyFaculty of Social Science

Academic Matters

Planning the Program of Study

In September of each year, students are expected to develop a plan with the graduate chair indicating how and when they will meet the requirements of their program. This plan includes timing for all course work and other requirements. While the graduate chair has the formal role of establishing the student's program of study, students are encouraged to speak to various faculty members for advice on courses and on their program.

Minimum Grades for Program Continuation

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies' regulations [Graduate Calendar, Section 3] require students to maintain a cumulative average of at least 70%, with no grade less than 60%. Students who fail to maintain those standards will be withdrawn. In addition, the Department of Sociology has imposed a regulation limiting the number of grades below 70% a student may obtain to one. Students receiving more than one grade below 70 may be asked to withdraw from the program.

Progression Requirements for Program Continuation

The following criteria are used to determine whether program conditions for progression towards the degree are being met. "Good standing" in the program is based on two primary criteria: (a) grades and (b) progress through the program.

At the MA level it is expected that students maintain a cumulative minimum B+ average as determined at the end of each term. At least three half-courses should normally have been completed by the end of the first term. Students are expected to complete all courses by the end of the third term. In addition, students in the three-term research paper stream are expected to complete the research paper by the end of the third term. See "MA Program" Summary of Degree Requirements for a list of course requirements in each stream.

At the PhD level it is expected that students maintain a cumulative minimum B+ average. At the end of the first year students should have completed six courses, including Sociology 9007, 9002, 9003, and 9005 (if these have not already been completed as part of an earlier program) and they should also have chosen a thesis supervisor.  At the end of the second year, continuing students should have completed all coursework and comprehensive exams.  The thesis proposal should be completed and approved in the summer (at the end of year 2) or the fall (beginning of year 3), following the completion of year 2 comprehensive exams. The Research Apprenticeship should be completed by the end of the third year.

If these requirements are not met, the student will be sent a letter of warning and be given one semester to make up either grade or progress deficiencies. If grade or progress difficulties continue after that time, dismissal proceedings may be initiated. Students can use the usual procedures to appeal these decisions.

Progress Reports

Western’s School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requires programs to prepare and file an annual progress report for each student in a graduate program. In Sociology, progress is reviewed at the end of each term (fall, winter, summer). At the end of the summer term, all students meet with the Graduate Chair (usually in September). This is an opportunity for continuing students to discuss their progress to date and for both new and continuing students to discuss their plan for the upcoming academic year.

First year students will normally receive two progress letters from the Graduate Committee in their first year, one at the end of the first term and another after the second term of study.

Continuing students are asked to complete a progress report after each fall and winter term. There are three steps to the process: 1) the student completes Part A of the form and sends the report to the supervisor; 2) the supervisor provides comments in Part B and sends the report back to the student; 3) the student uploads the completed report into OWL (see instructions below).

Continuing students will normally receive a progress letter from the Graduate Committee once each year (in May). Students with unmet progression requirements may receive a letter of warning in either February or May, indicating progress deficiencies and providing timelines to make up deficiencies. If grade or progress difficulties continue, dismissal proceedings may be initiated. Students can use the usual procedures to appeal these decisions.

To access your personal progress reports and letters at any time (username and password required), go to owl.uwo.ca → More Sites → Projects → SOCGRADINFO → Drop Box
Tip: To place the Drop Box in the top bar for easy access, go to MyWorkspace → Preferences

Plagiarism and Other Scholastic Offences

The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students document provides definitions of scholastic offences, procedures followed when a scholastic offence is detected, possible penalties, and the appeals process.

Notes on Plagiarism

With respect to the writing of papers, the execution of research, and all other university activities, graduate students are expected to adhere to the same ethical standards as are required of members of the faculty. Moreover, students are reminded that the papers they submit to meet program requirement should be the product of their own effort, and should not be written, or substantially revised, by someone else.

Note that submitting for credit in any course or program of study, without the knowledge and written approval of the instructor to whom it is submitted, any academic work for which credit previously has been obtained or is being sought in another course or program of study in the University or elsewhere, is considered to be plagiarism.

In writing scholarly papers, the need to avoid plagiarism must be kept firmly in mind. Failure to do so may result in the student being asked to withdraw from the graduate program.

Plagiarism Among Graduate Students

On some occasions, plagiarism has been detected in the work of graduate students in the Department. Unacknowledged use of the written work of others is not tolerated, and the consequences are extremely serious.

The following excerpt from the Department of Sociology Plagiarism document clearly defines plagiarism:

In writing scholarly papers, you must keep firmly in mind the need to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is the unacknowledged borrowing of another writer’s words or ideas. Different forms of writing require different forms of acknowledgement. The following rules pertain to the acknowledgements necessary in academic papers.

  • You are plagiarizing if you use a sequence of words, a sentence or a paragraph taken from other writers without acknowledging them to be theirs. In using another writer’s words, you MUST both place the words in quotation marks and acknowledge that the words are those of another writer. In acknowledging a source from which a quote has been taken, you are to use the Style Guide recommended by your professor.

    Note that you cannot avoid indicating quotation simply by changing a word or phrase in a sentence or paragraph which is not your own.

  • In adopting other writers' ideas, you must acknowledge that they are theirs.

You are plagiarizing if you adopt, summarize, or paraphrase other writers’ trains of argument, ideas or sequences of ideas without acknowledging their authorship according to the method of acknowledgement given in the first point, above. Since the words are your own they need not be enclosed in quotation marks. Be certain, however, that the words you use are entirely your own: where you must use words or phrases from your source, these should be enclosed in quotation marks, as in the first point, above.

Clearly, it is possible for you to formulate arguments or ideas independently of another writer who has expounded the same ideas, and whom you have not read. Where you got your ideas is the important consideration here. Do not be afraid to present an argument or idea without acknowledgement to another writer, if you have arrived at it entirely independently. Acknowledge it if you have derived it from a source outside your own thinking on the subject.

In short, use of acknowledgement and, when necessary, quotation marks if necessary to distinguish clearly between what is yours and what is not. Since the rules have been explained to you, if you fail to make this distinction, your instructor very likely will do so for you, and they will be forced to regard your omission as intentional literary theft.

Other Instances Where A Student May Be Required To Withdraw

  1. There has been no evidence of progress on the thesis project for a considerable period of time. (Usually, such a decision is made only after a student has had ample prior warning.)
  2. In the case of a PhD student, the failure of a given Comprehensive Examination a second time.
  3. The student's time limit, as specified by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, has expired.

Academic Appeals at the Program Level

Appeals should be discussed with the Graduate Chair and must be initiated within four weeks of receipt of the grade, comprehensive exam result, or ruling in question. Before considering an appeal, please consult the policies and regulations on the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) website -- Section 13.01 (Scholastic Offences) and Section 13.02 (potential subject matter of an appeal and the grounds of an appeal).

Types of Appeals

  • Appeal of a Course Grade - If the appeal relates to a specific assignment, a student must first attempt to resolve the matter informally with the course instructor. If the instructor is not available or if the matter is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student has a right to appeal to the Graduate Chair, who will be responsible for conducting the appeal or delegating responsibility for the appeal to an alternate member of the Graduate Committee. See below for appeal procedures.
  • Appeal of the Result of a PhD Comprehensive Examination - The student has a right to appeal to the Graduate Chair, who will be responsible for conducting the appeal or delegating responsibility for the appeal to an alternate member of the Graduate Committee. See below for appeal procedures.
  • Extension to Normal Progression Requirements - After the appropriate appeal processes (above) have been exhausted, a student has the right to appeal to the Graduate Chair to have normal progression requirements extended on compassionate, medical, or related grounds. The Graduate Chair will be responsible for conducting the appeal which may involve consultation with members of the Graduate Committee. Degree requirements will not generally be waived or altered to accommodate students who have failed exams or obtained low grades; rather, the accommodation normally takes the form of giving an additional opportunity to the student to complete a requirement. It is incumbent upon the applicant to provide, in writing, a full and thorough justification of the request.

Appeal Procedures

1. An appeal must be initiated in writing within four weeks of the issuance of the mark or ruling. Deadlines for filing appeals may be extended at the discretion of the Graduate Chair.

2. Appeals of Scholastic Offence decisions are not covered under this policy. The SGPS Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students document provides definitions of scholastic offences, procedures followed when a scholastic offence is detected, possible penalties, and the appeals process.

3a. In cases where the quality of a test or paper is to be evaluated, the grades of two outside readers will be averaged to determine the revised grade. Papers are to be submitted to outside readers free of the name of the student and of the instructor involved, and without the original comments from the instructor. Outside readers will be asked to provide critical comments on the paper in question which will be forwarded along with the results to the student in cases where (a) this is requested by the student and (b) the Graduate Chair (or alternate) agrees that the case in question justifies such a request.

3b. In cases where the quality of a comprehensive exam is to be evaluated, the exam will be read by two outside readers. Exams are to be submitted to outside readers free of the name of the student and of the committee members involved, and without the original comments from the committee. Outside readers will be asked to provide critical comments on the exam in question which will be forwarded along with the results to the student in cases where (a) this is requested by the student and (b) the Graduate Chair (or alternate) agrees that the case in question justifies such a request.

4. The two readers for a given case will work independently. They are expected to refrain from any discussion of the merits of the paper / exam except with the Graduate Chair (or alternate).

5. In cases where the Graduate Chair is involved, an alternate will take over the adjudication process.

6. In cases where the average of the two evaluators falls within 3 points (on a base of 100) of the grade originally assigned by the instructor, the latter’s grade will stand. (This is a reflection of the greater knowledge of course expectations held by the instructor, along with the implication that three or fewer points of difference shows only random variation). In all other cases, the average of the two evaluators will become the new grade.

7. In the case of a course grade, the instructor has the right to appeal the decision.

8. To assist with the appeals process and with student assessment, it is recommended that the requirements for papers (including referencing, length, deadlines) be provided to students at the outset of the course. A grading rubric is also highly recommended, and where such a rubric exists, the instructor should provide the Graduate Chair with the rubric when an assignment or test is being appealed.

9. After the appropriate appeal process has been exhausted within the department, the Graduate Chair will inform the student of his/her right to take the case to the Vice-Provost, School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS). A request to appeal the decision of the program must be made to SGPS in writing, no later than three weeks after the program decision has been communicated to the student.

Some decisions may be appealed further to the Senate Review Board Academic. The Vice-Provost’s rulings in academic matters are final unless overturned or modified on appeal to the Senate Review Board Academic (SRBA). A decision or ruling remains in effect unless overturned or modified by the individual or body hearing an appeal of that decision or ruling.