Fall 2014 Cohort

Earning the MA — Thesis Option

This section applies only if you want to earn an MA by writing a master’s thesis for your first comps, rather than waiting to pass your second comps before applying for the MA degree. In most cases the master's thesis will be an empirical paper which you may use as one of your comps with the approval of your comprehensive exam committee. (A separate defense for the comps is not required.) A theoretical paper or analytic review of a literature may serve as an master's thesis with the approval of your thesis advisor. If you write a thesis you will still need to do a second comps, unless you leave the program with your MA (“terminal MA degree”).

To acquire an MA using the thesis option, you need (i) a minimum of 30 credits of coursework, including the required courses listed below, (ii) a master’s thesis and (iii) a minimum of 3 thesis credits, not the same as dissertation credits; see below.

Required Courses

Same as Earning an MA — Comps Option.

Composition of Required Credits

Same as Earning an MA — Comps Option, except:

  • At least 18 credits must be earned in courses numbered 600-800, not 12; transfer credits do not count.
  • Three (3) thesis credits. These are different from dissertation credits. You may be able to convert dissertation credits to thesis credits, though you will need to replace them with new dissertation credits towards the 18 credit requirement of the PhD. If you take the thesis credits but do not submit the thesis, you can convert them to dissertation credits.

The Master’s Thesis

In most cases your empirical comps paper can serve as your master's thesis with the approval of your committee. A theoretical paper or analytic literature review may serve as a thesis with the approval of your committee chair (advisor). Your thesis committee will consist of your advisor and two other graduate faculty members, at least one of who is in the Department of Sociology. You can ask the graduate program director (GPD) to request graduate faculty status for a visiting professor or other non-graduate faculty member but the Graduate School has to approve the graduate faculty status.

You can form a committee once you have completed (i) at least 18 of the 30 required course credits, and (ii) the required courses in theory, statistics, and research methods. Formal appointment of the committee is made by the dean of the Graduate School. You should submit an approved thesis outline, signed by all committee members and GPD or chair, to the Graduate School at least four months prior to the scheduling of the thesis defense.

Upon preliminary approval of the completed thesis by your committee, the GPD will schedule a thesis defense which will also serve as the comprehensive exam defense. This exam is public. The committee may approve the thesis and/or recommend revisions. After passing this exam you should submit the thesis to the Graduate School in proper format via ScholarWorks, as well as a paper copy to the Sociology Graduate Office.