The comprehensive examination will be administered and assessed in conjunction with the thesis proposal. (Students admitted prior to 2013 will have a choice of the in-camera comprehensive exam or the new thesis proposal model.)
Students should submit a written draft of the thesis proposal by the start of their second year of the MA program. The thesis proposal will include, as an appendix, written answers to a set of standard theory and methods comprehensive exam questions (see below) that the thesis committee will evaluate using the rubric provided (available here). The exam must demonstrate comprehensiveness in the form of theoretical and methodological sophistication and mastery, even though it will be applied to a single thesis topic.
The graduate committee will monitor the thesis committee’s execution of the comprehensive exam and students’ performance on the exam. In the event that a thesis committee fails a student on the comp, students will then have one week to rewrite their answers. These answers will be assessed and scored by the Graduate Committee.
The thesis proposal defense date can not be scheduled until the proposal is deemed satisfactory by the thesis committee.
Students should ensure that their thesis chair fills out, and members of the committee sign, the Department's Thesis Proposal Defense form (available here), Comprehensive Exam Results form (available here) and the Graduate School's Report on Graduate Student Examination form (available here).
Students may NOT register for thesis hours until the thesis proposal is successfully defended. The thesis proposal MUST be successfully defended by the end of spring of their second year in the program.
Students must be enrolled in the semester in which they plan to defend their thesis proposal and take comps.
Standard comprehensive exam questions:
1. Sociologists have a wide variety of research methods at their disposal. You specify a quantitative (qualitative) design. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of the quantitative and qualitative approaches to answering your thesis project's question?
2. You specify a quantitative (qualitative) design in your proposal. Discuss why your method is best suited to your research question and if or how it can help to establish causal relationships.
1. You frame your thesis project using X theoretical paradigm. How would it have been different using a Y paradigm?
2. Explain the main strength for the theoretical paradigm you use. Explain your theoretical paradigm’s main weakness.
As you prepare for the comprehensive exams, keep in mind that your answers will be evaluated along the following four dimensions:
(1) the completeness and breadth of your answers
(2) the accuracy and depth of your answers
(3) the effective and appropriate use of evidence in your answers (citations where appropriate), and
(4) the logic and organization of your answers.
Carefully review your notes and other course materials.
Below is a list of the concepts, techniques, and analytic issues you should focus on:
Be prepared to design a hypothetical research project and data analysis, thinking through the issues of specifying hypotheses, appropriate methodologies, measurement (including reliability and validity assessment), data analysis techniques, establishing causality (internal validity), complex causal relationships, external validity (generalizability), and study limitations.
Before taking the comprehensive exam in theory, you should know the following:
Alexander, Jeffrey. Neofunctionalism and after. London: Blackwell, 1998
Baudrillard, Jean. The consumer society. London:Sage, 1998
Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas. The social construction of reality. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1967.
Blau, Peter. Exchange and power in social life. New York: J. Wiley. 1964.
Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. University of CA Press. 1986.
Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984.
Collins, Patricia. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, counciousness and empowerment. Boxton: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Darendorf, Ralf. Class and class conflict in industrial society. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1959.
Davis, Kingsley and Wilbert E, Moore. 1945. "Some Principles of Stratification." American Sociological Review Vol. 10 (2): 242:249
Durkheim, Emile. The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press, 1964.
_____. Suicide. New York: Free Press, 1951.
_____. The elementary forms of religious life. New York: Free Press, 1965.
Du Bois, W. E. B. The Philadelphia negro: A social study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
Emerson, Richard. “Power-Dependence Relations.” American Sociological Review 27:31-40, 1962.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and punishment: the birth of the prison. New York: Vintage, 1989.
Gerth, Hans and Mills, C. Wright (eds.). From Max Weber: New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.
Giddens, Anthony. The constitution of society. University of California Press. 1984.
Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1959.
Habermas, Jurgen. Legitimation Crisis. Boston: Beacon Press 1975.
Homans, George. Social behavior: its elementary forms. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Mead, George. Mind, Self and Society: from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.
Merton, Robert. Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press, 1968.
Mills, C. W. The power elite. New York: Oxford University Press. 1956.
Parsons, Talcott and Edward Shils. 1951. Toward a general theory of social action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1951.
------“Sex Roes in the American Kinship System” In: The kinship system of the contemporary United States. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, College Division. 1960.
Simmel, Georg. Conflict and the web of group affiliations. New York: Free Press, 1955.
Smith, Dorothy. The everyday world as problematic: A feminist sociology. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987.
Tucker, Robert (ed.). The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: Norton, 170.
Veblen, Thorstein. The theory of the leisure class. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. World-systems analysis: an introduction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. 2004.
Weber, Max. The protestant ethnics and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Scribner’s, 1958.
______. General economic history. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transactions Books, 1981.
Burrell, Gibson and Gareth Morgan. Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis. 1979.
Collins, Randall. Four Sociological Traditions. 1994.
Coser, Lewis. Masters of Sociological Thought. 1971.
Appelrouth, Scott and Laura Desfor Edles. Sociological Theory in the Classical Era (text and reader). 2011.
_______________. Sociological Theory in the Contemporary Era (text and reader). 2009.
Kuhn, Thomas (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
*This list is not exhaustive.