Graduate Program

Writing a Master's Thesis in Sociology

A thesis represents your mastery of a particular subject area in sociology.  It can take many forms, from a book length manuscript to (more typically) a journal-article length/style paper.  Your thesis should be ready to submit to peer-reviewed journal when you finish this program.  However, the actual nature of your thesis must be negotiated through your thesis committee. 

Forms needed for the formation of the thesis committee, scheduling of the oral defense, and IRB review can be found here.

Below are some basic steps (which may differ in certain circumstances):

Find a topic that interests you.

  • You'll need to be very familiar with the literature on that topic and you need to be able to argue that your project contributes something to the study of this topic. Also, the topic must be sociological.  There are some subjects that interest students which simply will not work (i.e., serial killers are a popular subject on television and movies, but not very sociological).

Find a Chair that can work with you.

  • This person must have a Ph.D. in Sociology and be a member of the Graduate faculty in our department.
  • This person will only agree to be your Chair if your topic is sociological and your approach is sound.
  • The Chair will only work with you if you show yourself to be a strong, independent scholar.
  • Faculty may also refuse to be your Chair due to their own time constraints and work demands--it's not always personal.

Consult with your Chair about writing your thesis proposal.

  • Your proposal should be around 20 pages in length, including a rationale for your project, a review of the literature, and a proposed research method/analysis.
  • You may take an independent study (SOCI 690) with your Chair to review literature related to your topic, and to prepare a written product that may become the basis for the proposal for 3 credit hours, or you can write it on your own time (not for credit).
  • Plan to write several drafts of this before it is complete.  Your project is a negotiation between you, your Chair and your committee.

At the same time, contact two (2) other faculty members to serve as committee members. 

When your Chair says that your proposal is ready, you share it with the entire committee

  • You will need to make any edits that they recommend.
  • This could include substantial re-working of the thesis proposal and the project itself.  Avoid this by communicating with your committee members early and often as you prepare your proposal.

With your committee, schedule your proposal defense.

  • This is an oral presentation of your proposal in front of your committee.
  • The exact specifications of your project will be further negotiated in this defense.
  • You and your committee will need to complete a Sociology Thesis Proposal Defense Form (available here or in the department office) at the defense meeting.
  • The Director of Graduate Studies will not allow you to register for thesis hours until you have defended your proposal.

Once you have defended your proposal, you must get IRB approval of your project

When your project is fully approved, you collect and analyze your data

  • You will deal directly with your committee regarding drafts and revisions.

Once your thesis is very strong, you will schedule a thesis defense

Upon successfully defending your thesis, you will make any last edits and consult the Graduate School regarding the file format that they require for thesis.

You may also find these resources helpful in formatting your thesis.