College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > Sociology > Student Resources > Graduate Resources > Graduate Advising FAQ

Graduate Advising Frequently Asked Questions

Newly Admitted Students

All new sociology graduate students should have received a welcome packet from the Office of Admission; your next steps are outlined in this packet. The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences has also compiled a "Next Steps" page.
For students admitted in autumn, the Department of Sociology typically hosts an orientation on the evening before classes begin. The Director of Sociology Graduate Studies will contact you with an invitation and more details.

Log into CampusConnect and check the courses that will be offered during the term you will begin. In the autumn, enroll in SOC 404: Classical and Modern Theory. If you have a SOC 402: Statistics for the Social Sciences condition (check your admission letter), enroll in that course as well. If you do not have a SOC 402 condition, scan the electives and enroll in any course in which you are particularly interested.

Moving beyond the first quarter, it is recommended that you enroll in SOC 405: Sociological Perspectives (a contemporary theory course) and SOC 411: Research Methods.

In the spring, it is recommended that you enroll in either SOC 412: Data Analysis or SOC 413: Qualitative Methods and an elective in which you are interested.

Please contact the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies for a course scheduling timeline for the full program.

Coursework and Program Requirements

Students should use the Degree Progress Report (DPR) function in their student center on Campus Connect to track their progress in the program.

Students may take up to two graduate courses outside of the Department of Sociology. Prior approval is required from either the Department Chair or the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies.

Independent study courses must be organized with a full-time faculty member in the Department of Sociology. Moreover, independent studies should only be used when students cannot find a seminar in the sociology or other graduate programs that covers their area of interest. Please be aware that faculty have no obligation to offer these classes. If you do organize an independent study with a full-time faculty member, you then need, first, the approval of either the Department Chair or the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies and, second, to register for SOC 499: Independent Study. Students may only enroll in one four-credit independent study course.

Writing Projects

All students must complete a final writing project, in addition to coursework, in order to earn the MA in Sociology. Please note that regardless of the type of writing project you choose, if your project will involve human subjects, you will need approval from the Local Review Board (Department of Sociology) and the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

There are four options for completing the writing project:

  1. Literature Review
  2. Organizational Case Study
  3. Research Project
  4. Thesis

A literature review writing project requires students to examine a body of sociological literature on a topic selected by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor. The review is typically 30-40 pages long (but may be longer). While there is no fixed number of required references, generally a literature review cites 75-150 references. Depending on the topic, the paper might review the last ten years of literature, present sides in an ongoing debate, and/or discuss the emergence of the topic as a field of sociological study.

If you are writing a literature review, it is stronly suggested that you develop the literature review in the SOC 414: Literature Review course. A literature reveiw requires an advisor and a second reader to approve the review; the instructor from SOC 414 can be one of these two readers. Some recent examples of literature review titles include:

  • Racial Disparities and Juvenile Justice
  • African American Students Reading Achievement: Structural Constraints of Time and Instruction in Schools
  • The Price We Pay to Get Richer: A Look at Student Indebtedness

For full examples of literature reviews, please email the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies.

An organizational case study writing project offers students the opportunity to conduct a structured evaluation/analysis of an organization, generally with which they are already familiar, such as their work place or internship or volunteer organization.

Case studies are generally conducted under the guidance of the instructor in the SOC 495: Seminar in Applied Sociology and with a second faculty member who has some familiarity with the sector in which the organization is located. Students use scholarly literature and other reading materials, along with interviews and surveys, to inform their analysis. Some recent examples of organizational case study titles include:

  1. A Case Study of the Illinois Department of Human Services with an emphasis on the SNAP Program
  2. A Case Study of Latinos Progesando with a Focus on Legal Services
  3. A Case Study of the Peer Jury Program: Young Offenders Get a Chance to Keep Their Records Clean

For examples of organizational case studies, please e-mail the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies.

The Research Project is a report of an original empirical research project, which could involve collection of data or an analysis of existing data (i.e. secondary data analysis). Students select a topic in consultation with a faculty advisor.

One way to think of the research project is that it is similar in format to a journal article. It should include an abstract, an introduction, a statement of research question, a review of relevant previous literature, a methods section, an analysis, and a discussion/implications setion. This writing project is usually 20-30 pages long, although inclusion of tables and graphs can make it substantially longer. An appendix including samples of research tools employed, such as a questionnaire or an interview schedule, is also typically inclulded. In recent years, students have carried out research projects that they designed in SOC 411: Social Research and SOC 412: Data Analysis or SOC 413: Qualitative Methods.

If you are writing a research project, it is strongly suggested that you take SOC 415: Writing a Research Project, a course designed to help you develop and complete this project. Students have successfully presented these projects at national conferences, published these projects as articles in peer-reviewed journals, and submitted these projects as their writing samples in applications for further graduate study. Like a literature review or a case study, a research project requires an advisor and a second reader to approve the project; the instrucor from SOC 415 can be one of these two readers. Some recent titles of research projects include:

  • Punitive Juvenile Justice and Youth Crime Journalism: Chicago 1981-1982
  • The Trouble with Morality: An Examination of the Effects of 12-Step Discourse on Addicts' Decision Making
  • Lesbian Families: Relationship Satisfaction, Motherhood, and Parenting

For examples of research projects, please e-mail the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies.

The thesis is usually a large and theoretically complex research project. It is distinguished from the research project by its originality, discipline and depth. Like the research project, it might be based on a new research design, a significant researchable question, a replication or extension of existing research, or secondary analysis of a data set. A thesis, however, is much longer than the literature review or research project format. Typically, a thesis is about 90 pages long and includes many pages of tables, figures, and appendices. Whereas the research project is similar to a journal article, the thesis is similar to a short book with chapters.

A thesis requires a three-person committee, which approves a substantial and detailed proposal (usually 10-12 pages), before field work and data collection begin. A thesis proposal hearing is required at the start of the project and an oral presentation is required at its completion.

All students who are completing the thesis must enroll in SOC 500: Thesis Research. This is not a course with a meeting time is conducted similar to an independent study. Enrollment is only by permission of the department chair (see below- How do I sign up for SOC 500: Thesis Research).

One recent thesis title is:

  • Measuring Income Mobility Among Nations From 1950 to 2000: An Inquiry into Nation-State Stratification

For examples of theses, please email the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies.

Enrollment is only by permission of the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies. Students must have a well-developed research project in progress before being enrolled in SOC 500: Thesis Research. Please e-mail the Director of Sociology Graduate Studies to request enrollment. You will be enrolled in SOC 500 only if the following requirements have been met, so please address these in your email request and cc your committee chair:

  1. List your name and student ID number.
  2. List your complete committee (chair and 2 additional readers are required for the thesis).
  3. Attach a draft of a proposal for your project. This must have been approved by the chair of your committee.
  4. If you are doing any research regarding human subjects, attach a draft of your IRB proposal.

We recommend starting as soon as possible on the writing project. It is a long process to find an advisor, narrow down a topic, design and carry out a project, and write the manuscript. A good time to start is around the time when you have completed half of the coursework for the MA (24 credit hours).

When you can, take courses in your areas of interest and approach professors about being your advisor or a reader. Typically, only full-time tenure-line professors in the Department of Sociology can serve as your advisor, but both adjunct faculty and faculty from other departments are able to serve as your second or third readers. All faculty hold regular office hours during the quarter and you can stop by or make an appointment to talk to them. It is suggested that you choose your advisor and the topic and style of your final writing project by the spring quarter of your first year if you are a full-time student.

Finishing Up

There are two options that carry ZERO credit hours but allow students to maintain active student status.

SOC 601: Active Student Status (enrollment accomplished by the active student)
Credit Hours: 0
Course grading: No grade
Repeatability: No limit
Description: Registration in this course provides access to the library and other university facilities. There is no indication whether or not the student is working on the writing project.Students are not eligible for loans or loan deferral.

SOC 510: MA Project Completion (enrollment by arrangement with the department chair)
Credit Hours: 0
Course grading: Pass/Fail
Repeatability: May be taken a total of 3 times
Description: Students may register for this class if they are engaged in work on a writing project (thesis or other type of MA project). Registration requires certification by the chair that the student is engaged in research or writing. Registration provides access to the library and other university facilities.Students are eligible for loans and loan deferral.

  1. Apply for degree conferral online through CampusConnect.

  2. Make sure your writing project is formatted in the ASA citation style, including a title page.

  3. Complete the Final Requirements Report. Make sure to obtain the required original signatures from your committee.

  4. Print and complete the Permission Form.

  5. Send the final, approved version of your writing project to Katelynn Moxon.

  6. If you were enrolled in SOC 500: Thesis Research, ask your chair to assign a grade for this course.

  7. The Final Requirements Report, which is an online form, is submitted to the LAS Graduate Office, where a final audit of your writing project and course completion will be done before the MA in Sociology is officially awarded. Click here for more information on graduation requirements and the conferral process.