University of Mississippi

M.A. in Sociology

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology offers programs leading to the degree of Master of Arts. The faculty maintains an active research agenda while placing a strong emphasis on teaching and mentorship. Students learn both qualitative and quantitative methods and are exposed to a variety of subfields and theoretical perspectives. The faculty’s core strengths include: culture—food, identity, literature, and youth subcultures; international development; media; demography; social movements; inequalities—race, class, and gender; quantitative methods; and qualitative methods—ethnography, in-depth interviewing, and archival analysis.

Professional Development

Professional development and research seminars prepare students for future careers in the social sciences. Students interested in pursuing academic careers are encouraged to conduct original research and write a Master’s thesis. The program also equips students with the teaching skills necessary to become instructors at the college level. Graduates of our program have gone on to enter Ph.D. programs in sociology, to teach in community colleges and universities, and to work as researchers in both the private and public sector.

Financial Assistance

The Department strives to fund as many qualified students as possible. Most students accepted into the program receive funding in the form of teaching and research assistantships. These assistantships provide partial tuition waivers and annual stipends of approximately $5,000. Opportunities for summer research assistantships are sometimes available. In addition to departmental assistantships, there are non-service University honors fellowships and minority fellowships available for qualifying students.

Course Sequence

Semester 1
SOC 501 Statistics
SOC 502 Social Research Methods
SOC 621 Professional Development I
SOC 631 Deviance or SOC 625 Gender
Credits
3
3
1
3
Semester 2
SOC 601 Theory
SOC 635 Teaching Sociology
SOC 622 Professional Development II
SOC 613 Race and Ethnicity or SOC 615 Culture
Credits
3
3
1
3
Semester 3
SOC 623 Collaborative Research Seminar
SOC 697 Thesis
SOC 631 Deviance or SOC 625 Gender
Optional elective or internship outside the department
Credits
1
3-6
3
3
Semester 4
SOC 697 Thesis
SOC 613 Race and Ethnicity or SOC 615 Culture

Optional elective or internship outside the department

Credits
3-6
3
3
Total Credits 31-39*

Requirements for M.A. in Sociology

The thesis option requires 27 semester hours of graduate course work and a minimum of 6 hours of thesis credit (33 hours total). The 27 course hours must include Statistics (SOC 501), Research Methods (SOC 502), Studies in Social Theory (SOC 601), Teaching Sociology (SOC 635), Professional Development I and II (SOC 621 and SOC 622), and Collaborative Research Seminar (SOC 623).

The non-thesis option requires 36 hours of graduate courses. A minimum of 29 hours must be in sociology and must include Statistics (SOC 501), Research Methods (SOC 502), Studies in Social Theory (SOC 601), Teaching Sociology (SOC 635), and Professional Development I and II (SOC 621 and SOC 622). In addition, nonthesis students are required to complete an oral presentation in a department-approved professional setting.

For both options, a minimum of three credits must be earned in a discipline other than sociology.

Guidelines for Writing a Thesis

The following is a summary of the procedure for writing a Master’s Thesis:

  1. A student initiates the process of writing a thesis by identifying a problem or issue he/she would like to investigate. In conversation with faculty members, the student seeks clarification for the problem, signs of faculty interest in the problem, and indications of expertise pertinent to the problem among the faculty. It is the student’s responsibility to request that a faculty member serve as thesis chair. A faculty member need not accede to the request. Thesis committees usually consist of at least three faculty members. Professors who will serve along with the committee chair can be selected in advance or after the project is well on its way toward a proposal hearing. Sometimes the chair of the committee will make suggestions to the student about other members, and may discuss the possibility of serving with other faculty.
  2. A thesis begins with a proposal. A proposal is a carefully written, thorough description of the student’s project. It is a detailed plan.
  1. A proposal begins with a literature review. In the literature review the student demonstrates a knowledge of the literature in the field that pertains to the selected problem and situates his or her proposed research within that literature. Prior work on the problem or related to the problem, unanswered questions or un-addressed issues, and controversies and debates related to the proposed work are all part of a literature review. In writing a literature review, the student’s task is to demonstrate mastery of a bounded body of work in sociology and to show how his or her investigation fits within that work and will make a contribution to existing knowledge within the field. A good literature review can sometimes be the better part of the first chapter of the thesis.
  2. Sampling, data, data gathering instruments, methods and techniques of analysis are all part of a proposal. Included in the proposal is a discussion of how the problem selected will be addressed with data. Problems to be investigated require data. Data need to be gathered and analyzed. They also need to be justified. The proposal should: a) to identify the data that will be used to investigate the problem, b) to explain the grounds on which the data were selected, and c) to explain why these data are preferred and how they are appropriate to the problem. Techniques for gathering data should be covered and examples of the data-gathering instruments (questionnaires, guided interview schedules, etc.,) should be provided. Examples of the data that will be used (e.g., a sample interview) should be included. Typically, data have limitations and inherent problems; these need to discussed.The proposal needs to consider the issues of sampling and sample size. Sampling procedures need to be identified along with sample size, and sample limitations. Sampling procedures and sample size need to be justified as appropriate for the problem. How the sample may or may not limit the investigation needs to be addressed. The proposal should include a section on data analysis that identifies the techniques (statistical or otherwise) that will be used for analyzing the data, justifies the techniques as appropriate to the study and to the data, and discusses the limitations inherent in the techniques.
  3. Expected findings, implications of expected findings, and likely conclusions, are all part of a proposal. Findings do not always meet expectations. How the problem of negative findings will be handled should be addressed.

The excellence of a proposal is, in part, apparent in the subtleties of discussion about the limitations of the study–the constraints of sampling, the limits of data, the problems of analysis, and the care with which conclusions must be drawn. Qualified assertions and nuanced arguments are hallmarks of thoughtful work. So too, is a demonstrated knowledge of the practical limits (of time, energy, money) of what can be done in a master’s thesis. A well done proposal is a resource for writing the actual thesis. It includes chapter outlines and even parts of chapters.

  1. A Note on Conducting Research using Human Subjects: Gathering original data that requires any kind of interaction with human beings is absolutely prohibited without prior review and approval from the Human Subjects Review Board in the Office of Research. (This rule applies to class projects as well.) Students and faculty are not allowed to approach people as subjects in an investigation until that investigation has been cleared in advance. This clearance is obtained after the research procedure is close to being finalized by the thesis committee.
  2. Proposal Hearing When the committee chair is satisfied that the student’s proposal is complete, and committee members agree, the chair will schedule a Proposal Hearing. The hearing is a public event–other faculty and graduate students may attend if they choose–and it needs to be announced in advance to allow people to make plans to attend. The hearing is a public discussion of the student’s proposed research. Unanticipated problems may be discovered at the hearing. Suggestions for improving the research may be made. At the end of the hearing, the thesis chair summarizes the project and the comments. This summary, then, constitutes an approximate “contract” for the student. If the student completes the work as proposed and incorporates the suggestions made in a way that satisfies the thesis chair and members of the committee (the main issue is satisfying the committee–projects sometimes change along the way), the student will be awarded a degree.
  3. Write the thesis!
  4. Thesis Defense Hearing: When the project is completed the chair and the student will organize a Thesis Defense. The Graduate School must be notified of a defense. There are concerns about transcripts, forms, and deadlines that must be attended to. The defense is a public event. While the hearing and defense are public events, usually they do not draw large audiences. At this event the student fields questions about his or her project. People may get caught up in discussions and debates. If the student and the committee have done their respective jobs well, the thesis defense should be a public celebration.
  5. Submit thesis and forms to Graduate School. Once the thesis is approved and signed by the committee, the student must follow the proper procedures for submitting the thesis and all other forms required for graduation to the Graduate School. For information on these procedures, click here to go to the Graduate School “endgame” instructions.

Non-Thesis Guidelines

A graduate student who chooses the non-thesis option must select ONE project from the non-thesis options listed below. At the beginning of the fall semester of the second year, the student should assemble a committee of three professors (one to serve as chair) to supervise the project. Projects for this option include:

  1. An Oral Examination. Prior to the date of the examination, members of the committee will give the student a list of at least three study questions.
  2. A Written Examination. This option is similar to option two, but it will consist of a written test over at least two questions. Committee members will read and evaluate the exam.
  3. An Internship related to a student’s area(s) of interest. This may include:
  1. A teaching internship at a local community college (e.g. Desoto Center in Southaven). The graduate student will teach a class, and present to a faculty committee examples of lesson plans, syllabus, and exam questions. One or more members of the committee will visit the class and evaluate the student’s teaching.
  2. An internship in an agency or organization. The intern will follow a regular work schedule, keep a log or take notes, and discuss notes with committee members. Notes and discussions will culminate in a report, presented to committee members.
  • A Portfolio. This consists of a set of papers (term papers and/or others) that explore a sociological topic in depth. Details will be defined by the student’s committee.
  • A Photo Essay. Comprised of more than just snap shots, a photo-essay is made up of pictures that tell a sociological “story.” This might be an investigative story–e.g., water pollution from industrial waste in the streams of north Mississippi. It might be an identity story–e.g., tattoos, variations and themes by gender and by class. Other topics are possible. The photo-essay will include a written text that explains the significance of the pictures. Prerequisite: Southern Studies 534, Studies in Documentary Field Work.

Graduation Requirements

Are you ready to graduate? The following is the procedure that M.A. students completing the program should follow to graduate:

  1. Fill out Application for Graduate Degree. (Form GS8, comes with instructions)
  2. Fill out Online Diploma application. The student is authorized for this after the graduate school receives the application for graduation and it can be accessed in “My Student Information” in the online services website.
  3. Complete Authorization For Final Oral/Written Exam (Form GS7, under “Forms for Faculty” on the graduate school forms webpage)
  4. Ensure that committee chair completes the “Report of Final Oral/Written Exam” form which the graduate school sends to the committee chair after receiving the Authorization form.
  5. The Endgame: The final procedures for graduation are outlined on the Graduate School’s “Endgame” page.

*For any questions regarding the graduate program, please contact Dr. Jeff Jackson, Graduate Coordinator by visiting the advising page.