An MA in sociology opens the door to a variety of occupations and can also be a strong complement to professional or academic training in other fields. Our MA program provides a basic foundation in the theories and methods of sociology, specialized graduate seminars in several subfields of sociology, and supportive guidance from a three-person committee while researching and writing an MA thesis. Our very international faculty and graduate students form a close-knit and supportive community centered on common research interests.
The Plan A thesis MA degree is intended to be a terminal degree, but students who perform at a high level in the MA program and whose MA thesis demonstrates their ability to do doctoral level research and writing may petition to enter the doctoral program when they reach the end of the MA program. We admit all students to the Plan A (thesis) MA. We can convert this to a Plan B (non-thesis) MA for two specific situations: students who enroll in the Population Studies MA program through the department; and students in the Plan A MA program whom the committee determines will be unable to complete an acceptable thesis within the time they have available for the degree program. While persons with an MA in sociology may be hired to teach sociology at the community college level or to serve as part-time lecturers at four year institutions, it should not be considered a sufficient, competitive credential for teaching at the college level. Most such positions now require the doctorate.
The Plan A MA program is designed for students who wish to acquire academically-oriented graduate-level sociology training.
For definitions of theory, methods, statistics, and substantive, see the section on course identification. The theory, methods, and statistics courses can be at the 400 level or higher. However, of the 15 credits of substantive courses, at least four courses (12 credits) must be at the 600 level or above. Soc 700 (Thesis Research) can only be taken when a student has formed a thesis committee and has received approval for her or his thesis proposal, though under some circumstances Soc 699 (Directed Reading and Research) may be substituted. MA students who are planning to transfer to the PhD program should take all their courses at the 600 level to prepare themselves for the PhD coursework. All courses must be passed at the B level or above to count towards the degree. Students who have taken all required courses (including Soc 700) are eligible to enroll in one unit of SOC 700F and can remain at full enrollment status until the thesis is completed.
Any student who does not have previous training in sociological theory and cannot otherwise demonstrate competence in the subject, as determined by the graduate chair, must take Sociology 321 before taking a theory course at a higher level. Transfer of credits from other universities generally is not allowed for the MA, though the department will support petitions for transfer of up to two post-bachelor unclassified courses at UH Mānoa that fit the program coursework requirements.
Upon entry into the program, students are assigned a temporary advisor from the department faculty, based on the student’s experience and interests. It is the student’s responsibility to make an appointment to see the advisor and discuss what courses the student should take.
By the end of the first semester, the student must submit to their formal advisor a written course plan for the remaining semesters in the program, as well as a very short description of possible topics for a thesis. As long as the formal advisor does not find this plan unrealistic for the student’s remaining course of study, she or he informs the student and sends a memo to graduate chair to this effect. If not, the advisor should recommend modifications, and the student must resubmit the plan for approval. Immediately following approval of their plan, a student should fill out the top part of the Office of Graduate Education MA Student Progress Form I and provide this to the graduate secretary.
By the end of the second semester, students should form a thesis committee, subject to Office of Graduate Education requirements. The committee typically has three members. A majority of members should be from within the sociology department, and the chair must be from or affiliate faculty with the department. The thesis committee takes over responsibility for the student’s academic supervision from the temporary advisor. The student must fill out a copy of the department MA Thesis or Guidance Committee Form in order for this to occur.
The student develops a thesis proposal with guidance from the thesis committee. The proposal should introduce the research topic, briefly review the relevant literature, and outline the methods that will be used for the thesis. It should also contain a timetable for completion. Thesis research that involves human subjects in any way requires approval from the University’s Committee on Human Studies before the research begins. Hence, where applicable, the proposal should include plans for obtaining human subjects certification. The proposal is approved only when the committee by consensus believes that the thesis has intellectual promise for the field of sociology, can feasibly be completed in a timely fashion, and is consistent with professional ethical norms. Students are encouraged to aim to have their dissertation proposals approved by the end of their second semester in the program. Once the committee has approved and human subjects certification obtained, the student should fill out the top portion of the Office of Graduate Education Masters Student Progress Form II, obtain approval signatures from all members of their committee, and submit this to the graduate secretary. If applicable, a student must also obtain human subjects certification and submit this certification along with the form. Completion of these requirements makes the student eligible to register for Sociology 700 (Thesis Research), for which a total of six units is required in the program. Once the student has completed these units and all other department MA course requirements, they are also eligible to enroll in the special section 700F, which allows students who must maintain full-time enrollment to do so while only enrolled for a single unit. A special Office of Graduate Education form must be filled out and submitted to the graduate secretary in advance in order for this to occur.
A student writes the master's thesis under the supervision of the thesis committee, and is responsible for keeping the chair of the committee apprised of its status. An MA thesis should be an original and substantial intellectual work with clear writing and organization and have substantial sociological content. It should be written in the style of an extended academic journal article, but should generally be substantially longer than a typical journal article. An MA thesis is approved only if the thesis committee evaluates that is satisfactory by such standards, and the student has passed an oral defense of the thesis. Though the Office of Graduate Education year limit for students in the MA program is the same as for PhD students, MA students are encouraged to aim to complete their thesis by the end of their fourth semester. Prior to the semester when she or he intends to graduate, the student should begin to make proper arrangements for graduation. Once the committee believes that the thesis is close to completion, an oral defense should be scheduled. The defense can be open to the public, but this is not required. The student should bring to the oral the signature page of the thesis, which she or he has prepared in accordance with Office of Graduate Education style requirements, as well as Office of Graduate Education masters Student Progress Form III with the top portion filled out. The structure of the defense is flexible, but should include questions from the committee asking the student to elaborate on the content of the thesis as well as defend it again any perceived weaknesses. After questioning is over, the student is asked to leave the room. The committee then makes separate decisions on the oral defense and written thesis. The procedure from then out for the Student Progress Form III and thesis signature is analogous to that used for PhD dissertations. For further instructions, please refer to the section on Dissertation and Thesis Procedures.
Note; This sequence represents one fairly typical way, but not the only way, in which the program requirements for the MA Plan A degree can be satisfied within two years. In general, it is highly recommended that the theory, methods, and statistics courses be taken by the end of your first year, as well as any substantive courses that are directly relevant to the topic on which you plan to write your thesis. Your thesis proposal should be completed as early as possible in the third semester, so that sufficient time remains to write your thesis. Please discuss matters with your advisor if you have any questions.
|Semester 1||Semester 2|
| Theory Course
| Statistics Course
Form Thesis Committee
| Substantive Course
| Substantive Course
Students in the MA Plan A program may apply to transfer into the PhD program. However, to be considered, the bulk of their required coursework and a rough draft of their MA thesis should be completed so that the graduate committee can use these to evaluate their readiness to enroll in the PhD program. In order for a student enrolled in the MA Plan A program to apply for transfer to the PhD program, the student must inform the graduate chair and supply the following by October 15 for Spring transfer and April 15 for Fall transfer to the graduate secretary: · approximately 500 word statement of purpose describing the student's goals and plans for a PhD degree. · current unofficial UH transcript (MyUH printout fine) · copy of the current draft of the student's MA thesis, and optionally any other written materials reflecting on their ability to do PhD level work · letters of recommendation from the chair and at least one other member of the student's MA thesis committee addressing the student’s progress towards MA completion and suitability for doctorate study - additional letters may also be included Decisions on transfers will be made by vote of the graduate committee. If a favorable decision has been made, under most circumstances a student should complete their MA program before the transfer actually takes place. Prior to completion, a student should fill out a Office of Graduate Education Petition for Admission to a Doctorate in Same Discipline to the graduate secretary for signature by the graduate chair. Students should also submit all other required Office of Graduate Education documents for transfer, either to the department or directly to Office of Graduate Education. If for some reason it is necessary to transfer prior to completion of the MA, the student should contact the graduate chair to discuss this, and permission may be granted for the MA to be completed while the student is already in the PhD program.
The Plan B is intended as a terminal degree for students who have no intention of transferring into the PhD, but who have interest in using sociological skills in an applied setting.
The requirements for the Plan B are generally similar to the Plan A, but do not involve a thesis or two semesters of SOC 700. Instead, a student must take one additional 600-level course in theory, methods, or statistics, as well as three units of SOC 699. Students will write an applied research report under the supervision of a MA guidance committee. Please see the requirements for the Plan A MA before reading the following sections.
By the end of the first semester, the student should decide whether s/he is pursuing a Plan A or B. In general, it is much easier to transfer from Plan A to Plan B than in the other direction, so a student should follow the Plan A requirements if there is any chance s/he would like to pursue this option. If the student is planning to pursue a Plan B, s/he simply needs to submit a memo to that effect to the graduate secretary. By the end of the second semester, the students should form a research report guidance committee, using the department MA Thesis or Guidance Committee Form. The committee should have three or more members, of which the majority should be from the sociology department, with one member serving as the chair.
Prior to the semester when s/he intends to graduate, the student should begin to make proper arrangements for graduation.
In their final semester in the program, the student should enroll in SOC 699 under their guidance committee chair. While taking this course, the student should write a professional-quality research report analyzing a real-world social problem specific to a particular community or organizational setting, using knowledge gained from her or his sociology coursework. The topic should be determined by mutual agreement between student and committee chair. The report should summarize the nature of the problem, and propose a solution from a sociological perspective. When the chair deems that the report draft is ready, it is presented to the entire committee, who may either approve or suggest further revisions. The requirements for the final report are met when the committee by consensus approves it.
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