MSU Dept of Sociology

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Specific Degree Requirements


All graduate students are required to take, or have already taken the equivalent of, SOC 815 Classical Sociological Theory and SOC 816 Contemporary Theory. No student will be granted a Ph.D. degree without having on record:

  • A 3.0 or higher grade for SOC 815 and for SOC 816, or
  • A letter exempting the student from these courses on the basis of having done equivalent work. (See below for more on such letters).


All graduate students are required to take, or have taken the equivalent of, a one semester statistics course approved by the Methods Committee. The coursework must also be approved for graduate credit (400 level or above). The recommended course is SOC 881 Analysis of Sociological Data I. Another possibility is STT (Statistics) 421. Those with mathematical training at least through calculus may wish to take STT 441. No student will be granted a degree (M.A. or Ph.D.) without either:

  • A grade of 2.5 or higher in an approved course, or
  • A letter on record waiving this requirement on the basis of having done equivalent work (see below for more on such letters).

The above requirement represents a minimum amount of training in statistical methods. It is strongly recommended that students do more than the minimum requirements. In particular, students should take at least SOC 882 Analysis of Social Data II.

To perform satisfactorily in any of the courses in statistics, a student must be competent in college algebra. Those who are not competent in college algebra must take a course in it (Math 110 or 116 or 120) before taking statistics. All students who have not completed basic statistics must, upon entering the department, take the sociology department’s placement examination to determine their level of algebra competence. Contact the sociology department office for information about when and where the examination is given.


All graduate students are required to take, or have taken the equivalent of SOC 885 Methods of Sociological Inquiry. The Methods of Sociological Inquiry,” which treats the domain assumptions and limitations of an array of sociological methods.

In addition, all graduate students are required to take, or have taken the equivalent of, one specialized methods course. These courses are: SOC 954, Techniques of Population Analysis; 985 Qualitative Field Research; 986 Survey Research Principles; or some other 800 or 900 level specialized methods course approved by the student’s advisor and the Methods Committee.
Additional Requirements in Theory, Statistics and Methods

In addition to the above, all students must either take SOC 882, or an additional specialized methods course.

Waivers and Substitutions

If you are using other training to substitute for departmentally required courses, you need to submit a waiver letter. This waiver letter must indicate the departmental course that you have had the equivalent of and also indicate the training that has provided you with the equivalent of our course. Such a waiver letter must be issued and signed by a faculty member who regularly teaches the course you wish to waive. In addition, your guidance committee report must list the Sociology course being waived and to indicate that it has been waived.

Moreover, if you are proposing to satisfy part or all of the methods requirement with a method that is different from the departmentally required courses, your guidance committee must agree that your training in this method is a reasonable alternative to one of the required Departmental methods courses.

A Workshop

All first year students are required to attend both days of the Teaching Assistant Workshop held just prior to the start of Fall semester. Students who enter the program with a substantial amount of teaching experience should consult with the Graduate Program Coordinator about extent of participation in the workshop.

First-Year Seminar

Prior to the implementation of the Globalization Proseminar requirement, students had to attend this to meet faculty and develop a cohort identity. The Globalization Proseminar current fulfills this requirement.

Qualifying Research Paper

During the second year of study, students will prepare a professional research paper suitable for presentation at a professional meeting or publication in a professional journal. The maximum length of the paper should not exceed thirty pages double-spaced. Students must give a presentation of the paper at a department colloquium. Students will be expected to provide two copies of their paper to the department, one of which will be placed in the student’s file and another placed in the departmental library.

The purpose of this requirement is to strengthen the department’s emphasis on research by ensuring that students are capable of preparing a professional research paper. It also provides a scholarly writing experience in a genre scholars actually use and engages the talents and skills of students in organizing and analyzing data beyond the typical term paper.

It is not a requirement of the Ph.D. program that a student obtain a Masters’ Degree. Obtaining a Master’s degree is not necessary and not encouraged.

For those students who do not intend to obtain an M.A. degree, doing the qualifying paper is still one of the requirements of the Ph.D. program. You do not have to enroll in SOC 899 at all and it is best if you do not do so. Instead, enroll in SOC 890 for the work you do on the paper. You do not have to have the qualifying paper bound or typed according to the special university format. You do have to submit a clean, typed, final copy to the department in some standard format.

For those students who do intend to obtain an M.A. degree, the qualifying paper serves for what the university calls a masters’ thesis. You must enroll in at least 4 credits of SOC 899 (maximum of 8 credits). If you have changed your mind about getting the degree and have SOC 890 credit for work on the paper, we can change the 890 into 899 credits by submitting an administrative action form. You must submit a copy of the paper to the graduate school in the format they prescribe and pay all of the fees for binding, etc., that are required. The graduate school provides a booklet that tells you what you need to do and how to do it.

For all students the completion of the qualifying paper is a time of evaluation. Each student’s committee will recommend to the department whether or not the student should be allowed to continue in the program. This is true whether or not the student intends to continue. For those students who have completed a Masters’ thesis at another school the qualifying paper requirement is waived.

The qualifying research paper itself is essentially a report of research findings such as would be submitted for publication in a journal. It is to be article length (30 typed pages), article style (e.g., no long literature reviews) and data based . Of course, all kinds of data are included. If new data is collected, the approval of the human subjects committee (UCRIHS) must have been obtained in advance no matter what kind of data it is. Even if secondary analysis of an existing data file is performed, approval of UCRIHS may necessary. Check out the UCRIHS web site for current instructions.

The presentation is not a simple reading of the paper. Instead it is a verbal presentation of the material in the paper but in the form of a talk or lecture such as would be given at a professional meeting. Use of overheads, charts, handouts, visual aids and the like is encouraged. It is hoped that every student will try to do the same presentation at an appropriate professional meeting at some time in the future. Each person will have something like 15 to 20 minutes to do the presentation. The audience will be all faculty and graduate students in the department. There will be only two times each year when presentations may be given. These will be announced at the beginning of each year.

Prior to the presentation, the student’s draft must have been approved by a committee of three faculty members. This approval shall mean that the paper is acceptable for final approval with only minor revisions. The student will only be permitted to give the oral presentation if a signed form or letter, indicating the committee’s approval has been filed with the Graduate Coordinator.

When the final version of the paper is complete, a form or letter with a final grade for the paper should be submitted and signed by the chair and two other members of the guidance committee.