Student Handbook

VI. QUALIFYING PAPERS

B. 2013-2018 COHORTS

1. Standards and Expectations

A. Qualifying Papers (1 and 2)

A qualifying paper (QP) is a piece of original research (empirical or theoretical) that is ideally the first step toward a publication. A QP, particularly the first QP, is part of the learning process about how to conduct original research that contributes to the discipline. Many QPs ultimately become published journal articles or components of a larger product (e.g., dissertation or book).

a. Qualifying Paper Proposal - Before beginning a qualifying paper, students must write a short (typically about 5 page) proposal. The proposal should: specify the research question; discuss the potential contribution of the work to sociology relative to past research; and provide a timeline of the proposed work. For empirical QPs, the proposal additionally describes the data to be collected or analyzed and the proposed method of analysis. QPs using quantitative secondary data analysis should include a discussion (or table) describing the proposed dependent, independent, and control variables. The QP proposal should be submitted to your reading committee for feedback and revision before scheduling a QP sign-on meeting (see information on QP sign-on meeting in section VI.C).

b. Content of the Qualifying Paper - A qualifying paper should be similar to a single journal article in the scope of the research question (i.e., well focused and delimited), data, and findings as well as in its length. As such, a QP is typically 20-30 pages long plus any references, endnotes, tables, and appendices (as relevant). Each paper should demonstrate a careful and thorough consideration of a sociological problem and clearly articulate the contribution of the research to the discipline. One of the qualifying papers may be theoretical but at least one QP must be empirical. QPs can use any substantive and/or methodological approach (e.g., analysis of survey data, textual analysis, interviews, fieldwork). As such, they vary in style and structure. (Note that if your project involves research with human subjects, you must get IRB approval before collecting any data). We encourage you to take the Writing Seminar when you are working to complete your first QP because this facilitates the development and completion of the qualifying paper. To ensure breadth and proficiency in more than a single sub-area of sociology, the two qualifying papers must focus on topics that are significantly different from one another. The committee structure (see section below) helps ensure that the foci of the QPs are distinct.

c. Committee Structure - Each committee has a lead reader and two secondary readers. The lead readers for the two qualifying papers must be different. In addition, the two QP committees may have only a one-reader overlap. Thus, the two qualifying paper committees together include five or six different faculty members per graduate student. This structure encourages intellectual and methodological breadth, and ensures that each student interacts intellectually with multiple faculty members. Committee members may include regular sociology faculty and one affiliated graduate faculty member in sociology.

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