Student Handbook



1. Standards and Expectations

A. Second Year Paper

  • A Second-Year Paper is a piece of original research (empirical or theoretical) that is ideally the first step toward a publication. This paper is part of the learning process about how to conduct original research that contributes to the discipline. Many second-year papers ultimately become published journal articles or components of a larger product (e.g., dissertation or book).
  • Second-Year Paper Proposal - Before beginning the second year paper, students must write a short (about 5-10 page) proposal. The proposal should specify the research question(s), discuss the potential contribution of the work to sociology relative to past research, and provide a timeline of the proposed work. For empirical papers, the proposal additionally describes the data to be collected or analyzed and the proposed method of analysis. Papers using quantitative secondary data analysis should include a discussion (or table) describing the proposed dependent, independent, and control variables. The proposal should be submitted to your reading committee (see information on committee structure below) for feedback and revision before scheduling a sign-on meeting (see information on sign-on meeting in section VI.C).
  • Content of the Second Year Paper - A second year 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 second year paper 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. This paper MUST be empirical or theoretical and can use any substantive and/or methodological approach (e.g., analysis of survey data, textual analysis, interviews, field work). As such, they vary in style and structure. (Note that if the project involves research with human subjects, the student must get IRB approval before collecting any data.) Each second-year student will be required to take the Second Year Paper Seminar to facilitate the development and completion of the paper.

B. Final Qualifying Paper

The Final Qualifying Paper has four options:

1. Research Paper Option with a three-person committee. This option is identical to the former Qualifying Paper 2. Only 1 member of the Second Year Paper committee and the Final Qualifying Paper committee can overlap (but not as chair) for both committees.

A. Note: For those students who enter with an MA from elsewhere, and revise their MA thesis for Second Year Paper must take the Research Paper Option with a 3 member committee.

B. Note: If your project involves research with human subjects, you must get IRB approval before collecting any data.

2. Qualifying Examinations Option. Write and orally defend Qualifying Examinations in two substantive area(s). There is flexibility but this would be a take-home written examination over several days in a general area of scholarship, e.g. Environmental Sociology, combined with a more specialized literature and knowledge, such as Environmental Justice or the Sociology of Climate Change. The student has two committee members who first approve an appropriate reading list for the exams content. The committee composes the questions and evaluate the responses written document and for the oral defense. The examination consists of 2-5 questions with a 30 page or so document as the final product.

3. Apprentice Model Research Paper Option. Building off of the Gretel Weiss Research Projects, this option pairs the graduate student with a faculty member who collaborates with the student on a research and writing project. The student takes a lead in authorship (with greater than 50% of the contribution) with supportive collaboration by the faculty member as second author. This will provide the student with close mentoring regarding the research and publishing processes. The paper may be theoretical, empirical or an analytical review. A publication submission completes this option.

4. Analytical Review Option. Write and orally defend a critical review of a particular literature as determined by a two-person committee and the student. The committee works with the student to define the scope of the review and evaluate its content. This review of 30 or so pages might be used to generate course syllabi, dissertation literature review, background for policy recommendations, or a review paper project. This option must be a critical review designed for academic audiences. Simple summaries of a literature would likely be insufficient.

C. Committee Structure

The Second Year Paper requires a 3 member committee - a lead reader and two secondary readers. For the Final Qualifying Paper (Research Paper option), a three member committee is required. The lead readers for the Second Year Paper and Final Qualifying Paper (Research Paper option) must be different. In addition, the two paper committees may have only a one-reader overlap. Thus, the two 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. However, the other Final Qualifying Paper options (2, 3, and 4) have differing committee requirements. The Qualifying Examination (option 2) and the Analytical Review (option 4) each require a two-member graduate faculty committee. The Apprentice Model Research Paper (option 3) is comprised of a graduate student and faculty member.

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