Guidance Committee Formation
Thesis/Practicum guidance committee formation
At any point during the course of the master's program, the student may elect to form a guidance committee. Students are encouraged to do so as early in the program as possible.
In forming a guidance committee, it is the student's responsibility to complete the guidance committee form (located in the back of this manual) and secure all necessary signatures. If, for some reason, the student believes that it is necessary or desirable to have as a member of the guidance committee a faculty member who is not a member of the graduate faculty, that person may serve as an additional member. The appointment of a non-graduate faculty member to a guidance committee requires special approval by the dean of the graduate school. The student must submit a written petition, along with a letter of recommendation from his/her guidance committee chair justifying the appointment, to the graduate program coordinator and the department chair. If the graduate program coordinator and the department chair concur with the recommendation of the guidance committee chair, they will formally submit the petition, along with their endorsement, to the dean of the graduate school for final approval.
First, the student should select a committee chair. The selection should be made on the basis of a convergence of substantive/ professional interests between the student and the graduate faculty member, as well as exploratory discussions concerning the various options (thesis, practicum, or examination) for completing the degree. Once a chair has been selected and that faculty member has agreed to serve, the guidance committee should be developed jointly by the chair and the student in accordance with the following guidelines:
(1) For students choosing the thesis option: The committee shall consist of the major professor (the committee chair), another member of the department (the second reader), and an additional member from outside the department (the third reader), all of whom must be members of the graduate faculty. The extra-department member should be selected from a discipline that is closely related to sociology and/or a discipline with expertise relevant to the student's research topic. Once the prospective committee has been formed and its members have agreed to serve, the guidance committee form should be completed and submitted for approval to the graduate program coordinator, the department chair, and the dean of the graduate school. The committee is then officially appointed by the graduate dean.
(2) For students choosing the practicum option: The committee shall consist of the major professor (the committee chair) and another member of the department, both of whom must be members of the graduate faculty. Once the prospective committee has been formed and its members have agreed to serve, the guidance committee form should be completed and submitted for approval to the graduate program coordinator and the department chair.
(3) For students choosing the examination option: The committee shall consist of the major professor (the committee chair), and three other members of the department, all of whom must be members of the graduate faculty. Where possible, the committee should be formed from among the faculty members who were instructors of the student being examined. Once the prospective committee has been formed and its members have agreed to serve, the guidance committee form should be completed and submitted for approval to the graduate program coordinator and the department chair.
Students have a choice among three options in completing the degree: (1) writing a thesis; (2) conducting a practicum (internship); or (3) taking a comprehensive examination. (For those students who believe they might want to continue their graduate studies through the Ph.D. or who will be pursuing a career in a research-related field, the thesis option is highly recommended.)
Students choosing the thesis option will be conducting a small research project under the supervision of their guidance committee. Such students are urged to discuss their substantive interests with members of the graduate faculty and to explore areas of faculty research and expertise. This should be done to identify possible convergences of interest and exploring topic areas and ideas that could be developed into a thesis project, as well as obtaining or collecting the needed data.
Once the student has selected a committee chair and that faculty member has agreed to serve, additional faculty can be recruited to the committee in accordance with the expertise needed for the topic area and the methods to be used in the research. A committee will consist of a chair, at least one additional sociology faculty member, and one faculty member from another department.
After the guidance committee has been established, the student will be expected to develop a thesis proposal. The precise form of this proposal shall be determined in consultation with, and approval by, the committee chair. Once the committee has approval a thesis proposal, the student may proceed with conducting the research and writing the thesis.
NOTE: Any student engaged in the collection of data must gain approval from the Human Studies Committee before engaging in data collection. A student may register for a total of six credits for the thesis, preferably after the thesis proposal has been approved. A grade of "X" will be reported for any thesis credits for which the student is registered, pending the completion and successful defense of the thesis, at which point the grades of "X" will be changed by the guidance committee chair to the appropriate letter grade.
The deadline for submission of the final version of the thesis to the office of the dean of the graduate school is published in the course schedule for each semester. In anticipation of the oral defense of the thesis, the student is expected to provide a copy to be available for review by department members. The reading copy should be available at approximately one week before the oral defense. The committee chair will notify the department of the time, place, and date of the oral examination.
The guidance committee, following the oral examination, will make a written recommendation to the dean of the graduate school regarding the awarding of the degree. Copies of the recommendation will be provided to the graduate program coordinator. Once the thesis has been accepted in its final form, the student shall supply: (1) two unbound copies to the office of the dean of the graduate school; (2) one bound copy to each member of the guidance committee; and (3) one bound copy to the department of sociology. All copies of the thesis should include all of the necessary approval signatures.
There is no rigid format for a thesis in the department of sociology. Students, with the approval of their guidance committee, are free to do theses that employ experimental or quasi-experimental designs, surveys, content analyses, or case studies; or that are based on archival, visual, or other forms of data. The studies may utilize quantitative or qualitative analysis strategies or a combination of these; or they may be entirely theoretical. Students may elect to collect their own data or they are free to conduct secondary analyses of existing data. In addition, students are free to follow any theoretical orientation they wish in writing their theses, provided they have the approval of their guidance committee. In many cases, the thesis can follow the same general outline that a professional paper would follow (introduction, literature review, methods, findings, and conclusion). There is no minimum or maximum length for a thesis. For specific guidelines regarding the preparation of theses, please contact the Graduate School at (502) 852-6495.
Students selecting the practicum option will serve a one- or two-semester length internship in an area agency, institution, company or firm, office, or project. Settings are chosen in which the student's sociological professional/analytical skills can be productively engaged. At the end of the period of service, the student will be expected to write a report, the structure and scope of which will be determined in consultation with, and approval by, the guidance committee chair.
The practicum committee has a minimum of two department members, with no required outside faculty members. Students opting for a practicum will follow the same general procedures as those completing a thesis, except that they are not required to submit copies of the practicum report to the Department of Sociology or the Graduate School. A reading copy of the report should be made available approximately one week before the scheduled presentation.
The department will assist students in finding a suitable setting in which to do a practicum. However, students choosing this option have the primary responsibility for securing an acceptable placement. The practicum placement must be approved by the graduate program coordinator and/or the student's guidance committee chair and committee members.