Master's Thesis Policy

If you are a master's student in the sociology program in the Department of Sociology at Western Michigan University, you must complete a thesis as the final requirement for the master's degree. The thesis must make a contribution to the discipline of sociology and be considered initial training for future professional activity. For example:

  • A theoretical thesis might compare theories or theorists not previously treated or it might develop a theory or frame of reference that does not now exist in the discipline.
  • An empirical thesis might put results of original sociological research into a meaningful theoretical context or replicate prior research in a way which enlarges the scope or improves the quality of the previous research.

Six hours of credit are earned for completion of the master's thesis. As you conduct your thesis research, you may find the dissertation and theses frequently asked questions to be useful.

Major advisor and thesis chair

It is your responsibility to choose your major advisor and secure permission from that individual to become an advisee. Your major advisor must be a full-time member of the graduate faculty. Since your major advisor will guide you in the preparation of your thesis, select a person with similar interests in sociology. See your major advisor at least once a semester to report progress and to be sure you are meeting deadlines and other degree requirements. Your major advisor will supervise your thesis research and help you appoint a thesis committee.

Thesis committee

Your thesis committee must consist of a minimum of three members: your major advisor who serves as chair and two additional graduate faculty members. One member must be from the Department of Sociology; the other may be from outside the department. You may request additional members from sociology or from other departments. Once you and your major adviser settle on a thesis committee, complete a committee appointment form. Changes in your thesis committee or major adviser require the submission of another committee appointment form.

Permission to elect master's thesis hours

An application for permission to elect master's thesis hours (SOC 7000) is required. Following your first enrollment in master's thesis hours, you must enroll in SOC 7000 each fall and spring semesters continuously until all your thesis requirements are completed and approved. If you are unable to complete your thesis within the first six hours of registration, you must continue to enroll; however, only six hours of SOC 7000 will count toward meeting program requirements for your degree. If you plan to graduate during a summer I or summer II session, you will need to be enrolled during that session.


You are required to write and defend a master's thesis prospectus by the time you complete 21 hours in the master's program. Your prospectus must include:

  • A precise statement of the objective and importance of your research (research is construed in the broadest terms consistent with the demands of degree attainment).
  • An initial exposition of the literature pertaining to your problem and/or theory pertinent to your research.
  • The methods, including research design, data sources and methods of analysis through which your research will be pursued.

Your prospectus must be developed in concert with your major advisor and approved by your thesis committee at a formal prospectus meeting prior to the initiation of your research.  The master's thesis research will be carried out under the supervision of your major advisor and the thesis committee, with whom you should have regular and frequent consultations.

In the development of your prospectus, you and your major advisor should create a contract that specifies:

  • The schedule of work to be completed and distributed for thesis committee review.
  • Ample turnaround times for committee review and your response to their comments and suggestions.
  • A schedule for meetings with your major professor and committee members. While this contract may be altered from time to time by the uncertainties of the research process, it should be considered a commitment by all parties.

Human subjects approval

If your thesis involves human subjects, you must have prior approval of your research proposal by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board before data collection can begin. Policy guidelines and application forms are available from the Office of Research and Innovation.

Oral thesis defense

Following unanimous approval of your thesis by your thesis committee, you must present an oral defense of your thesis to your thesis committee and other interested persons. In preparation for your oral defense:

  • Complete and submit a graduation application to the Office of the Registrar two semesters prior to the date of your anticipated graduation. This application for graduation precipitates an audit that informs you of any problems that might delay the scheduling of your oral thesis defense.  The oral thesis defense can be scheduled only after the audit is complete and your thesis committee has approved your thesis for defense.
  • Schedule a two-hour block of time for the defense. Inform the director of graduate studies of the date and time of the oral defense at least two weeks in advance.
  • Prominently post your oral defense announcement including the date and time in public areas in the department.
  • Prior to the time scheduled for your oral defense, secure two copies of a thesis approval form appropriate to the size of your committee. Copies of the form with signatures affixed by the members of your committee must be submitted to the Graduate College along with your thesis.

Submission of thesis to the Graduate College

Following a satisfactory audit from the Office of the Registrar and a successful defense, make corrections or changes directed by your thesis committee. Prepare final copies to be submitted to the Graduate College along with the thesis approval form. The Graduate College offers a check-in form for the submission of the thesis which should be followed closely. The Graduate College also maintains a list of deadlines and other important dates, including the deadline for submitting a thesis in order to graduate in a particular semester.


When your thesis receives final approval from the Graduate College, the dean of the Graduate College will sign the appropriate forms. The original will be forwarded to Waldo Library.

Words from some of our master's level students:

"I earned my bachelor's with honors in criminology and criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University in 2014.  I was the first recipient of the Greg O'Dell award for my work in criminology. My thesis work involves conducting a content analysis on movie trailers over the years looking specifically at the portrayal of women.  Other areas of interest and research I am involved with include criminal justice, corrections, gender and offending, and women's victimization."  -Brooke O.
"My thesis level research involves dealing with the Community Police Relations. I have also been working on youth development in both adjudicated situations as well as diversion and prevention methods.  Other areas of interest include refugee resettlement, public policy, and foreign affairs."  -Anthony G.