Thesis Option


If you wish to pursue a more academic or research-oriented career, the thesis option will provide you with valuable experience.

Graduate committee

You will be required to submit a thesis proposal to your graduate committee for their approval. If they give you their approval, they will sign the Permission to Register Form. You must submit a thesis proposal to your committee the semester prior to registering for thesis hours. 

The thesis you are planning to write should influence your decision about the faculty serving on your graduate committee. You should enlist committee members with expertise in the area you will be pursuing in your thesis.

Once your committee approves your proposal, you will file the Permission to Register Form, pursue research activity related to your thesis, and complete the final document.

When the committee approves the final work, a meeting is scheduled and the thesis is presented to interested faculty for their approval.  Six credit hours will be included on your program of study for the thesis when the requirements have been fulfilled and a copy of the thesis is on file in the graduate office.

Requirements to begin thesis

Before you register for graduate thesis credits (SOC 699), you must:

  • have regular standing with the Graduate College—no student with provisional standing may register for thesis hours
  • have completed all 31 hours of coursework required for the degree. Exception: If you must maintain "full-time" status, you may petition your graduate committee to admit you to register for thesis hours with 28 of coursework complete.  However, you must take your final three units of coursework at the same time you are pursuing your thesis units.
  • have formed a graduate committee (see Graduate Committee Policy in the Student Guide) and filed a signed  Thesis/Internship Permission to Register Form 
  • have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on all graduate coursework
  • have received approval of thesis proposal from your committee chair and committee members. 
  • have filed all approved documentation required with the graduate coordinator's office

Thesis proposal

The thesis proposal includes:

  • a statement of the problem/research question
  • review of the literature that:
  • outlines the theoretical and substantive areas you plan to examine 
  • conveys your knowledge of the literature
  • highlights key themes and concepts that you feel will help you understand your research question
  • methodological/measurement procedures, including discussion of:
    • research design
    • cases or subjects used (if applicable)
    • sampling design
    • data collection procedure
    • validity and reliability of measurements
    • data analysis procedure
      • quantitative: specify statistical analyses planned, including statistical software
      • qualitative: specify use of coding scheme, use of computer software in the analyses, historical documents, participant observation techniques, unobtrusive measures, etc.
  • statement of limitations
  • IRB approval (if applicable)
  • references
  • tentative calendar for completion for each phase or chapter, which enables coordination of deadlines and realistic turnaround time for rewrites

Thesis proposal examples

Thesis proposal example 1 

Thesis proposal example 2 

After proposal approval

When your committee approves the proposal and signs the permission to register form, and you have registered for the thesis hours, you may then conduct the research activity related to the thesis and complete the final document.

Thesis guidelines

Although all of these components constitute a thesis, you can be creative in how you title and organize your thesis—depending on the advice of your committee chair.


The title should capture the primary purpose of your thesis; a search of key words should lead a researcher to your work.


An abstract is an overview that is about 300 words in length.


In the introduction, you will:

  • introduce your topic
  • provide a brief overview of literature you will draw on
  • the methods you use
  • clearly articulate your research question

Literature Review

Here you articulate the substantive areas of relevance to your topic—such as social psychology, social movement theory, or theories of the state, etc. 

You may find yourself wanting to focus on a particular area of literature within a subfield; thus, instead of social psychology you may address symbolic interaction or labeling theory. Students are generally advised to focus on about three substantive areas of relevance.


Describe your methodological approach:

  • How do you intend to answer your research question? 
  • What kind of data will answer your research question? 
  • What is your research design?
  • How will you obtain your data? 

Indicate your level of analysis, your hypothesis or expectations, your sample or participants, etc.

Data Analysis

The data analysis depends on the methods section.  Your method (e.g., survey research, in-depth interviews, participant observation, or a content analysis) will determine how you will analyze your data.


Conclusions generally summarize your findings, but also note the limitations of your research.  All research has limitations by definition of the focus.  However, in addition to these, we generally discover approaches we wish we had taken in the course of doing our research. 

It is important to convey these to the community of sociologists so they may anticipate these issues in their research.  Furthermore, given your findings, suggest directions for future research and/or directions for social policy or social change.


Generally, appendices are used to share the instruments that you used in your research.  Depending on your methods, this can include forms related to the Institutional Review Board, such as human subjects consent forms or your interview guides. Additionally, it may include your:

  • survey
  • forms
  • statistics
  • templates relevant to your research


Be sure to consult the American Sociological Association or the American Psychological Association formats. This will include all the substantive and methodological literature that you cite in your thesis, including:

  • journal articles
  • books
  • web pages with the dates you retrieved them

Thesis format

Review the forms on the Graduate College’s website for thesis formatting.

Thesis defense

When the committee approves the final work, you will schedule a defense, where you will present and discuss your thesis to your committee and interested faculty for their approval. For a successful defense:

  • Schedule a time that will work for all three committee members;
  • Contact the SBS Dean's Office at 928-523-2672 to reserve a room;
  • Share this professional accomplishment with others by advertising the defense.

Bring the following forms to your defense:

  • Master's oral exam form (the committee chair must request from the ETD Coordinator): Your committee will sign this form following your successful thesis defense.  Take it to the department office so that a copy can be made and placed in your student file.   Hand-carry the original to the Graduate College for processing.
  • Thesis title page: The title page should be printed on cotton paper.  In this manner, all of your bound thesis copies will have an original title page, signed in blue ink.

After a successful defense

Six credit hours will be included on your program of study when:

  • the thesis is approved by the chair and members of your committee
  • the final copy is e-filed with the Graduate College office

Follow the graduation procedures as indicated on page 9 of the Student Guide.