Sociology & Anthropology

Non-Thesis Option

General Information

A person may obtain the Master of Arts degree in sociology by taking 30 hours of course credit, and presenting a non-thesis paper. The extra courses represented in the non-thesis option are recommended for students who were not undergraduate majors in sociology. Extra courses may also benefit those interested in teaching at the junior college level. There is also the practical consideration that the non-thesis option is more likely to be completed in a timely manner than the thesis option. Finally, students who find writing difficult, or students who have received two or more grades of B or a grade of C in their graduate courses may wish to do the non-thesis option. By pursuing the non-thesis option, a student can still opt for the thesis option as late as their last semester without taking extra courses. On the other hand, those taking thesis writing courses in their third semester may have to take extra courses to complete the non-thesis option.

Requirements -- 30 hours

  • Students must successfully complete 12 hours of required coursework prior to registering for Soc 699.
    • Soc 518 (Classical Sociological Theory)
    • Soc 519 (Contemporary Sociological Theory)
    • Soc 530 (Statistical Methods)
    • Soc 531 (Quantitative Methods)
  • 15 Credit Hours of Elective Courses
  • Soc 699 (Non-thesis Paper)

You are also required to present a paper at the conclusion of your program. This paper will be retained by the department, and will be considered representative of the quality of your work.

Non-Thesis Option Paper

Many non-thesis option papers were initially written in a graduate course. You may therefore want to consider the paper which received the most favorable comments from faculty, the paper you most enjoyed writing, or the paper in which you expressed your best sociological ideas.

Non-thesis papers are intended to illustrate a student’s understanding of a sociological theory, exploration of a substantive sociological literature, or application of sociological methods to understanding a social issue or topic. Students completing non-thesis papers are not required to collect and analyze primary data, but may use small-scale research projects (those not considered by faculty to be thesis-scale in their length or complexity) as non-thesis papers.

  1. Select a primary reader (third semester)
    You must ask a faculty member to be the primary reader for the paper. This may be the faculty member in whose class the paper was originally written.
  2. Select two additional readers (third or fourth semester)
    You must select a primary reader no later than the end of the 2nd week of your final semester. Together, you and the primary reader should select two additional readers. The readers should then read the paper, and suggest changes that will strengthen the paper. Readers should approve the final version of your paper by the 12th week of your final semester.
  3. Register for Sociology 699 (fourth semester)
    Students must schedule a meeting with the department chairperson to obtain approval to register for Sociology 699 (Sociology Non-thesis Paper) for your final semester in the program. Sociology 699 is a non-credit, S/U graded course required for all students selecting the non-thesis option.
  4. Provide a copy of paper to department (fourth semester)
    A clean copy of the paper should be made available to the department a week before the formal presentation. This paper should be submitted to the departmental secretary.
  5. Present your paper (fourth semester)
    Our department requires that each student formally present their non-thesis papers. The primary reader will schedule the Morgan Hall conference room for hour during which the student will make a presentation to interested faculty and students. Some students have presented their paper at the Midwest Sociological Society meetings, or the Western Illinois University Sociology Symposium. Students should prepare a 20-30 minute presentation summarizing their paper and discussing the sociological relevance of their chosen topic/issue.