We encourage students to begin thinking about their area of specialization as soon as they enter the program and to begin to formulate a thesis project by their second semester in the program. This allows students to choose courses that are relevant to their thesis work.
Over the summer between their first and second years in the program, students are urged to either take a relevant course(s) or do independent work on developing a bibliography for their topic. For many of our students, the following fall, their third semester, is their last in the program. During this third semester, most students take the Thesis Seminar SOED-GE 2510). We encourage students to start the class with a thesis topic and preliminary bibliography. The class is devoted to narrowing and developing the topic and drafting or beginning to draft the thesis.
Each student must identify during the second semester, the summer, or early in the next fall, a faculty member who will be the prime sponsor of their thesis work. Usually this is a program-affiliated faculty member, but not always. Students can choose a non-program faculty member who has the necessary expertise. Our goal for the thesis requirement is for students to produce a document that establishes their scholarly abilities and can be the foundation of work they may complete as professional researchers or may pursue in further depth eventually as doctoral students. Our expectation is that students become an expert on the sociological literature on their topic, and this requires a careful delineation of the topic so that the parameters are realistic.
The thesis that students produce can take two forms. The model that most of our students follow is a publishable-quality document of 30 to 75 pages in length that is a secondary review or analysis of some area of the sociology of education literature. Some students, however, choose a second model: a thesis based on original research. This document, which reports findings from primary research and includes a review of the relevant scholarly literature, may be somewhat longer: 40 to 100 pages in length.
Some students choose to use previously-gathered data sets and to do their own analysis of these data. Some choose to gather their own qualitative data. For this, students must apply for either exemption or approval from NYU’s IRB, the University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects (UCAIHS). UCAIHS review can take a number of months, so students must begin this process during their second semester in our program. Some of the students who have chosen to conduct original research for their thesis stay in the program for a fourth regular semester to finish their work.
All students do an oral presentation of their thesis work. We hold public sessions each year during which students deliver a 10-15 minute oral summary of their thesis work and faculty and students have the opportunity to engage in a brief discussion of the work.