Second Year Students


In the second year, students complete requirements for the MA, including additional courses and the MA thesis. The student should also select the fields in which he or she plans to take comprehensive exams during the third year.


By the end of the second year, students should have completed all coursework required for the MA degree. A minimum of 31 units is required, which is comprised of required courses and electives (and, if applicable, up to 6 units of transfer credit from prior graduate programs).

A typical courseload in the second year is as follows:

Fall Semester

3 elective courses 

Spring semester

Teaching Seminar (596c, 1 credit)

3 elective courses

MA Paper

Students must write and defend a Master's Paper (unless this requirement has been waived based on credit of a thesis from prior graduate work). The Graduate Program Guide defines the MA paper as follows: "The paper should demonstrate that the student can meanignfully relate sociological theory and evidence. Therefore, the paper must contain both (a) a theoretical argument and (b) evidence (i.e., data or findings) that speaks to that argument. The paper should be journal-length (i.e., approximately 25 or 45 double-spaced pages including references, figres, and tables), include a cover page and abstract, and be a self-contained piece of scholarship that is the original work of the author. The paper should be preapred in either ASA or Social Forces format. The paper may be inductive or deductive in form, and may use any of the accepted types of sociological evidence, including but not limited to survey, archival, experimental, computer simulation, field observational, historical, or comparative case study methods. The paper may use original evidence collected by the author or an original analysis of secondary data, but should have been largely carried out by the student after beginning the M.A. program at Arizona."

Procedures and Timeline

  • The student must assemble an MA committee consisting of a chair and two other members. The student is responsible for asking faculty to serve. Upon establishing an MA committee, you must complete the Sociology Graduate Committee form, no later than November 1. The selection of the committee is subject to the approval of the graduate studies committee. This is an internal form, not part of GradPath. See the the Program Coordinator for this form.
  • The MA thesis must be defended via an oral examination before the end of the spring semester of the second year. See advice below on the appropriate timeline. 
  • The Master's Paper is an internal departmental requirement, and is not a formal thesis as defined by the Graduate College. therefore it is not filed with or reviewed by the Graduate College.
  • The Chair of the MA Committee is responsible for determining when the student has fulfilled all requirements for the MA degree, and to complete all necessary written documentation to that effect.
  • In the spring semester, students will be asked to indicate which of the written comprehensive exams they plan to take in the upcoming fall and spring semesters.
  • Students who enter with an MA sometimes elect to take the first written comprehensive exam in the spring of the second year instead; this should be discussed and arranged through the DGS  no later than the fall semester of the second year..

Advice on the MA Paper

  • Choose a faculty chair for your MA paper committee early. You should have done so by early in the fall semester of your second year at the latest.  Meet with her/him to discuss your M.A. paper idea. Be sure she/he knows that you want her/him to be the chair, and not just to be on the committee. You can change the committee chair later if you want to, but we've had cases where a faculty member didn't realize she/he was a student's committee chair until a few weeks before the MA paper defense. Don't let that happen to you.
  • You need two other faculty members for your MA commit­tee. Usually it's a good idea to ask the chair for advice about this, though that isn't required. Here too it's wise to ask faculty relatively early, as some end up getting asked by quite a few students and are thus less likely to be able to say yes to you if you delay.
  • You must be in regular contact with your committee chair regarding the progress of the paper. How closely you work with the other members of the committee is up to you and them. Some students get regu­lar feedback from them; others have little or no contact with them until the paper is essentially done. You also need to negotiate a schedule for delivering drafts. A general rule of thumb is should have a draft of the paper for her/him no later than spring break, but your chair may have other preferences.
  • The M.A. paper defense occurs at the end of the spring semester of the second year. You must coordinate a date/time (2 hours) for your defense with your committee and reserve Rm 407A for your oral by logging this information on the large calendar in Rm 407. See staff to gain access to that office if it’s locked.  Don't delay in scheduling a date, as faculty calendars fill up with defenses for other M.A. orals, oral comprehensive exams, dissertation prospectus proposal defenses, and dissertation defenses.
  • Consult with your chair as to when to share your draft with the full committee. At the very latest, you should plan to submit a complete draft of your thesis--preferably already revised in consultation with your chair--to everyone on your committee no later than three weeks prior to the defense. This gives them time to read it and to let you know if any changes are needed before the defense.

Advice on Elective Courses

  • Be sure to select enough elective seminars within sociology to meet the minimum of 31 units within sociology for the MA. Most students will take 37-38 credits in their first two years, so this still leaves 6 units of additional elective credit. These could be additional coursees in sociology, or be applied toward research apprenticeships or independent study within sociology, or coursework outside of sociology during the second year. 
  • Be mindful of the requirements for the doctoral degree as well as the MA degree when selecting electives. Courses taken at the MA stage are also applied toward the doctoral degree. The doctoral degree has requirements for the total number of credits (72), and the distribution of those credits  (minimum of 42 credits within sociology, minimum of 18 units of dissertation credit). In addition to required courses, students must take a minimum of four substantive seminars and one advanced methods seminar on the way to the doctoral degree. It's a good idea to get at least some of these done in your first two years. 
  • Other things being equal, it is helpful to enroll in elective courses that will help prepare you for comprehensive exams (see page for third years for more details on comps). However, courses are useful for purposes other than comp preparation, and it is possible to comp in fields in which you have not taken a course. Enroll in a range of courses to expand your knowledge of the discipline; don't pass up on opportunities to take courses that interests just because you don't plan to comp in a corresponding field.
  • The second and third years are a good time to arrange research apprenticeships (SOC 900)  with individual faculty to receive hands-on training.  Talk to the faculty you are interested in working with to see if they have any research opportunities in which they could include you.
  • Be cautious about requesting independent study (SOC 699) with faculty. Independent studies are very time consuming for faculty, reduce student enrollment in regular course offerings, and on balance are an inefficient use of faculty time. Independent study is only appropriate in limited situations in which faculty agree to supervise reading and discussion on topics for which we do not offer relevant formal coursework. It is not appropriate to arrange independent studies solely for the purpose of studying for comps. If the Department offers a course in an area in which you wish to comp, you are expected to take that course when it is offered.
  • Note you may take a maximum of 9 credits combined of SOC 900 and SOC 699.