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Graduate Program

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M.A. Examination Option

M.A. Prospectus/Thesis Option

Student Documents and Forms

Prospectus Guidelines

ASA Citation Guide

Thesis Guidelines

Thesis Submission Calendar


Prospectus Guidelines
for Developing a Master’s Thesis

The purpose of a thesis prospectus is to provide the student and their committee members with a clear and concise formal description of the proposed study and its sociological or scholarly significance.  In selecting to pursue a Master’s thesis, students should weigh the following factors: research commitment to theory, methodology, and the production of knowledge; the ability to work well independently on a timed schedule; the possibility of future Ph.D. work; and relevance to professional goals and aspirations.

Committee members will use the prospectus to determine the soundness of the student’s preparation and conceptualization of the planned study.  Consequently, the prospectus serves in many ways as a “contract” between the student and their committee regarding the nature and scope of the study.  If approved, the student is responsible for fulfilling the agreement.  Upon review, committee members may select a course of action based upon a number of options:

  • approval of the prospectus in its present form
  • prospectus requires revision
    • second meeting of committee will be held to determine approval
    • revisions will be approved by members individually
  • prospectus is deemed unacceptable
    • recommend candidate seek a new topic, new prospectus, or pursue comprehensive exams
    • suggested review of the graduate candidacy of the student and their ability to complete a master’s program of study

The thesis prospectus should be treated as a navigational tool or map for developing your research program.  The prospectus has functioned traditionally to facilitate a student’s progress through graduate training.  Students who develop research proposals tend to finish more consistently, quickly, and with a higher degree of quality in their final project.  It is possible and likely that the specific contours of your research plan will change as your project develops.  This is reasonable and acceptable.  Nonetheless, the prospectus serves as a way in which to trace the evolution of scholarly work and will also provide you with valuable experience for the future including how to manage such routine aspects of research development as the preparation of grant applications and funding proposals.  Consequently, the prospectus is a valuable tool through which to work through and mine ideas for future work.

Core Components of a Thesis Prospectus

The core components of a thesis prospectus include the following:

  • Title Page
    • a well-chosen title directed at the specific nature of the proposed study
    • contact information for the candidate

  • Research Questions
    • A set of scientifically and intellectually relevant questions or objectives or a hypothesis which may be tested
    • Must not be overly general or narrow but rather should be presented as viable research undertakings for a master’s candidate, expressing an awareness of important questions for the field, their sociological significance, and the ability to complete the research in proper time
  • Rationale of the Study and its Significance
    • Scholarly research does not occur in a void.  Although research aims to be original, innovative, and important, its foundation and rationale ALWAYS derives from previous scholarly efforts.  Good, responsible scholarship acknowledges the body of work to which it is indebted and attempts to articulate its relevance through a dialogue with these thinkers and ideas across time.  Accordingly, the prospectus must provide evidence that the student is familiar with or, at the minimum, aware of relevant intellectual discussions and debates.  This generally involves:

      1. a statement of the specific issues and problems to be addressed by the study

      2. a brief review of relevant literatures, schools of thought, and/or theoretical frameworks, properly cited in a working bibliography (that seeks to grow across the life of the research project toward an exhaustive citation of the relevant literatures)

      3. a statement as to why your research is significant: What will we learn that we have not already?  What misconceptions might this research correct?  What original insight will it provide?  Why is it a useful exercise?
  • Research Plan
    • An overall outline of the study as it is projected, including a clear identification of the method or critical perspective to be applied and relevant data sources

      • Methodology – What methods or approaches will you incorporate that are appropriate for your research questions?

      • Materials/Data – What specific sites will serve as the source(s) for your data?  What kinds of materials/data will you incorporate and why?

      • How will the data be analyzed?
  • Timeline of Project
    • Provide a reasonable timeline with key deadlines for data collection, analysis, and completion of the writing of the study with careful researching of graduation requirements and deadlines
    • Consult the College of Arts & Sciences Graduate Programs website for university thesis guidelines and requirements
    • If possible, provide an outline of thesis chapters

  • Bibliography

Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Bentley Annex 162 - Athens, Ohio 45701
Phone: 740-593-1350 Fax: 740-593-1365
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OHIO University
College of Arts and Sciences