Master of Arts in Sociology: Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive Examinations Track

The Comprehensive Exam Track requires 36 hours of graduate credit, 30 of which must be in Sociology and be courses numbered 5000 or above. This track does not require a thesis and is designed for students who wish to concentrate on the development of their applied professional skills.

After completing a minimum of 24 credit hours, including the three core required courses (SOCI 5310, SOCI 5312, and SOCI 5314) and one of the applied core elective courses (SOCI 5378, SOCI 5380, SOCI 5376, or SOCI 5313), students are allowed to take the comprehensive examinations. The comprehensive exams for the Master’s Degree in Sociology are divided into three parts: Theory; Methods and Statistics; and Sociological Essay.

Exams are offered twice each academic year, once during the Fall semester and once during the Spring semester. They are offered during a two-week-period determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. Comprehensive Exams are NOT offered during the summer semesters.


Comprehensive Exam Degree Plan Details 

The Comprehensive Degree Plan does not require a thesis and is designed for students who wish to concentrate on the development of their applied professional skills. Graduate students who opt for the Comprehensive Exam Degree Plan are required to pass a comprehensive exam prior to graduation. This requirement is in addition to the 36 credit hours coursework requirements. The comprehensive exam for the Master’s Degree in Sociology is divided into three parts: Theory, Methods and Statistics, and the Sociological Essay.

 Comprehensive Exam Scheduling

After completing a minimum of 24 credit hours, including the three core required courses with a grace of “B” or better (SOCI 5310, SOCI 5312, and SOCI 5314) and one of the applied core elective courses (SOCI5313, SOCI 5376, SOCI 5378, or SOCI 5380), students are allowed to take the Comprehensive Examination.

Exams are offered twice each academic year, once during the Fall semester and once during the Spring semester. They are offered during a two-week-period determined by the Director of Graduate Studies. The Comprehensive Exam is NOT offered during the summer semesters.

Students will be asked to declare their intent to take the Comprehensive Exam to the Director of Graduate Studies by the indicated date each semester.

Exam Administration

The comprehensive exam is a three-part exam: (1) Research Methods, (2) Research Methods, and (3) Sociological Essay.  Students will have a two-week period to complete the exam: students must submit their answers for Part 1 (Research Methods) and Part 2 (Statistics) by the end of the first week, and for Part 3 (Sociological Essay) by the end of the second week.

In each part of the exam, American Sociological Association (ASA) formatting, in-text citations and bibliographic references are required. All written work will be evaluated using antiplagiarism software. It is the student’s responsibility to understand what constitutes plagiarism, and the penalty for violating SHSU and the Department of Sociology’s  academic integrity policy.

The comprehensive exam will be governed by the Comprehensive Examination Committee, which is composed of members of the Graduate Committee and Exam Ad Hoc Committee. Three committee members will grade each part of the exam.  Exams will be graded using a blind-review process.  Exams will be graded using the Sociology Department Comprehensive Rubrics (See Appendix).  Students will be informed of their results approximately two weeks after the completion of the exam by the Director of Graduate Studies.

There are three possible outcomes for each part of the exam: (1) high pass, (2) pass, and (3) fail.  Students who fail one or more parts of the exam may retake them one time, but must complete any re-examination within one academic calendar year of the original exam date. A third examination may be permitted only with the approval of the appropriate academic dean and the department.  Failure to pass the exam will result in termination from the program.

Preparation Guidelines and Performance Expectations

The Comprehensive Exam requires substantial preparation for students prior to the exam. Students need to review their both class materials and relevant materials from outside of class (i.e., journal articles and books). Students should review previously used exam questions and familiarize themselves with the format and content requirements for Comprehensive Exam answers. Previously used questions and the grading rubrics are available in the appendix of this handbook.

Part 1: Research Methods

Students should be able to demonstrate their knowledge of key concepts and methodologies in social research and their application to a practical research situation. For preparation of the methods part of the exam, students are strongly encouraged to review the textbooks and course materials of SOCI 5312 and their applied core courses.

Part 2: Statistics

Students should be able to demonstrate their knowledge of key statistical concepts and methodologies and their application to a practical research situation. For preparation of the statistics part of the exam, students are strongly encouraged to review the textbooks and course materials of SOCI 5314.

Part 3: Sociological Essay

The Sociological Essay is designed to assess a student’s ability to formulate a sociologically informed analysis of social phenomena. Students will be given a prompt that asks them to examine a contemporary social issue.  Students will have a selection of at least three questions to choose from.  Students will need to answer one question.  In answering the question, students must demonstrate their ability to develop a sociological research question, and identify and apply relevant sociological frameworks to the social phenomenon that they are examining.  Answers should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.

In answering, students must follow the general structure of a sociological journal article.  Specifically, this includes:

  1. Introduction
    1. In the introduction, students must introduce the social phenomenon they are examining, develop a sociologically research question or hypothesis, introduce the relevant bodies of sociological literature they are using, and provide a brief overview of the paper.
  2. Literature Review
    1. In the literature review, students must provide comprehensive reviews of at least two bodies of literature, and identify the theoretical framework(s) and concepts that they will use in the analysis/discussion section. The two bodies of literature can be theoretical approaches (e.g., symbolic interaction and Marxist), area literatures (e.g., family and political economy), and/or competing approaches within a topical area (e.g., competing environmental sociology or feminist theories).
  3. Analysis/Discussion
    1. In the analysis/discussion section, students must apply the theoretical framework and concepts to the research question and demonstrate the capability to sociological analyze a contemporary social issue.
  4. Conclusion
    1. In the conclusion section, students must summarize their analysis. In addition, students must identify and/or assess implications of their analysis for the future research or for the society more generally.

To prepare for the Sociological Essay portion of the exam, we recommend reviewing your materials from SOCI 5310: Seminar in Sociological Theory and relevant theoretical frameworks and concepts from your elective classes.  Please note that students are expected to go beyond class materials in their literature review and analysis/discussion. 

SHSU Graduation Procedures for the Comprehensive Exam Degree Plan

In addition to the curriculum requirements, SHSU has created a set of guidelines in order to complete the Comprehensive Exam Degree Plan. The following steps are the graduation procedure:

Declaring Intent to Participate in the Exam Process

Each Fall and Spring semester, the Director of Graduate Studies will solicit students who are eligible to take the Comprehensive Exam to indicate whether they will be taking the exam that semester. Students who intend on taking the exam are expected to formally declare to the Director of Graduate Studies their intent to participate in the examination process. Students who do not communicate their intent to take the comprehensive exam will not be allowed to take the exam.

Facilitating the Comprehensive Exam

Following their declaration of intent, participating students will be enrolled in an online Comprehensive Exam section on Blackboard. Students will acquire the exam questions and submit their responses via the Blackboard interface. Students will have a two-week period to complete the exams and will receive the results of their exam attempt approximately two weeks following the exam deadline.

Graduation

Students who receive a passing grade on each of the three sections of the exam will have their results submitted to the CHSS Dean’s office by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Those students who have successfully completed the exam become eligible to graduate once they have completed the required coursework as detailed in the Comprehensive Exam Degree Plan Coursework Requirements. Students who are eligible to graduate must formally apply to the graduate  school  for  graduation  at  http://www.shsu.edu/graduatecatalog/2013-2015/graduation.html.

 

If you have any additional questions about the Comprehensive Exams, please contact Dr. Jason Konefal, Director of Graduate Studies.