Thesis Guidelines

All thesis students in the MA in Sociology and MA in Criminology programs must register for two Thesis Research courses: SOC 6998 and SOC 6999. Students must submit a Program of Studies Form (PDF) to their thesis director prior to registering for SOC 6998 or 6999.

Prior to the completing thesis courses, the department recommends that students take SOC 6230: Research Methods, ideally during the first semester in the program. The methods course helps students decide on the most suitable method for addressing research questions or topics. We also recommend that students complete either the quantitative data analysis requirement (SOC 6231) or the qualitative method requirement (SOC 6232) prior to starting the thesis research project.


Choosing a Thesis Director and Reader

Your Thesis Committee is made up of your chosen thesis director and reader. Once selected, your thesis director becomes your new faculty advisor.

  • To identify the appropriate person to serve as your thesis director, you should meet with all the faculty whose research areas correspond to your topics of interest. Read over each faculty member’s bio page in advance of meeting to learn more about their research interests and publications. Visit during their office hours, or schedule separate appointments if necessary. Be prepared to describe your own research interests and also find out more about the professor’s.
  • Choose a thesis director before the end of the first year. The director should be a regular, full-time professor in the Sociology Department, which includes faculty with joint appointments.
  • Part-time faculty can also serve as thesis directors and readers, pending approval from the faculty advisor, the director of graduate studies and the Sociology Department chair. If you are unsure about whether a particular faculty member is full-time or part-time, ask the director of graduate studies.
  • You should also choose a thesis reader from among the faculty, in consultation with the director. The reader plays a more limited role in the thesis process but should be involved from the beginning.
  • By your third semester, you should have assembled your Thesis Committee.
  • Email the director of graduate studies and the Sociology Department as soon as your thesis director and reader have been selected.

Meeting With the Thesis Committee

Students are required to meet with their thesis directors at least once a month to report progress on the research. The student should also meet with their reader periodically. These meetings should occur over the academic year, unless the director and reader have indicated that they are available to work with the student during the summer.



The director's evaluation of your thesis drafts, along with the reader’s input, will determine whether graduation may occur on course or need to be delayed. Quality work will require many rounds of revision; it is not unusual for theses to go through five, 10, even 12 or more drafts before they are ready for final submission. Please plan ahead as much as possible, keeping in mind that the thesis requirement for graduation will only be fulfilled when the director and reader have approved.

Visit the GW Libraries’ Electronic Theses and Dissertations website for style and formatting requirements and examples of past sociology theses.


Thesis Submission Deadlines

Proposal Deadlines

  • For May or August graduation: August or September of the previous year
  • For December graduation: January or February of that year
  • For students using primary human data from human subjects (e.g., interviews, surveys, observations): One year prior to graduation date.

After your thesis proposal has been approved by the director and reader, the thesis director should submit the Thesis Title Declaration Form (PDF) to the director of graduate studies.

Suggested Revisions Timeline

  • Semester before graduation: Turn in drafts of the thesis to your thesis director throughout the semester.
  • Six weeks prior to thesis deadline: Deliver completed thesis draft to director.
  • Four weeks prior to thesis deadline: Receive director’s feedback on the draft. Revise as needed again.
  • Three weeks prior to thesis deadline: Deliver revised thesis to director and reader. Allow at least two weeks for reader’s feedback*.
  • One week prior to thesis deadline: Director and reader provide feedback on the draft.
  • Final thesis deadline (set by CCAS): All final revisions complete; director and reader have approved the final version; and the student has submitted the thesis to the Graduate School ETD Administrator.

*Note: It is up to the director, student and reader as to when the reader becomes involved. However, it is strongly encouraged that the reader be informed of the student’s progress when the thesis is approximately halfway completed.

Final Thesis Deadlines

These departmental deadlines are fixed, and a thesis cannot be submitted after these dates have passed if the student wishes to graduate in the respective semester.

  • April 28: Spring graduation
  • August 15: Summer graduation
  • December 9: Fall graduation


Apply for Graduation


Human Subjects Approval

  • Student projects that use data from human subjects require Institutional Review Board approval before collecting data. These projects must be reviewed by the GW Office of Human Research (OHR).
  • To request approval, you must complete several materials for OHR review and submit them through the GW iRIS system. The Institutional Review Board process cannot begin until the thesis director has approved, at the very least, the research methods section of the thesis proposal. Neglecting to secure the director’s approval first can result in considerable delays in both submission and graduation.
  • See the Human Research Requirements section of the CCAS Master’s Student Handbook for details.


Thesis Assessment for Program Accreditation

In order to comply with requirements from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the GW Sociology Department must also complete an accreditation evaluation of every thesis written by our MA in Criminology students. The evaluation is separate from our internal evaluation system, and serves as one way of determining whether the learning outcomes for our graduate program have been met. The results guide our strategies for improvement.

Please note: These data are collected so that we may evaluate the department’s strengths and weaknesses, not the individual student’s. Evaluation scores are not intended to be shared with students. However, students are welcome to inquire into how well their thesis has met departmental objectives.

Learning Outcomes to Be Analyzed
  1. Graduate students demonstrate a sociological knowledge of and analytical skills in the substance of their major and minor fields
  2. Students are able to explain the process of sociological research; critically consume research-based information; and collect, code and analyze sociological data using qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  3. Students are able to articulate sociological theories, evaluate the limitations and strengths of a variety of theoretical approaches and apply theories to the analysis of social life.
Thesis Evaluation Rubric

Each student’s thesis will be evaluated in six main areas. Each area is assigned a score of 1–5, for a maximum total score of 30 points.

  • Statement of a problem or articulation of hypotheses (clarity of issue relative to appropriate theory)
  • Literature review (relevance, comprehensiveness, theoretical focus)
  • Data (appropriateness and relevance of data to problem/hypothesis)
  • Analysis (effectiveness of analysis in addressing problem/testing hypothesis)
  • Conclusion/integration (clarity in summarizing how analysis adds value to theoretical understanding of problem/issue)
  • Writing (quality of prose; citation style conforms to discipline conventions)