OUR PROGRAM PREPARES GRADUATES FOR PROMISING CAREERS IN A VARIETY OF FIELDS OR TO PURSUE DOCTORAL WORK IN COMPETITIVE PHD PROGRAMS.
Our goal of the MA program is to bring your social research skills to industry-grade levels by the completion of your degree. We do this in three ways:
– Teaching advanced data analytics skills. Quantitative-analytical skills are highly-valued in academia, business, government and non-profit sectors. We teach students to perform reasonably sophisticated analyses, help them understand and criticize statistical evidence and impart a basic foundation in quantitative analysis that will allow them to extend their skills in the future.
– Teaching research methodology skills. Students learn to design and execute data collection products that render rigorous, useable data. They also develop the ability tO probe the quality of data and research reports produced by others.
– Writing, Communication and Critical Thinking skills. Students will learn the basics of theory construction and criticism, and appreciate the uses and limits of social theory. Through their electives, students develop an in-depth familiarity with prevailing social scientific theory in subjects that can be tailored to their future career plans.
Students all take the same rigorous core curriculum and then specialize in one of five concentrations:
Our hands-on courses teach students to access, manage, manipulate, analyze, interpret data, and write about data.
Building on a foundation in statistics (see prerequisites), our Basic Analytics course (710) focuses on programming using Stata or SAS for bivariate and descriptive statistics, with strong emphasis on how to interpret and write up results. Our Advanced Analytics (712) course introduces complex data models and teaches students to use R for data handling, visualization, and report writing.
We feel strongly that knowing statistics is not sufficient to be a good data analyst or researcher. What good are reams of numbers and results if they have no meaning?
Knowing how to ask questions, how to seek answers using methods that will provide valid and valuable results, and how to draw conclusions from those results are all critical to harnessing the power of data. These skills require “research thinking” and a methodical approach to research.
Students will have had an exposure to research methods and empirical approaches in their undergraduate coursework (see prerequisites). In our two semester sequence on the Research Process (754 and 755), we focus on empowering students to design and conduct their own research at a professional level with skills and knowledge that apply to any specialization.
At the end of the program, students move from learners to experts as they conduct their own work on the thesis topic of their choice (793).
We require that students gain exposure to theory. Far from being a holdover to our days as an MA in Sociology, this requirements represents an emphasis on ideas and concepts, which contribute much in the way of sophistication and substance to both analysis and research design.
We take a practical approach to theory, seeing it as a vehicle for contributing to a field through conversation with previous research and thinking as well as a way to move beyond variable measurement to the more meaningful and enduring level of concepts and ideas. Emphasizing what Merton called “middle range” theories, we teach our students to move fluidly between big ideas and detailed measures.
Students may meet the theory requirement either with a survey course in sociological theory (701) or with substantive courses on topics that use theory (see our list of elective courses for those that meet the theory requirement).
Professional Writing and Communication
Your research and analysis might yield the most important insights of a lifetime, but they will be nearly worthless if you can’t communicate them effectively. Effective communication applies to various aspects of presentation. Our course on Professional Writing and Communication (716) addresses them all, focusing on the nuts and bolts of organizing ideas and arguments, crafting messages that matter to your audience, telling stories with numbers through narrative and data visualization, public speaking, and self-presentation.
Students are also called upon to use these skills throughout all of their other courses, whether writing up results, compiling reports, doing presentations, or visualizing data.