Sociological Research Program

Sociological Research Practicum

Our department conducts an annual data collection project known as the Sociological Research Practicum. Each year, a faculty member is chosen as the Principal Investigator (PI) to design and manage the data project.

One goal of the project is to to give first-year graduate students the experience of the process of data collection and analysis. Observing and participating in the research process allows our students to develop their skills as empirical researchers.

The focus of the data collection project varies each year, reflecting the interest of the PI. Students may conduct in-depth interviews, record field notes, or survey a random sample of people. Undergraduates may also participate at the discretion of the PI. Typically, undergraduates help with some aspect of data collection or coding of data.

The topic of SRP also varies each year. Recent projects have collected data on attitudes toward the family, how people view national security, the activities of regional nonprofits, and healthcare management.

Practicum details

The SRP has three components. First, students enroll in a seminar where the PI discusses the research topic and data collection methods. Students typically receive instruction on how research is conducted and how to write papers suitable for M.A. and doctoral theses. This usually occurs in the first year of the graduate program.

Second, students conduct data collection in the summer between the first and second years. During the first six-week summer session, they conduct interviews and participate in related research activities.

Third, students write the M.A. thesis with the assistance of the faculty PI, often using data provided by the PI. This may be the data collected during the project or may by related data that existed prior to the project.

Some students elect to pursue the “alternative” M.A. thesis, writing an M.A. thesis on a topic unrelated to the SRP under the supervision of PI and in consultation with faculty members who are knowledgeable about that topic.

Advanced graduate students

Advanced graduate students also participate in the SRP. Often, three or four advanced graduate students help with data collection, research design development, or project management. This experience is valuable because SRP projects often lead to publication, with graduate students contributing as co-authors.

View previous projects