Why do your MA in Sociology at Dal?

Our department is interdisciplinary, comparative, and critically engaged. Our graduate programs are small, collegial and selective. We pride ourselves on the faculty support we offer our graduate students. Our MA students are highly competitive candidates for places in PhD programs across Canada and internationally. Many have been awarded major fellowships in support of their doctoral studies. Others have gone on to careers in policy, law, the non-profit sector, and education.

Our graduate students are active and engaged scholars, who disseminate their research in a variety of ways. 

Program Details

Master of Arts in Sociology

Program Structure

The Sociology and Social Anthropology programs each involve 18 credit hours, including classwork and a thesis. A Master's degree may be pursued on a 12-month full-time basis, or on a part-time basis (the degree requirements for each being the same).

Full-time students who set themselves the goal of finishing the MA in 12 months may do so, especially if they elect to do a thesis that does not require fieldwork/data gathering and ethics approval (for example, an analysis of existing texts or datasets in the public domain). Students who choose to do fieldwork or gather original data generally take between 18 and 24 months to finish the MA.

All students are expected to remain in regular contact with their committees, including during the summer months.

Prior to arrival, each student shall have been assigned a temporary advisor on the basis of the student's “Statement of Interest” (submitted as part of the application process). This advisor shall help the student to select his/her courses and Area Program Committee, including its Chair. The Area Program Committee oversees the student's Area Essays Examination.


MA students complete their course requirements, consisting of five course credits, from September to April. For Sociology students, the five credits are obtained by the successful completion of:

a)        a thesis (SOSA 9000)

b)        an Area Essay Examination (SOSA 5300.06) (must register in the fall & winter term)

c)       the Graduate Seminar (SOSA 5200.06) (must register in the fall & winter term)

d)        plus two elective graduate classes 

Area Essay Examination (SOSA 5300X/Y.06)

In the Area Essay examination, students produce a critical synthesis of key literature in their field(s) of study. For most students, the area essays provide the background literature for the thesis project.

The focus of the examination is flexible to allow students, in consultation with their committees, to obtain the necessary background for their thesis work. It may include, for example, some sources on a specific research method, a theoretical tradition, and a substantive empirical literature; or it may focus on two or three competing perspectives in a substantive subfield of sociology or social anthropology.

The examination is overseen by the Area Program Committee, which normally consists of two faculty members and is set by the end of the student's first month in the program (i.e. September 30th). The members of the Area Program Committee are usually chosen from within the department but may on occasion include one qualified person external to the department. The department’s Graduate Education Committee (GEC) must approve the composition of all Area Program Committees and the selection of a defined subject area.

By the end of October, the student, in close consultation with the Area Program Committee, shall prepare a 1-2 page area statement outlining the student's area(s) and an accompanying reading list. The reading list should consist of no more than 30 sources, that is 10 books or monographs and 20 journal articles or book chapters that are key writings in the field(s) under investigation. The reading list is expected to provide the literature review for the eventual thesis, which ordinarily focuses on a research question within the defined area.

The Area Program Committee, in collaboration with the student, shall develop 2-3 area essay questions. Answering these 'reading questions' in essay format guides the student in a critical synthesis of important themes in the literature.

Area Program Committee Chairs submit (1) the committee-approved reading list, (2) the reading questions, and (3) the area statement to the GEC for final approval. The completed area essays are due at the end of January and submitted by the student to the Graduate Secretary (one original for the student's file, plus two or three copies for committee members, depending on committee size).

Part-time students should discuss the timing of their area essays with their Area Program Committee Chairs. The area essays should total no more than 30 pages in length (double-spaced).

The Area Program Committee members agree upon a grade for the area essays, which is submitted by the Area Program Committee Chair to the GEC for review. The standard grades are A or A-. Any other grade requires a detailed written explanation from the Area Program Committee, which the GEC shall review.

Please note that late area essays shall be penalized except in cases of illness or emergency. Once the GEC has approved the grades, students are notified of their area essay grade, roughly three weeks after the submission of the area essay.

Thesis (SOSA 9001)

Thesis Committee
Following the completion of the area essays, the student’s Area Program Committee is replaced by a Thesis Committee. This committee normally consists of two faculty members (a supervisor and second reader). The Thesis Committee is responsible for supervising the preparation of the student’s thesis proposal and eventual thesis.

Thesis Proposal
The thesis topic and proposal are prepared by the student under the direction of the supervisor, with the assistance of the second reader. The proposal usually emerges from the student's area essay reading and is subject to defence. It must be approved by the GEC and the department. Toward the end of the winter term, the student shall make a public presentation of the proposal to the department. The thesis proposal presentation is part of the Graduate Seminar (SOSA 5200.06) and all faculty and Honours and graduate students are invited. Once the Thesis Committee has approved a copy of the proposal, it is provided to the entire department for comments and suggestions. Approval from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Ethics Board or the Health Sciences Research Ethics Board must be obtained for any research involving human subjects.  

The student should prepare a schedule for thesis research, writing, examination, and submission to the examination committee and make any revisions to the thesis required by the Examination Committee.

Thesis Examination Committee
The Thesis Examination Committee consists of the Thesis Committee plus an additional, “external" faculty member who has not been involved in the direct supervision of the thesis. The "external" faculty member can be from the department, be a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies external to the department, be a member of the graduate faculty of another university, or be an adjunct professor. SOSA follows the written defence model outlined in FGS regulation 10.3.1. Students provide the penultimate draft of their thesis, which has been approved by the Thesis Committee, to the Thesis Examination Committee at least eight weeks prior to the FGS deadline for submission. This allows adequate time for the third reader to read and provide comments, for the student to respond to any criticisms and revise if required to do so by the Thesis Examination Committee, for the student's supervisor to review and approve the revisions, and for the student to format and submit the thesis according to FGS regulations.

Please see the Graduate Calendar for the most up-to-date details.

SOSA Graduate Handbook

For more detailed information about programs and policies, please consult our SOSA Graduate Handbook 2022-23.