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Graduate Courses

Graduate courses differ substantially from undergraduate courses. Typically, graduate courses are taught using a seminar format. A seminar seldom enrolls more than fifteen students. This is to facilitate discussion and in a seminar you are expected to actively participate in the discussion of the subject matter and the assigned readings. Part of your grade may be based on your participation. A seminar is not a lecture course! Also, you will probably be required to make an oral presentation and to write at an examination and a term paper for each course. Graduate courses require much more reading than undergraduate courses. Readings likely include one or more text books in addition to library reserve readings that include numerous journal articles, research papers, and chapters from books.

General Information

For general information about graduate courses, please see the current Graduate Catalog for details, check STARS for information about available courses, or contact the graduate advisor:

Prerequisite Courses

A prerequisite course is one that prepares you for another, more advanced, course. For instance, your undergraduate course in sociological theory is, in part, designed to prepare you for a graduate course in theory. A number of graduate courses specify either undergraduate or graduate courses as prerequisites. Our graduate courses of Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Techniques, and Statistical Methods specify respective undergraduate courses in theory, statistics, and methods as prerequisites.

Prerequisite courses are identified in the graduate catalog. Your advisor will answer any questions you may have. The teacher can waive the prerequisite and give a student special permission to register for a course if the student can otherwise demonstrate sufficient preparation for the course. In general, however, the graduate student is expected to know and adhere to the prerequisite structure of the program. Students who ignore the prerequisite structure do so at their own peril. They may quickly find that they are not prepared for the work they are expected to perform. Students who are not prepared embarrass themselves, slow the pace of seminars, irritate other graduate students and their teachers, and risk failing the course.

Required courses

Most, if not all, graduate programs require that you take specific courses in theory, statistics, and methods. In our program, these courses are:

  • Proseminar (Sociology 500)
  • Classical Sociological Theory (Sociology 518)
  • Contemporary Sociological Theory (Sociology 519)
  • Statistical Methods (Sociology 530)
  • Quantitative Methods (Sociology 531)
  • Qualitative Research Methods (Sociology 535)
  • Comprehensive Exam in Sociology (Sociology 602)

You should have had equivalent undergraduate courses and have received grades of A or B in them.

Even though they are likely to be demanding, do not put required courses off until the end of your program. Required courses may not be offered every semester and you may prolong your program by a semester or more! If you have the prerequisites, you should take required courses as early as you can in your program. These courses will give you the necessary knowledge of theory, analytical skills, and statistical tools to do well in the rest of your courses.

Courses in other areas

Your graduate program may allow you to take a limited number of graduate level courses outside the department. At Western, for instance, a student can take three such courses outside the department. Before registering for outside courses, you should discuss your intentions with your advisor. Outside courses provide flexible programming and are intended to support future career choices, or further the student's interdisciplinary interests. Most frequently, our students take political science, history, or education courses. Outside courses also allow students to work with faculty from other departments who can also serve on thesis committees.

Summer programs

Summer programs can help you complete your graduate program more quickly. However, you must plan ahead! Over the past several years there has been an erosion in the number of courses offered during the summer. In the past decade, no regular graduate seminars have been offered during the summer. Your options include taking upper division (400G) undergraduate sociology courses, if offered, for graduate credit.

Western's graduate students can take up to six hours of 400G courses in their program. You can also enroll for individual readings (Soc. 501), thesis research (Soc. 600) and thesis writing (Soc. 601) courses during the summer. Readings and thesis courses, however, are dependent upon faculty availability. In addition, individual readings courses reduce the number of credit hours students are permitted to take from other departments.

While faculty tend to be quite generous with their time when it comes to students, unless they are under a summer teaching contract - and most aren't -they are technically not employed by the university. Consequently, some faculty reserve the summer months for research and travel and they may be unavailable to work with you.

In order to make progress toward your Master's degree during the summer, you must plan ahead.