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The M.A. in justice studies is designed for students interested in earning an advanced degree to support their employment in justice and social services fields, including social and human services agencies, law enforcement, nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental agencies focused on justice issues, as well as to prepare for further advanced study in criminology, sociology or related fields. This degree will give you a strong foundation in the writing, research and analytical skills required for such careers and give you the opportunity to develop advanced expertise in your area of focus. You will complete a research-based thesis or an applied research or evaluation project as part of the curriculum. Most courses will be hybrid, involving a combination of in-class and online instruction and will be offered in the evening.

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Program Details

Admission and Course Information

Click below for information on admission and course requirements.

Admission and Course Requirements

Program/Learning Goals

Upon completion of this program, you will be able to:

  1. Make a difference in the development and evaluation of policies and services in the criminal justice field and related agencies.
  2. Articulate knowledge of the major issues facing the justice system locally, nationally and globally, as well as new research findings in the field.
  3. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of classical and contemporary theory in sociology and criminology and associated policy implications.
  4. Conduct original research and apply research findings to problems with social service agencies within or related to the justice system.
  5. Communicate professionally and knowledgably in oral and written formats on a variety of academic and justice-related topics.
  6. Demonstrate advanced writing and research skills by completing a final project or thesis.

Masters Thesis

The masters thesis option in Justice Studies takes a more traditional research-based approach towards demonstrating graduate achievement in the field. A masters thesis is based on students’ original research. They are completed over the course of two consecutive semesters. During each semester, students enroll in Soc 592, Masters Thesis, under the supervision of a faculty member in the Sociology Department who supervises the thesis, earning 3 credits each semester (6 credits total). 

The process of initiating contact with the thesis advisor must begin a semester prior to the semester in which students intend to begin the thesis, as students are required to complete and submit a thesis proposal for approval. The proposal is completed under the supervision of the advisor and is typically 5-10 pages in length, including a short initial literature review, research question, proposed methodology, research timeline, plan for evaluation, and schedule of meetings with the advisor, and must be attached to the Application for Independent Study and/or Directed Study.

Before beginning the second semester of thesis work, students must submit another Application for Independent Study and/or Directed Study with an updated proposal for the second semester’s work, along with a Thesis Proposal Approval Form signed by their thesis committee and others. The thesis committee consists of the thesis advisor, one additional faculty member from the Sociology Department, and one external faculty member. 

After the student completes their thesis research and writing, the student orally defends the thesis to the committee, and a successful defense is necessary for program completion. Students are often asked to complete certain revisions to the thesis after the oral defense.
Students’ thesis research can incorporate qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods data collection and can use a variety of data analysis techniques. However, if human subjects are involved, students must apply for Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval before beginning their data collection, and all thesis students are asked to complete CITI training (see the IRB website for more details).

The length of a masters thesis is drive by research objectives, content, methods, and other factors. Typically, Justice Studies masters theses have ranged between 65 and 120 double-spaced pages. Students should strive to create something of the style and quality that could be published in a peer-reviewed social science journal article, and students are encouraged to submit their work for publication after completing the thesis process. The thesis consists of key sections:

I.    Title Page
II.    Acknowledgements
III.    Table of Contents
IV.    Introduction, including the research problem, rationale, and specification of research question
V.    A literature review, including theoretical material
VI.    Research methods
VII.    Findings
VIII.    Discussion/conclusion
IX.    Works Cited
X.    Appendices as applicable (such as additional charts or figures, data collection instruments, or other material not fitting into the body of the thesis)

For more information on master’s thesis please refer to page 20-23 of the graduate manual.
 

Masters Project

The masters project option in Justice Studies takes a more applied approach and is most suited for students who are already actively working, interning, or volunteering in a capacity related to Justice Studies. A masters project is based on a student’s original scholarly work. In most cases, students utilize their existing workplace or any other domain of work pertaining to justice studies or social justice and rely on data from this setting to recommend practical and policy implications. The project is completed in one semester, in which a student earns three credits for Soc 593 Final Project, under the supervision of a faculty advisor in the Sociology Department. Students who opt to complete a Masters Project rather than a Masters Thesis must complete 4 additional elective credits of coursework to fulfill their graduation requirements.

The process of initiating contact with the project advisor must begin a semester prior to the semester in which students intend to begin the thesis, as students are required to complete and submit project proposal for approval. The proposal is completed under the supervision of the advisor and is typically 5-10 pages in length, including a short initial literature review, research question, proposed methodology or approach, research timeline, plan for evaluation, and schedule of meetings with the advisor, and must be attached to the Application for Independent Study and/or Directed Study.

Students completing a project do not need a committee or an oral defense, they work directly with their faculty advisor to create, polish, and submit the project. However, students can choose to incorporate a presentation as part of their project if they wish.
Students’ projects can incorporate qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods data collection and can use a variety of data analysis techniques. However, if human subjects are involved, students must apply for Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval before beginning their data collection, and all thesis students are asked to complete CITI training (see the IRB website for more details). In addition, students who are drawing on workplace data must obtain permission from their workplace to use this data in their projects.

The length of a masters project is driven by research objectives, content,  methods, and other factors. The typical Justice Studies masters project has been around 30 pages in length. While most projects take the form of applied empirical research analysis incorporating discussions of implications for policy and/or practice, other approaches are possible, including for example curriculum or pedagogical development. Where projects take the typical scholarly form, the following sections are included:

I.    Introduction, including the research problem, rationale, and specification of research question
II.    A brief review of literature, including theoretical material
III.    Method of inquiry or approach
IV.    Findings
V.    Discussion/conclusion with an emphasis on applied implications
VI.    Works cited
XI.    Appendices as applicable (such as additional charts or figures, data collection instruments, or other material not fitting into the body of the thesis)
 

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“The fascination of sociology lies in the fact that its perspective makes us see in a new light the very world in which we have lived all our lives.” – Peter Berger

Dr. Tanni Chaudhuri

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