Choosing a Committee * The Internship Paper * The Final Product *
The Oral Defense * Deadlines
By the completion of 18 hours, students select either the thesis or internship program completion option. Students selecting the internship option enroll for three hours of internship experience (SOC 593A) and have a supervised work experience in a research or public service setting. Subsequent to that, they enroll for three hours of credit in internship-report (SOC 593B) and write a report concerning a sociological issue related to the internship. This report may take a form other than an academic report, such as a planning document, a policy statement, an applied research report or other format relevant to the work setting of the internship. A committee of at least three faculty members will evaluate this report.
Occasionally and with the permission of the graduate program director, students may choose to enroll in internship experience but write a thesis.
The internship involves an intensive, supervised on-site experience of at least 140 hours, which will serve as the basis for fulfilling the written paper requirement.
The department has developed these guidelines to assist those who choose the internship option. We have written them with the assumption that you have obtained or are in the process of obtaining an internship mutually agreed upon with your Chair and/or committee. (See our undergraduate internship manual, Making an Internship Work for You, for a full-blown explanation of the purpose, importance, career/job significance and logistics of finding an internship and making it successful).
What follows is a step-by-step explanation of how to choose your committee, the purpose of the graduate internship paper, the form it should take and the kinds of subject matter that you should include. This explanation is meant to guide the graduate intern and to provide a broad framework for the successful completion of the project. It is also meant to assist the internship Chair and the committee by providing a common reference or map from which to advise graduate interns. Successful completion of the internship paper will depend of the mutual agreement and the ongoing collaboration of the graduate student intern, the internship committee Chair and the committee.
Choosing a Committee
As a sociology graduate student, the Chair of your committee must be a member of the graduate faculty in the Sociology department. (Therefore, a Criminal Justice professor cannot act as Chair of your committee.) Along with your Chair, you must have at least two additional committee members who will help guide you through the internship process. In the case of the committee members, they may come from sociology and/or criminal justice. Further, one of the committee members can come from outside this department. All committee members must have a designation as Graduate School Faculty, however.
First, when you approach a faculty member about chairing your internship committee, it is best to come to the meeting with your written proposal. This way, the Chair can have an understanding of your plans. The Chair of your committee should be a faculty member who has the most knowledge or experience with the topic/method you are pursuing.
Second, it is best to find a Chair and then discuss with the Chair choices for the other committee members. You have every right to ask whomever you please, but the Chair may have ideas who might best fit with the internship project you wish to pursue. Again, when talking to committee members, you should bring along your proposal to allow them the opportunity to understand your plan of action.
Once you have a committee, make sure to fill out the Registration of Thesis Title form and submit it to Graduate Records office.
Third, you will work most closely with the Chair of your committee. Speak with that person to determine the best way to approach your internship. Some Chairs might want to meet weekly, while others might only wish to meet after milestones (for instance, after you have completed your literature review, or after you have begun your participant observation or developed the instrument).
Fourth, the committee should be apprised at each stage of your internship writing. You do not want to begin your interviews, for example, unless you have received approval from your committee and the university (IRB approval). Thus, make sure your committee has given you approval on each major stage of your internship writing: literature review, methods section, instrument use, problems with data collection, findings section and so forth.
The Internship Paper
- What is the purpose of my paper?
To provide an applied sociological analysis based on your internship experience. The analysis should demonstrate your ability to apply what you have learned in our sociology program to the particular internship experience that you have chosen. Though the nature of internships vary, the analysis should in some way provide a reflective explanation of the sociological significance of the internship experience.
- What should be the form of my analysis?
The applied analysis may take a variety of forms depending on agreements made between you, your chair and your committee. However, there are two general categories to consider that are related to the nature of the internship:
- The internship in which the client organization and/or site supervisor specifies a specific research project or set of research tasks.
- The internship in which there is not a clearly defined research project, which you could practically develop as an applied analysis. In this case, there are typically assigned tasks/activities that are more practice based and require self-generated research.
- Explanation of Internship A and Internship B
Internship A. In the internship where you have an opportunity to participate in a clearly defined research project, your analysis should provide a reflective narration of the project as a whole from a sociological perspective. This approach might include its purpose, the methodological steps taken and the conclusion, depending upon the mutually agreed upon objectives of you, your chair and your committee. Such an approach will also require that you ground your understanding of the project at hand in some appropriate sociological literature. We expect that the extent of the self reflective application of sociological ideas and issues will vary with the work and time required to carry out the research objectives of the client organization, depending upon agreements between you, your chair and your committee. Also, we recommend that you keep a detailed journal of your activities and observations as a way of providing you with the evidence, memory and insights that will be important in developing your reflective analysis of the project.
Internship B. In the internship where there is not a clearly defined research project, but a series of activities, tasks or services to carry out and /or observe, the analysis will depend more on the suggestions and mutually agreed upon objectives of you, your chair and your committee. You will generate your analysis out of your observations of the dynamics of the internship site. This form of internship is also considered an applied sociological research approach in which field methods and techniques, such as participant observation, will come into play. This approach will require that you keep a detailed journal of activities and observations. Also, this approach will likely require that you ground your analysis of the internship experience in appropriate sociological literature. Because this form of internship is less dependent on the research needs or requests of the client organization and more on the self-generated ideas and interests of the student, the expectation is that there will be a heavier emphasis on your independent application of sociological ideas and issues.
In order to ensure that you are meeting the above expectations and requirements and that you make adequate progress in completing your internship paper, you should select a chair and a committee who will provide guidance toward the successful completion of your project. Upon accomplishing this task, the committee will ask you to provide a written proposal and outline. We suggest the proposal provide a description of the internship site, anticipated roles and tasks, the form the internship will take and the potential for providing a sociological analysis of the internship experience. Note that in most cases, the proposal will be a preliminary effort to prepare for the internship experience, and that a great deal of the paper’s subject matter will be developed as the internship evolves depending upon the nature of the internship.
It is essential that you meet periodically with your chair to maintain communication and to ensure a successful outcome.
In addition, upon obtaining an internship you should begin keeping a record or journal of your activities and experiences immediately. As you will see, your journal will be of great help in developing your analysis and writing your paper later on.
- Suggestions and Questions to Consider in Completing Your Internship Paper:
- What is the nature of the organization?
- What is its relevant history and background?
- How can we understand the nature of the research project and/or the internship experience in relation to the context of the internship site?
- Internship Role, Activities and Tasks
- What was your role as an intern, tasks, activities requested and performed?
- How did this affect your observations and research efforts?
- What methodological/ ethical issues should be considered in your analysis?
- Nature of Research Project and/or Key Characteristics of Internship site
In the case of Internship A (an assigned research project), it will help to provide your narration of key aspects of the project with your reflective sociological reference to areas such as relevant literature, research objectives, criteria, key variables, data collection methods, statistical methods, and analysis.
In the case of Internship B (the self-generated applied analysis), it would help to identify key characteristics of the internship experience which you wish to analyze sociologically. What aspect of your internship seems most interesting and amenable to sociological analysis? What recurrent themes or patterns can you identify which may be analyzed sociologically?
In the case Internship A (the assigned research project), it would be helpful to locate the project in the literature in some way. For example, the project might be part of a need or effort to do program evaluation, assessment or survey. According to the sociological literature, how has this research been done in the past for the proposed purpose? What methodological or theoretical issues have been raised concerning the nature of the project? What are strengths and weaknesses of the proposed project in this regard?
In the case of Internship B (the self-generated applied analysis), it would be helpful to identify the observations that suggest patterns of behavior that can be made more meaningful with application of sociological ideas and concepts. According to the sociological literature, how can the purpose and goals, the clientele, services or products produced by the organization be understood? Are there methodological issues to consider in the way your observations were collected? What theoretical concepts and ideas resonate?
Note that in either case, the sociological approach you identify should begin to provide a framework for recognizing how sociological perspectives, theories or ideas are logically connected to specific practical steps, practices or policies that are indicated at the internship site. So for example, if your internship is at a probation office in the criminal justice system then appropriate theories in the criminology/ criminal justice literature would be drawn on to understand this context and appropriate practice and/ or policies would be shown to logically follow.
- The Analysis: Application of Sociological Concepts, Ideas, Insights
The most important part of your internship paper is the application of sociological concepts, ideas and insights to provide a sociological understanding of the research project in the case of internship A or the observations/ experience developed on-site in the case of internship B. Be careful not to assume you are doing sociological analysis merely because you are describing what might typically be considered of sociological interest e.g. that you have observed women, people of color or different cultures at the internship site. Sociological concepts, ideas or perspective should first be identified and discussed so that the sociological significance of your observation are not assumed or taken for granted. Moreover, application of concepts may include a range of levels of analysis from micro to macro. For example, your analysis may have to do with interpersonal, group, organization, community, national and/or global relationships and you may want to demonstrate the relationships between say the kind of organization your internship site is, and how it is affected by national policies.
A useful way to go about accomplishing this task is to first define and discuss the sociological concepts you have chosen to analyze your intercept and then explain how they apply to your case. This is where a search of the literature will help you decide which concepts seem most relevant. Furthermore, the presentation of evidence e.g. observations, interviews or records, that can be used to support such conceptual applications.
- Critique: Focusing on Problem Areas
It is useful to consider providing a section of your paper devoted to focusing on problem areas you experienced or observed in your internship. In the case of Internship A, problem areas may revolve around methodological issues, which emerged out of the specific steps of the research project. In the case of Internship B, problem areas may be related to organizational issues. In either case, it is here that you may focus on a few key problem areas that you become more clearly defined and understood due to your earlier application of sociological concepts.
- Conclusion: Results and Recommendations for Change
This last section of your paper may be devoted to the outcome of your internship and your suggested recommendations for change, which should logically be related to the nature of your analysis, and the problem areas you identified. Such changes may have to do with the research process in the case of Internship A or organizational issues related to in the case of Internship B. In either case you may focus on changes that may be related to the range of levels of analysis indicated earlier: from micro interpersonal relations to programs, organizations or macro policies that are of national significance. In addition, it would be helpful to again recognize how your overall sociological approach, perspectives or theories to understanding this internship is logically connected to the changes in practice or policy you are suggesting.
The Final Product
You should expect that your paper will go through several revisions before a final go through several revisions before a final draft can be prepared that will serve as the basis for your oral exam. Upon successful completion of the oral you may expect there to be at least one more round of revisions before the final paper is accepted. Also, you may be expected to hand in a type written copy of your journal.
In the case of Internship A, the final product may consist of two parts, depending on the request of the client organization in which you did your internship. One resembles the outline and contents suggested above. The other may take a more abbreviated form of a report that is specifically geared toward the requests of the client organization, and without the reflective narrative indicating the sociological significance, literature or issues required by your chair, committee and our graduate program. This tends to be the exception to the rule since most client organizations benefit from the additional information and insight provided in the more deliberately sociological account.
The Oral Defense
After the Chair and committee have agreed that your paper is in excellent form, you will establish an oral date. Your chair should establish a mutually agreed upon date for yourself and the committee and then inform everyone of the date and time (lasting anywhere from one-two hours). The Chair should also reserve a room where the oral will take place.
For the oral defense, the student should prepare a 10-15 minute presentation that discusses the purpose of the project, the theoretical context of the paper, major findings and conclusions drawn. Students should not go beyond the fifteen minutes so that faculty have time to address concerns. The remaining time will be spent with faculty and the student having a conversation about the project. Faculty may ask students specific questions about the project or questions about theory, methods or data. The student should be prepared to address issues in a professional and sound manner.
During the oral defense, faculty may ask students to revise their manuscript before they are willing to approve the student’s graduation. Please note that if students wish to graduate before the end of the semester, they MUST complete their defense approximately 2 weeks before the last day of the semester. Final written revisions must be submitted to the Graduate School approximately one week before the end of the semester.
Please refer to the Graduate School website for specific deadlines.