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MA without a thesis


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I was recently accepted into the New School for Social Research's MA in sociology with a 30% scholarship. Initially excited about the New School, on top of the cost of living in New York City, the $40,000 tuition price tag makes this a little less appealing to me (on the other hand, this is about what I expected for an MA program).


I also realized, rather belatedly, that the MA in sociology does not require that students write a thesis, but instead complete an MA Examination. I was also accepted at Binghamton for their Ph.D., albeit without an offer of funding as of yet.


Does anyone know how MAs without thesis options are viewed by prospective Ph.D. programs? My intention is to continue to a Ph.D. if I choose an MA program; however, I don't want to miss out on an opportunity to do some substantial writing that could enrich my Ph.D. application.


Any advice is appreciated.

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Certainly it was my MS thesis that got me into the programs I wanted to get into. I probably would not have been looked at otherwise. So I'm not sure how nonthesis masters are looked at in academia, I know that in my field (earth science) they are not worth doing at all for industry or getting into a PhD program. Those are the type of programs that industry sends their already good employees to as a part of benefits. 


If you want to go into research, you should pick research degrees imo. Then again, it might be more common in the humanities/social sciences. 

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The two big questions I would ask the department: how is the placement for MA students into PhD programs, and are there opportunities to develop a piece of writing into a writing sample for PhD admissions? If the program is placing people into PhD programs that you would want to attend, that's important. Make sure you know how many students there are in each cohort for their placement numbers; it's fine if there's a lot of students who aren't applying to PhD programs, but it's a bad sign if 10 people applied out and only two of them were accepted to schools. If the department doesn't want to give you this information, that might be a bad sign, but you can get some information from students who are beyond their first year. 

The other question is about developing a writing sample. I think the thesis does more than just develop a good writing sample; it shows that you can do self directed research in some capacity. But schools takes students without Masters theses all the time, so I don't think it's an absolute must. But I would be worried if there are no opportunities to develop your course papers into something stronger. Are faculty willing to review multiple drafts and give good comments, even after your class with them is over? Are there any work-in-progress groups on campus that could help you develop your ideas? Does the school have any institutionalized programs to develop writing samples (this is not unheard of in philosophy Masters programs)? In some ways, developing a course paper into a solid writing sample can be better than using part of a Masters thesis: you can get started on developing a paper earlier in the program, it will likely be shorter than a thesis and therefore you won't have to stress about which parts to include, and you might get something out of it that's publishable since journals are much more like to take something that's 15 pages versus 50. 

I think as long as you have positive answers to both of those questions (people are getting placed into go PhD programs and you will be able to develop a strong writing sample), NSSR might be worth it. 

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