The MA in sociology at the EHESS is a research based programme, the completion of which allows passage to the doctoral programme. It is organized into three fields of study: General Sociology, Sociology and Statistics, and Gender, Politics and Sexuality. The latter is an interdisciplinary programme bringing together sociologists, historians and anthropologists. General sociology also offers specialized courses around the themes of work, academic institutions, media, or cultural and social movements. (For more information, see: http://www.ehess.fr/fr/enseignement/diplomes/master/mentions-specialites-paris/)
The MA programme is characterised by a high degree of flexibility in which students are required to complete only a limited number of core seminars, permitting a personalised study path corresponding to their research interests of each individual. Students are encouraged to plan their course workload with the help of a mentor or supervisor, assigned to them at the beginning of the programme. Courses are divided into reading, methodology and research seminars, all of which are made up of reasonably small groups. The limited size of groups favours a hands-on approach to research training, in which students learn the craft of research directly through its practice. The MA programme in sociology thus equips students with a thorough knowledge of the fundamental concepts required for critically examining the main theses underpinning various sociological theories and also delivers a solid training in methodology, both at the quantitative and qualitative level, which students put into practice in the course of their work towards their final dissertation. Empirical field work, it should not be noted, is a highly valued component in the training programme in sociology at the EHESS.
In order to favour the development of interdisciplinary research perspectives, the programme encourages students to attend each year a seminar in one of the fields of the social sciences other than sociology, such as history or anthropology. The interdisciplinary vocation of the programme is most clearly demonstrated in the diversity of seminars on offer at the EHESS, one thousand plus each academic year.
Approximately half of the students at the EHESS are of foreign origin. This is in keeping with the aim of the school to actively foster research on an international scale and to promote comparative research approaches and projects. The EHESS has accordingly increased the range of courses it offers both in foreign languages and in French as a foreign language.
The successful completion of each course is judged via written or (less frequently) oral examination. Presentations, dissertations and the assembly of a bibliography complete with commentary are examples of possible means of assessments. It should be noted that each course carries with it a significant workload. At the same time, if chosen carefully, each course contributes to the advance of the overall research project which the final dissertation embodies. In the first year of the MA programme (M1), students are advised to finish all their coursework by the end of June. This allows them to move on to the fieldwork stage as early as possible, one of the principle components of the second year along with the writing of the final thesis. In the second year (M2), three dates are given for the final submission of the coursework and dissertation: one in June, September and October.
The research project leading to the completion of a master thesis underlies and structures the MA programme in Sociology at the EHESS. The nature of the project and the skills required for its successful completion informs the course choices of each student. In M1, there are mentors available to help students choose a suitable range of courses as well select a supervisor for the thesis to be completed in their second year of master’s studies. In M2, the supervisor will in turn follow closely the research work of the student. The MA programme at the EHESS highlights the importance of empirical fieldwork as an essential element of learning the craft of sociology. It is thus essential for students to have clearly defined research objectives by the end of M1 and to begin field work immediately after the completion of coursework. This allows for the establishing of a mutually beneficial dialogue between the coursework of M2 and the research project. An important condition, finally, for learning the practice of research, as well as acquiring a reflexive perspective on it, is allowing sufficient time for the completion of all work required for the M2 program.
The MA programme in Sociology at the EHESS is orientated towards a general training in the discipline, whilst fostering a multidisciplinary approach towards it and supporting the progressive development of each student’s personalised research project.
(Texte élaboré par Linda Haapajarvi à partir des éléments de la plaquette de la mention sociologie EHESS, Relecture et contribution: Laura Chartain)