Department of Sociology & Criminology

M.A. Criminology Student Handbook

Graduate Student Handbook 
M.A. in Criminology
Saint Mary's University  
Departmet of Sociology & Criminology

For more information contact: 

Criminology Graduate Program Coordinator 

Stephen Schneider, Ph.D
Department of Sociology and Criminology
Saint Mary's University
Halifax, NS B3H 3C3
902-420-5872 (tel)
902-420-5121 (fax)

Web Site:



Important Contacts

Heather Taylor, Graduate Studies Officer
Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research 
Atrium Building, Suite 210 

Financial Services
McNally Main 123 

Registrar's Office
McNally Main 108

University Residences
Loyola Residence 106

Program Overview

Welcome to the M.A. Program in Criminology! We offer one of the few graduate programs in Criminology in Canada. Our M.A. in Criminology will provide you with an opportunity for advanced critical work in areas such as the social construction of crime and criminality; policing; punishment; socio-legal studies; social justice and; governance and regulation. Our goal is to help nurture within our students advanced analytical thinking and research skills to help further their understanding of criminological issues and to prepare them for future graduate studies, research, or teaching; policy research and practice; or employment in government and non-governmental agencies, and the private sector.

Our Department has an excellent scholarly and professional reputation in the field of critical criminology and social justice. This entails the analysis of how unequal power relations shape the social and historical construction of regulation, crime/criminality and justice by the state, private groups and academic scholarship. Our faculty members have received grants and published extensively in such related areas as: youth justice law reform (Dr. Val Johnson), restorative justice (Dr. Diane Crocker), crime prevention (Dr. Stephen Schneider), organized crime in Latin America (Dr. Alfredo Schulte-Bockholt) peaceful return of victims of ethnic cleansing (Dr. Djordje Stefanovic), youth resiliency (Dr. Madine VanderPlaat), and stigmas experienced by people with mental health disorders (Dr. Jamie Livingston).

These interests illustrate the diversity of our knowledge and our commitment to a sociologically informed critical criminology.  Our Program is not directed at those looking for training in criminal justice, but for students whose intellectual talents are keenly tuned into the problems associated with criminalization strategies and social regulation.

Please see the web page of the Department of Sociology and Criminology for details on courses offered each year.


Areas of Faculty Expertise:

  • citizenship and human rights
  • crime prevention
  • criminalization strategies
  • cultural studies
  • gambling and society
  • girls in the justice system
  • governance and regulation
  • health promotion and the body
  • history of law and policing
  • international development and globalization
  • intersections of race/class/gender/sexuality
  • migration and security
  • organized, state and corporate crime
  • peaceful return of victims of ethnic cleansing
  • policing
  • political economy of crime
  • politics of drug regulation
  • prisons and prisoners' rights
  • punishment and culture
  • representations of crime in the media
  • socio-legal studies
  • restorative/transformative justice
  • urban regulation and governance
  • violence against women
  • youth resiliency
  • young offenders and youth justice
  • white collar / corporate crime

Administrative Overview

The Graduate Program is operated through the Department of Sociology and Criminology.  The Graduate Program Committee and the Graduate Coordinator are responsible for day-to-day administration of the program, including the admissions of students and the distribution of funding. 

The Coordinator provides administrative assistance and academic advice to students and monitors student progress on a yearly basis. The Graduate Coordinator may also chair the Thesis Proposal Meeting and the Thesis Defense (although often the Dean of Graduate Studies fills this role).

The Graduate Program Committee provides support and guidance to the Coordinator, especially in regards to policy development, standards and admissions.  A student representative also sits on the Committee.  The Program Committee will make policy recommendations to the Department. 

The Criminology Graduate Student Association is made up of all the students in the Program.  They elect a representative to sit on the Graduate Program Committee.  The representative should regularly meet with other students in the program to better represent their views to the Program Committee.

The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research is responsible for overseeing and all graduate programs.  They administer the admissions process, registration and financial issues. They also have several policies and regulations that you should read about in their Handbook.


Talk to the Graduate Coordinator about . . .

  • Formation or functioning of your thesis supervisory committee
  • Concerns regarding your progress in the program (including completion of courses, proposal, or thesis)
  • Funding, fellowships and teaching assistantships
  • Program policies
  • Concerns about courses, professors, or supervisory committees
  • General academic advising

Talk to the Faculty of Graduate Studies about . . .

  • Registration
  • Funding scholarships (including SSHRC fellowships)
  • Admissions
  • Scheduling a thesis defence

 Talk to the Secretary in the Department of Sociology and Criminology about . . .

  • Problems in the graduate student room (e.g., computers, printing)
  • Thesis Defense Organization (date, place)
  • Changes in your contact information


(see individual faculty web pages for more details)

  • B. Bunjun, PhD., U.B.C.: Critical Race Studies;  Intersectionality; Social Control & Regulation; Racial Profiling & Violence; Social Movements & Feminist Organizational Studies
  • M. Byers Ph.D. Ontario Institute for the Study of Education: Television; media and cultural studies; youth and identity; Jewish cultural studies; crime and the media; women's studies.
  • R. Collins, PhD. University of Saskatchewan, Critical Criminology, social control, inequalities in criminal justice.
  • A. Carver, Ph.D. University of Melbourne: Terrorism, counter-terrorism, genocide, policing and law enforcement
  • D. Crocker Ph.D. York University: Violence against women; criminal harassment/stalking; judicial decision making; restorative justice; qualitative and quantitative research methods; feminist criminology; and law and society.
  • M. Gómez, Ph.D. New School for Social Research. criminological & political theory, prejudice & hate crimes, gender & cultural studies, critical legal theory. 
  • R. Hart, Ph.D. University of Toronto: social movements, social theory, historical sociology, political economy, culture.
  • V. Johnson Ph.D. New School for Social Research: criminology and law; the intersections among class, race, gender and, sexuality; moral regulation and policing; the history and theory of regulation and policing in cities; the criminalization of poverty; theories and histories of liberalism.
  • J. Livingston, Ph.D., Simon Fraser University, Mental illness and criminal justice; stigma; compulsory treatment; forensic mental health; risk and recovery
  • D. Leroux, Ph.D. Carleton University: Racialization of crime; indigenous peoples and the law; mass incarceration in the U.S.; prison abolition; racial profiling and "carding" practices; missing and murdered indigenous women. 
  • S. Schneider Ph.D. University of British Columbia: Organized crime, crime prevention, youth crime, developmental criminology policing and law enforcement;
  • A. Schulte-Bockholt Ph.D. Carleton University: Organized crime and state crime; regulation of drugs; Latin America.
  • E. Tastsoglou Ph.D. Boston University: Critical race, gender and class studies; gender and ethnicity; gender and international migration; immigrant women; critical, feminist and anti-racist pedagogies; diversity and globalization.
  • M. VanderPlaat Ph.D. Dalhousie University: Community development/well-being; women, children and families; gender issues; citizen participation; social inclusion.
  • R. Westhaver Ph.D. Simon Fraser University: Gay men's health; health promotion; health knowledge; the body; and the pleasurable practices associated with risk taking, sex, and drug use.

The Graduate Program in Criminology also benefits from the expertise of affiliated faculty members in other Departments.  Please see their Departmental web page for details on their work.


Program Details

Our Program includes several components. You will:

  • Complete courses (by the end of the second term)
  • Form a thesis Supervisory Committee (by the end of the second semester)
  • Present a thesis proposal for approval (at the start of the second year)
  • Conduct research (in the fall and winter of the second year)
  • Complete a thesis (in the winter and summer of the second year)

These timelines were approved by the program committee and will be the basis upon which we will assess the progress of graduate students in their annual report. We also expect that students will become aware of and adhere to the administrative expectations associated with the department as well as the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. It is important to note that funding for second year students is linked to meeting these benchmarks — normally only those students who are progressing satisfactorily in their program will be awarded funding in their second year.

We have expectations for faculty as well.  Our policy states that: "Normally, faculty members should be expected to read, and provide feedback on proposals, papers, or theses chapters in a maximum of three weeks."

Please see the Graduate Coordinator if you are having trouble meeting these timelines.

Annual Reports

Each year in October, the Graduate Coordinator will review your file, contacting you and your Supervisor (if you have one already) to assess your progress. Once this report has been submitted to the Coordinator, you will receive a letter confirming your status in the Program and assessing your progress to date.

This letter will also provide an overall assessment of your progress as satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or in need of improvement (based on the Program normal time lines and definitions in the Academic Calendar).

The letter will be copied to the Supervisor (if you have one) and kept on file with the Coordinator.  It will be accompanied by the Annual Report Form available in the Program Office or on the website.


All students in the Criminology Graduate Program must earn at least twenty-four (24) credit hours from the following:

CRIM 6404: Critical Criminology - In this seminar students will explore central themes of critical criminology including how it challenges the dominant paradigms of crime-control, adopting instead a social justice approach to crime. The course explores such issues as the social construction of crime; governance and regulation; the politicization of crime control; and, the significance of gender, race and class (3 credit hours).

CRIM 6600: Advanced Seminar — The purpose of this seminar course is to prepare students for their thesis research . In the first half of this course SMU faculty and other researchers working in the field of criminology will be invited to discuss selected topics, including a presentation of their past and current research, which will then be open to discussion and critical analysis by graduate students.  In the second half of the course, students will learn about how to plan and write a major research paper (i.e., a MA thesis) (6 credit hours).

CRIM 6601 Advanced Theory — This seminar course examines selected themes and debates in criminological and sociological theory. Attention will be given to the influence of critical social theory, postmodernist, and poststructuralist writings for theorizing crime, criminality and other forms of regulation. Students may also be exposed to debates and critical discussions concerning (critical) criminology as a body of knowledge (3 credit hours).

CRIM 6602: Advanced Research Methodology — This seminar course is designed to cover advanced topics, issues and techniques in a range of research methods.  Students will be encouraged to apply a reflexive critique and understand the link between methodology and theory (3 credit hours).

CRIM 6604: Advanced Topics in Criminology — Students are required to complete one other seminar courses.  The topics in each change each year.  In the past, these seminar courses have addressed such topics as crime in the media,; crime prevention; restorative justice, social justice, theories of violence, law and society; penal policy, and gender and law (3 credit hours).

CRIM 6615: Thesis Research — Once you have completed your first year, you must register for CRIM 6615 in two semesters in order to obtain the six credit hours need for this course. You will complete this course once your thesis has been defended (6 credit hours).

You must also register for FGSR 9000 in those semesters for which you are not registered in either your first year courses of your thesis research (FGSR is a non-credit "placeholder" course that serves to maintain your status as a full-time graduate student). In short, following completion of your first year , the courses you must register in for the subsequent semesters (given a 2017/18 school year) are as follows:

  • May-August, 2018 - FGSR 9000
  • Sept-Dec., 2018 - CRIM 6615 
  • Jan-April, 2019 - CRIM 6615
  • May-August, 2019 (if necessary)  - FGSR 9000
  • Subsequent semesters - FGSR 9000


Supervisory Committee

Choosing a Supervisory Committee

The thesis supervisory committee will oversee your thesis research. You should begin searching for a committee early, but remember that this is an evolving process that does not come together in one day!  The Graduate Coordinator is happy to help introduce you to relevant faculty members and you should endeavour to meet as many of them as possible.  Students work with their supervisory committees in a number of ways.  For example, all committee members may be involved from the beginning with the development of the proposal, or, in some cases, the student and his/her supervisor may simply work together to develop the proposal and thesis and other member(s) of the supervisory committee become involved after a draft thesis has been completed. 

You should talk to as many faculty members as possible to identify a Supervisor who is a good fit. Some things to take into consideration when choosing a Supervisor:

  • Does he/she have expertise in the subject area that will be the focus on your research?
  • Does he/she have the knowledge to direct you to the appropriate literature on the subject matter?
  • Does he/she have expertise in the research methods that will be used in your research?
  • Does he/she have the time and inclination to supervise you ?
  • Are our personalities and vision of the thesis compatible?

Checklist for Committee Formation

  • As per normal completion timelines, Committees should be in place by the end of the second semester.
  • Committees, and any changes, must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator using the form available in the Program Office or on the website.
  • Committees consist of at least two faculty members:  one Supervisor and one Reader.
  • The Supervisor shall be a member of the Department of Sociology and Criminology.
  • The Supervisory Committee must be in place at least two months prior to your Thesis Defense.

Thesis Proposal

Overview of the Thesis Proposal

Your thesis proposal will be written in consultation with your Supervisory Committee.  Committees work differently—some prefer to have the Supervisor and student work together to submit a fairly tight draft for review by the reader; others prefer to work more side-by-side.  Check with your Supervisor as to how they would like to proceed.

After you have completed the Proposal, and prior to beginning research, your Proposal must be approved in a meeting with the Supervisory Committee and the Graduate Coordinator.  The Graduate Coordinator will arrange this meeting upon being notified by the Supervisory Committee.  The purpose of this meeting is to provide academic advising on the Proposal and offer you with an opportunity for a public presentation of proposed work.   Students and faculty are invited to attend part of the meeting. 

Thesis Proposal Meetings

  • The student makes a short oral presentation of their Proposal, usually 20 minutes
  • Members of the audience who are not on the Supervisory Committee will be asked to leave
  • The Supervisory Committee, student and Graduate Coordinator will discuss the proposal

The input from this process will be assessed by your Supervisory Committee and Graduate Coordinator. They may recommend specific changes before the thesis may proceed.  The Supervisory Committee's views will carry the most weight in these recommendations. The results of the meeting will be conveyed to you in a letter from the Graduate Coordinator (meeting Chair), in writing, within two weeks of the meeting date.

Format of the Thesis Proposal

While different Supervisory Committees have different expectations, usually a Thesis Proposal will be 25 to 35 pages long.  Different styles of research also require different approaches to proposal writing but there are several common features described briefly below.  You should talk in detail with your Supervisory Committee about how they see all these pieces fitting together, their various lengths and so on.

  1. Introduction
  2. Background/Literature Review
  3. Thesis or Problem Statement/Research Questions
  4. Research Objectives/Aims
  5. Theoretical Framework/Orientation
  6. Research Methods/Design
  7. Work plan and timelines
  8. REB Application (where applicable)

As you write remember that the proposal should show why your research is important, either empirically or theoretically (or both), and demonstrate that the scope is reasonable (and your plan realistic). 

Also, don't hesitate to check in with faculty members who are not on your Committee but whose expertise can help you.

Thesis Proposal Checklist

  • Proposals should be completed by the beginning of the fourth semester (i.e., the fall term of your second year).
  • You will not make submissions to the Research Ethics Board, or conduct empirical research, prior to having your Proposal approved at a Thesis Proposal Meeting.
  • Committee members shall be in place at least four weeks prior to the Thesis Proposal Meeting.
  • Both Committee members will confirm, to the Graduate Coordinator, that the Proposal is ready prior to the arrangement of the Thesis Proposal Meeting.
  • Thesis Proposals should be provided to the Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks prior to the proposal meeting date.

Ethics Reviews

Students must follow the ethics approval process as outlined by the Research Ethics Board (REB) at Saint Mary's and the Tri-Council Policy Statement (which defines the types of research requiring REB approval and the criteria for that approval).

For information see:

Or, contact the REB office at 420-5728 or

While you must submit details about your entire research project, the approval you get from the REB is limited to the research tools or methods (e.g., questionnaire, interview questions).  Any changes you make, or any unforeseen opportunities for data collection that arise, must go back to the REB for approval. 

Research Ethics Board Checklist

  • Submissions to the REB may only proceed AFTER your proposal has been approved at a thesis proposal meeting
  • Submissions to the REB are required for all research involving "human subjects"
  • No research with human participants shall begin before approval is received from the REB
  • Any changes in your project or methods, or any data collection that falls outside of what was approved, must be re-submitted to the REB

The Thesis

Overview of the Thesis

The Master's Thesis is a scholarly work that shows familiarity with methodology, critical analysis and scholarship characteristic of the field of criminology at the Master's level.  It should contribute to the field of criminology, theoretically, empirically, epistemologically or methodologically. Lengths and specifics of the thesis depend largely on subject and focus and are to be worked out with the student's thesis Supervisor and Committee.

A thesis should accomplish the following:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of a broad scope of relevant literature and critical evaluation of a narrower scope of literature directly related to the research
  • Describe the relevance of the problem being studied
  • Apply methods and/or concepts in a novel way
  • Interpret findings
  • Integrate primary and secondary sources
  • Present an argument that is supported in the research completed

A key point is that an M.A. Thesis moves beyond description of literature, methods, theories and research findings – it must analyze, interpret and critically evaluate your primary and secondary sources.  In that way, it makes a unique contribution to knowledge. 

There are diverse pathways, processes, methodologies and approaches to writing a thesis.  Some students will change their thesis topic and Committee members during the course of their studies while others remain on the same track throughout the whole Program. 

Write the first draft for submission to your Supervisor. Sometimes Supervisors will prefer that the draft be submitted one chapter at a time. Others will want to read whole drafts. Have conversations with your Committee members on how they would like to proceed. Your thesis will always require more than one rewrite; indeed, writing several drafts is a critical part of the process of developing your analysis.

Formatting the Final Draft

The draft that you submit to the Graduate Coordinator, in preparation for the Thesis Defense should include the following:

  • Title page
  • Committee approval page
  • Author's permission form
  • Dedication (if any)
  • Abstract (250 words, not more than one page)
  • Acknowledgements (if any)        
  • Table of Contents (list chapter headings and sub-headings, bibliography/references and appendices)
  • List of tables (if any)
  • List of figures or illustrations (if any)
  • Body of text (start numbering at page 1)
  • Endnotes (if used)
  • Bibliography or References
  • Appendices (if any)

Print must be of high quality and the text must be double-spaced on single-sided pages.  Margins should be 1 and 1/2” on the left and 1” on the right, top and bottom.  Good quality bond paper must be used.  Be sure that the styles for your chapters, headings and sub-headings are consistent throughout the thesis.

Our program has not adopted a particular Style Guide so check with your Supervisory Committee members on what style of referencing they prefer. 

Thesis Checklist

  • You should aim to have a draft of your thesis written prior to the end of your second year
  • Expect to complete several revisions leading up to the Thesis Defense (see description below)
  • Once you have a draft acceptable to your Supervisory Committee, an External Reviewer will be selected to review your thesis (see procedure detailed  below)
  • The Thesis Defense is a public presentation of your work, with questions and comments offered from your Supervisory Committee and any others in attendance
  • Expect additional revisions after the thesis defense
  • Your final Thesis must be bound and submitted to the library

Thesis Examining Committee & Defense

The Thesis Examining Committee consists of the Supervisory Committee and an External Examiner who has not taught or been involved in any way with your  research.  External examiners will normally be chosen from universities in Nova Scotia but, in exceptional circumstances, they may be selected from outside the region (if arrangements can be made for a conference call).  When the Supervisory Committee has deemed the Thesis ready for Defense, the Supervisor should notify the Graduate Coordinator who will arrange the Thesis Defense through the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. The Supervisor will submit the External Nomination Form available on the Department of Sociology and Criminology webpage.

The oral Defense is publicly advertised and shall normally involve: a short presentation by the student, questions from the Examining Committee (one or more rounds), questions from the audience, in camera deliberations by the Committee and presentation of the results of the exam to the student.  Where necessary, one member of the Committee may submit her/his comments and questions in writing or participate via conference call.  Any suggestions by the Committee concerning corrections, additions, revisions and other necessary changes must be either carried out by the student or formally refuted by the student before the thesis can be accepted.  Normally, the Supervisor is responsible for ensuring required changes are made to the thesis. The External Examiner may request some notification of completed changes. Time lines for changes may range from days to a few months.

Either the Dean of Graduate Studies or the Graduate Coordinator (or designate in cases where he/she is a member of the Supervisory Committee) presides as Chair of the Defense. The Coordinator ensures that the process is fair and consistent and that administrative demands of the university have been met.  After the student presentation and questioning, the Chair presides over the Committee's in camera determination of the defense outcome. The Graduate Coordinator ensures that the results of the examination are communicated to you in writing, included in your file, and sent to the Dean.

Suggested Thesis Defense Agenda

  • Introduction and welcome (1 to 5 minutes)
  • Candidate for degree presents thesis (20 minutes)
  • Candidate answers rounds of questions from Examining Committee, starting with external member (30 – 40 minutes)
  • Candidate answers questions from others in the room (10- 20 minutes)
  • Committee meets in camera to discuss the outcome of the Defense and any changes/revisions to be made
  • Graduate Coordinator makes notes on outcome and changes (where required)
  • Chair invites candidate back into room to hear result and discuss revisions, if necessary

The Graduate Coordinator, in consultation with the Supervisory Committee, will write a letter to the candidate (within two weeks) officially informing him/her about the decision, any revisions required and how these are to be completed (e.g., timelines and supervision of revisions).

Thesis Defense Checklist

  • Supervisory Committee members shall be in place at least two months prior to Thesis Defense
  • External Examiner Nomination Form will be sent to Graduate Coordinator at least six week before expected Defense (form is available on Program webpage)
  • The External shall not be a member of the Department of Sociology and Criminology
  • The External will not have been involved in the supervision of your thesis research, taught you any courses as a graduate student, or worked with you in any other way

More Administrative Issues...

  • Once you have completed your second semester, you must be registered for the following to maintain your status as a graduate student:
    • FGSR 9000
    • CRIM 6615 (thesis research)
  • If you continue to be a full-time or part-time student following the completion of your second year, you must pay a $600 continuation fee
  • Once you have selected a thesis supervisor, you must complete a Thesis Supervisor form and submit it to the Criminology Program Coordinator
  • Once you enter your second year, you and your Thesis Supervisor must complete a Progress Report (which is normally completed and submitted in November)
  • If you want to apply for a SSHRC grant to support your studies, this application must be completed by early December; a workshop on applying for such grants is conducted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in October (you should get an e-mail in September detailing the time and place)
  • You need to apply early to “convocate” (graduate); if you want to convocate at the ceremony in May, you need to apply in January. If you expect to convocate at the October ceremony, you should apply in July.
  • You must have your thesis defended and finalized at least two months before you plan on convocating