The Honors Program is designed to provide sociology majors with the opportunity to sharpen their research skills and deepen their understanding of the discipline through a two-to-three semester program of directed independent research and writing. The program also offers the opportunity for formal recognition, through Departmental Honors, of those undergraduates who have demonstrated unusual competence in sociology by successfully completing a sustained independent research project. Small grants for honors thesis research are generously supported by the Chandler Davidson Research Fund as well as the Walter Hall Scholars program.
To be eligible for the program, students must have:
- Taken at least four sociology courses beyond SOCI 101 (Introduction to Sociology), including SOCI 381 (Research Methods). If their project requires statistical analysis, students should also complete SOCI 382 (Social Statistics) before beginning their research.
- An A- average in all sociology courses taken.
During the fall and early spring semester of their junior year, students are invited to consult with tenured and tenure-track members of the faculty about a potential thesis topic. All students must have at least one tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the sociology department as their thesis chair. The student must submit a written description of their proposed research project to the chosen faculty member for approval of their topic and review of their proposal, as well as secure agreement of the chosen faculty member(s) to serve as their thesis committee chair.
- Once a thesis supervisor has been identified, the student must submit a written description of their proposed research project to the departmental undergraduate advisor, Dr. Rachel Kimbro. The proposal should be 2-3 pages in length, double-spaced, and is due by April 1st of their junior year. It should include a signed statement from the chosen faculty member agreeing to serve as their chair advisor.
- The sociology faculty will vote on the merits of the proposed thesis project at their monthly faculty meeting in mid-April. If approved, the student may begin work on their thesis immediately, or at a start time agreed upon with their thesis supervisor (including summer semester, if desired).
Students in the Honors Program register for two successive semesters in Directed Honors Research (SOCI 492 and 493). An honors thesis typically involves much discussion over both semesters between the student and their tenure or tenure-track advisor. Students should meet early in the process to agree on ground rules for the project, to choose the other members of the thesis committee (made up of two additional faculty members, who serve as readers and ad-hoc advisors), and to set up a schedule for discussions and submission of written work. It is the department’s experience that students who work alone without much consultation with faculty are less likely to succeed in their project than students who maintain close contact with their advisor and the department. Students are also encouraged to include other members of the committee in discussion of the thesis, especially as the project nears completion, so that their feedback can be incorporated before the final draft of the project is submitted.
Students normally begin by conducting a thorough review of the relevant literature, formulating hypotheses that grow out of the literature review, and proposing a research design that clearly describes how the data for the project are to be collected and analyzed. The research itself is usually carried out in the fall semester of the senior year (and sometimes in the summer following the junior year), and is analyzed, written up, and defended as a completed Honor’s Thesis during the spring semester of the senior year. (Students are encouraged to examine several previously written theses, which are available in the sociology department.)
In addition to the student’s primary advisor, the thesis is read and evaluated by the faculty members, sometimes from other departments, who make up the student’s thesis committee.
- A first draft of the final thesis must be turned in to the committee members no later than February 1st of the student’s senior year.
- After receiving feedback on the project, the student will have until the last Monday in March to submit a final draft of the senior thesis to their committee.
- A short presentation (10-15 minutes) of the final thesis project must be given to the full sociology faculty by mid-April. Faculty will vote on whether to grant Departmental Honors to the student at the conclusion of their presentation.