Completing a senior thesis is a challenging but rewarding opportunity for students who are highly motivated to research a particular topic. To be eligible to complete a year-long senior thesis for Department of Sociology credit, one must meet the following criteria:
- Be a rising senior with the intent of being a registered student for two consecutive semesters (and then presumably graduating).
- Be in good academic standing.
- Have a GPA in the Sociology major of 3.50 or above.
- Have been on the Dean's List at least twice before the senior year. There is a waiver process for transfer students and others who have not met this criterion.
- Have fulfilled the research methods requirement for the major by completing SOC 100 or SOC 101 and SOC 102. In addition, students intending to use quantitative methods for their thesis should have taken SOC 101 and students intending to do qualitative/field research should have taken SOC 102 before embarking on their research.
- Students should have taken or plan to take available courses relevant to their topic.
- Submit an application prospectus (see below)
- Have approval from a tenure-stream member or full-time lecturer of the Department of Sociology to serve as your primary thesis advisor. This should be someone who has sufficient familiarity with the topic.
Step 1: Application prospectus
In consultation with your potential advisor, you must submit a written prospectus of about 3-4 double-spaced pages which should:
- explain the big-picture concern that motivates the study and the clearly defined research question(s) that the thesis aims to answer, stemming from that concern;
- explain the sociological relevance of the research topic, drawing from established concerns within the discipline and/or speaking to gaps in the discipline. In other words, explain why does this question matter to people who may not care much about the specific people or area you are studying;
- review three or more scholarly works pertinent to the research question(s) and how your work extends or speaks to them, in order to demonstrate one is aware of relevant literature and how one's thesis might advance the topic;
- outline the planned research design and methodology (e.g. surveys, interviews, media analysis, participant observation, experimental design), and how one plans to collect data, as relevant;
- include a timetable to submit an application to the Institutional Review Board if the research involves human subjects;
- include a list of your prior coursework that is specifically relevant to the proposed thesis topic and methodology
Please note: Faculty advisors determine whether or not a thesis can proceed. Faculty typically agree to only a limited number of theses per year. Students are encouraged to meet with a potential advisor sooner rather than later, to make sure that they can work with the faculty member and to make the prospectus into an acceptable form. Approaching a faculty member in early Spring semester of one's junior year is appropriate. Also, faculty typically take on one or two theses per year as primary advisors, and depending on the year some faculty are not available to advise. Part-time lecturers cannot serve as primary thesis advisors, but can serve as second readers under special circumstances.
Step 2: Register on SIS for Thesis Credit
Students who successfully complete and defend the HT will earn credit equivalent to two courses, one for each semester. Students are encouraged to register for an extra course in spring semester at the time of registration, on the chance that the thesis is not carried over past the first semester. Students whose thesis ends after the first semester, which is often due to the advisor deciding insufficient progress is being made or the student decides s/he cannot complete it, will receive a grade from the advisor for the first semester's work.
Step 3: Completing the thesis
Students must complete the online form in early fall of senior year. By the second week of the fall semester of one's senior year, students must have identified a second member of their thesis committee. Two members are required; the chair must be a Sociology faculty member, the second member may be from another department. A third reader is optional and may be from another department.
Students will work with their primary advisor to devise a timeline. A general timeline for the fall is the following: by the end of the fall semester, the student will present at least one chapter, or literature review and extended introduction, to the thesis committee who will meet to review the student's progress.
The due date for the thesis will be determined by the advisor in consultation with the student (typically mid-April). The student will then present the thesis to his/her committee in a “defense” which must take place prior to the first day of final examinations. The student will then complete any revisions and follow university guidelines for submitting a copy of the thesis.
In the event a student or the student's committee decides that he/she will not continue with the thesis, the student will take an Incomplete (I) and discuss with her/his thesis advisor how to transform work done in the fall semester into a more limited independent study paper. The latter must be turned in before the Incomplete Deadline in the spring and will be credited accordingly.