Departmental Honors in Sociology & Senior Honors Thesis

Departmental Honors in Sociology can be earned by replacing the regular Senior Thesis with a Senior Honors Thesis that is acceptable to the departmental faculty for honors designation.

If a student enrolls for the honors thesis option (SOCI 499), they will participate with the rest of the seniors in the class meetings for the Senior Thesis and will fulfill all the requirements for the Senior Thesis, but will have additional stipulations for the process of preparation of the thesis, for the end result of the process, and for the scholarly level of the final product. These stipulations include:

  • The Senior Honors Thesis must involved significant first-hand empirical research beyond library research. Examples include carrying out a survey, an ethnographic or participant observation project, a program evaluation project, or the quantitative analysis of large data sets (e.g., the General Social Survey, the Luxembourg Income Study, or World Bank Data). Normally, the honors thesis would receive a credit allocation of four credits, that is, equivalent to the number of credits accorded for the regular senior thesis. Hence, there would be no net increase in the number of credits in the major that must be taken for departmental honors in sociology. In consultation with the faculty advisor, the "Senior Advisor" (who coordinates all senior theses in the department), and the department chairperson, the student seeking departmental honors may wish to take additional credits for the honors research project. These credits are added voluntarily - that is, no student is required to take additional credits on the honors thesis - but if added, the project must show an increase in effort and result proportional to the number of credits added. (The added requirements must be described in a learning contract.)

  • The formal academic criteria for enrolling for the Senior Honors Thesis rather than the Senior Thesis are prior attainment of an overall GPA of 3.5 and a GPA in all Sociology courses of at least 3.2. Aspirants to Honors in Sociology must have completed at least 17 credits in the department before the beginning of the senior year, including SOCI 360, Sociological Theory, for four credits, and SOCI 307, Research Methods for five credits. (Exceptions to these rules may be made subsequent to a petition to the department chairperson.)

  • The student wishing to take the Senior Honors Thesis in Sociology must submit a proposal for the thesis research project to the department chairperson by the end of spring semester of the junior year. As part of the proposal, the student must demonstrate the attainment of a high level of research skills and analytical capabilities in their academic or employment/volunteering record. In the project proposal, the student must demonstrate that prior coursework relates to the thesis proposal, and they must state the primary learning goals and stages of research involved in the project. These plans serve as the stipulations of a learning contract between the student and the department. The project description must satisfy minimal expectations of work for credit to be earned. If more than the usual four credits are sought for the project, the additional credits must be justified explicitly as to additional work and outcomes to be required.

    The proposal must be approved by the departmental faculty as showing a developed professional orientation and likelihood of highly professional results. The proposal would have to be developed in consultation with a potential faculty advisor for the thesis, and it must be endorsed by that advisor, who would serve as the principal "Second Reader" if they are not the "Senior Advisor" for the year. At least three members of the department, including the Senior Advisor and the Second Reader, would serve together as an honors thesis committee, providing advice and support during the writing of the thesis. The chairperson would formally appoint the members of the honors thesis committee in consultation with the principal advisor and the student making the honors proposal. In some cases, it may be appropriate to invite an additional member for the committee from faculty outside the department to reflect significant inter-disciplinary content, or from the community to reflect professional components not represented fully on the Wittenberg faculty. For example, a student writing about sociological themes in literature might want to add a committee member from the English Department. A student wanting to pursue research on aging might add a committee member who is a nursing home administrator or a health professional working in the area of geriatrics. Though not required, the department will encourage the participation, at least in the planning stage and in the final completion stage, of professionals beyond the Department of Sociology. This will be done to encourage recognition and inclusion of broader perspectives and orientations to the issues of the honors thesis, and to emphasize the broader professional expectations of the student doing the honors thesis.

  • The completed Senior Honors thesis must show a level of sophistication of approach and analysis well above the norm. In order for the student to receive departmental honors in Sociology, the thesis project must be evaluated at a minimum of A-. (In other words, students electing the honors options may not achieve the designation of departmental honors if they do not excel in their work. On the other hand, they would receive the grade and credit for the Senior Honors Thesis course that is consistent with their performance.) The final grade would be assigned by the honors thesis committee, but the department must accept the grade by consensus following the formal presentation of the results.

  • The student writing a Senior Honors Thesis will be expected to present the thesis publicly along with the other senior thesis presentations in the department, but also will be required to present the paper at an appropriate off-campus setting, such as the Miami Valley Student Research Symposium, the National Student Research Conference, the North Central Sociological Association annual meeting or the meetings of the American Sociological Association or the American Anthropological Association. The primary criterion for appropriateness would be adequate professional organization of the forum and, if possible, presentation with others who have also pursued student research beyond the normal requirements.

  • The Senior Honors Thesis in Sociology will be evaluated on the criteria of professional approach, satisfactory level of empirical research, adequate use of social theory, high quality of writing, originality of insight, and appropriate professional form of final paper and presentations. The senior honors thesis committee will propose a final grade to the departmental faculty, who must consent to the committee's decision.

  • Since it is expected that all participants in the senior honors thesis program in Sociology will complete a significant research paper, the department will encourage all those it believes have achieved a satisfactory level of professionalism to consider submission of the paper for publication in a journal or edited collection. Depending on the level of independence of the student's work, this may or may not involve further work with a faculty member to make the final product publishable. If adequate input is given by the faculty member, it would be appropriate to publish the work under joint authorship, though there may be theses that are complete enough in themselves to be directly publishable. In no case will the faculty member take credit for the student's independent work.

  • Finally, all participants - the honors student, other majors, the departmental faculty and any honors thesis committee members from outside the department - will be asked to provide evaluations of the process to aid in ongoing development of the Senior Honors Thesis program in Sociology.

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