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Honors Program

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Overview

Sociology majors may be awarded honors for excellence in the major, as reflected by both a high overall grade point average and the successful completion of an honors thesis.

Sociology majors are awarded one of four designations: (1) no honors; (2) honors (cum laude); (3) high honors (magna cum laude); and (4) highest honors (summa cum laude).

If you are interested in participating in the Honors Program, you should begin preparing for this during your junior year.

Admission

Admission to the Sociology Honors Program is determined, first, by grades. Sociology majors who have at least a B+ grade point average overall, and an A- grade point average in the major, qualify for entry into the Honors Program.

Students who are admitted to the Honors Program must write a thesis during their senior year.

If you believe you will qualify for the Honors Program, and you are interested in writing a thesis, you should begin preparing for this during your junior year.

Preparation During Junior Year
During their junior year, sociology majors who wish to write an honors thesis should do the following:

  • Complete SOC 3010 (“Evaluating Statistical Evidence”) by the end of the junior year
  • Verify eligibility for the Honors Program by contacting Sue Meyer (ss30), the undergraduate program coordinator
  • Identify and secure the consent of a faculty member in the Sociology Department. Honors theses are typically advised by either the student’s Faculty Advisor or by a Sociology professor who has taught the student in a class. Students should contact possible honors thesis advisors and request a meeting early in the second semester of their junior year.
  • Draft a proposal. Once you have secured a faculty member to advise the honors thesis, you should work with your advisor to draft a short honors thesis proposal. This should be submitted with the application described below.

Students who are admitted into the Honors Program will enroll in SOC 4950 in the fall semester and SOC 4960 in the spring semester of their senior year. These two courses can be used toward the fulfillment elective requirements for the Sociology Major.

Honors Program Application
To obtain admission to the Honors Program, and, thus, eligibility to write an honors thesis, majors must submit three documents to the Department:

  1. The Sociology Honors Thesis Application Form, signed by the faculty member who has agreed to advise the student’s honors thesis.
  2. An honors thesis proposal, including a basic description of the topic, main research questions, and methodological approach. The proposal should also outline a basic timeline for completion of the thesis (about 5 pages, double-spaced).
  3. A current transcript from the registrar.

The application documents should be submitted to Sue Meyer, the Undergraduate Program Coordinator. Her office is in 316 Uris Hall (inside the Sociology Department Office).

Deadline
Students are strongly encouraged to apply to the Honors Program before the end of their junior year. But, because some senior thesis ideas are still in development during the summer between the junior and senior years, the application form can be turned in at the beginning of the first semester of the senior year.

Honors Program applications must be approved no later than the end of the third week of classes in the student’s first semester of the senior year. This is also the deadline for enrolling in SOC 4950/4960, which is required for students who are writing an honors thesis.

Honors Thesis

During the senior year, each candidate for honors in sociology enrolls in a year-long tutorial (SOC 4950/SOC 4960), taught by the faculty member who has agreed to serve as the honors thesis advisor.

The first semester of thesis work is typically focused on reading the relevant sociological literature, developing a set of research questions for the thesis, and planning for data collection or analysis. At the end of Fall semester, students typically submit a 15- to 20-page literature review to their advisor. Of course, these guidelines and goals vary and should be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor.

During the second semester of thesis work, students often revise and expand their earlier draft to include consideration of additional literature. They also conduct data collection and/or perform analysis, and write up the findings of their study.

Completed honors theses are typically between 40 and 80 pages in length, double-spaced. An electronic copy of the honors thesis should be submitted as a Word document to the thesis advisor and to Sue Meyer (ss30@cornell.edu) via email by 4:00 pm on the Friday before the last day of classes in the second semester of the senior year.

The honors thesis will be reviewed by the thesis advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The quality of the thesis will, in part, determine the level of honors that is awarded to the student.

The Department funds the printing of three hard-bound volumes of the thesis. One copy will remain in the Department, one copy will be given to the thesis advisor, and one copy will be given to the student. (Because the theses must be sent out for binding, we typically mail the hard copy of your thesis to you after graduation.)

Human Subjects Approval

Any honors candidate whose research directly involves working with human subjects must receive approval for the project from Cornell’s Institutional Review Board for Human Participants.

If you’re not sure whether your research involves “human subjects,” a good place to start is the Decision Tree. You should also consult the Cornell IRB’s regulations and FAQs.

Students should discuss the need for IRB approval with their thesis advisors, and be sure to allocate time for preparing and submitting an IRB application, if necessary. While many student research projects qualify for expedited review, a full review (if required) can take several months

Resources

Reference librarians at the Cornell Library can provide valuable guidance with searching for sociological literature and locating data sources. The Reference Services Coordinator for Sociology is Nancy Skipper. We encourage you to contact Nancy to request a consultation early on in your research. (Many students think that they know how to search the internet for resources, but Nancy specializes in sociological research and she has a number of tricks and tips that will help you to use sociological databases and locate primary and secondary data.)

The Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit (CSCU) offers a number of workshops that are often useful for students writing honors theses. In particular, their workshop titled “Getting Started With Data Analysis” is aimed at helping honors thesis students get started with the analysis of quantitative data. This workshop is typically offered around the beginning of the semester. Space is limited and registration is required. You can schedule an appointment to meet and talk one-on-one with a statistical consultant. Over the past several years, honors thesis students in sociology have immensely benefitted from the support provided by CSCU.

Senior majors in the Department who are working on honors theses or who are working with faculty members on research projects can also request help with statistical packages – such as SPSS or Stata – that facilitate data analysis. Advanced PhD students in the Department are available to serve as tutors in the basics of operating these programs (e.g., inputting data, saving and opening files, executing basic statistical tests). Contact Sue Meyer if you would like to request this service.