Sociology majors may be awarded honors for excellence in the major, as reflected by either a high overall grade point average and/or the successful completion of an Honors thesis.
Regarding Latin Honors, 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). By completing an Honors thesis, students may also be awarded the separate designation of “High Honors in Sociology.”
First, the level of Honors awarded, if any, is determined by one’s grades. Students may earn Honors by achieving a very high overall GPA. Students who receive at least a 3.8 GPA will be awarded cum laude; those receiving at least a 3.9 will be awarded magna cum laude; and those receiving at least a 4.0 are awarded summa cum laude. Majors are eligible for these awards even if they did not write a Sociology Honors thesis.
The Honors Thesis Program
Regardless of whether a student has a high enough GPA to be eligible for one of the above Honors designations, Sociology majors who have at least a B+ grade point average overall and an A- grade point average in the major may still earn one of these Honors levels if they write an Honors thesis. The determination of which level of Honors the student is awarded depends on the quality of their completed thesis, as determined by the student’s thesis advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
In addition, those who were to be awarded a certain level of Honors due to their GPA may also elect to enroll in the Honors thesis program. Apart from the rewarding academic and professional development that comes with writing a research-based thesis, these students may potentially increase the level of Honors they are awarded if they complete a high-quality thesis.
“High Honors in Sociology”
Those students who complete a successful Honors Thesis, regardless of whether they earned honors by virtue of their GPA as well, will graduate with “High Honors in Sociology.” This is a designation that does not appear on one’s transcript, but can still be included on one’s résumé or CV.
Preparation During Junior Year
Students who apply and are admitted to the Honors Thesis Program (see admissions procedure below) write the Honors thesis during their senior year. If you are interested in participating in writing an Honors thesis, you should begin preparing for this during your junior year. Those 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 (email@example.com), the undergraduate program coordinator;
- Identify and secure the consent of a faculty member in the Sociology Department who can serve as an advisor and mentor throughout the writing process. Honors theses are typically advised by either the student’s existing Faculty Advisor or by a Sociology professor who has taught the student in a class and shares the student’s research interests. Students should contact possible honors thesis advisors and request a meeting no later than early in the second semester of their junior year. Note that it is a student’s responsibility to arrange a faculty adviser; one cannot enroll in the Honors program until they secured a faculty advisor;
- 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 by the end of junior year. This should be submitted with the application described below.
Students who are admitted into the Honors Thesis 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 Thesis Program Application
To obtain admission to the Honors Thesis Program, and, thus, eligibility to write an Honors thesis, majors must submit three documents to the Department:
- The Sociology Honors Thesis Application Form, signed by the faculty member who has agreed to advise the student’s Honors thesis.
- 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).
- 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).
Students are strongly encouraged to apply to the Honors Thesis Program before the end of their junior year. Honors Thesis Program applications must be approved by the summer prior to the fall semester of the senior year.
During the senior year, each candidate in the Sociology Honors Thesis Program 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. These guidelines and goals vary and should be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor.
During the second semester of thesis work, students 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 two hard-bound volumes of the thesis. One copy will remain in the Department, and one 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
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 Maureen Morris. We encourage you to contact Maureen to request a consultation early on in your research. (Many students think that they know how to search the internet for resources, but Maureen 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.