Writing an honors thesis offers students the opportunity to execute a substantial independent research project and to be considered for a bachelor's degree with honors by the Department of Sociology. The following guidelines have been established to govern the process of applying for honors and its assessment by the department faculty.
Admission to the Sociology honors program requires:
- A minimum 3.5 GPA in sociology and any other courses that fulfill the concentration by the end of junior year or a minimum overall GPA of 3.2. To figure out both your sociology GPA and overall GPA, check your transcript on Sage.
- Agreement by a member of the Sociology faculty to be the principal supervisor of the thesis, preferably by the end of junior year. This should be reported to the Undergraduate Advising Head (UAH) Professor Carmen Sirianni by you or your thesis advisor.
- Enrollment in SOC 99 in both semesters of senior year. Important: this course will not be counted toward the requirements for the concentration, unless the student is part of the Research Track.
- Attendance at Senior Thesis Information Meeting at start of semester.
Tip: Start early! A conversation with a potential faculty supervisor in junior year will help you think through feasible topics and develop a working relationship.
For any further clarification of information contact UAH, Professor Carmen Sirianni.
Continuation in the honors program in the second semester of senior year requires:
- A recommendation by your faculty thesis advisor to continue based on successful progress from fall term.
If you or your advisor determines not to continue with the thesis in spring term, you must withdraw from the SOC 99 course bureaucratically with the Registrar. Failure to do so by the posted deadlines will create complications for you as you approach graduation. Also, you must ask your thesis advisor to provide the Registrar with a letter grade for fall term if s/he has not already done so. (Most professors report mid‐year thesis grades as "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" to the Registrar.)
Research Involving Human Subjects
- Very Important: If you are going to write a thesis based on data from human subjects — through interviews, participant observation, databases with identifiable information, etc. — you need to go through an approval process with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Brandeis. The IRB's purpose is to make sure that you do not take advantage of your research subjects and that the research benefits outweigh the risks. IRB approval takes time, and you need approval before beginning your study. So, it is critical that you submit your protocol as soon as you and your advisor have agreed on your study design, so as to avoid significant delays in your research. An explanation of the process and the forms you need to submit can be found on the IRB website.
- You will also need to work with your advisor on a research protocol that describes in detail the exact procedures that you will undertake in doing the research. Once completed, it should be hand carried to the Office of Research Administration in Bernstein Marcus 117. You can view the IRB meeting schedule. To be reviewed, your protocol must be received by that office 10 business days in advance since all the committee members must read a very large volume of applications. Take care of this on September 15 if at all possible or you may lose valuable time in your research.
- Students must also participate in an online training session through the IRB. This CITI training is located on the IRB website.
Tip: Sometimes the IRB makes a decision, but no notification goes out to you. Be sure you follow up on the status of your protocol after the meeting in case you have more work to do.
To encourage timely progress, the following set of deadlines is strongly recommended in the research and writing of your thesis:
Before the end of junior year, you and your advisor should have achieved tentative mutual agreement on the thesis topic. We recommend that you draft a one-page description of your central research problem and the research methods you will use, to be sure that you and your advisor are "on the same page" about your project.
During fall registration, you should obtain your thesis advisor's signature on an Add Form (print one from the Registrar's website) to enroll in SOC 99a. You must then BRING the signed form to the Registrar at Kutz.
By Friday, September 15, you should have submitted a thesis prospectus to your advisor and given a copy to UAH, Carmen Sirianni. Yes, TWO copies. Your advisor can suggest length and format requirements, but a prospectus commonly includes a proposal with:
the significance of the project
list of bibliographic and other sources to be consulted
a preliminary outline of the proposed work
These materials are to be presented in sufficient detail to allow your faculty advisor to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan for research and analysis and to make appropriate suggestions while the thesis is still in its formative stage. The prospectus can also be used to solicit comments at this point from faculty members you might consider as second readers.
Please note that you are required to have two sociology professors and one professor from another department serve on the committee that reads your thesis. It is never too early to recruit your faculty readers!
By Thursday, December 7, you should have submitted the first major installment of your work to your thesis advisor. Whatever form it takes (e.g., a rough draft of the whole thesis, a draft of the first few chapters, or demonstrated completion of data collection) it should be of sufficient weight to allow your advisor to judge whether you are making satisfactory progress and therefore should be allowed to continue in program SOC 99d in the Spring.
By Thursday, January 18, you should submit the second major installment of your work to your thesis advisor.
Tuesday, March 6, is the last day to drop this course without transcript notification ‘W' (signature of the instructor is required).
By Friday, March 23, you should have submitted a complete draft of the entire study to each of your departmental and outside readers. This will allow faculty readers sufficient time during the break and busy of end semester period to read the thesis.
By Friday, April 20, you should have completed your review of all readers' suggestions and conferred with them on the final thrust of your thesis.
A final copy should be given to each of your committee members by Tuesday, May 1.
Early May a luncheon symposium will be scheduled for you to briefly present your work. It's a fun and satisfying event for all—a great culmination to the year's work.
Your faculty advisor must turn in your thesis grade to the Registrar by Tuesday, May 8.
Your individual oral defense should be scheduled the first week of May. It is up to you to work out a date that is agreeable to you and the three members of your committee. Typically the defense lasts about an hour. You may request help from the Sociology office staff to find a room.
A ‘clean' copy of your thesis, along with a Library Archives Permissions form should be turned in by May 8. The instructions for electronic submissions can be found at on the library website. This copy must be unbound or electronically submitted to the Brandeis Institutional Repository. All theses submitted to the repository are viewable by the public and searchable by Google as well as other search indexes.
If you expect your thesis to fulfill the requirements of other programs or concentrations in addition to Sociology, more than 3 committee members may be necessary. Your deadlines may need to be adjusted to accommodate those requirements as well. During fall term consult with any other departments for their specific rules and deadlines!