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 in Workday.
- Enrollment in SOC 99 in both semesters of senior year. Important: this course will not be counted toward the requirements for the concentration.
- Attendance at senior thesis information meeting at start of semester.
- By April 1 of your junior year, please submit a one-page document that includes a brief description of your substantive focus, planned research methods and the names of three potential sociology faculty supervisors to the UAH. The department will then match you with a faculty supervisor based on interest and availability.
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 Siri Suh.
If you're having difficulty pairing up with a thesis advisor, consult with UAH Siri Suh or department chair Sarah Mayorga.
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.)
Defining the Standards
An honors thesis must contain all of the following elements:
- A survey and critique of scholarly literature that pertains to the topic of research
- A concise and clearly stated research question
- Data, either originally gathered or drawn from an established dataset, and which can include readings of primary texts for theses with a historical focus or on theoretical topics
- A statement of method (or methodology) explaining how the data was gathered and analyzed
- An engagement with relevant sociological concepts and theoretical frameworks
- Coherently written chapters that address the research question
- A conclusion that summarizes the main findings and uses the data analysis to answer the research question
- A thesis defense in which the main findings are presented before the thesis committee
For high honors, the thesis must contain the elements above and also one or all of the following:
- Original data
- Novel or skillful use of methods
- Theoretical sophistication and originality
In short, high honors are awarded to theses that offer something new to scholars (data, methods and/or theory) beyond the relevant scholarly literature in the topical area(s) of the thesis.
To receive highest honors, a thesis must meet the above requirements for both honors and high honors and, in the assessment of the thesis committee, be worthy, after some rewriting, of submission to a scholarly journal.
In short, the highest honors are given only to a thesis that could serve as the foundation for publishable work.
Additionally, to receive highest honors, the oral defense of the thesis should be assessed as excellent by the thesis committee.
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 by Sept. 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: