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The Honors Program

Vanderbilt’s Sociology Department has a world-class faculty and world-class students. Our graduates have been accepted to many of the top universities in the country. One of the distinguishing features of our department is the honors program. Your honors thesis is a great calling card to have when applying to graduate programs.

Writing an honors thesis is the single most important learning experience you can have in college. Not only will you develop expertise in an area of interest, but you will also gain the research and writing skills necessary to translate that expertise into an independent and creative project. In addition to being personally rewarding, writing a successful thesis will help position you both for graduate school and for the job market.

What is the Honors Program?

In the honors program you spend your junior or senior year working on a thesis, which is approximately 40-50 pages long and will need to be completed in early April. The final thesis should reveal theoretical and empirical innovation, make a unique contribution to sociology, and demonstrate independent thinking and argumentation. You will be expected to present your findings during an oral defense in a concise and compelling way. Based on satisfactory completion of your written thesis and your oral defense, you will receive either Honors with a High Pass or Pass (and this will be reflected on your diploma).

Who is in the Honors Program?

This is a great opportunity to be part of a small cohort of juniors and seniors who will be working with a single faculty member to produce an independent honors thesis. The fall class is a weekly seminar (3 credit hours) designed to deepen your understanding of the research process and to help you select a topic, find appropriate data for analysis (or begin collecting your own data), and to learn the techniques and strategies of writing a successful thesis. The spring semester course is largely an independent study and writing (also 3 credit hours, with the option of 6 credits) under the direction of your thesis chair, with occasional meetings with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and with other honors students to get feedback and support.

What are the Requirements for the Honors Program?

In order to enroll the honors program you must have a GPA in sociology of 3.3 or higher, and you must either have completed Soc 3002 or you must be enrolled in Soc 3002 in the fall. The fall 4981 seminar will be considered an extra requirement toward receiving your degree with honors (i.e., it will not count as an elective). Your honors thesis independent study (4981, part 2) will count toward your sociology major requirements as an elective or it can be used to replace the Soc 3003 requirement.

Sample Honors Theses

Briana Perry. Briana’s thesis explores the relationship between abortion counseling and a patient’s personal background. Specifically she is interested in whether a woman’s race and SES influence the advice they receive about abortion services from healthcare professionals.

Brooke Burton. Brooke is studying how the structure of different ethnic-based student organizations at Vanderbilt influences the extent to which leaders in these organizations feel empowered when designing and administering programs on and off campus.

David Reichley. David is studying how college students with strong partisan leanings express their political identities and how they characterize their own views and the views of opposing partisans.

Aynalem Ameha. Annie’s research aims to illuminate how women in medicine experience gender differences in professional group settings by observing morning rounds.  She is interested in how gender influences group dynamics, interaction styles, and the tone and speech patterns of men and women doctors and medical students.

Perry Peguillan. Perry will use the Alfred P. Sloan Study of Youth and Social Development to analyze what influences the educational aspirations of low-income, African-American female adolescents. He is especially interested in whether a strong, supportive mother is the key factor that promotes high educational aspirations amongst this marginalized population.