Distinguished Majors Program

In order to provide an enriched academic experience for highly motivated students, the Department of Sociology participates in the College’s Distinguished Majors Program (DMP). Students wishing to join the Program should be Sociology majors and have a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher. Students are strongly urged to have completed (or be taking) SOC 3120, Sociology Research Workshop, by the time they apply to the Program. Applicants to the DMP must secure the agreement of a faculty member that he or she will take on the responsibility of supervising the thesis. An application form and a copy of the most recent transcript should be submitted to the Sociology Office in the semester prior to entering the DMP. The DMP should be completed over two consecutive semesters, generally during the student’s fourth year (Fall and Spring of the 4th year). However, students may wish to begin the DMP in their 6th semester instead. The choice of the timeframe should be discussed with a faculty adviser. In addition to the general requirements for the sociology major, students in the DMP are required to write a thesis, earning 6 credits over the course of two semesters. In the first semester of the DMP students should register for SOC 4980, Distinguished Majors Thesis Research. In this course, students design and conduct their research under the supervision of a faculty adviser. In the second semester, students register for SOC 4981, Distinguished Majors Thesis Writing, and produce a finished thesis under the supervision of a faculty adviser. A full draft of the thesis is due to the faculty advisor in mid-April. The final thesis is due at the end of classes and will be graded by a member of the Undergraduate Committee in conjunction with the faculty advisor. Students who successfully complete the requirements of the DMP can graduate with distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction depending on the following: (1) grade for the thesis, (2) overall performance in the sociology major, (3) overall College record. The Department annually awards two prizes: the Commonwealth Prize for the Best Undergraduate Paper in a sociology course, and the Prize for the Outstanding Distinguished Majors Thesis. For more information, or to petition for any exceptions to the requirements of the DMP, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Why write a thesis?

  • Intellectual enthusiasm:  an idea you care about; a problem you want to tackle
  • Close contact with a faculty member: meaningful college experiences begin with relationships
  • Career preparation: if you are considering graduate school, a thesis is like a trial run
  • Memorable college experience: Years later, you may not remember an individual class, but you will always remember your thesis.  You may not keep a paper, but you will likely keep your thesis. 

What is a thesis?

  • A thesis is an original research project to be carried out over two semesters under the close guidance of a faculty member
  • It can involve any research method (interviews, ethnography, surveys, archives, etc.); a thesis based primarily on elucidating theory is also possible, but those are rarer
  • A thesis is often 60-100 pages, but there is no minimum or maximum

Who is eligible to write a thesis?

  • Sociology majors with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher.
  • Students with a slightly lower GPA may be admitted, but their grades must be raised by graduation. Any student who completes the thesis but does not have the required GPA will receive a grade for SOC 4980/4981 but will not be able to graduate with distinction.
  • Students are urged to have completed Sociology 3120 (research workshop) before applying to the DMP
  • Students enrolled in the DMP course must secure the agreement of a faculty member that he or she will supervise the thesis (generally within the first month of classes).

What is the process of writing a thesis?  (see recommended timeline below)

  • Spring: choose an advisor, figure out a question, apply to DMP
  • Summer and Fall: collect data, write lit review
  • Winter: data analysis, write results, discussion, conclusion
  • Spring: revise revise revise, thesis is due April 30.

Recommended Timeline

Spring of your third year:

  • Choose to write a thesis!
  • Pick an advisor
  • Develop a research question
  • Submit application to the DMP program, due April 30[1]

[1] We prefer that applications are submitted by this date; we will accept later submissions under certain circumstances

Summer after your third year:

  • Read and research for literature review
  • Design/test “instruments”

September-December of your fourth year:

  • Data Collection
  • Write Intro and Literature Review

December-January of your fourth year

  • Data Analysis
  • Write methods Section

January-February of your fourth year

  • Write results section
  • Write Discussion and Conclusion
  • Revise Intro and Lit Review

March-April of your fourth year

  • Revise Results, Discussion and Conclusion
  • Complete first draft to advisor
  • Incorporate advisor feedback
  • Final draft to advisor
  • Incorporate advisor feedback and proofread

Thesis due date: April 30.