Distinguished Majors Program

The Department of Sociology participates in the College’s Distinguished Majors Program (DMP). The DMP provides qualified and motivated students with the opportunity to design and carry out an original research project under the supervision of a faculty member over the course of two semesters. This effort culminates in writing an honors thesis.

Eligibility for Admission to the Program

  • Students wishing to join the Program should have a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher. Students with a slightly lower GPA may be admitted, with the expectation that grades will be raised by the time of graduation (see the section on “Levels of Distinction” below)
  • Students must have completed SOC 3120-Sociology Research Workshop before enrolling in the Program.

The Application Process

Applications to the DMP should be submitted in the Spring semester of the student’s third year for participation during the fourth year.  In unusual circumstances, a student may request to apply in the Fall of the third year for participation during the Spring of the third year and the Fall of the fourth year.  Students who are interested in this option should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Programs.

To apply to the Program, a student should follow these steps:

Step 1. Discuss your idea for a research project with a faculty member and, if there is a good fit, ask that faculty member to supervise your thesis.  Students often seek to work with faculty they have had as instructors.  Students can also identify a potential advisor by reviewing faculty members’ research and teaching interests on the Sociology website.

Step 2.  Prepare a brief description of your planned research project, as you currently envision it (it is understood that the plan will likely evolve as the project progresses) and submit it to your advisor for approval.

Step 3. Download and complete the DMP application form (available on the Department website at https://sociology.as.virginia.edu/program-forms-and-links).  Email the completed form and your approved project description to Joyce Holleran at jeh6se@virginia.edu.


Participation in the Distinguished Majors Program requires the completion of two additional courses (six credits) beyond the 10 courses normally required for major. 

In the first semester of the Program, normally the Fall semester of the fourth year, students must register for SOC 4980, Distinguished Majors Thesis Research.  In this course, students formulate a clear research question, design their research, prepare a detailed research proposal or thesis draft, and begin data collection.  If the number of Distinguished Majors is sufficient, the Department will offer a weekly Distinguished Majors seminar taught by the DUP or another faculty member.  In any case, students will meet regularly with their faculty advisors.

In the second semester of the Program, normally the Spring semester of the fourth year, students must register for SOC 4981, Distinguished Majors Thesis Writing.  In this course, students complete data collection and analysis and write a finished thesis under the supervision of their faculty advisors.  The thesis will be jointly graded by the student’s faculty advisor and a member of the Undergraduate Committee.

Levels of Distinction

Students who successfully complete the requirements of the DMP may receive their degrees with distinction.  There are three levels of honors: distinction, high distinction, and highest distinction.  The level of distinction awarded depends on: (1) the grade for the thesis, (2) overall performance in the Sociology major, and (3) overall College record.

The College of Arts and Sciences requires that students completing a Distinguished Majors Program earn an overall College GPA of 3.4 or higher.  Importantly, the College does not round GPAs.  Any student who completes the thesis but does not have an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher will receive credit for SOC 4980 and SOC 4981, but will not be able to graduate with distinction.

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

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 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.