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Sociology Theses and Dissertations

Theses/dissertations from 2023 2023.

Deconstructing and Decolonizing Identities of “Gender” and “Sex” When Viewed as Anti-Black: Black Narratives Outside of the Binary , Didier Salgado

“We Need to Figure Out Who We Are”: Reframing Manhood in an Online Discussion Forum , Tomas Sanjuan Jr.

Musicking Higher Education: An Analysis of the Effects of Music Pedagogy On College Classroom Atmospheres , April Smith

Framing, Emotion, and Contradiction in the Tampa Bay Times’ Climate Change Coverage , Madison Veeneman

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

"Are We Done?": The Minimization of Covid-19 and the Individualization of Health in the United States , Cassidy R. Boe

Health and Friendships of LGBTQIA+ College Students , Komal Asim Qidwai

Organizing for Here and There: Exploring the Grassroots Organizing of the Puerto Rican Diaspora in the Tampa Bay Area , Dominique Rivera

Stitched Together: What We Learn from Secret Stories in Public Media , Sara D. Rocks

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

"Duck Wars": Examining the Narrative Construction of a "Problem" Species , Jenna A. Bateman

The Debate on Physician-Assisted Death in the United States: A Narrative Analysis of Formula Stories , Rebecca Blackwell

The Social Correlates of War: Conflict Correlations Within Belief Systems. , Richard R. N. Decampa

Narrative Meaning Productions of Compassionate Healthcare: An Examination of Cultural Codes, Organizational Practices, and Everyday Realities , Carley Geiss

Racialized Morality: The Logic of Anti-Trafficking Advocacy , Sophie Elizabeth James

Green Business and the Culture of Capitalism: Constructing Narratives of Environmentalism , Julia S. Jester

Presenting Selves and Interpreting Culture: An Ethnography of Chinese International Tourism in the United States , Fangheyue Ma

Making A Home Away from Home: A Qualitative Study of African Students’ Practices of Integration in the United States , Alphonse O. Opoku

"They Say We're Expendable:" Race, Nation, and Citizenship in the Dominican Republic. , Edlin Veras

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

A social network analysis of online gamers' friendship networks: Structural attributes of Steam friendships, and comparison of offline-online social ties of MMO gamers , Juan G. Arroyo-Flores

Family Response to a Diagnosis of Serious Mental Illness in Teens and Young Adults: A Multi-Voiced Narrative Analysis , Douglas J. Engelman

GoFundTransitions: Narratives of Transnormativity and the Limits of Crowdfunding Livable Futures , Hayden J. Fulton

"Courage Drives Us": Narrative Construction of Organizational Identity in a Cancer-Specific Health Non-Profit Organization , Katie J. Hilderbrand

“I woke up to the world”: Politicizing Blackness and Multiracial Identity Through Activism , Angelica Celeste Loblack

The Athletics Behind the Academics: The Academic Advisor’s Role in the Lives of Student Athletes , Max J.R. Murray

Red-Green Rows: Exploring the Conflict between Labor and Environmental Movements in Kerala, India , Silpa Satheesh

Winning “Americans” for Jesus?: Second-Generation, Racial Ideology, and the Future of the Brazilian Evangelical Church in the U.S. , Rodrigo Otavio Serrao Santana De Jesus

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

Palatable Shades of Gender: Status Processes at the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Team Formation , Jasmón L. Bailey

American Converts to Islam: Identity, Racialization, and Authenticity , Patrick M. Casey

Meaning and Monuments: Morality, Racial Ideology, and Nationalism in Confederate Monument Removal Storytelling , Kathryn A. DelGenio

"Keep it in the Closet and Welcome to the Movement": Storying Gay Men Among the Alt-Right , Shelby Statham

Selling White Masculinity: An Analysis of Cultural Intermediaries in the Craft Beverage Industry , Erik Tyler Withers

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

The Role of the Soldier in Civilian Life: Personal and Social Concerns that Influence Reintegration Processes , Matthew J. Ahlfs

“I Want to Be Who I Am”: Stories of Rejecting Binary Gender , Ana Balius

Breaking the Crass Ceiling? Exploring Narratives, Performances, and Audience Reception of Women's Stand-Up Comedy , Sarah Katherine Cooper

An Intersectional Examination of Disability and LGBTQ+ Identities In Virtual Spaces , Justine E. Egner

"I've never had that": An Exploration of how Children Construct Belonging and Inclusion Within a Foodscape , Olivia M. Fleming

Hybridizers and the Hybridized: Orchid Growing as Hybrid "Nature?" , Kellie Petersen

Coloring in the Margins: Understanding the Experiences of Racial/Ethnic and Sexual/Gender Minority Undergraduates in STEM , Jonathan D. Ware

Decreased Visibility: A Narrative Analysis of Episodic Disability and Contested Illness , Melissa Jane Welch

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

“Have a Seat at our Table: Uncovering the Experiences of Black Students Attending a ‘Racially Diverse’ University” , Diamond Briggs

TERF Wars: Narrative Productions of Gender and Essentialism in Radical-Feminist (Cyber)spaces , Jennifer Earles

“Can You Believe They Think I’m Intimidating?” An Exploration of Identity in Tall Women , Elizabeth Joy Fuller

Black Girl Magic?: Negotiating Emotions and Success in College Bridge Programs , Olivia Ann Johnson

"What Are We Doing Here? This Is Not Us": A Critical Discourse Analysis of The Last Of Us Remastered , Toria Kwan

Behind the Curtain: Cultural Cultivation, Immigrant Outsiderness, and Normalized Racism against Indian Families , Pangri G. Mehta

From the Panels to the Margins: Identity, Marginalization, and Subversion in Cosplay , Manuel Andres Ramirez

Examining Forty Years of the Social Organization of Feminisms: Ethnography of Two Women’s Bookstores in the US South , Mary Catherine Whitlock

"There is No Planet B": Frame Disputes within the Environmental Movement over Geoengineering , David Russell Zeller Jr.

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

“You Can Fight Logic…But You Can’t Fight God”: The Duality of Religious Text and Church as Community for White Lesbians in Appalachian and Rural Places , Jessica Mae Altice

Songwriting as Inquiry and Action: Emotion, Narrative Identity, and Authenticity in Folk Music Culture , Maggie Colleen Cobb

Unraveling the Wild: A Cultural Logic of Animal Stories in Contemporary Social Life , Damien Contessa

“It’s Not Like a Movie. It’s Not Hollywood:” Competing Narratives of a Youth Mentoring Organization , Carley Geiss

An Examination of Perspectives on Community Poverty: A Case Study of a Junior Civic Association , Monica Heimos Heimos

"I'm Not Broken": Perspectives of Students with Disabilities on Identity-making and Social Inclusion on a College Campus , Melinda Leigh Maconi

People and Pride: A Qualitative Study of Place Attachment and Professional Placemakers , Wenonah Machdelena Venter

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Mediated Relationships: An Ethnography of Family Law Mediation , Elaina Behounek

The Continuum of Ethno-Racial Socialization: Learning About Culture and Race in Middle-Class Latina/o Families , Maria D. Duenas

Getting Ahead: Socio-economic Mobility, Perceptions of Opportunity for Socio-economic Mobility, and Attitudes Towards Public Assistance in the United States , Alissa Klein

Beauty is Precious, Knowledge is Power, and Innovation is Progress: Widely Held Beliefs in Policy Narratives about Oil Spills , Brenda Gale Mason

Looking at Levels of Medicalization in the Institutional Narrative of Substance Use Disorders in the Military , Chase Landes Mccain

The Experience of Chronic Pain Management: A Multi-Voiced Narrative Analysis , Loren Wilbers

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Resources Matter: The Role of Social Capital and Collective Efficacy in Mediating Gun Violence , Jennifer Lynne Dean

More to Love: Obesity Histories and Romantic Relationships in the Transition to Adulthood , Hilary Morgan Dotson

Dieting, Discrimination, and Bullying: A Contextual Case Study of Framing in the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance , Veronica Kay Doughman

Negotiating Muslim Womanhood: The Adaptation Strategies of International Students at Two American Public Colleges , Amber Michelle Gregory

Checking Out: A Qualitative Study of Supermarket Cashiers' Emotional Response to Customer Mistreatment , Michael E. Lawless

Managing Family Food Consumption: Going Beyond Gender in the Kitchen , Blake Janice Martin

Motherhood Bound by State Supervision: An Exploratory Study of the Experiences of Mothers on Parole and Probation , Kaitlyn Robison

In Search of the Artist: The Influences of Commercial Interest on an Art School - A Narrative Analysis , Michael Leonard Sette

"They're Our Bosses": Representations of Clients, Guardians, and Providers in Caregivers' Narratives , Dina Vdovichenko

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Constructing Legal Meaning in the Supreme Court Oral Arguments: Cultural Codes and Border Disputes , Jeffrey Forest Hilbert

"All Blacks Vote the Same?": Assessing Predictors of Black American Political Participation and Partisanship , Antoine Lennell Jackson

Expectations of Nursing Home Use, Psychosocial Characteristics and Race/Ethnicity: The Latino/a Case , Heidi Ross

Beyond the Door: Disability and the Sibling Experience , Morgan Violeta Sanchez Taylor

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

A Mother's Love: A Narrative Analysis of Food Advertisements in an African American Targeted Women's Magazine , Janine Danielle Beahm

It's a Support Club, Not a Sex Club: Narration Strategies and Discourse Coalitions in High School Gay-Straight Alliance Club Controversies , Skyler Lauderdale

Beyond the Backlash: Muslim and Middle Eastern Immigrants' Experiences in America, Ten Years Post-9/11 , Gregory J. Mills

Competing Narratives: Hero and PTSD Stories Told by Male Veterans Returning Home , Adam Gregory Woolf

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

"Can't Buy Me Wealth": Racial Segregation and Housing Wealth in Hillsborough County, Florida , Natalie Marie Delia Deckard

Friendship Networks, Perceived Reciprocity of Support, and Depression , Ryan Francis Huff

That is Bad! This is Good: Morality as Constructed by Viewers of Television Reality Programs , Joseph Charles Losasso

American Muslim Identities: A Qualitative Study of Two Mosques in South Florida , Azka Mahmood Mahmood

Ethnic Identities among Second-Generation Haitian Young Adults in Tampa Bay, Florida: An Analysis of the Reported Influence of Ethnic Organizational Involvement on Disaster Response after the Earthquake of 2010 , Herrica Telus

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

Feral Cats and the People Who Care for Them , Loretta Sue Humphrey

Utilizing Facebook Application for Disaster Relief: Social Network Analysis of American Red Cross Cause Joiners , Jennie Wan Man Lai

Comparative Study of Intentional Communities , Jessica Merrick

More Than Bows and Arrows: Subversion and Double-Consciousness in Native American Storytelling , Anastacia M. Schulhoff

Between Agency and Accountability: An Ethnographic Study of Volunteers Participating in a Juvenile Diversion Program , Marc R. Settembrino

Predictors of Academic Achievement among Students at Hillsborough Community College: Can School Engagement Close the Racial Gap of Achievement? , Warren T. Smith

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

Latent Newspaper Functions During the Impact Phase of Hurricane Katrina , Christina A. Brown

The Subjective Experience of PMS: A Sociological Analysis of Women’s Narratives , Christiana B. Chekoudjian

Sacred Selves: An Ethnographic Study of Narratives and Community Practices at a Spiritual Center , Sean E. Currie

Digging It: A Participatory Ethnography of the Experiences at a School Garden , Branimir Cvetkovic

Constructions of Narrative Identities of Women Political Candidates , Amy E. Daniels

“The Best We Can With What We Got”: Mediating Social and Cultural Capital in a Title I School , Jarin Rachel Eisenberg

Identities of Alternative Medicine Practitioners , Mychel Estevez

A Family „Affear‟: Three Generations of Agoraphobics , Sherri Elizabeth Green B.A.

“According to Wikipedia …”: A Comparative Analysis of the Establishment and Display of Authority in a Social Problems Textbook and Wikipedia , Alexander A. Hernandez

Realness and Hoodness: Authenticity in Hip Hop as Discussed by Adolescent Fans , Ginger L. Jacobson

Identity negotiation: The perspective of Asian Indian women , Pangri Mehta

Theses/Dissertations from 2008 2008

Doing Dignity at the Grace Café: An Ethnographic Exploration of a Homeless Outreach Program , Courtney A. Glover

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Home > SBS > Sociology > SOCIOL_THESES

Sociology Department Masters Theses Collection

Theses from 2023 2023.

Prevention of What? Competing Biological Citizenship Claims and the Biopolitics of Autism Prevention , Helene D. Grogan, Sociology

Moving Beyond the Gender Binary: A Critical Analysis and Review of Contemporary Scholarship on Nonbinary Gender Identities , Rie Harding, Sociology

Theses from 2022 2022

Superstar Firms and the State: Amazon in the U.S. and France during the Covid-19 Pandemic , Priscilla Hernandez, Sociology

A New Way to Get Groceries? Ride-Hail Services and Navigating Outside of Food Deserts , Kathryn Reynolds, Sociology

A Relational Investigation of Political Polarization on Twitter , Tyler Walton, Sociology

Slavery, Colonialism, and Other Ghosts: Presence and Absence in the Rise of American Sociology, 1895-1905 , Aaron Yates, Sociology

Theses from 2021 2021

Homophily, Gender-Typed Behavior, and Cultural Contexts in Adolescent Friendship Segregation , Chen-Shuo Hong, Sociology

Theses from 2020 2020

Seeing Like a State Cultural Agency: Creative Place-Making Transcripts of Local and State Actors , Jennifer Abrams, Sociology

The Welfare States: Examining U.S. State-Level Benefits For Families With Children, 1987-2015 , Anthony Huaqui, Sociology

Reproductive Journeys: Indo-Caribbean Women Challenging Gendered Norms , Tannuja Rozario, Sociology

Theses from 2019 2019

Job Mobility, Gender Composition, and Wage Growth , Youngjoon Bae, Sociology

Stigma in Class: Mental Illness, Social Status, and Tokenism in Elite College Culture , Katie R. Billings, Sociology

Discourse, Meaning-Making, and Emotion: The Pressure to have a “Feminist Abortion Experience” , Derek Siegel, Sociology

Theses from 2018 2018

Life Course Effects of Polyvictimization: Associations with Depression and Crime , Richard Carbonaro, Sociology

The Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis as a Problematic: Beyond "Falsificationism" , Paul Erb, Sociology

A Tale of Force: Examining Factors that Influence Police Officer Use of Force , Kayla Preito-Hodge, Sociology

Theses from 2017 2017

Why Class Matters: Understanding the Relationship Between Class, Family Involvement, and Asian American College Students’ Success , Blair Harrington, Sociology

Labor Union Membership and Black Political Participation , Tiamba Wilkerson, Sociology

Theses from 2016 2016

Boys Just Want to Have Fun? Sexual Behaviors and Romantic Intentions of Gay and Straight Men in College Hookup Culture , Randy J. Barrios, Sociology

Gender Inequality: Nonbinary Transgender People in the Workplace , Skylar Davidson, Sociology

The Radicalism Plateau: Working Class Transformation, Housing Foreclosure and the Hegemony of the American Dream , Aaron C. Foote, Sociology

Revisiting Union Decline: An Analysis of Organized Labor's Crisis , Nathan Meyers, Sociology

Theses from 2015 2015

A "Greedy" Institution with Great Job Benefits: Family Structure and Gender Variation in Commitment to Military Employment , Karen M. Brummond, Sociology

Rejecting Reconstruction after Breast Cancer: Managing Stigmatized Selves , Marianne A. Joyce, Sociology

Cohort and Gender Differences and the Marriage Wage Premium: Findings from the NLSY79 and the NLSY97 , Misun Lim, Sociology

Black Politics of Folklore: Expanding the Sites and Forms of Politics in Colombia , Carlos Alberto Valderrama Pibe, Sociology

Theses from 2014 2014

Beauty Through Control: Forming Pro-Anorexic Identities in Digital Spaces , Kay A.S. McCurley, Sociology

Process Matters: Engaging the Productive Power of Sociological Research , Abby I. Templer, Sociology

The Subjectivity of Student Success: Instructor's Perceptions of the Ideal Student in a Compensatory Program for Minority Youth , Yolanda M. Wiggins, Sociology

Theses from 2013 2013

Same-Sex Marriage in Western Massachusetts , Ben A. Johnson, Sociology

Exploring the Effects of Friendship on Risky Sexual Behavior: A Look at Female Gang Members , Jenny C. Piquette, Sociology

Racism in a “Post-Racial” Era: Color-blind Discourse, Anti-Immigrant Racism, and White Injury Ideology in Discussions of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 , Cassaundra Rodriguez, Sociology

Theses from 2012 2012

China’s New Generation Migrant Workers , Lie Wang, Sociology

Theses from 2011 2011

Ripped from the Land, Shipped Away and Reborn: Unthinking the Conceptual and Socio-Geo-Historical Dimensions of the Massacre of Bellavista , Aurora Vergara Figueroa, Sociology

Theses from 2010 2010

Connections in Care: The Relationship Between Complementary, Alternative and Conventional Medicine , Amy Loomis, Sociology

Theses from 2009 2009

The Search for Self-Fulfillment: How Individualism Undermines Community Organizing , Rachel Rybaczuk, Sociology

Theses from 2008 2008

Race and Representation: A Case Study of Racial Diversity in Student Government , Rhys J. Livingstone, Sociology

Negotiating Discourses on Homoeroticism: The Coming Out and Other Tales by Colombian Immigrant Men in New York City , Erika Marquez, Sociology

Effects of Maternal Job Quality on Children's Reading Achievement , Ayse Yetis Bayraktar, Sociology

Theses from 2007 2007

Stealing Time and Being There: Fathers, Class and Time , Carla N. Russell, Sociology

Theses from 1975 1975

Getting 'Up' for the Meet: A Sociological Analysis of Drug Usage in the Sport of Olympic Weightlifting , Douglas C. Cooney, Sociology

Theses from 1934 1934

Methods of control of commercialized entertainment with special reference to the motion picture, in Worcester and Springfield, Mass , Robert B. Fletcher, Sociology

Theses from 1933 1933

A study of the depopulation of the small towns in Windham County, Vermont , Lauri S. Ronka, Sociology

Theses from 1932 1932

A study of children's judgements in relation to certain factors , Francis C. Pray, Sociology

Theses from 1916 1916

A study of community transitions: phases of a town's history with psychological and sociological interpretations , R. F. Lund, Sociology

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout introduces you to the wonderful world of writing sociology. Before you can write a clear and coherent sociology paper, you need a firm understanding of the assumptions and expectations of the discipline. You need to know your audience, the way they view the world and how they order and evaluate information. So, without further ado, let’s figure out just what sociology is, and how one goes about writing it.

What is sociology, and what do sociologists write about?

Unlike many of the other subjects here at UNC, such as history or English, sociology is a new subject for many students. Therefore, it may be helpful to give a quick introduction to what sociologists do. Sociologists are interested in all sorts of topics. For example, some sociologists focus on the family, addressing issues such as marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and domestic abuse, the ways these things are defined in different cultures and times, and their effect on both individuals and institutions. Others examine larger social organizations such as businesses and governments, looking at their structure and hierarchies. Still others focus on social movements and political protest, such as the American civil rights movement. Finally, sociologists may look at divisions and inequality within society, examining phenomena such as race, gender, and class, and their effect on people’s choices and opportunities. As you can see, sociologists study just about everything. Thus, it is not the subject matter that makes a paper sociological, but rather the perspective used in writing it.

So, just what is a sociological perspective? At its most basic, sociology is an attempt to understand and explain the way that individuals and groups interact within a society. How exactly does one approach this goal? C. Wright Mills, in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959), writes that “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” Why? Well, as Karl Marx observes at the beginning of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), humans “make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Thus, a good sociological argument needs to balance both individual agency and structural constraints. That is certainly a tall order, but it is the basis of all effective sociological writing. Keep it in mind as you think about your own writing.

Key assumptions and characteristics of sociological writing

What are the most important things to keep in mind as you write in sociology? Pay special attention to the following issues.

The first thing to remember in writing a sociological argument is to be as clear as possible in stating your thesis. Of course, that is true in all papers, but there are a couple of pitfalls common to sociology that you should be aware of and avoid at all cost. As previously defined, sociology is the study of the interaction between individuals and larger social forces. Different traditions within sociology tend to favor one side of the equation over the other, with some focusing on the agency of individual actors and others on structural factors. The danger is that you may go too far in either of these directions and thus lose the complexity of sociological thinking. Although this mistake can manifest itself in any number of ways, three types of flawed arguments are particularly common: 

  • The “ individual argument ” generally takes this form: “The individual is free to make choices, and any outcomes can be explained exclusively through the study of their ideas and decisions.” While it is of course true that we all make our own choices, we must also keep in mind that, to paraphrase Marx, we make these choices under circumstances given to us by the structures of society. Therefore, it is important to investigate what conditions made these choices possible in the first place, as well as what allows some individuals to successfully act on their choices while others cannot.
  • The “ human nature argument ” seeks to explain social behavior through a quasi-biological argument about humans, and often takes a form such as: “Humans are by nature X, therefore it is not surprising that Y.” While sociologists disagree over whether a universal human nature even exists, they all agree that it is not an acceptable basis of explanation. Instead, sociology demands that you question why we call some behavior natural, and to look into the social factors which have constructed this “natural” state.
  • The “ society argument ” often arises in response to critiques of the above styles of argumentation, and tends to appear in a form such as: “Society made me do it.” Students often think that this is a good sociological argument, since it uses society as the basis for explanation. However, the problem is that the use of the broad concept “society” masks the real workings of the situation, making it next to impossible to build a strong case. This is an example of reification, which is when we turn processes into things. Society is really a process, made up of ongoing interactions at multiple levels of size and complexity, and to turn it into a monolithic thing is to lose all that complexity. People make decisions and choices. Some groups and individuals benefit, while others do not. Identifying these intermediate levels is the basis of sociological analysis.

Although each of these three arguments seems quite different, they all share one common feature: they assume exactly what they need to be explaining. They are excellent starting points, but lousy conclusions.

Once you have developed a working argument, you will next need to find evidence to support your claim. What counts as evidence in a sociology paper? First and foremost, sociology is an empirical discipline. Empiricism in sociology means basing your conclusions on evidence that is documented and collected with as much rigor as possible. This evidence usually draws upon observed patterns and information from collected cases and experiences, not just from isolated, anecdotal reports. Just because your second cousin was able to climb the ladder from poverty to the executive boardroom does not prove that the American class system is open. You will need more systematic evidence to make your claim convincing. Above all else, remember that your opinion alone is not sufficient support for a sociological argument. Even if you are making a theoretical argument, you must be able to point to documented instances of social phenomena that fit your argument. Logic is necessary for making the argument, but is not sufficient support by itself.

Sociological evidence falls into two main groups: 

  • Quantitative data are based on surveys, censuses, and statistics. These provide large numbers of data points, which is particularly useful for studying large-scale social processes, such as income inequality, population changes, changes in social attitudes, etc.
  • Qualitative data, on the other hand, comes from participant observation, in-depth interviews, data and texts, as well as from the researcher’s own impressions and reactions. Qualitative research gives insight into the way people actively construct and find meaning in their world.

Quantitative data produces a measurement of subjects’ characteristics and behavior, while qualitative research generates information on their meanings and practices. Thus, the methods you choose will reflect the type of evidence most appropriate to the questions you ask. If you wanted to look at the importance of race in an organization, a quantitative study might use information on the percentage of different races in the organization, what positions they hold, as well as survey results on people’s attitudes on race. This would measure the distribution of race and racial beliefs in the organization. A qualitative study would go about this differently, perhaps hanging around the office studying people’s interactions, or doing in-depth interviews with some of the subjects. The qualitative researcher would see how people act out their beliefs, and how these beliefs interact with the beliefs of others as well as the constraints of the organization.

Some sociologists favor qualitative over quantitative data, or vice versa, and it is perfectly reasonable to rely on only one method in your own work. However, since each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, combining methods can be a particularly effective way to bolster your argument. But these distinctions are not just important if you have to collect your own data for your paper. You also need to be aware of them even when you are relying on secondary sources for your research. In order to critically evaluate the research and data you are reading, you should have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the different methods.

Units of analysis

Given that social life is so complex, you need to have a point of entry into studying this world. In sociological jargon, you need a unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is exactly that: it is the unit that you have chosen to analyze in your study. Again, this is only a question of emphasis and focus, and not of precedence and importance. You will find a variety of units of analysis in sociological writing, ranging from the individual up to groups or organizations. You should choose yours based on the interests and theoretical assumptions driving your research. The unit of analysis will determine much of what will qualify as relevant evidence in your work. Thus you must not only clearly identify that unit, but also consistently use it throughout your paper.

Let’s look at an example to see just how changing the units of analysis will change the face of research. What if you wanted to study globalization? That’s a big topic, so you will need to focus your attention. Where would you start?

You might focus on individual human actors, studying the way that people are affected by the globalizing world. This approach could possibly include a study of Asian sweatshop workers’ experiences, or perhaps how consumers’ decisions shape the overall system.

Or you might choose to focus on social structures or organizations. This approach might involve looking at the decisions being made at the national or international level, such as the free-trade agreements that change the relationships between governments and corporations. Or you might look into the organizational structures of corporations and measure how they are changing under globalization. Another structural approach would be to focus on the social networks linking subjects together. That could lead you to look at how migrants rely on social contacts to make their way to other countries, as well as to help them find work upon their arrival.

Finally, you might want to focus on cultural objects or social artifacts as your unit of analysis. One fine example would be to look at the production of those tennis shoes the kids seem to like so much. You could look at either the material production of the shoe (tracing it from its sweatshop origins to its arrival on the showroom floor of malls across America) or its cultural production (attempting to understand how advertising and celebrities have turned such shoes into necessities and cultural icons).

Whichever unit of analysis you choose, be careful not to commit the dreaded ecological fallacy. An ecological fallacy is when you assume that something that you learned about the group level of analysis also applies to the individuals that make up that group. So, to continue the globalization example, if you were to compare its effects on the poorest 20% and the richest 20% of countries, you would need to be careful not to apply your results to the poorest and richest individuals.

These are just general examples of how sociological study of a single topic can vary. Because you can approach a subject from several different perspectives, it is important to decide early how you plan to focus your analysis and then stick with that perspective throughout your paper. Avoid mixing units of analysis without strong justification. Different units of analysis generally demand different kinds of evidence for building your argument. You can reconcile the varying levels of analysis, but doing so may require a complex, sophisticated theory, no small feat within the confines of a short paper. Check with your instructor if you are concerned about this happening in your paper.

Typical writing assignments in sociology

So how does all of this apply to an actual writing assignment? Undergraduate writing assignments in sociology may take a number of forms, but they typically involve reviewing sociological literature on a subject; applying or testing a particular concept, theory, or perspective; or producing a small-scale research report, which usually involves a synthesis of both the literature review and application.

The critical review

The review involves investigating the research that has been done on a particular topic and then summarizing and evaluating what you have found. The important task in this kind of assignment is to organize your material clearly and synthesize it for your reader. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but looks for patterns and connections in the literature and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of what others have written on your topic. You want to help your reader see how the information you have gathered fits together, what information can be most trusted (and why), what implications you can derive from it, and what further research may need to be done to fill in gaps. Doing so requires considerable thought and organization on your part, as well as thinking of yourself as an expert on the topic. You need to assume that, even though you are new to the material, you can judge the merits of the arguments you have read and offer an informed opinion of which evidence is strongest and why.

Application or testing of a theory or concept

The application assignment asks you to apply a concept or theoretical perspective to a specific example. In other words, it tests your practical understanding of theories and ideas by asking you to explain how well they apply to actual social phenomena. In order to successfully apply a theory to a new case, you must include the following steps:

  • First you need to have a very clear understanding of the theory itself: not only what the theorist argues, but also why they argue that point, and how they justify it. That is, you have to understand how the world works according to this theory and how one thing leads to another.
  • Next you should choose an appropriate case study. This is a crucial step, one that can make or break your paper. If you choose a case that is too similar to the one used in constructing the theory in the first place, then your paper will be uninteresting as an application, since it will not give you the opportunity to show off your theoretical brilliance. On the other hand, do not choose a case that is so far out in left field that the applicability is only superficial and trivial. In some ways theory application is like making an analogy. The last thing you want is a weak analogy, or one that is so obvious that it does not give any added insight. Instead, you will want to choose a happy medium, one that is not obvious but that allows you to give a developed analysis of the case using the theory you chose.
  • This leads to the last point, which is the analysis. A strong analysis will go beyond the surface and explore the processes at work, both in the theory and in the case you have chosen. Just like making an analogy, you are arguing that these two things (the theory and the example) are similar. Be specific and detailed in telling the reader how they are similar. In the course of looking for similarities, however, you are likely to find points at which the theory does not seem to be a good fit. Do not sweep this discovery under the rug, since the differences can be just as important as the similarities, supplying insight into both the applicability of the theory and the uniqueness of the case you are using.

You may also be asked to test a theory. Whereas the application paper assumes that the theory you are using is true, the testing paper does not makes this assumption, but rather asks you to try out the theory to determine whether it works. Here you need to think about what initial conditions inform the theory and what sort of hypothesis or prediction the theory would make based on those conditions. This is another way of saying that you need to determine which cases the theory could be applied to (see above) and what sort of evidence would be needed to either confirm or disconfirm the theory’s hypothesis. In many ways, this is similar to the application paper, with added emphasis on the veracity of the theory being used.

The research paper

Finally, we reach the mighty research paper. Although the thought of doing a research paper can be intimidating, it is actually little more than the combination of many of the parts of the papers we have already discussed. You will begin with a critical review of the literature and use this review as a basis for forming your research question. The question will often take the form of an application (“These ideas will help us to explain Z.”) or of hypothesis testing (“If these ideas are correct, we should find X when we investigate Y.”). The skills you have already used in writing the other types of papers will help you immensely as you write your research papers.

And so we reach the end of this all-too-brief glimpse into the world of sociological writing. Sociologists can be an idiosyncratic bunch, so paper guidelines and expectations will no doubt vary from class to class, from instructor to instructor. However, these basic guidelines will help you get started.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Cuba, Lee. 2002. A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science , 4th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write Sociology Papers

Writing sociology papers.

Writing is one of the most difficult and most rewarding of all scholarly activities. Few of us, students or professors, find it easy to do. The pain of writing comes largely as a result of bad writing habits. No one can write a good paper in one draft on the night before the paper is due. The following steps will not guarantee a good paper, but they will eliminate the most common problems encountered in bad papers.

1. Select a topic early. Start thinking about topics as soon as the paper is assigned and get approval of your topic choice from the professor before starting the research on the paper. When choosing a topic, think critically. Remember that writing a good sociology paper starts with asking a good sociological question.

2. Give yourself adequate time to do the research. You will need time to think through the things you read or to explore the data you analyze. Also, things will go wrong and you will need time to recover. The one book or article which will help make your paper the best one you've ever done will be unavailable in the library and you have to wait for it to be recalled or to be found through interlibrary loan. Or perhaps the computer will crash and destroy a whole afternoon's work. These things happen to all writers. Allow enough time to finish your paper even if such things happen.

3. Work from an outline. Making an outline breaks the task down into smaller bits which do not seem as daunting. This allows you to keep an image of the whole in mind even while you work on the parts. You can show the outline to your professor and get advice while you are writing a paper rather than after you turn it in for a final grade.

4. Stick to the point. Each paper should contain one key idea which you can state in a sentence or paragraph. The paper will provide the argument and evidence to support that point. Papers should be compact with a strong thesis and a clear line of argument. Avoid digressions and padding.

5. Make more than one draft. First drafts are plagued with confusion, bad writing, omissions, and other errors. So are second drafts, but not to the same extent. Get someone else to read it. Even your roommate who has never had a sociology course may be able to point out unclear parts or mistakes you have missed. The best papers have been rewritten, in part or in whole, several times. Few first draft papers will receive high grades.

6. Proofread the final copy, correcting any typographical errors. A sloppily written, uncorrected paper sends a message that the writer does not care about his or her work. If the writer does not care about the paper, why should the reader?

Such rules may seem demanding and constricting, but they provide the liberation of self discipline. By choosing a topic, doing the research, and writing the paper you take control over a vital part of your own education. What you learn in the process, if you do it conscientiously, is far greater that what shows up in the paper or what is reflected in the grade.


Some papers have an empirical content that needs to be handled differently than a library research paper. Empirical papers report some original research. It may be based on participant observation, on secondary analysis of social surveys, or some other source. The outline below presents a general form that most articles published in sociology journals follow. You should get specific instructions from professors who assign empirical research papers.

1. Introduction and statement of the research question.

2. Review of previous research and theory.

3. Description of data collection including sample characteristics and the reliability and validity of techniques employed.

4. Presentation of the results of data analysis including explicit reference to the implications the data have for the research question.

5. Conclusion which ties the loose ends of the analysis back to the research question.

6. End notes (if any).

7. References cited in the paper.

Tables and displays of quantitative information should follow the rules set down by Tufte in the work listed below.

Tufte, Edward. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information . Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press. (lib QA 90 T93 1983)

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This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

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sociology thesis paper

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Department of sociology: dissertations, theses, and student research.

A Case for Friendship: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Close Friendships in Adulthood , Grace Kelly

Coverage Error Properties of Smartphone and Smartphone Operating System Ownership on Web Surveys: A Total Survey Error Perspective , Angelica Phillips

Attitudes Towards Public Basic Needs Programs: An Analysis of Question Order Effect, Period and Cohort Changes, and Differences Across Religious Traditions , Jamy K. Rentschler

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Well-Being of People Incarcerated in United States Prisons , Kimberly Rivera

Settler colonial origins of intimate partner violence in Indigenous communities , Maia C. Behrendt

The Burden of Giving: Race, SES, and Nativity Differences in Providing Informal Financial Assistance , Nestor Hernandez

Factors Associated with Racial Differences in Health Care Access , Memory Manda

Effects of Victimization and Community Characteristics on Health Outcomes , Katie Meyer

Cover Guys: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Representations of Men's Bodies in Popular Magazines for Men , Trenton M. Haltom


Protective Factors against Dating Violence Perpetration and Victimization , Meagan Kunitzer

Housework: Socialization Influences on Individual Performance, Couple Division of Labor and Mental Health , Jaala Robinson

The Relationship between Quality of Life, Extreme Climatological Conditions and Social Unrest in India , Daniel Schaefer and its LGBTQIA+ Tag: A Digital Ethnography Investigating How LGBTQIA+-affirming Video Game Streamers and Viewers Interact and Build LGBTQIA+ Spaces Online , Cadyn Alexander Williamson

How Does the Social World Shape the Experience of a Rare Disease? Social Position and the Development, Progression, and Medical Care for People With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis , Jennifer A. Andersen

‘Do Unto Others’: Religiosity and Bullying in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood , Joseph Jochman

The Consequences and Correlates of Racial Identity Discordance: An Explication of the Social Construction of Race , Eli X. Ornelas

Examining the Association Between Interviewer and Respondent Speaking Pace in Telephone Interviews , Angelica Nicole Phillips


Relationship Quality in Kin and Chosen Kin Familial Networks , Eliza Thor

Drinking Behaviors, Relationships And Recovery: A Relational Sociological Examination Of Addiction , Maia C. Behrendt

Interpersonal Discrimination and Mental Health among Minority Students at Predominantly White Institutions: Does Racial Identity Matter? , Marissa Lynn Cardwell

The Perfect Match? Correlates of Job Placement Among PhD Earners , Andrea Johnson

Social Networks and Science Identity: Does Peer Commitment Matter? , Grace Maridyth Kelly

Disabled and Out? Social Interaction Barriers and Mental Health among Older Adults with Physical Disabilities , Raeda Anderson

Disentangling the Roles of Modernization and Secularization on Fertility: the Case of Turkey , Dogan Hatun

Understanding Mental and Behavioral Health of American Indian Youth: An Application of the Social Convoy Model , Jerreed D. Ivanich

Birds of a Feather? Friendship Utilization by Sexual Minority Students During the Transition to College , Jessica Morrow

How State-Level Dynamics Shape Individual-Level Welfare Payments , Jamy Rentschler

Examining Retrospective Measurement of Ambivalence About First Births and Psychological Well-Being Using A Hybrid Cross-Survey Multiple Imputation Approach , Stacy Tiemeyer

Assessing Risks and Potential Protective Factors of Dating Violence Perpetration and Victimization , Brian Ermon Tussey

Not Infertile, Can’t Have Children: Non-Reproductive Health Barriers to a Wanted Child , Jennifer A. Andersen


Protests in the Post-Cold War Era: World Systems Dynamics and Hardship Effects in Post-Colonial Countries , Shawn M. Ratcliff

Changing Public Opinion Towards LGB Rights: An Analysis of Data from the American National Election Studies, 1992-2012 , Jacob Paul Absalon

Examining the Interplay Between Spousal and Non-Spousal Social Support and Strain on Trajectories of Functional Limitations among Married Older Adults , Scott A. Adams

Fear and Loitering in Los Angeles: Contextualizing Fear in the Efficacy Framework , Benjamin J. Forthun

Three Studies Examining the Mechanisms Linking Stress Exposure to Delinquency and Substance Use among North American Indigenous Adolescents , Dane Steven Hautala

Understanding Transgender Community: Locating Support and Resiliency Using the Minority Stress Model , Rosalind D. Kichler

On The Street and On Campus: A Comparison of Life Course Trajectories Among Homeless and College Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Young Adults , Rachel M. Schmitz

A Mediational Analysis of the Influence of Negative Coping Behaviors on Health Outcomes Associated with Adolescent School Bullying , Joseph C. Jochman


Capturing the Gendiverse: A Test of the Gender Self-Perception Scale, with Implications for Survey Data and Labor Market Measures , Alian Kasabian

A Model for Understanding Structure Versus Agency in the Participation of Minors in the Commercial Sex Market , Courtney Thrash

Faculty Parental Status: An Investigation of Network Homophily, Marginalization, and Supportive Work-Family Academic Culture , Megumi Watanabe


A Stress Process Model of Arrest among Homeless Women: Exploring Risk and Protective Factors , Kari C. Gentzler

Is Gaining, Losing or Keeping a Self-Identified Fertility Problem Associated with Changes in Self-Esteem? , Elizabeth A. Richardson


The Dynamics of Network-Religion Autocorrelation in Adolescent Friendship Networks , J Benjamin Cook

Sins of our Fathers (and Mothers): Impact of Parental Incarceration upon Education Outcomes , Patrick Habecker

Adolescent Depressive Symptoms and Substance Use: The Mediating Influence of Health Service Utilization , Sarah E. Malone

Does Exclusion From Normative Peer Groups in Early Adolescence Predict the Development of Substance Use Problems in Early Adulthood? , Cody R. Meyer

Multiple Motherhoods: An Examination of Mother Status on Life Satisfaction and Psychological Distress , Kayla M. Pritchard

Witnessing Inter-Parental Violence at Home: Adolescents and School Achievement , Renita Dawn Robinson-Tyrance

Tentative Transitions and Gendered Pathways: Exploring the Revolving Door of Young Adult Homelessness , Rachel M. Schmitz

Exploring Educational Pathways: Reintegration of the Formerly Incarcerated through the Academy , Grant E. Tietjen

A Phenomenology of the Meaning of Motherhood for African American and Hispanic Women Who Do Not Have Children in the United States , Amy M. Clark


The Sociology of Harriet Martineau in EASTERN LIFE, PRESENT AND PAST: The Foundations of the Islamic Sociology of Religion , Deborah A. Ruigh

Hard Work, Overcoming, and Masculinity: An Ethnographic Account of High School Wrestlers' Bodies and Cultural Worlds , Bryan Snyder

Abortion and Distress: The Role of State-Level Restrictive Policies Regarding Reproduction , Elizabeth Straley

Influences of Farming Background on Farm Women’s Employment Motivations , Alexis Swendener

Motherhood Situation and Life Satisfaction: Are Reasons for Having No Children Important? , Kari C. Gentzler


Religious Affiliation and Attendance as Predictors of Immigration Attitudes in Nebraska , Courtney Lyons Breitkreutz

Race and Gender Differences and the Role of Sexual Attitudes in Adolescent Sexual Behavior , Laura E. Simon

Infertility Help Seeking and Social Support: Do Conventional Theories Explain Internet Behaviors and Outcomes , Kathleen S. Slauson-Blevins

The Effect of Caretaker Separations on Indigenous Adolescents , Melissa L. Welch

Service Utilization Patterns of Homeless Youth , Sarah L. Akinyemi

Comparing Individual- and National- Level explanations of Environmental Attitudes , Andrew V. Bedrous

Variations in Social Support and Mental Health Among Black Women by Socioeconomic Status , Lesa A. Johnson

Learned Workers: Predicting Adult Education in the Labor Force , Alian S. Kasabian

Explaining College Partner Violence in the Digital Age: An Instrumental Design Mixed Methods Study , Lisa Melander

He Said, She Said: (Dis)agreement about the Occurrence of Intimate Partner Violence among Young Adult Couples , HarmoniJoie Noel

Marital Satisfaction Across the Transition to Parenthood , Kayla M. Sanders

Gender and Race Differences in Job Satisfaction and Commitment among STEM Faculty: The Influence of Network Integration and Work-Family Balance , Megumi Watanabe

The Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Child Care for Working Mothers in the United States , Patricia Wonch Hill


Roscoe Pound and American Sociology: A Study in Archival Frame Analysis, Sociobiography and Sociological Jurisprudence , Michael R. Hill

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Sociology Theses and Dissertations

Theses/dissertations from 2018 2018.

Bystander Self-Efficacy To Prevent Sexual Assault: An Evaluation Of The Impacts Of Online And In-Person Bystander Intervention Training , Morgan Paige Devine

Alcohol-Related Regret Among Undergraduate Students , Samantha Jo Feroni

Parental Involvement And Academic Outcomes Among First Generation College Students , Jordan A. Jaeger

The Effects Of Overnight Work Travel On Working Mothers And Fathers , Natalie Martinson

Informal Caregiving Strain: Exploring The Impact Of Gender, Race, And Income , Bria Elaine Willert

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

The Effects Of Parenthood, Gender,and Gender Ideology On The Support For Paid Parental Leave , Amira Allen

Trailer Park Residents: Are They Worthy Of Society's Respect , Steve Anderson

Stigma And Restoration Of Civil Rights To Felons , Kimberly Paige Pithey

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Gender Differences In Factors Contributing To Frequency Of Victimization Among Youth In Residential Placement , Chelsey Hukriede

Schedule Flexibility And The Impact On Work-To-Family Conflict Among Low Earners And High Earners , Brittany Love

Academic Procrastination And Stimulating Substance Use Among College Undergraduates , Katlyn Moes

The Minnesota Army National Guard And Gender Expectations , Corbin David Routier

Concussion Knowledge And Attitudes: The Impact Of Hegemonic Masculinity , Allyssa Jean Schlosser

Contraceptive Self-Efficacy: Educational And Familial Influences , Jenelle Suzan Swenberger

The Impact Of Cultural Identity And Social Capital On American Indian Elders' Subjective Health , Cole Lewis Ward

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

The Effect Of Policy Context On Work And Family Identity In Norway And The United States , Rebecca Folkman Gleditsch

The Differential Relationship Between Work-Family Conflict, Work Characteristics, And Psychological Distress Among Partnered And Single Mothers , Brooke Janae Kranzler

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Does Religion Affect Attitudes Towards Same-Sex Marriage? , Marc Anthony Franczak

Employment Characteristics And Mental Health: A Quantitative Study , Keegan Charles August Hahn

Public Support For Stricter Gun Control Laws In America Following The Tragedy At Sandy Hook Elementary , Ryan Jeffrey Hausmann

Differences In Political Contributions Among Men And Women Of The Corporate Elite In The 2008 Federal Election , Keith Ray Mccormick

Correctional Education Programs: Institutional Predictors Of Availability , Shamilya Marielle Mitchell

New York Police Department Stop, Question, And Frisk Program: Experiences Across Race And Gender , Thomas Mrozla

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

The Effect Of Birth Order On Age At First Sex And Total Number Of Lifetime Sexual Partners , Lacey Christine Clark Anderson

Exploring the marital conflict of police officers: The roles of job stress, job burnout, and work-to-family conflict , Shannon Marie Morley

Family Factors And Perceived Coworker Support And Supervisor Support , Sara Narveson

Breast Cancer, Genetic Testing And Attribution of Responsibility , Lona Parsons Smith

Perceptions Of Parental Success: Implications For Family-To-Work Conflict And Family-To-Work Enhancement , Tami J. Vigesaa

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Job Satisfaction And Professional Employees' Perceptions Of Ict Use , Cody Ryle Asperheim

Workplace Characteristics, Work-To-Life Conflict, And Psychological Distress Among Medical Workers , Marissa S. Gravelle

Professional Mothers' Loyalty To Their Employers , Ashley Lynn Leschyshyn

Comparing the Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors of Native Americans and non-Native Americans , Franklin Sage

Social Distance In The College Classroom , Chassity Paige Sanner

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

Perceptions of Weight Reduction Surgery: The Role of Stigma and the Attribution of Responsibility , Jessica Marie Behm

Theses/Dissertations from 2006 2006

Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Classroom: How Students Respond to "Dreamworlds" , Angela Bailly

Cohabitation in North Dakota: A Socio-Legal Examination of the Congruence of the Law and Attitudes Towards Living Arrangements Among College Students , James Lee Foster

Theses/Dissertations from 2004 2004

Cons, Ex-Cons and Odinism Across Cultural and National Borders: Why Attempt to Procure Knowledge and Dare We Not? , Lene T. Vallestad

Theses/Dissertations from 2003 2003

Delinquent Recidivism and Diversion from Formal Juvenile Court Proceedings: A Cognitize Restructuring Approach , Robert James Amos Jr.

Concentrated Hog Feeding Operations and the Animal Rights Movement: A Website Diagnostic Frame Analysis , Venita M. Quamme

Theses/Dissertations from 2002 2002

Basque Assimilation Across Four Generations: Experiences in a Rural Community , Megan L. Olson DeMontigny

Theses/Dissertations from 2001 2001

The Effects of the Garrison Dam on the Community of Elbowoods , Melford MJ W. Gunderson

Theses/Dissertations from 2000 2000

Y2000 Alcohol and Drug Survey: An Examination of University of North Dakota Students , Michael A. Seredycz

Theses/Dissertations from 1999 1999

The Integration of Military Adolescents in a Civilian High School , Terri L. Eide

Theses/Dissertations from 1998 1998

Impact of the 1997 Red River Valley Flood on Marital Relationships , Karen M. Davis

Theses/Dissertations from 1997 1997

Anatomy of a Gang Suppression Unit: The Social Construction of an Organizational Response to Gang Problems , Carol A. Erickson

Theses/Dissertations from 1996 1996

Status Passage of the Science Fiction Fan: Becoming a Member of the Science Fiction Fan Subculture , B. Diane Miller

Theses/Dissertations from 1992 1992

Bring the Self Back In: An Empirical Critique of the Oversocialized Conception of Women in Sport , Kimberly Ann Tyler-Ayers

Theses/Dissertations from 1988 1988

Perceived Severity of Informal Sanctions: A Case Study of Convicted DUI Offenders in Cass County, North Dakota , Terry D. Stratton

Theses/Dissertations from 1986 1986

The Effects of Athletic Participation and Self-Concept on Juvenile Misbehavior , Timothy G. Driscoll

Theses/Dissertations from 1977 1977

Effects of Television on Rural Minnesota Viewer Attitudes Toward Capital Punishment , Beverly Brown Schulke

Theses/Dissertations from 1968 1968

The Affect of an Individual's Membership Segment on Attitude Orientation, Values, and Political Participation , James H. Larson

Theses/Dissertations from 1965 1965

Variation in Maternity Care and the Post Hospital , John P. Collette

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Sociology Research Paper

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This sample sociology research paper features: 10800 words (approx. 36 pages), an outline, and a bibliography with 59 sources. Browse other research paper examples for more inspiration. If you need a thorough research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.

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The early sociology, the foundation of social science: statistical studies, the rise of american sociology, the substance of the sociological perspective, the passion for sociology, conclusion: the future of sociology.

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A commonly accepted definition of sociology as a special science is that it is the study of social aggregates and groups in their institutional organization, of institutions and their organization, and of the causes and consequences of changes in institutions and social organization. (Albert J. Reiss, Jr. 1968:1)

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Within the contemporary context, sociologists are interested in human social interaction as people take one another into account as each behaves toward the other. Sociologists also take into analytical consideration the systemic units of interaction within social groups, social relations, and social organizations. As stated by Reiss (1968), the purview of sociology extends to

Governments, corporations, and school systems to such territorial organizations as communities or to the schools, factories, and churches . . . that are components of communities. . . . are also concerned with social aggregates, or populations, in their institutional organization. (P. 1) (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Sociology is, as Touraine (1990) suggests, an interpretation of social experience and is thus a part of the reality that the practitioners of the discipline attempt to observe and explain. To these areas we can add that sociology is a discipline that demystifies its subject matter, and it is, as Dennis H. Wrong (1990:21–22) notes, a debunker of popular beliefs, holds skeptical and critical views of the institutions that are studied (Smelser 1990), and challenges myth making (Best 2001).

The early history of sociology is a history of ideas developed in the European tradition, whereas the sociological approach of the last 150 years involved the development of concepts, methodology, and theories, especially in the United States (Goudsblom and Heilbron 2001). As American sociologists trained in the traditional theory and methods developed during the first eight decades of the twentieth century, we acknowledge our intellectual debt to the European founders. But beyond an earnest recognition of the classic work of the early founders, including Auguste Comte, Émile Durkheim, Alexis de Tocqueville, Frederic LePlay, Marcell Mauss, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Harriet Martineau, most of whom were attracted to the European environment that included the liberalism, radicalism, and conservatism of the early to mid-nineteenth century (Nisbet 1966; Friedrichs 1970) and to what C. Wright Mills (1959) refers to as the sociological imagination that “enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society” (p. 6), our approach to sociology is deeply embedded with and indebted to those individuals who established the Chicago, Harvard, Iowa, and Berkeley schools of thought. Similarly, as practitioners, our approach to the discipline of sociology is reflected in these distinctive American scholarly perspectives.

The American tradition of sociology has focused on social policy issues relating to social problems, the recognition of which grew out of the dynamic periods of social transformation wrought by the Industrial Revolution, the Progressive Era, world crises engendered by war, worldwide population shifts, increasing mechanization, and the effort of sociologists to create a specific niche for the discipline within a growing scientific community. This effort occurred first in North America and Western Europe and then, similar to cultural transitions of the past, within a global context. In every instance, the motives embedded within a science of society lie in the attempt to understand and offer proposals for solutions to whatever problems gain significant attention at a particular point in time.

In a most interesting work, Goudsblom and Heilbron (2001) pose that sociology represents a great diversity, or what some analysts may refer to as fragmentation, because the discipline grew as a part of the processes affecting societies and cultures worldwide throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Thus, as we move well into a new era and a new stage of academic development, it remains important that we recognize the sociological heritage as identified and discussed by these analysts. The five stages that sociology has experienced to date are (1) the predisciplinary stage prior to 1830, further identified as “protosociologies”; (2) the formation of the intellectual discipline, 1830–1890; (3) the formation of an academic discipline with diverging national traditions, 1890–1930; (4) the establishment of an international academic discipline, 1930–1970; and (5) a period of crisis, fragmentation, and attempts to develop a new synthesis, 1970–2000 (Goudsblom and Heilbron 2001:14574–80).

Consistent with the fifth stage, for almost four decades we have been witness to major changes in the substantive topics that undergo sociological inquiry both in the United States and, given the influence on the discipline by Canadian, European, and Scandinavian scholars, internationally. Among the areas more fully developed that might be identified as fragmentation are many of the most interesting sociological topics, including deviant behavior, the family, religion, gender, aging, health, the environment, science and technology, among so many seemingly unrelated topics. The unique conceptual paradigms of sociology serve as a template or pattern for seeing the social world in a special way. Every discipline and, indeed, every occupation employs templates or patterns to see and accomplish things in a unique fashion. Disciplines such as sociology rely on intellectual templates based on certain conceptual schemes or paradigms that have evolved through the development of a body of knowledge in those disciplines.

In its early era of the mid- to late nineteenth century, sociology was understood to represent anything relating to the study of social problems. Indeed, it was thought that the methods of the social sciences could be applied to social problems and used to develop solutions (Bernard and Bernard 1943). In focusing on such substance, O’Neill (1967:168–69) notes that periodicals of this early period had a sociological section in which news items relating to family matters, poverty, and labor often appeared. These early social scientists did not hold any special talents other than their training in theology. This situation was similar in the United States as well. It is not difficult, then, to imagine that, as Bramson (1961) notes, “For many American sociologists these problems evoked a moral response” (p. 75). Thus, the process of solving the problems of society was attempted by application of the conventional morality and the validation of Christian principles of piety rather than reform or progress.

Sociology was born as a result of a process, a process that directed a method of inquiry away from philosophy and toward positivism (MacIver 1934). Sociology was the result of a process caused by two major forces—namely, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. The events, changes, and ideas that emerged from these two revolutions are found in the nineteenth-century thought pertaining to social order (Eisenstadt 1968). Following in the wake of the Age of Reason and the Renaissance, according to Nisbet (1966), this was a period of word formation:

Perhaps the richest period of word formation in history . . . which were either invented during this period or were modified to their present meanings: industry, industrialist, democracy, class, middle class, ideology, intellectual, rationalism, humanitarian, atomistic, masses, commercialism, proletariat, collectivism, equalitarian, liberal, conservative, scientist, crisis . . . [among others]. (P. 23)

These were words that held great moral and partisan interest in the European economy and culture; such passions were identified with politics as well.

Identified with European conservatism, which became infused by and with science, the visionary perspective promoted by Auguste Comte during the 1830s in his six-volume Positive Philosophy, later translated from the French and condensed into two volumes by Harriet Martineau, was based on the medieval model of European society.

This model of family, community, authority, tradition, and the sacred became the core of scientific sociology that was to serve notice that a science of society was essential to provide for more than commonsense analysis and to reestablish social order (MacIver 1934). Although unsuccessful in his quest to secure a professorship, Auguste Comte was a positivist, mathematician, and promoter of the scientific identity of the engineering profession (Noble 1999). Comte argued that positivism and the still-to-beidentified area of “sociology” would serve as a means of supporting his intention to create a unique perspective of human relations and a system to reestablish the social order and organization of society. Reestablishment of this new social order was to proceed in accordance with the positivist stage of evolution with its ineluctable natural laws that could and would be established through engaging the scientific perspective. Along with the arts, the science of sociology, according to Comte, was to emerge as the queen of the sciences, the scientia scientorum, and would ultimately supplant biology and cosmology.

If the restoration of order in French society was a preoccupation for many early-nineteenth-century scholars, including Auguste Comte, it was also the case, as Bramson (1961) notes, that

many of the key concepts of sociology illustrate this concern with the maintenance and conservation of order; ideas such as status, hierarchy ritual, integration, social function and social control are themselves a part of the history of the reaction to the ideals of the French Revolution. What conservative critics saw as resulting from these movements was not the progressive liberation of individuals, but increasing insecurity and alienation, the breakdown of traditional associations and group ties. (Pp. 13–14)

For social scientists of the early nineteenth century, many of the problems of the time were much more well defined than is the case in the contemporary experience.

Comte was fervently religious, and he believed those interested in science would constitute a “priesthood of positivism” that would ultimately lead to a new social order. According to Noble (1999),

A theist in spite of himself, Comte declared that the existence of the Great Being “is deeply stamped on all its creations, in moral, in the arts and sciences, in industry,” and he insisted, as had previous like-minded prophets since Erigena, that all such manifestations of divinity were equally vital means of mankind’s regeneration . . . Comte was convinced that people like himself, science-minded engineering savants occupied with the study of the sciences of observation are the only men whose capacity and intellectual culture fulfill the necessary conditions. (P. 85)

The legacy of this enthusiastic perspective is that sociology has been at the heart of the positivists’ contribution to the understanding of the human condition. It was also to serve in part as a basis for the reactions of conflict theorist Karl Marx, especially as these writings referred to the religious opiate of the masses deemed by Comte as critical to the reorganization of society (Noble 1999:87). The discipline continues to present an array of perspectives that have served to stimulate much controversy within both society and the discipline (see Turner 2001).

Although the sociological legacy of Harriet Martineau is substantial, as outlined by Lengermann and NiebruggeBrantley (1998), it was Martineau’s effort to translate and condense Auguste Comte’s six-volume magnum opus into a two-volume set of writings published in 1853 that allowed this important work to be available to the Englishspeaking world. Interestingly, Comte’s English translation came after Martineau’s sociological contributions, the richness of which was finally recognized by feminist researchers during the 1980s and 1990s. Martineau engaged in “participant observation” of the United States during the mid-1830s and subsequently published the two-volume Society in America (1836/1837), which is based on this excursion to the North American continent. Because of this experience, Martineau was able to lay the foundation for her treatise on research methodology in How to Observe Morals and Manners (1838).

Perhaps it is ironic that the distinctive difference between the European theoretical sociology and the empirical sociology practiced in the United States was advanced by events in Europe. Indeed, the origin of empirical sociology is rooted in Europe. Statistical studies began in the 1660s, thereby preceding the birth of all of the social sciences by a couple of centuries. The early statistical gatherers and analysts were involved in “political arithmetic” or the gathering of data considered relevant to public policy matters of the state, and as noted by Reiss (1968), the gathering of such data may have been accelerated to meet the needs of the newly emerging insurance industry and other commercial activities of the time. But it was the early work of the moral statisticians interested in reestablishing social order in the emerging industrial societies that was to lay the quantitative foundation for the discipline, especially the early scientific work of the French sociologist Émile Durkheim (Whitt 2001:229–35).

The second stage in the early history of quantification may have been related to the development of probability theory, the rise of the insurance industry, other commercial activities, and political necessity (Lecuyer and Oberschall 1968; Reiss 1968). English political arithmeticians, including John Graunt and William Petty, were destined to be followed by the efforts of the moral statisticians who engaged in data gathering in Belgium and France. Indeed, as early as 1831, the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet and the Frenchman Andre Michel de Guerry de Champneuf, in building on the early efforts of the practitioners of the “political arithmetic” that first began in the 1660s, were engaging in the government-sponsored data-gathering activity pertaining to data on moral topics, including suicide, prostitution, and illegitimacy. Such activities would prove quite instrumental in the establishment of the empirical social sciences. Even many of the methodologies developed during this same era of the early nineteenth century, as well as awareness of important ecological methodological issues such as statistical interactions, the ecological fallacy, and spuriousness, were developed by early moral statisticians such as Andre-Michel de Guerry and Adolphe Quetelet. Later, the work of Henry Morselli, Enrico Ferri, and Alfred Maury during this same century were to serve well the needs of aspiring European sociologists and even later members of the Chicago School of Sociology (Whitt 2001:229–31).

American sociology is one of the intellectual creations that has most deeply influenced our century. No other society ( the American ) has been more actively involved in understanding its own organizational change for the sake of knowledge itself. (Touraine 1990:252)

The birth of the social sciences in general and of sociology in particular is traced to the liberal democratic ideas generated by the British social philosophies of the seventeenth century—ideas that later were to be enhanced by the French Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and then transformed in the United States where these ideas served as the foundation for practical democratic society. The rise of American sociology can be traced to the early-nineteenthcentury social science movement, a movement that by the mid-1800s became a new discipline that was widely introduced into college and university curricula. The movement also led to the establishment of a national social science association that was to later spawn various distinctive social sciences, including sociology, as well as social reform associations (Bernard and Bernard 1943:1–8).

Although the promotion of the social sciences in the United States began as early as 1865 with the establishment of the American Association for the Promotion of Social Sciences and then, in 1869, creation of the American Social Science Association with its associationsponsored publication the Journal of Social Science, prior to the 1880s there had been no organized and systematic scientific research in the United States. This was the case simply because, as Howard W. Odum ([1927] 1965:3–20) noted, there was no university per se in which research as a scientific pursuit could be conducted. It is within the context of the movement to organize such a university that sociology and many other social sciences were embraced as viable academic disciplines, thereby allowing systematic research to be conducted in a rigorous manner. This also was a period of great emphasis on pursuing answers to new research questions through the evaluation of knowledge and the employment of methodological and statistical tools within an interdisciplinary context. Indeed, L. L. Bernard and Jessie Bernard (1943) posit that the vision of the founders of the American Social Science Association was “to establish a unified science of society which could and would see all human problems in their relationships and make an effort to solve these problems as unified wholes” (p. 601).

Thus, the social sciences in general and sociology in particular owe a great intellectual debt to the American intellects who studied at length with the masters of Europe. Included among these are notables such as William Graham Sumner, Lester Frank Ward, Albion Woodbury Small, Franklin Henry Giddings, John William Burgess, Herbert B. Adams, Thorstein Veblen, Frederick Jackson

Turner, James Harvey Robinson, George Vincent, Charles Horton Cooley, Edward Alsworth Ross, George Howard, Frank W. Blackmar, Ulysses G. Weatherly, John R. Commons, and Richard T. Ely (see Odum 1951, [1927] 1965); each of whom were well versed in scholarly areas other than sociology, including history, theology, economics, political science, and statistics. With the decline of the social science movement and its national association, the general discipline that emerged from the remains of social science was in fact sociology (Bernard and Bernard 1943:835).

The development of an intellectual and academic American sociology, like sociology in any part of the world, was and continues to be dependent on the social and political conditions of the country. In the United States, a liberal political climate and, in the aftermath of the Civil War, the advent of a system of a mass public education system, American sociology flourished. Thus, in countries in which the structure of the system of higher education was open to free inquiry, research was supported by private foundations and government contributions (Wright 1895), and the university was organized albeit loosely, sociology, subject to the polemics of its status as an academic science, gained entry if not acceptance among university faculty. Where education was available to the elite rather than the masses, sociology was less apt to flourish (Reiss 1968).

Another important factor is that American sociology arose basically without roots other than the growing influence of the social science movement in the United States and the emphasis on the virtues of science that permeated the intellectual and social environs of this same period. As noted by Neil J. Smelser (1990:49–60), American sociology did not experience the yoke of either European feudalism or any peculiar intellectual history. Rather, sociology came into being within American higher education during the 1880s and only after several other disciplines, including psychology and economics, had been accepted within the academy. Attempts among adherents of these other disciplines led to the establishment of the scientific theme within the social sciences. Early sociologists embraced this same scientific theme.

A second factor that had a profound effect on the early adherents of the sociological perspective is the social reform theme of the 1890s. The legacy of these two themes—namely, scientific respectability and social reform—became the dual platforms on which the unique American sociological perspective was to be based.

Although there was a great, direct influence of European thought, research, and the philosophy of the British Social Science Association on sociology to focus on attempting to solve America’s problems (Odum 1951:36–50), the rise of American sociology, at least during the first half of the twentieth century, was concomitant with the most dynamic period of technological, economic, and social reform changes ever recorded. In this context, Howard W. Odum (1951:52) views sociology as a product of the American social and cultural experience and places sociology’s heritage to be as “American as American literature,American culture, and the freedoms of the new world democracy” (p. 3). American sociology is thus part European and part American. Indeed, American sociology was envisioned early on as a social science that could and would assist policymakers and concerned citizens in creating the “American Dream.”

Consistent with this ideology, Odum (1951:59–60) identified three unique American developments, each of which influenced the direction of American sociology throughout the entire twentieth century. The first of these developments is the symbiotic relationship between the discipline and the American society and culture. The ideology that focused on the American Dream and its realization had a great influence.

The second development, according to Odum, is the emphasis on moral development and the motivation to establish ethics as a component of the educational curricula,American literature, and the social sciences, especially as these relate to ethical conduct, social justice, and public morality. Within sociology, this orientation is found in the application of sociological principles into economic and organizational behavior and the founding of the American Institute of Christian Sociology.

Finally, Odum (1951) notes, the American experience led to a research emphasis on social problems of a moral and economic nature. In an effort to better understand these social problems, sociologists organized the systematic study of issues such as waves of immigration, the working class, public disorder, neglect of children, violence toward women, intergroup conflict, urbanism, alcoholism, suicide, crime, mental illness, delinquency, and poverty (see also Fine 2006). This was the application side of sociology that held important social policy implication. However, there was also an early emphasis on a “general sociology” as opposed to a “special sociology” as was found at the more elite institutions of higher learning. Clearly, this difference foreshadowed the pure versus applied dichotomy that has generated so much discussion within the discipline (see Odum 1951:51–74).

Because of the important influence of the social science movement in the United States, there is some disagreement pertaining to who the founders and members of the first generation of American sociologists are (see Odum 1951, [1927] 1965). But publication of Lester Ward’s book Dynamic Sociology in 1883 does appear to mark the beginning of American sociology (Bramson 1961:84–85). On the other hand, there does not seem to be any disagreement as to the purpose of the American founders, and that was to establish a scientific theoretical base. Later, at the University of Chicago the goals were to establish a relationship between sociology and the classical problems of philosophy by focusing on process issues relating to elements of social control, such as conflict, competition, and accommodation (Kurtz 1986:95).

American sociology emerged concomitant with the challenges to legal philosophy and the discussion of questions relating to myriad questions that arose as the effects of industrialization were observed Calhoun (1919). Such questions have their focus on marriage, divorce, immigration, poverty, and health and how to employ the emerging scientific model to topical data that had been gathered by the nineteenth-century moral statisticians.

Leon Bramson (1961:47–48) observed that the most interesting aspect of American sociology in the first half of the twentieth century is that when affected by European theories of mass behavior and collective behavior, American sociologists, in their haste to establish a role for sociology in America, either transformed the meaning of the concepts to meet their needs or created new concepts to apply to the more liberal American social and political context. American sociologists, according to Bramson, also applied European theoretical concepts such as social pathology, social disorganization, and social control to the data referring to the American experience without regard for whatever special conditions should have been accounted for or even possible theoretical distortions; this issue is also discussed by Lester R. Kurtz (1986:60–83) in his evaluation of the Chicago School of Sociology.

Albert J. Reiss, Jr. (1968) notes that the first formal instruction of a sociology course in the United States was offered by William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale University, during 1876. The first, second, and third American Departments of Sociology were established at Brown University, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University, respectively (Kurtz 1986:93–97). Between 1889 and 1892, 18 American colleges and universities offered instruction in sociology, but in 1893, the University of Chicago was the first to develop a program that led to the granting of a Ph.D.

Despite the recognition of the emerging field of sociology as a distinctive area of inquiry, the focal point of a religious orientation and perhaps fervor expressed by social commentators in their discussions and analyses of the social issues that were to constitute the purview of sociology also engaged the attention of other early practitioners of the discipline. The social problems identified in the wake of expansion of the American West and the building of the railroads included issues relating to “the influx of immigrants, the rise of the factory system and the concentration of people in big cities. These comprised the now familiar catalogue of crime, delinquency, divorce, poverty, suicide, alcoholism, minority problems and slums” (Bramson 1961:75).

Alfred McClung Lee (1978:69) notes that ever since that time, sociologists have been attempting to divorce themselves from an ancestry that is historically rooted in the clergy, the police, utopian ideologues, social reformers, conservative apologists, journalistic muckrakers, radical thinkers, agitators, and civil libertarians.

Given the moral tone of much of the writing of many early American sociologists, it is noteworthy that in articulating the six “aims” of the American Journal of Sociology established at the University of Chicago in 1895, the scientific view of sociological concern so clearly defined several decades later by E. A. Ross (1936) was not so clear to many if not all of the moral philosophers of this earlier period. Witness the following comments offered by the founding editor of the American Journal of Sociology, Albion W. Small (1895):

Sociology has a foremost place in the thought of modern men. Approve or deplore the fact at pleasure, we cannot escape it. . . . To many possible readers the most important question abut the conduct of the Journal will be with reference to its attitude toward “Christian Sociology.” The answer is, in a word, towards Christian sociology sincerely deferential, toward “Christian sociologists” severely suspicious. (Pp. 1, 15)

These comments were of particular significance given that the American Journal of Sociology was not only the first journal of sociology created anywhere, but it was also, until 1936, the official journal of the American Sociological Society. Thus, the influence of both the Chicago School and the large number of contributions by its faculty and students to the American Journal of Sociology placed the work of the Chicago School at the forefront in shaping the early direction and substance of American, Canadian, and Polish sociology (Kurtz 1986:93–97). This was especially true in the subareas of urban and community studies, race and ethnic relations, crime and juvenile delinquency, deviance, communications and public opinion, and political sociology.

Leon Bramson (1961:73–95) identified three important phases in the rise of American sociology. The first period began in 1883 with the publication of Lester Ward’s Dynamic Sociology to about 1915 or 1918 with the publication of Robert E. Park’s essay on the city and/or the end of World War I, respectively. During this period, the founders began their earnest quest to establish the theoretical foundation as it related to the American experience focusing on “a liberal sociology of change and process, rather than one of conservation and equilibrium” (Bramson 1961:85).

This focus on change and process became even more evident during the second stage of American sociology, identified as the period between the two world wars. This was a period of academic expansion, with major increases in faculty and students, but even more important, led by sociologists at the University of Chicago, this was a period of specialization and the beginning of differentiation within sociology as the quest to develop a viable methodology began in earnest. This also was a meaningful period during which sociologists worked to establish the scientific status of the discipline and to earn respectability and academic legitimization. It was also a period during which many of the conceptual problems of sociology first began to emerge as its practitioners developed an increasingly complex technical vocabulary, a vast array of classification schema, and other abstract systems categories of thought. Perhaps assuming the need to compensate for a past that included so many nonscientifically moral reformistoriented representatives of the discipline, sociologists responded during this phase of development by creating complex theories that, for an extended period of time, were not only unintelligible to the layperson, but also the abstract nature of these grand theories exceeded the ability of social scientists to create methodologies appropriate to empirically test these theoretical models (Lee 1978). But despite this theoretical/methodological problem, this second stage of sociological development was also one in which much substance was created.

The history of sociology in America from prior to World War I to approximately the mid-1930s is, according to Kurtz (1986), a history of the school of thought promoted by the University of Chicago. If the second phase of American sociology is to be distinguished as a period dominated by the Chicago sociologists, it is also one that led Pitirim Sorokin to observe that American sociology was emerging as a distinctive brand:

The bulk of the sociological works in America are marked by their quantitative and empirical character while the bulk of the sociological literature of Europe is still marked by an analytical elaboration of concepts and definitions; by a philosophical and epistemological polishing of words. (Cited in Bramson 1961:89)

The period is characterized by a marked increase in the development of new and expanding methodologies and measurement. These new techniques included a plethora of scales intended to measure the theoretical concepts developed previously.

As noted, Goudsblom and Heilbron (2001) identify five phases of development of the discipline that cover the period prior to 1830 to the very end of the twentieth century. But the third phase of the development of American sociology, identified by Bramson (1961) as covering the period from 1940 to 1960, is noteworthy because this was a period during which the development and adoption of theories of the “middle-range” advocated by Robert K. Merton led to even greater specialization and differentiation of the discipline. In turn, sociologists began to develop ever-expanding areas of inquiry. Robert K. Merton ([1957] 1968), who wrote in reaction to the abstractness of the previous dominant position of the functionalist school of sociology, stated that theories of the middle range are

theories that lie between the minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance during day-to-day research and the all-inclusive systematic efforts to develop a unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behavior, social organization and social change. (P. 39)

The all-inclusive efforts refer, of course, to the contributions of Talcott Parsons in The Structure of Social Action, originally published in 1937, and in 1951 with the appearance of The Social System.

The third phase of development can be characterized as the most enthusiastic period during which greater emphasis was placed on the application of sociological knowledge. As the field expanded, new outlets for sociological studies and knowledge were created, sociologists found employment in nonacademic settings such as government and business, and the new specialty areas of interest reflected the changes in American society, including a growing rise in membership in the middle class, the expansion of the suburbs, more leisure time, and the growth of bureaucracy. In lieu of the previous sociological interest in the reform of society and the more traditional social problems orientation of the discipline, the new sociology opted to leave such concerns to the social work profession and to special studies programs such as criminology. Thus, specialty areas emerged—areas such as the sociology of marriage and the family, and aging (later to be defined as gerontology), industrial sociology, public opinion, organizations, communications, and social psychiatry (later called mental health). From this point forward, the continued rise to respectability of sociology is attributed by analysts such as Robert Nisbet (1966) to the public recognition that societal problems are more integrative in nature than previously thought. This may also serve as a partial explanation for why the discipline is viewed by some as fragmented.

The logic and ethos of science is the search for the truth, the objective truth. Thus, the most fundamental problem the social scientist confronts, according to Gunnar Myrdal (1969), is this:

What is objectivity, and how can the student attain objectivity in trying to find out the facts and the causal relationships between facts? [That is,] How can a biased view be avoided? The challenge is to maintain an objectivity of that which the sociologist is a part. (P. 3)

Although the sociologies of the United States and Europe differ in perspective, both attempt to answer similar albeit distinguishable questions. In his discussion of “the two faces of sociology,” Touraine (1990:240) states that these differences lie in the scholarly research response to two problems: (1) How does society exist? (2) How are culture and society historically created and transformed by work, by the specific way nature and its resources are put to use, and through systems of political, economic, and social organization? Because the intellectual legacy of American sociological thought has been shaped to a large extent by the historical experience of creating a nation in which the rights and the will of the American people have been dominant, American sociologists have long focused on “institution” as a central concept and the significance of efforts of reform movements within the American society to affect its social organization. Thus, the substance of American sociology has been on topics such as the family, social organization, community, the criminal justice system, and law and society among the numerous institutionallevel areas of inquiry that are evaluated within the context of yet another American theoretical focus—namely, the emphasis on theories of the middle range. European sociologists, on the other hand, tend to focus on the second question while emphasizing the concept “revolution” in their analyses. Thus, even when similar topics such as social movements serve as the focus of inquiry, the American and European sociology responds from a different perspective (Touraine 1990). To understand the importance of this difference in perspective between the two sociologies, Alain Touraine (1990) poses the view that American sociology has a symbiotic relationship between culture and society, whereas European sociology integrates society and its history. Americans sociologists focus on society; the European sociology is focused on the rich history that serves as the backdrop for any attempt to understand social change.

Because the American experience is predicated on building a nation through the rule of law; the concepts of individualism, capitalism, and territorial conquest; and the attempt at integration of successive waves of immigrants to the North American continent,American sociology began its rise in prominence through an elitist intellectual process that dominated the academy during the early formative years of the discipline. Thus, it is perhaps ironic that an American sociology housed within the university setting would assume a critical teaching and research posture toward an elitist system of institutions that the early sociology assisted in creating. Within the context of certain kinds of social problems areas, such as ethnic studies, discrimination, and segregation, sociology and sociologists have been able to exert some influence. But in other important areas within which issues relating to elitist society may be involved, such as social class relations and economic and political power, the official and public perceptions of the efforts of American sociologists may not be as well received.

Many analysts of the past can be called on to render testimony in support of or apologize for the past efforts of sociologists to provide useful information, but none is perhaps more relevant than the following statement offered by George A. Lundberg (1947): “Good intentions are not a substitute for good techniques in either achieving physical or social goals” (p. 135). During the 1960s and 1970s, sociology, psychology, and other social science undergraduate job candidates customarily responded to interviewer queries with “I want to help people.” Similar to those who attended graduate school after World War II, these individuals were influenced by the potential of sociology to make a difference. But good intentions aside, the real issue is, How do we go about assisting/helping people? Perhaps the more educated and sophisticated we become, the more difficult are the answers to social problems and social arrangements that are deemed inappropriate or at least in need of some form of rearrangement. That is, the more we believe we already know the answers, the less apt we are to recognize the importance of the sociological perspective. Within this context, sociology necessarily must adhere to and advocate the use of the methods of science in approaching any social problem, whether this is local or international in scope.

Sociology has utility beyond addressing social problems and contributing to the development of new social policy. Indeed, the sociological perspective is empowering. Those who use it are in a position to bring about certain behavior in others. It has been said that “behavior that can be understood can be predicted, and behavior that can be predicted can likely be controlled.” It is not surprising that sociologists are often used to help select juries, develop effective advertising campaigns, plan political strategies for elections, and solve human relations problems in the workplace. As Peter Berger (1963) phrases it, “Sociological understanding can be recommended to social workers, but also to salesmen, nurses, evangelists and politicians—in fact to anyone whose goals involve the manipulation of men, for whatever purpose and with whatever moral justification” (p. 5). In some ways, it might be said that the sociological perspective puts one “in control.”

The manipulation of others, even for commendable purposes, however, is not without critical reaction or detractors. Some years back, industrial sociologists who worked for, or consulted with, industrial corporations to aid them to better address problems in the workplace were sometimes cynically labeled as “cow sociologists” because “they helped management milk the workers.” Knowledge is power that can be used for good or evil. The sociological perspective is utilitarian and empowering in that it can accomplish things for whatever purposes. Berger (1963) goes on to reflect the following:

If the sociologist can be considered a Machiavellian figure, then his talents can be employed in both humanly nefarious and humanly liberating enterprises. If a somewhat colorful metaphor may be allowed here, one can think of the sociologist as a condottiere of social perception. Some condottieri fight for the oppressors of men, others for their liberators. Especially if one looks around beyond the frontiers of America as well as within them, one can find enough grounds to believe that there is a place in today’s world for the latter type of condottiere. (P. 170)

Responding to the question, “Can science save us?” George A. Lundberg (1947) states “yes,” but he also equates the use of brain (the mind) as tantamount to employing science. Lundberg also posed the following: “Shall we place our faith in science or in something else?” (p. 142). Physical science is not capable of responding to human social issues. If sociologists have in a vain effort failed to fulfill the promise of the past, this does not indicate that they will not do so at some future time. Again, as Lundberg (1947) heeded long ago, “Science is at best a growth, not a sudden revelation. We also can use it imperfectly and in part while it is developing” (pp. 143–144).

And a few years later but prior to the turmoil that was to embroil the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, John Madge (1962) urged that a century after the death of the positivist Auguste Comte (now 150 years later) the structure of sociology remains incomplete. However, Madge recognized and demonstrates in The Origins of Scientific Sociology that sociology was slowly gaining in maturity and with this growth was on the verge of or within reach of achieving the status of a science. But it is also important to keep in focus the goals of science as articulated by Gunnar Myrdal (1969)—more specifically, “The goals of objectivity and effectiveness in research are honesty, clarity, and effectiveness” (p. 72). If the results of sociological research have been less than to the liking of policymakers and government and corporate leaders, then yet another of Myrdal’s insights is especially germane. That is,

Research is always and by logical necessity based on moral and political valuations, and the researcher should be obligated to account for them explicitly. When these valuations are brought out into the open any one who finds a particular piece of research to have been founded on what is considered wrong valuation can challenge it on that ground. (P. 74)

There are other reasons as well, reasons that complicate the delivery of the important message promoted by the discipline’s practitioners, for as noted by Joel Best (2003:11), sociology “is a perspective built on relativism, built on the recognition that people understand the world differently.” Indeed, many years earlier George C. Homans (1967) observed,

If some of the social sciences seem to have made little progress, at least in the direction of generalizing and explanatory science, the reason lies neither in lack of intelligence on the part of the scientists nor in the newness of the subject as an academic discipline. It lies rather in what is out there in the world of nature. (P. 89)

Such statements lie at the heart of the epistemological debate that began in the 1920s (see Reiss 1968:10–11) and continues into the modern era. Despite the vastness of sociological inquiry, it is obvious that a strong orientation toward the scientific study of human behavior, social interaction, and organizations continues and that this scientific focus is predicated on the assumption that such study is possible because it is based on the examination of phenomena that are subject to the operation of universal laws, a point not lost in the minds of the discipline’s founders. The counterpoint that the social sciences are cultural sciences and thereby fundamentally different from the physical sciences and also subject to different methodology and other evaluative criteria is representative of a longstanding European influence that also began in the 1920s.

Given the diversity and fluidity of the topics addressed and the levels of theories employed by sociologists, it is not surprising that many others do not agree. The counterargument is based on the premise that given the circumstances behind the evolution of science and the support it received in the past and the more repressive attention it receives in the contemporary experience from powerful interest groups, objective social science and the establishment of universal laws that are based on such inquiry may not be possible (see Turner 2001).

Whether or not one argues that the study of human society is unique, it is still extraordinary given the vast array of extant theories used to express the human experience and capacity. Witness the statement of one contemporary analyst who, in an intriguing assessment of the contemporary American “wilding” experience, wrote,

Sociology arose as an inquiry into the dangers of modern individualism, which could potentially kill society itself. The prospect of the death of society gave birth to the question . . . what makes society possible and prevents it from disintegrating into a mass of sociopathic and self-interested isolates? This core question of sociology has become the vital issue of our times. (Charles Derber 2003:18)

Only in part is Derber referring to the American experience. His assessment also speaks to the experience of Western Europe. Much social change has taken place, and the efforts of sociologists to describe and explain this change and to draw upon these insights to develop predictive models has led to a diversity of theories. Indeed, over time, the scientific paradigm shifts more generally described by Thomas Kuhn ([1962] 1970) are obvious in our discipline (see Friedrichs 1970). There have been, there are at present, and there undoubtedly will be future paradigm shifts within this evolving and apparently expanding discipline of sociology, many of which will focus, as has been the case in the past, on the social change process. And for all the so-called objectivity of a scientific sociology advocated by analysts such as George A. Lundberg (1947), the development of which is so eloquently described by Leon Bramson (1961)), sociologists have been involved in social activism and social engineering, that first occurred during the embryonic years of the discipline’s development (Volkart 1968). Such activism occurred again during the 1960s and 1970s, in many social justice areas, and in occupational settings such as those of the criminal justice system.

At present, sociological inquiry represents a vast array of topics and offers many competing theoretical models while its practitioners attempt to make sense of a rapidly changing world. For all its middle-range theories and studies that reflect the efforts of those dedicated to cumulative knowledge, it is also important that we recognize that the building of a paradigm as well as challenges to an extant paradigm are not relegated to the gathering of information alone. Indeed, if sociology is to advantage itself in the twenty-first century, it may be imperative that a dominant paradigm begins to identify the kinds of community needs that it can usually serve, for as Joseph R. Gusfield (1990) so clearly notes, sociology has been at odds with and a critic of the classical economic and individualistic interpretations of American life. Thus, whatever issues sociology may need to address at this juncture, perhaps we are hampered only by the limits of the sociological imagination. Again, the following comment by Homans (1967) is noteworthy:

The difficulties of social science lie in explanation rather than discovery. . . . Our trouble has not been with making discoveries but with organizing them theoretically—showing how they follow under a variety of given conditions from a few general principles. (Pp. 79, 105)

The present diversity of the discipline welcomed by so many social critics also serves as a barrier to the creation of a dominant theoretical paradigm. Without this focus, sociology remains in the minds of many of the discipline’s representatives a less-than-coherent discipline. Perhaps this is not different from the struggle of the 1960s as described by Gouldner (1970), a period that also was far less than organized and coherent and certainly far less civil in disagreement. It is important that sociologists take stock of their trade and question in earnest the utility of the work we do. As noted by Herbert L. Gans (1990),

By and large, we sociologists have been too distant from the society in which we operate and in which we are embedded, which funds us even if too poorly and which influences us surely more than we influence it. We are too busy trying to understand how that society functions . . . that we rarely think about our own functions—and dysfunctions. To some extent our failure to do so stems from a typical professional blindness, which results in our inability to distance ourselves sufficiently from ourselves and our routines to look systematically at what we are for and to whom. (Pp. 12–13)

Not all may agree, of course. Indeed, sociology in the United States and in Europe has been a critique of modern urban life with its emphasis on the individual, capitalism, and bureaucracy. In some instances, this critique of American society has been radical and reformist in its thrust (Gusfield 1990:31–46). And although American sociology had been shaped in part by psychology in establishing its methodology during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, especially through a common socialpsychological area (see, e.g., Reiss 1968), it can be safely stated that American sociology has been transformed during the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Sociologists may be accused of engaging in an affair with their work. Witness the stirring comments of one colleague:

I fell in love with sociology when I was twelve. . . . Sociology was my savior. It saved me from the vexing confusion caused by my once despising the mundaneness of everyday life and deeply loving and admiring my people. It stabilized me by articulating the dedication that I felt for social justice. (Shahidian 1999:303–04)

We share this passionate approach to social science based on the insightful development of theory and empirical research, an approach that has, in turn, led to a vast array of subject matter. In light of these impressive contributions, the only aspect of this endeavor that may seem perplexing to some is that as we move further into the twenty-first century, there are those who continue to believe in and practice the scientific method; there also are those who argue that if the logic of science and the methods of scientific objectivity are to be carried to an extreme, sociology will lose or has already lost its humanistic perspective and, with this loss, the inclination toward active community involvement through social policy advocacy and practical intervention. As Peter L. Berger (1963) phrases it,

At the same time it is quite true that some sociologists, especially in America, have become so preoccupied with methodological questions that they have ceased to be interested in society at all. As a result, they have found out nothing of significance about any aspect of social life, since in science as in love a concentration on technique is quite likely to lead to impotence. (P. 13)

This dichotomy certainly is a matter of considerable debate, but perhaps most advocates and active practitioners of the discipline would fall somewhere in between these two orientations (see, e.g., Reiss 1968:10–11). In this regard, we are also optimistic that the sociological imagination will continue to be an important part of the work of sociologists as they take into consideration “a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be happening within themselves” (Mills 1959:5).

More than 170 years ago, sociology began to emerge from its philosophical and biological roots to it current status as an important social science. Early sociologists achieved renown based on their interest in providing information useful to appraise social policy issues. However, in the contemporary instance, there are strong indicators that sociology has not achieved the eminent position envisioned by the founders. Note the less-than-enthusiastic assessment offered by Black (1999):

The problems endemic to the discipline of sociology include the lack of a paradigm, disciplinary fragmentation, and the irreconcilability of science, ideology, and politics . . . and the lack of an occupational niche—[all these] place sociologists in the position of having constantly to defend the profession. (Pp. 261, 263)

Thus, as we move well into the twenty-first century, it is clear that sociology is engaged in yet another struggle to (re)identify itself. Perhaps such a struggle is to be expected of any science of human behavior. And nowhere is this situation more contentious than in the responses of representatives of the discipline to the question as to whether sociology is or is not yet considered an activity worthy of the label “scientific activity.”

At the center of this struggle lies the heart of any discipline—namely, sociological theory. Among the eminent theorists reporting on the status of sociology in this Handbook are individuals who represent the very best of what the discipline has to offer. That the message is suggestive of a continuing debate within the discipline is both disheartening and encouraging. It is disheartening in that after a period of more than 175 years, representatives of the discipline should be able to exclaim with great pride the accomplishments of so much activity instead of debating their scientific worth. It is encouraging because the current debate over the theory and the substance of the work sociologists engage in can only lead to the exploration of new and challenging frontiers. But the substance of sociological inquiry also represents a matter of contention for many research- and practitioner-oriented representatives of the discipline. Some contemporary analysts who have observed the developments within the academy during the past several decades call for a critical reevaluation of that which sociologists identify as the substance of research and understanding. Sociology has given birth to and generated intense interest in many areas of study that are no longer identified with the discipline. Because the specific subareas developed by sociologists became well accepted as legitimate applied disciplines within the academy, independent, overlapping units within the academy have been created.

If the 1960s represent the golden era of sociology, it is also a period, as described by Turner and Sica (2006), that is “remembered as a time of violence, massive social change, and personal transformation” (p. 4). The period had a profound effect on an entire generation of students, many of whom were instrumental in creating the new sociological emphasis that today is criticized for its diversity, the lack of continuity, and a failure to develop a unified paradigm. Whatever reservations that may continue to exist as we progress well into the twenty-first century, these can be hailed as a challenge. Thus, at the same time that community involvement and applied research are increasingly being devalued in the academic world, there is a distinct pressure, according to Harris and Wise (1998), for sociologists to become increasingly involved in the community and society.

This call to establish a public sociology may well combine with the three types of knowledge identified by Burawoy (2005)—the professional, critical, and policyspecific databases. In each of these areas, the initiative would be consistent with enthusiastic proclamations of the past. George A. Lundberg’s (1947) Can Science Save Us? serves as but one important example of those who promoted the application of social science insights to solve social problems. Of course, one major difference between the time when Lundberg wrote and now is that we are not rebounding from the tragedy of a world war. Indeed, it was during the post-World War II period and during the subsequent several decades that American sociology assumed its theoretical and empirical dominance (Odum 1951), especially in the area of deviant behavior (see Touraine 1990). Yet another important difference between then and now, as Harris and Wise (1998) suggest, is that sociologists need to be perceived as problem solvers rather than as social critics, and similar to the pleas of Marion Talbot (1896) at the end of the nineteenth century, much of the sociological may necessarily become interdisciplinary in nature. This perspective is supported as a portion of a more scholarly editorial philosophy articulated by Wharton (2006:1–2). Most noteworthy for our purpose are points three and four:

(3) Be aware and reflective about the . . . broader contributions to scholarship, policy, and/or activism . . . ; (4) produce useful knowledge—not merely in the applied sense of solving problems, but knowledge that is useful as basic research that can help people better understand and transform the social world. (P. 1)

These same kinds of issues—social activism and public policy research—were recognized at the end of the nineteenth century as strengths of the new discipline.

Thus, there appears to be hopeful as well as worrisome aspects of sociology at the end of the twentieth century (Lewis 1999). But this kind of enthusiasm and concern appears to be periodic throughout the history of the discipline as sociologists attempt to both define and then redefine the parameters of what some argue is too extensive a range of topics to allow practitioners of the discipline to be definitively identified (Best 2003). Witness the statement attributed to one of the coeditors of this Handbook who, in the early 1980s, wrote the following:

Future prospects for sociology(ists) no doubt will depend upon our ability to identify and respond to community needs, to compete for funds available from nontraditional sources, to work in applied areas, and to establish creative problemsolving strategies. The challenge before us should generate a healthy response. (Peck 1982:319–20)

Since that time and in the wake of a declining influence of the social sciences, there has been a response as evidenced by the many new areas of inquiry, many interdisciplinary in nature, that currently curry attention from sociologists. Indeed, there does appear to be a fragmentation, but this so-called fragmentation is consistent with an assessment offered by Beck (1999), “Sociology today, as throughout its history, is not unified. . . . we have never been able to sustain . . . unanimity and consistency for very long. Thank goodness” (p. 121).

Perhaps we do not engage in “normal science,” at least not in the sense that Thomas Kuhn ([1962] 1970) refers to it. That is, academic sociologists continue to function quite well even though they are outside the single frame of reference that usually serves as the paradigmatic foundation for the physical sciences. Normal science is rigid, but it is also burdened by uncertainty and inconsistency, as Friedrichs (1970) observes. In the case of sociology, this is found in the diversity of theoretical models and topical areas. Although some analysts lament the current state of the discipline, Jacobs (2004) recently observed that “some might view this diversity [of topics] as evidence of excessive fragmentation, (but) there are important theoretical connections” (p. v). Of course, the substance of manuscripts submitted for possible publication, the rubrics under which the research can be categorized, is quite different from the search for a common sociological paradigm. To wit, classic studies do exist, but none serve to forge a single paradigm. Thus, the future of the discipline will depend, as usual, on the contributions of those who may be relatively silent in the wake of less-than-acceptable “scholarship,” as suggested by Lewis (1999), but who nonetheless commit themselves to excellence by producing significant contributions to theory and application (see, e.g., Rossi 1999) that should, in the long run, counter the myriad productions that are less significant. Concomitant with this effort will be an increased awareness of and involvement in the applied and an earnest effort to again be a viable force in the policy-related aspects of sociology and society. In other words, we believe there will be a reawakening of and involvement in those aspects of sociology that served the discipline well during its early years of development in the United States (see Ross 1936) even as the applied social work-oriented practitioners broke away to form their own professional association (Odum 1951; Rossi 1999). Indeed, there exists a need for answers to myriad policy-oriented questions as well as applied concerns at all governmental levels.

But in the end, sociologists may, as Beck (1999:123) suggests, go where they go, where they want to go. This may again mean that sociologists will abandon important areas of inquiry that they helped to establish, leaving the sociological legacy to others. Sociologists will also move to create other areas of inquiry while questioning past and present assumptions and knowledge claims in an ongoing quest to better understand social arrangements and to engage in, as Beck (1999) observes, “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the sociological imagination” (p. 124). To this we can add the quest to establish the meaning of social justice in a rapidly changing democratic society.

Thus, contrary to dubious predictions of an ominous obscure future, the content of this Handbook attests to a much more positive and grand future orientation within the discipline that will include much more than the rigorous efforts to clean up conceptual problems that sociologists are supposedly noted for. Moreover, the epistemological debates of the past will undoubtedly continue as Turner (2001) and Best (2003) suggest, but in so doing, the future of academic sociology will again be broadened. This expansion will again, we think, involve the applied aspects of the discipline and engagement of the public through active involvement of sociologists in the four traditional areas—namely, through a public sociology with an emphasis on further development of the profession and a critical civic activism with the intent to broadly influence social policy. Moreover, the increasing influence of European sociology in the global community will undoubtedly continue; this influence is not only important, it is most welcome. Given the above, it may well be that another call to arms will result. There has been a movement, albeit a small movement, among highly regarded intellectuals (the National Association of Scholars) to enhance the substance and quality of academic teaching and scholarly activity. This, too, is welcome in sociology.

The world that engages a scientist, as noted by Friedrichs (1970), is one that emerges from a scientific tradition, along with its special vocabulary and grammar and environment. Sociology’s laboratory is the social world and on occasion its practitioners are criticized by those who argue the arcane nature of all that is considered scientific. If the normal science, as described by Thomas Kuhn ([1962] 1970) and Robert W. Friedrichs (1970), is to be realized within the discipline of sociology, then it may depend on efforts of young sociologists (see, e.g., Frickel and Gross 2005) who may capture the essence of such a paradigm in a general theory of scientific/intellectual movements. Such work may also serve to stimulate more thought as to the requisite initiatives essential for subsequently developing the kind of intellectual movement that will define once again, and actively promote, the substance of the sociological perspective.

If the emphasis of American sociology at the beginning of the twentieth century was unsophisticated, armchair science that “featured the study of general society and the ‘system’ of social theory, it reflected not only the almost universal philosophical approach but also the consistency of the best minds in interaction with European philosophy and American higher education” (Odum 1951:421–22). In the mid-twentieth century, sociology, similar to other social and physical sciences, struggled to determine whether the future of the discipline would continue to pursue a general systems theory of society or whether the discipline’s practitioners would develop more theory and then relate these theories to research and the scientific method (Odum 1951:422). At this critical midpoint of the century past, and in recognition of the importance of the discipline, Odum (1951) wrote that there is

the extraordinary need in the contemporary world for a social science to seek special knowledge of human society and welfare and meet the crises brought on by science and technology, so often out of perspective to human relations, and so to provide the basis for not only a social morale in an age of science but for societal survival as well. (P. 3)

At the end of the twentieth century, these comments rang clear, and as we move forward and well into the greater twenty-first-century experience, Odum’s words seem no less germane today than in the past.

Toward establishing the prospects for the future of this great academic discipline, we hasten to add how critical it is and will be to again acknowledge the important work of the founding mothers and fathers of sociology. Thus, at the end of the twentieth century, the state of sociology may have been debatable, but during the initial decades of the twenty-first century, sociologists will undoubtedly take up the challenge to pursue answers to vexing social problems that are, as Fine (2006:14–15) states, embedded with complex, dynamic, interconnected social systems. Some of the solutions to be tendered in the near future may not serve well the needs of all citizens, but these should nonetheless address policy issues relating to social freedom, social justice, and social equality while recognizing that such policies determine the behavior of those actors whom sociologists are intent to study. Herein American sociologists may now have achieved the requisite disciplinary maturity to employ the kind of sociological imagination envisioned by C. Wright Mills (1959) half a century ago. Such a sociology would, in the tradition of Europe, encompass a biography and history within society, thereby allowing sociology to represent not only a scientific enterprise but also to serve as a sensitizing discipline that allows us to continue to view the world in a new and interpretive fashion.

Finally, in some peculiar ways, the vexing problems that capture our attention during the early portion of the twenty-first century parallel those of the early twentieth century; this is true at all levels of society and perhaps even more so within those sectors that heretofore were barricaded from a critical analyses. The actors may have changed but, in general, the public concerns regarding the kinds of behavior tolerated and considered to be appropriate tend to remain the same. And as the moral entrepreneurs of the twenty-first century push their agendas, the new prohibitionist movements continue to capture the attention of policymakers, which may of necessity be cause for some sociologists at least to revisit many of the same topics that held sway in the past. Thus, we will continue to use templates in our lives to understand the world, physical and social, in which we exist. The sociological templates derived from the many conceptual constructs available provide us with a unique and perceptive perspective. As sociology further develops, new conceptual constructs will be added and will contribute to its unique perspective, thereby enhancing our ability to better analyze and understand human social behavior.


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Home > School, College, or Department > CLAS > Sociology > Dissertations and Theses

Sociology Dissertations and Theses

Theses/dissertations from 2023 2023.

How Unequal Access to Personal and Professional Networks Impacts Success Among Construction Apprentices , Cameron Elliot Arnold

Left Out to Dry: Understanding the Social Experiences of Ground Depletion in Washington State's Columbia River Basin , Alexis Lisandro Guizar-Diaz

"The Call is Coming from Inside the House": Tracing Experiences in the Institutionally-Centered Process of Establishing Limited Conservatorships in California , Barbara Alison Imle

The Experiences of Black Women Direct Care Workers in Long-Term Care , Nakeshia Knight-Coyle

Earthbound in the Anthropocene: Spirituality, Collective Identity, and Participation in the Direct Action Climate Movement , David Alan Osborn

Son Otros Tiempos: Generational Experiences of Male Friendships Amongst Mexican and Mexican American Men , Marisela Rodríguez Molina

"We Just Have to Trust the People in White Lab Coats": Analyzing Distrust in Vaccine Hesitant Comments on the HHS Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities Proposed Rule , Hima Bindu Lakshmi Vedantham

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Does Instructional Autonomy Matter? Exploring Job Satisfaction for Math and Non-Math Teachers in Low, Middle, and High SES Schools , Hannah Sean Ellefritz

Cultural Capital and Community Cultural Wealth: A Study of Latinx First Generation College Students , Affiong Eyo-Idahor

Leaving College Without a Degree: The Student Experience at an Urban Broad Access Institution , Andrea Marie Garrity

Treatment Disparities in Emergency Medical Services: The Influence of Race/Ethnicity, Obesity, and English Proficiency , Jamie Kennel

"Damn, man. The time that I lost": Power and the Process of Diagnosis for Women with Chronic Illnesses , Kaitlin Roquel Yeomans

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

What Does it Mean to be Deaf? Changing Meanings of Deafness, Communication Technology, and Beliefs about Normality in the US , Kathryn Elizabeth Burrows

Values of Young Adults in an Increasingly Secular World , Joseph Daniel Eichenlaub

Exploring "What Works" in Veterans Affairs Home-Based Primary Care , Elizabeth Catherine Hulen

Decolonizing Healthcare: a Black Feminist Analysis of Sisters Informing Sisters on Topics of AIDS (SISTA) , Joy Mutare Fashu Kanu

Reducing Transphobic Attitudes: a Cross-National Investigation of College Students in Japan and the United States , Kazusa Seko

The Digital Divide and Health: Examining Digital Access as a Social Determinant of Health , Elizabeth Melissa Withers

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

Outsiders Within Inequality Regimes: a Sociological Framework to Advance the Lives of Women Veterans , Sarah Louise Aktepy

The Experience of Female Caregivers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , Nouf Albugami

Working From Home: Analyzing the Autonomy of App-Based Adult Content Creators , Jenna DePasquale

Smoking Behaviors in Patients Offered Lung Cancer Screening , Sara Elizabeth Golden

Transitioning into Conventional Housing: Narratives of Houseless Individuals , Joyce La Belle McNair

"Not 'Just' a Barista": the Story of Portland's College-Educated Baristas , Ned William Tilbrook

Exploring How Community College Transfer Students Experience Connection in a Commuter University , Christa Michelle Zinke

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

Understanding the Politicization of Oromo Identity in the Diaspora: Re/ Locating the Bones of the Oromo , Madeline Jaye Bass

Radical Doulas Make "Caring a Political Act": Full-spectrum Birthwork as Reproductive Justice Activism , JaDee Yvonne Carathers

Concerted Cultivation, Academic Achievement, and the Mediating Role of Non-Cognitive Factors , Bryant Carlson

Convivial Clothing: Engagement with Decommodified Fashion in Portland, OR , Sarah Guldenbrein

Closure or Censure? Examining the Determinants of Disclosure of Sexual Assault Among College Students , Whitney Head-Burgess

Gender and the Voir Dire Process , Tasha Ann Lane

"What About the Men? Investigating Alcohol Consumption, Masculinities, and Risky Sex in Peri-Urban Eswatini , Aaron Jackson Levine

An Investigation of the Impact of High School Student Fine Arts Course Accumulation on Mathematics Course Achievement , Daniel Mackin Freeman

The Influence of Age at Migration on Criminal Offending Among Foreign-Born Immigrants , Omar Melchor-Ayala

Evaluating the Utility of Theories of Social Integration in Understanding Areal Suicide Rates in the United States , Nathan Finch Parsons

Reproduciendo Otros Mundos : Indigenous Women's Struggles Against Neo-Extractivism and the Bolivian State , Gisela Victoria Rodriguez Fernandez

Racial Disparities in a State Based Workers' Compensation System , Caroline Kristine Smith

Family, School, and Forms of Capital , Sonja Taylor

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Who Am I? Criminal Social Identity as a Mediator in the Relationship between Criminal Peers and Criminal Attitudes within a Sample of Probationers/Parolees , Quinton Thomas Alexander

Finding Common Ground: Relationship Building and Communication between PO and Client within a Community Supervision Setting , Carl Eugene Appleton

White Space, Black Space: Community Gardens in Portland, Oregon , David Ross Billings Jr.

Selling Protest in the News? Movement-Media Framing of Occupations: an Exploratory Study , Andrew David Butz

"Tindersluts" & "Tinderellas:" Examining Young Women's Construction and Negotiation of Modern Sexual Scripts within a Digital Hookup Culture , MacKenzie A. Christensen

The Gender Gap in Postsecondary Enrollment Intentions: the Mediating Role of Student Attitudes and Behaviors , Paul J. Deppen III

The Dispute Over the Commons: Seed and Food Sovereignty as Decommodification in Chiapas, Mexico , Carol Frances Hernández Rodríguez

Reconciling the Opportunities and Obstacles of Motherhood Following Corrections Involvement , Summer Brooke Newell

Exiters of Religious Fundamentalism: Reconstruction of Identity, Social Relationships and Support, and Meaning Related to Well-Being , Andreea Alexandra Nica

Representations of Feminist Theory and Gender Issues in Introductory-Level Sociology Textbooks , Jena Amber Zarza

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

Framing Homelessness as Crisis: A Comparative Content Analysis of Local Media Reports on Portland's Tent Cities , Katrien Cokeley

Stereotype Threat and Effects of Students' Perception of Their Math Teacher's Fairness on Their Math Self-Efficacy , Alexis Jocelyn DeVigal

The Efficacy of Virtual Protest: Linking Digital Tactics to Outcomes in Activist Campaigns , Rina Lynne James

Living Between Worlds: Arrival and Adjustment Experiences of the Somali Community in Portland, Oregon , Neil A. Panchmatia

"Neither of the Boxes": Accounting for Non-Binary Gender Identities , Erin Patricia Savoia

Contexts of Reception and Constructions of Islam: Second Generation Muslim Immigrants in Post-9/11 America , Shahriyar Smith

"Are We Building Biking Solidarity": Gendered, Racial, and Spatial Barriers to Bicycling in Portland, Oregon , Kyla Jean Tompkins

When You Aren't Who Your Friends Are: the Moderating Influence of Racial Similarity on the Association Between Friendships and Mental Well-Being , Philip Tostado

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Inequality, Position, and Perception: Understanding and Addressing Workplace Harassment in Oregon's Construction Trades , Sasha Mae Bassett

Local Approaches to Regional Problems: Suburban Government Responses to Portland's Regional Housing Crisis , Emma Deppa

Examining Generational and Gender Differences in Parent-Young Adult Child Relationships During Co-residence , Lauren Elizabeth Ferguson

The Use of Anti-Bullying Policies to Protect LGBT Youth: Teacher and Administrator Perspectives on Policy Implementation , Michelle Lauren Holliday

Does the School Day Matter? The Association Between Adolescent School Attachment and Involvement and Adult Criminal Behavior , Madeline O'Neil

On Both Sides of the Tracks: Light Rail and Gentrification in Portland, Oregon , Nathan Eric Rochester

Transgender Patients' Experiences of Discrimination at Mental Health Clinics , Corrine Ann Stocking

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Does Gender Matter? Human Elephant Conflict in Sri Lanka: A Gendered Analysis of Human Elephant Conflict and Natural Resource Management in a Rural Sri Lankan Village , Katherine Eileen Griffin

Staying on Script: Sexual Scripts and Sex Education , Elizabeth Carol Hauck

Activist Doctors: Explaining Physician Activism in the Oregon Movement for Single-Payer Healthcare , Jennifer Cullen Loomis

Gender Difference in Working Parents' Perceptions of Work/Family Conflict and the Role of Occupational Prestige , Heather Kirsten McCabe

Democratizing the City Through the Colonization of Public Space: A Case Study of Portland Food Not Bombs , Trent Adam Saari

Use of Role and Power in Parent-Teacher Relationships: Perceptions from the Parent Perspective , Sonja Taylor

Therapy and the Nontraditional Transgender Narrative , Dylan Ellingson Waller

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Gender and Prescription Painkiller Misuse: Findings from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health , Robin Jo Clough

Illuminating the Experiences of Single Fathers , Heidi Rosa Esbensen

Mediating Academic Success: Race, Class, Gender and Community College Persistence , Schaylee Marie Esparza

Victimization, Separatism and Anti-intellectualism: An Empirical Analysis of John McWhorter's Theory on African American's Low Academic Performance , Marlon DeWayne Marion

Trauma-Informed Research and Planning: Understanding Government and Urban Native Community Partnerships to Addressing Substance-Exposed Pregnancies in Portland, OR , Amanda Mercier

Socio-spatial Transformation and Contested Space at the Street Level in Latin America: The Case of Cali, Colombia , Maria Janeth Mosquera Becerra

Beyond the McNair Program: A Comparative Study of McNair Scholars' Understandings of the Impacts of Program Participation on their Graduate School Experiences , Cristina Restad

The Impact of Documentation Status on the Educational Attainment Experiences of Undocumented Hispanic/Latino Students , Brittanie Alexandria Roberts

Racism, Heterosexism, Depression, and HIV Risk Behaviors of Native Men Who Have Sex With Men: Findings from the HONOR Project , Matthew Alan Town

"But There's a Black History Month": A Content Analysis of Ideological Framing and Presentation in White Nationalist Publications , Dylan Tomas Waite

Cultivating Common Ground? A Case Study of a Community Garden Organization in Northeast Portland, Oregon , Bryan James Zinschlag

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

First-Generation Latinos at Pacific Northwest University: Their Adjustment and Experience during Freshman Year , Marco Antonio Aguirre

"We don't have any of those:" Looking for leaders in the horizontal structure of Occupy Portland , Aaron Martin Bach

Queer! Narratives of Gendered Sexuality: A Journey in Identity , Kym Bradley

The Effects of Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Religion on Formal End-of-Life Planning , Tina Dawn Lillian Burdsall

I'm Not Gonna Be Like That Guy: Exploring the Montana Meth Project Through the Eyes of That Guy , Jaysen Nicole Ferestad

A New Low in Getting High: Illegal Drug Use and Crime , Erica Jean Ferrelli

The Use of Music as a Pedagogical Tool in Higher Education Sociology Courses: Faculty Member Perspectives and Potential Barriers , Jerry C.L. Loveless

Division of Labor within the Household: The Experience of Bosnian Immigrant Women in Portland, Oregon , Miro Paljevic

Can Cross-Race Mentoring Help Minority Students and Break Down Prejudice? Mentoring Experiences in Higher Education , Jennifer Brooke Rainer

From College to Career: Understanding First Generation and Traditional Community College Transfer Students' Major and Career Choices , Jeff Scott Shelton

Learning to Adapt: Online Social Science Instruction in Higher Education , Patrick Steven Smith

The Economic Impact of Veteran Status: The Effect of Veteran and Demographic Statuses on Household Income , Daniel Standridge

"Game Over" for the Climate: The Keystone XL Pipeline on TV News , Elisabeth Wilder

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Assessing Environmental Inequality in Portland, Oregon: An Exploration of Local Environmental Justice Struggles , Jordan Douglas Folks

Atheist Scripts in a Nation of Religiosity: Identity Politics within the Atheist Movement , Jacqueline Frost

Understanding the Role of Patient Activation in the Association between Patient Socio-Economic Demographics and Patient Experience , Katsuya Oi

Gendering Gardasil: Framing Gender and Sexuality in Media Representations of the HPV Vaccine , Maura Kathleen Pisciotta

Understanding Sand Mining on the Maha Oya: The Conflict Between Economic and Environmental Survival , Meredith Corea Talbert

Cultural Hybridization, Glocalization and American Soccer Supporters: The Case of the Timbers Army , Jesse Harold Wagner

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Sociology Department

MA Research Paper

Theses/dissertations from 2024 2024.

Pain Among Immigrants to Canada: Testing the Healthy Immigrant Effect , Marouna Gomes

The Person Behind the Poster: A Podcast Ethnography and Framing Analysis of Chris Lambert’s Podcast Series Your Own Backyard , Emily Hans

Understanding the Long-term Ramifications of Adolescent Marijuana Use and its Effects on Educational Attainment , Trent Lebans

The Spatial Risk of Assault on Police Officers in Toronto, Ontario , Stephanie C. Pongracz

Assessing Homelessness Risk and Service Deprivation in London, Ontario , Jackie Tan

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Under the Influence? Factors That Impact Canadian’s Confidence in Police , Justin Clark


Nursing Homes and Loneliness Among Older Adults in the United States , Camila Iciaszczyk

Comparing Chronic Pain in Urban and Rural Canadian Adults , Alyssa T. Jensen

Labour Market Outcomes for Skilled Worker Immigrants and Non-Immigrants in Canada , Adam Mamudovski Mr.

A Middle Ground: The Gendered Division of Housework in Heterosexual Mixed-Nativity Couples , Rebecca Rayner

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Chronic Pain , Sarah M. Revie

Framing Diversity and EDI Practices: A Comparison of Strategic Planning and Recruitment Materials in Two Canadian Universities , Michelle H. Robinson

The Practice of curation on Instagram: A Bourdieusian approach , Eve S. Smerchinski

“I can’t trust anyone”: International Students’ Experience with Student Support Services in Canada , Cathlin Sullivan

A Complex Disease with Complex Discourse: Exploring the Online Messaging of Two Canadian Obesity Charities and the Implications for Weight Stigma , Caitlin E. Turnbull

Differences in Income for Foreign-Born Blacks Across Settlement Types in an Era of Rising Anti-Immigration Sentiment , Sandra F. Weir

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

The Effect of the Analyst-Officer Relationship on Crime Analysis: Experiential Knowledge vs. Data-Driven Decisions , Emma Brown

Social Isolation: Do Helpers Help Ward It Off? , Kirsten Young Brown

The Impacts of Housing Affordability on Immigrant Household Formation and Homeownership , Wanyun Cheng

The mental health culture in Hockey: A scoping review , Lauren Dormer

Stopping the Blame Game: An Intersectional Approach to Minority Victimization in Canada , Melissa Elliott

The Effects of Race and Gender on Income and Workplace Position of Professional Engineers in Ontario: Can Homophily Preferences Help Explain Barriers? , Jayzer E. Flores

In #FlatEarth We Trust: The Danger of the Self-Representation of Flat Earthers on Twitter , Lauren Gomes

Assessing the Impact of Denizenship in the Making and Evaluation of Temporary Foreign Worker Policies in Canada , Sihwa Kim

Mind the Gap: Sexual Orientation Wage Gaps for Racialized and Immigrant Minorities , Shannon Mok

The Life Satisfaction of Immigrants in Canada: Does Time of Arrival Matter? , Laura G. Monteiro

Disability and Health Outcomes of Eastern European Immigrants to the United States , Ina Palii

On Unequal Terms: The Indigenous Wage Gap In Canada , Taylor N. Paul

Conflict or co-operation? Ontarian pharmacists battle for an increased scope of practice , Kali E. Pieters

Personality Traits and Transition to First Marriage , Sumangala Sasudevan

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

Intimate Partner Violence: Policy, Policing and Best Practices in Ontario , Anna Bieniek


Out of the Closet and into Sport: An Analysis of Openly Lesbian Athletes , rachel fazzari


The Educational Attainment Differences Among Children of Immigrants in Canada , Alexandra Janeiro

The Interrelated Nature of Trauma: Exploring the Narratives of Persons Living with a Family Member who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder , Emily Johnson

Does Higher Education Make a Difference? The Influence of Educational Attainment on Women’s and Men’s Employment Outcomes , Katelyn Mitri

International Students’ Earnings in London, Ontario , Amna Wasty

Canadian Inter-Provincial Migration Decline and The Demographic Determinants: A logit model and decomposition analysis measuring the demographic predictors of Canadian inter-provincial migration alongside migration’s widespread decline , Nathaniel White

The Economic Integration of Mexican Mennonite Immigrants in Canada , Marina Wiebe

An App a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: A Visual Case Analysis of the Self-Optimization Ideologies Downloaded onto Apple Users as They Download Applications , Ismahan Yusuf

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018


Pathways over the Life Course: Patterns of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence and Their Potential Impact on Educational Attainment , Stephen Carneiro Fernandes

Bad Comic, Good Comic: The Social Construction of Brownness in the Racial and Ethnic Humor of South Asian Comedians , Tasmeea Islam

Income & Net-Worth: A Comparative Analysis of Immigrant Inequality , Cavita Meetun

Neoliberalism and the School Choice Movement in the United States , Lianne M.A. Mulder

Assessing The Importance of CVE Strategies in Ontario , Matthew Murray

Divorce and Health: Does Educational Attainment Matter? , Sara Quinn-Hogan

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

Racism, Oligarchy and Contentious Politics in Bermuda , Andrea Dean


The Economic Integration of Canada's Refugees: Understanding the Issues with Canada's Approach , Ryan Endicott

Addressing Sexual Violence on Canadian Campuses: An Analysis of Policies at Ontario Universities , Rhian C. Foley

The Influence of Parents and Natural Mentors on Young Adults' Substance Use Behaviours: Evidence from a National Study , Travis Hackshaw

Jihad and Hashtags: Women's Roles in the Islamic State and Pro-Jihadist Social Networks , Rachel K. Inch

A Novel Measure of Work Stress: Identifying Work Stressor Patterns in Canada Using Latent Class Analysis , Vesna Pajovic

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

"I Took the Blue Pill" The Effect of the Hegemonic Masculine Police Culture on Canadian Policewomen's Identities , Lesley J. Bikos

Beyond the Land of Five Rivers: Social Inequality and Class Consciousness in the Canadian Sikh Diaspora , Harmeet S. Sandhu

Exploring Cross-National Incarceration , Evan R. Wiley

Terror on Twitter: A Comparative Analysis of Gender and the Involvement in Pro-Jihadist Communities on Twitter , Eric W. Witmer

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Neighbourhood Context and Youth Mental Health: The Role of Local Community Programming in a Mid-sized Ontario Urban Centre , Monica Christine Bochus

Living in a Transnational World: Identity Negotiation and Formation Among Second-Generation Lebanese Young Adults Living in London Ontario , Wajeha Chams

The Immigrant Health Advantage in Canada: Lessened by Six Health Determinants , Sasha Koba

Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Canada: Understanding the Socio-Political Issues , W. Zachary Marshall

Combining Work and Family: The Experiences of Gender and Ethnicity of Visible Minority Women in Leadership Positions , Alelie Ocampo

Gender, Generation, and Jobs: Differences in Gender Role Ideologies by Age and Occupation , Christina Treleaven

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Harvard University Theses, Dissertations, and Prize Papers

The Harvard University Archives ’ collection of theses, dissertations, and prize papers document the wide range of academic research undertaken by Harvard students over the course of the University’s history.

Beyond their value as pieces of original research, these collections document the history of American higher education, chronicling both the growth of Harvard as a major research institution as well as the development of numerous academic fields. They are also an important source of biographical information, offering insight into the academic careers of the authors.

Printed list of works awarded the Bowdoin prize in 1889-1890.

Spanning from the ‘theses and quaestiones’ of the 17th and 18th centuries to the current yearly output of student research, they include both the first Harvard Ph.D. dissertation (by William Byerly, Ph.D . 1873) and the dissertation of the first woman to earn a doctorate from Harvard ( Lorna Myrtle Hodgkinson , Ed.D. 1922).

Other highlights include:

  • The collection of Mathematical theses, 1782-1839
  • The 1895 Ph.D. dissertation of W.E.B. Du Bois, The suppression of the African slave trade in the United States, 1638-1871
  • Ph.D. dissertations of astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Ph.D. 1925) and physicist John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (Ph.D. 1922)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of novelist John Updike (A.B. 1954), filmmaker Terrence Malick (A.B. 1966),  and U.S. poet laureate Tracy Smith (A.B. 1994)
  • Undergraduate prize papers and dissertations of philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson (A.B. 1821), George Santayana (Ph.D. 1889), and W.V. Quine (Ph.D. 1932)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (A.B. 1940) and Chief Justice John Roberts (A.B. 1976)

What does a prize-winning thesis look like?

If you're a Harvard undergraduate writing your own thesis, it can be helpful to review recent prize-winning theses. The Harvard University Archives has made available for digital lending all of the Thomas Hoopes Prize winners from the 2019-2021 academic years.

Accessing These Materials

How to access materials at the Harvard University Archives

How to find and request dissertations, in person or virtually

How to find and request undergraduate honors theses

How to find and request Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize papers

How to find and request Bowdoin Prize papers

  • email: Email
  • Phone number 617-495-2461

Related Collections

Harvard faculty personal and professional archives, harvard student life collections: arts, sports, politics and social life, access materials at the harvard university archives.

sociology thesis paper

Graduate with honor

Undergraduate honors, departmental honors in sociology/senior thesis.

The Departmental Senior Honors Thesis is an opportunity for seniors in Sociology to conduct in-depth research in the major or minor field. It is the most stimulating intellectual enterprise in which an undergraduate can engage, demanding dedication and the ability to exercise independent judgment.

Students who successfully produce and defend a senior honors thesis will receive a note of distinction on their transcript and diploma. Students will also receive cords to wear on their commencement regalia, recognizing their special achievement.

You must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 and 3.3 in Sociology to participate. Thesis writers ideally will have completed SO 201, SO 203, and SO 303 prior to their spring semester, Junior year. Please work with your advisor to discuss participation in the Honors in the major program.

Junior Year:

  • In the Fall, interested students sign up to take SO 400 in the Spring of their Junior year; students who will be abroad during SO 400 or discover their interest in doing a thesis proposal after the start of SO 400 are still eligible to do one, provided they have the support of an adviser who will help them through the process (usually through an independent study) in the Spring of their Junior year.
  • In the Spring, students in SO 400 develop and finalize their thesis proposal, secure adviser, file IRB application (if relevant) and file funding application (if needed.)
  • No later than May 1 of the student’s Junior year, students must submit their application for a senior honors thesis, including obtaining participation of a faculty advisor. Late applications may be considered at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  • Application for Departmental Honors DUE MAY 1 .

Summer between student’s Junior and Senior year:

  • Student collects data/conducts research for project.

Senior Year:

  • In the Fall, the student takes SO 401 (2cr). SO 401 does not meet as a formal class. Rather, these are essentially placeholder credits that gives the student credit for the data analysis and writing work they are doing that fall.
  • In the Spring, the student takes SO 402 (4cr). SO 402 does not meet as a formal class. Rather, these credits further acknowledge the intensive work the student continues to do leading up to their capstone thesis presentation and thesis defense in April of their Senior year.

Honors Courses:

So 400 research practicum (4cr) (spring of jr. year).

(Prereqs: SO 303 and junior standing; or consent of instructor. First Year Writing Seminar (e.g., WR 100 or WR 120) This course prepares students planning to conduct honors research project in their senior year. Students interested in developing a research project for alternate purposes will be admitted with permission of the instructor. This course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Writing-Intensive Course, Social Inquiry II, Research and Information Literacy.

In this course, you will develop a research proposal, secure a faculty advisor, complete and submit an IRB application for Human Subjects research (if needed), and prepare to begin your research project.  

SO 401 Senior Independent Work (2cr) (Fall of Senior Year)

Fill out an Add/Drop form and have your thesis advisor sign to add you to the class.

This directed study course is with your primary thesis advisor who will continue to work with you on specific details of your thesis.    

SO 402 Senior Independent Work (4 cr) (Spring of Senior Year

This directed study course is under the primary supervision of your thesis advisor. You will complete the analysis of data and writing of your thesis, culminating in the final draft of the thesis and the oral examination at the thesis defense.  

Senior Thesis FAQ:

What is an honors thesis.

Honors theses vary widely in length, depending on the topic, method, and number of appendices, graphics, tables, references, and other materials included in the work. In general, students can anticipate preparing a document of 30-65 pages. Some, however, are longer than this.

Study Abroad and Honors in the Major

Students who will be abroad during the spring semester of their junior year may still be eligible to complete a thesis by developing a research proposal through a directed study with a faculty advisor during the spring semester in lieu of SO 400.  If taken as a directed study, this course no longer counts as a Sociology graduation requirement and does not carry any HUB credits. Please contact your advisor to determine if this is a good fit for you.

How does senior honors thesis work impact my sociology course requirements ?

If you receive a C+ or higher in SO 400, you may substitute SO 400 (Advanced Research Practicum) for one of the two required seminars for graduation in the major. SO 400 can also fulfill one of the ten courses required for the sociology major. If you take a directed study with your advisor in lieu of SO 400 (for example, if you are abroad during spring junior year), you do not receive seminar credit for the directed study.

SO 401 and SO 402 do not count toward the required courses for graduation in the sociology major.

What happens if I decide, after taking SO 400 in the Fall, that I don't want to finish the thesis process? Or I receive less than a B for So 400?

SO 400-402 is intended to be a three semester course of study with the goal of completing a senior honors thesis. However, after consulting with relevant faculty, you may choose to discontinue after taking SO 400. If you have received a grade of C+ or higher in SO 400, you can apply SO 400 towards sociology requirements.

Can a Kilachnad Honors College student pursue departmental honors in sociology?

The KHC keystone project and departmental honors can be combined, provided you meet the general requirements for departmental honors, your primary project advisor is a sociology faculty member, and your project is sociological in method and content.  The requirement of SO 400 will be waived for students who pass the KHC junior year research seminar with a B or higher, but students do not receive sociology seminar credit for taking the KHC seminar. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more on how the keystone project and departmental honors are combined.

Who should I talk to if I have more questions?

You can talk to your advisor in sociology and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. For administrative questions, contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator in Sociology.

Examples of previous thesis projects:

  • 2020. Pelletier, Temma. “Who’s My Parent When I Fill Out The FAFSA?”
  • 2020. Paasche-Orlow, Lev. “Organizational Techniques of Pro-life Picketers: An Exploration of Boston’s Anti-Abortion Movement”
  • 2019. Tichenor, Erin. “(De)criminalization: Agency, Intersectionality, & Social Control in Auckland’s Sex Industry”
  • 2019. Hereema, Matt. “Psychiatric Authority and the Placebo Effect: A Comparative Historical Analysis”
  • 2019. Lawry, Claire. “White America’s Principle-Implementation Gap: The Paradox of 21st Century Racism.”
  • 2019. Sheehan, Carrie. “Perceptions of Transgender Criminality: A Survey Experiment.”
  • 2019. Wimberly, Elizabeth. “Changing Times, Changing Monies: The Diffusion of Digital Gold.”

Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) facilitates participation by BU undergraduates in faculty-mentored research. UROP can provide financial support to Sociology undergraduates for summer research fellowships, academic year stipends, research supplies, and travel for research or to professional meetings.

The UROP research experience generally involves mentoring of a student project by a faculty member working in his or her area of expertise. Students conduct research either on individual research projects or as part of a larger team.  This provides an excellent opportunity to experience sociological research first-hand.

Undergraduate Research Support Fund

The Department of Sociology at Boston University is pleased to provide undergraduates with the opportunity to apply for modest financial support for independent research on sociological topics.  Students may use the funds for research supplies or research travel.

Applications must include a two page description of the research topic, questions, and methods; budget justification; and evidence that the student has applied or external funding, such as for UROP support.  In addition, the student must ask a faculty member to provide a short letter of reference indicating their willingness to supervise the project.  Preference will be given to applications from Sociology majors and minors.

For research involving human subjects, students should provide evidence of their submission of an application to the Institutional Review Board or of communication with the IRB indicating that the project does not require IRB approval.

Available funds are capped at $500 per student/project.  Applications, which will be considered on an ongoing basis, should be submitted electronically to the Department Chair, Director of Undergraduate Studies, and the Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

Sociology Awards and Prizes

College prize for excellence in sociology.

Awarded by the College of Arts & Sciences on the basis of faculty recommendations, contributions to the department and University, and GPA in the major, the winner of this top prize addresses their graduating class at the Sociology convocation each year.

Outstanding Senior Thesis Prize

Awarded by the Department of Sociology faculty to the author of the best senior Sociology honors thesis written during the academic year.

Outstanding Seminar Paper Prize

Awarded by the Department of Sociology faculty to the author of the best seminar paper written during the academic year.

Alpha Kappa Delta Honor Society in Sociology

Founded in 1920, Alpha Kappa Delta (AKD) is an international sociology honor society with more than 400 chapters worldwide. Membership allows students to participate in national undergraduate research paper competitions and receive support for travel to professional meetings.

The Boston University chapter of AKD inducts majors in their junior or senior years who meet certain academic standards. For more information, students can visit our departmental website, consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, or see the Honor Societies section of this Bulletin.

Diedre H. Symington Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded annually to one of several juniors or seniors receiving financial aid and concentrating in sociology. The recipients are nominated by the faculty of the department on the basis of academic accomplishments and financial need.

Alpha Kappa Delta

Alpha Kappa Delta (AKD) is the international sociology honor society, founded in 1920, with more than 400 chapters worldwide.  Each year the Boston University chapter (Gamma of Massachusetts) invites juniors and seniors of high scholarly achievement in Sociology to be inducted into Alpha Kappa Delta.

Membership allows students to participate in national undergraduate research paper competitions, to receive support for travel to professional meetings, and to receive the Society’s journal Sociological Inquiry. Students are eligible for AKD upon completing six sociology courses toward their major (or minor), including SO 201 and SO 203.

They will have maintained a GPA in sociology of at least 3.30 and an overall GPA of at least 3.00, and must be ranked in the top 35% of their class in general scholarship.  They must be at least a junior (third year) by BU standards, and have officially declared sociology as a major or minor and demonstrate a serious interest in the subject.

Click here to visit their website.

Taylor Swift: why academics are studying the pop star

Taylor Swift is the biggest pop star in the world and a seemingly unlikely subject of academic study around Australia and the world. The American superstar made Grammys history this month winning Album of the Year for the fourth time, soon after being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Forbes magazine declared the 34-year-old American the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry and fifth in the world for 2023, stating she is “an advocate for the empowerment of women and a champion for all musicians seeking greater ownership of their work.”

The conference or Swiftposium - hosted by the University of Melbourne in collaboration with the University of Sydney, RMIT University, Curtin University, Auckland University of Technology and Monash University - highlighted how a single artist has impacted contemporary life, with papers exploring Swift’s influence across the intersection of music, economics, business, media studies, health, and societal and cultural impact.

Brittany Spanos, New York University (NYU) Adjunct Instructor and senior writer for Rolling Stone opened the conference, delivering a keynote address examining Swift’s career in relation to the music industry, musicology, feminism and race.

a young woman in a pink dress is giving a talk about Taylor Swift

Dr Georgia Carroll presenting the keynote at the Swiftposium. 

Dr Georgia Carroll, a researcher who completed her PhD on fandom and celebrity in the Discipline of Sociology at the University of Sydney delivered the Early Career Researcher keynote on the second day. Dr Carroll’s keynote was titled: “’My pennies made your crown’: Taylor Swift as your Billionaire Best Friend” and explored the intersection of fandom and economic consumption in the Taylor Swift fan community. It examined how Swift encourages individuals to purchase merchandise, multiple versions of her albums, and concert tickets in order to be viewed as the "right" kind of fan and gain her attention. 

Other papers covered topics such as lyrical poetics, cyber-security, AI, mental health, public relations and “Swiftonomics”, referring to the economic impact of Taylor on local and global economies both in terms of her touring and her wider role in the entertainment industry. There was also a stream exploring Swift as a teaching tool in higher education, following recent courses on her and her work at institutions including Harvard University, Stanford University and NYU.

@abcnewsaus How well do you know Taylor Swift and her international impact? Academics from around the world have gathered at the Swiftposium conference in Melbourne to discuss her influence on music, cities, creatives and more.  #TaylorSwift #ErasTour #ErasTourAus #ABCNews ♬ original sound - ABC News Australia

University of Sydney experts from philosophy, sociology, English and psychology share why they are studying the lyrics and music of the American pop star.

Philosophy, forgiveness and Taylor Swift

Associate Professor Luke Russell , lecturer in ethics and critical thinking in the Discipline of Philosophy, said the singer-songwriter has a strong view on forgiveness, a subject he has recently published a book on, Real Forgiveness .  

“I’m a philosopher who writes on the topic of forgiveness," he said. "Taylor Swift holds an interesting and contentious view about forgiveness, a view that she has explained in interviews and has expressed in her songs. 

“Swift rejects the claim that we always ought to offer unconditional forgiveness to those who have wronged us. This puts her in conflict with advocates of unconditional forgiveness, including many Christians and therapists. I think that Swift is right about this, and her insights on this topic can help philosophers to see why sometimes forgiving is the wrong thing to do.” 

Greek philosophy, betrayal and Taylor Swift

Pop singer Taylor Swift wearing a sparkling bodysuit on stage for her Eras tour.

Taylor Swift performs in Nashville, May 5, 2023 Photo: George Walker IV, AP/AAP Photos

Dr Emily Hulme is a lecturer in Ancient Greek philosophy in the Discipline of Philosophy. Her research interests include Plato’s epistemology and ethics, philosophy of language from Parmenides to the Stoics, and arguments concerning the status of women in the ancient world. Dr Hulme said:

“I work in Greek philosophy, a philosophical tradition where reflection on art and emotions is understood to be a key part of our development as humans. We can learn a lot about ourselves through emotionally engaging with art that pulls no punches in talking about vulnerability, trust, and betrayal. And Taylor Swift has a lot of songs that fit that bill.” 

Sociology, identity, and Taylor Swift

Dr Georgia Carroll a researcher who completed her PhD in fandom in the Discipline of Sociology at the University of Sydney said:  “I wrote my PhD on Taylor Swift and her fandom because as a long-time Swiftie, I knew that there was something special about the relationship she shares with her fans. Many of Taylor's fans feel as though they have grown up alongside her, built a real connection with her, and that her music has served as a kind of overarching soundtrack to their lives. 

“As sociologists, we strive to understand society and its intersection with culture, identity, social relationships, and power structures, and celebrity fandom is a perfect window into all of those things.”  

English poetry, Shakespeare and Taylor Swift

Professor Liam Semler , is a Shakespeare scholar and teaches Early Modern Literature in the Discipline of English. He has a new paper on teaching Shakespeare’s sonnets using the lyrics from Taylor Swift’s album Midnights. He also teaches a unit called Shakespeare and Modernity, using Taylor Swift’s lyrics. Professor Semler said: “As the marketing for Midnights as a concept album started to permeate popular culture, I felt there was a fascinating, but not explicit, array of parallels to early modern sonnet sequences. 

“There are plenty of songs on the album that work well in class and connect to thematic and poetic elements relevant to Shakespeare’s sonnets. In my unit ‘Shakespeare and Modernity,’ Swift is part of a multidimensional picture as we explore the design principles and thematics of sonnet collections, including the literary work of Jen Bervin and Luke Kennard who rewrite the sonnets in fresh and provocative ways.” 

Psychology, archetypes and Taylor Swift

Kayla Greenstien, a PhD candidate in psychology said: “I study the theoretical orientations behind psychedelic therapies, including Jungian archetypes and using myths to explore deeper truths about human experiences. 

“After seeing Eras Tour footage on TikTok, I started thinking about Taylor Swift's entire artistic output as a form of uniquely modern mythopoeticism. There's a lot we can learn about archetypal experiences and who's voice they represent from looking at Swift's work through this lens.” 

Top Photo: Taylor Swift performs at the Monumental stadium during her Eras Tour concert in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko/AAP Photos)

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