Course Description

The Sociology Proseminar is designed to prepare students for the senior seminar course and guide them through the early stages of the senior thesis/project. In this course students will each choose a research topic, review the relevant research literature, choose an appropriate research method, and conduct some preliminary analyses. The course will review some of the most common research methods including qualitative interviews, ethnography, survey data analysis, and content analysis. In addition, we will study exemplary works in the field of sociology to see what constitutes extraordinary research and how great researchers do it. Students enrolled in this course will be well prepared for the senior seminar in Sociology or Anthropology.

Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes
  • Choose an appropriate research topic and method.
  • Complete the introduction, literature review, and methods section of the thesis.
  • Conduct some preliminary research and data analysis.
  • Improve writing skills, organizational skills, and research skills.
Assessment Techniques
  1. The first three assignments on research topics will assess the student’s ability to choose an appropriate topic.
  2. The evaluation of the three sections of the thesis (intro, lit review, methods) will assess the quality, rigor and appropriateness of that work.
  3. The preliminary research and data analysis will also assess the efficacy of the research topic, literature review, and research method.
  4. The final versions of the introduction, literature review, and methods section will also assess the student’s writing skills, organizational skills, and research skills.
Course Assignments

There are several assignments required of students throughout the semester. Each student should keep assignments in a three-ring binder for easy reference. Further details on each assignment will be given later in the semester.

  • Final Research Topic 5%
  • Project Timeline 5%
  • Project Bibliography 10%
  • Annotated bibliography 10%
  • Methods Section 15%
  • HSRB application (if applicable)
  • Preliminary Data Analysis 15%
  • PowerPoint Presentation 10%
  • Introduction and Literature Review 30%
  • TOTAL GRADE 100%
Grading Policies

Your grade for this course will be based on 1) your ability to understand and synthesize main ideas and themes from the assigned readings 2) your ability to choose an appropriate research topic and method and to complete all assignments in a thoughtful, creative, and timely manner, and 3) your ability to communicate effectively in writing through assignments and papers in order to demonstrate your full understanding of the course content and your individual project. It is crucial to complete all assigned work. Failure to do so will be reflected in your grade. All assignments must be typed and double-spaced, with 12 point font, and one-inch margins. No late assignments or make-up work will be permitted. If there is an extreme emergency, an exception to the late policy may be made. In this unusual case, late assignments may be accepted and downgraded 10% per day they are late.

Required Books & Supplies (available at Mills College Bookstore)
  • The Guide to Writing Sociology Papers, by the Sociology Writing Group
  • Students will need a 3 ring binder for this class.
  • Additional readings are available on electronic reserves.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
Week 1 Introductions
  • Workshop: Creating a sociological research question
Week 2 – Assignment Due: List of 3 possible topics (1 paragraph on each)
  • Readings (General Interest):
    • Katherine Kinnick, “Pushing the Envelope: The role of the mass media in the mainstreaming of pornography”
    • Joseph Hallinan, Going Up the River: Travels in a prison nation, chapters 1-2
  • Workshop: How to use online databases (Soc Abstracts, Google scholar, and more)
Week 3 – Assignment Due: Final 2 topics (2 paragraphs on each)
  • Guest Lecture: Joanne Rondilla, Ph.D. candidate, UC Berkeley
  • Readings:
    • Is Lighter Better? Skin tone discrimination among Asian Americans, chap 4-5
  • Workshop: Annotated bibliographies, calendaring, project timelines
Week 4 – Assignments Due: Final topics (1 page) and Project Timeline
  • Readings (Qualitative Interviews):
    • Nazli Kibria, “Growing Up Chinese and American, Korean and American”
    • Kerry Ann Rockquemore, “Between Black and White: Exploring the biracial experience”
  • Workshop: How to conduct a qualitative interview

Week 5 – Assignment Due: Project Bibliography (25 sources)
  • Readings (Quantitative Survey Data Analysis):
    • Jeni Loftus, “America’s Liberalization in Attitudes toward Homosexuality”
    • Portes and Rumbaut, Chapter 9, “School Achievement and Failure” in Legacies
  • Workshop: General Social Survey (GSS) intro in computer lab
Week 6 – Assignment Due: Annotated Bibliography (10 sources)
  • Readings (Ethnography):
    • Mitch Duneier, Sidewalk, Introduction and Part One
    • Laura Grindstaff, “Talk as Show (A Show of Emotion)”
  • Workshop: How to do ethnographies
Week 7 – Assignment Due: Revised Timeline

Readings (Quantitative Survey Data Analysis):

  • Zuo and Tang, “Breadwinner Status and Gender Ideologies of Men and Women…”
  • Juliet Schor, The Overworked American, chap 1

Workshop: Working with U.S. Census data

Week 8 – Assignment Due: Methods Section (3-4 pages)

Readings (Content Analysis):
Workshop: In-class content analysis activity & HSRB applications

Week 9 – Assignment Due: HSRB applications
Week 10 – Assignment Due: Complete Preliminary Research (interviews, tables, etc.)

Readings (Ethics):

  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples, selections
  • Jayaratne and Stewart, “Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences: Current Feminist Issues and Practical Strategies”
  • France Winddance Twine, “Racial Ideologies and Racial Methodologies”

Workshop: Social Location and Research Ethics

Week 11 – Assignment Due: Preliminary Data Analysis Write-Up
  • Workshop: Powerpoint
Week 12 – Individual meetings with professor (10 min each)
Week 13 – Class presentations
Week 14 – Class presentations
Week 15 – Assignment Due: Introduction and Literature Review

Class presentations