Tentative Seminar Schedule
Week 1 (1/19)
To dispel bad myths and bolster good myths about the thesis project
To jolt our memories of just what it is that sociologists do
To discuss and establish ground rules and guide lines for the seminar
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
“Engaging with Abbott” (handout)
Week 2 (1/26)
Abbott, Chapters 1, 2, 3 (109pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Survey last decade of Contemporary Sociology to locate two or three at least remotely related to a topic of interest to you. Scan the review to see if you can identify any of the heuristics described by Abbott. Write a 3-5 page treatment that makes it clear that you understand what the heuristics are and how to use them.
Be reading substantive background materials on your topics.
Five topics. “What about a project on …?”
Week 3 (2/2)
Abbott, Chapters 4, 5, 6 (100pp)
Becker, WfSS chapter 8.
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Identifying Research Questions in Published Research
Draft of substantive background
Week 4 (2/9)
Abbott, Chapter 7 “Ideas and Puzzles” (38pp)
Becker, WfSS chs 8 (15pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Outlining Literature Reviews
Week 5 (2/16)
Becker, TotT chs 1-2 (66pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Draft Research Question for HSR Proposal
Week 6 (2/23) : Concepts, Variables, etc.
Student Presentation Tiffany
Material distributed by Tiffany (20pp)
Becker, TotT ch 4 “Concepts” (37pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
How To Do Research Without Human Subjects
Draft Literature Review for HSR Proposal
Week 7 (3/2) : Sampling
Student Presentation Marie
Material distributed by Marie (20pp)
Becker, TotT ch 3 “Sampling” (42pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Draft data collection and analysis plans for HSR Proposal
Week 8 (3/9) : Planning to Divide and Conquer
Zerubavel, The Clockwork Muse
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Draft Data Collection and Analysis Plan for HSR Proposal
Week 9 (3/16)
Student Presentation 3
Student Presentation 4
Material distributed by student 3 and student 4
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Draft HSR Proposal
Week 10 (3/30) : Analysis
Student Presentation 5
Student Presentation 6
Material distributed by student 5 and student 6
Becker, TotT ch 5 “Logic” (89)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Revised HSR Proposal (submit before end of week)
Week 11 (4/6) : Writing
Student Presentation 7
Student Presentation 8
Material distributed by student 7 and student 8
Becker, WfSS chs 1-4 (90pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Week 12 (4/13)
Becker, WfSS chs 5-6 (31pp)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Week 13 (4/20)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
Week 14 (4/27)
Exercise (Due Monday 8 am)
If it is assigned, you are expected to have read it and grappled with it and written down comments and questions about it before each seminar meeting.
Regular punctual arrival, class attendance, and informed participation in class discussions and online discussions.
More than two missed classes may result in your being asked to drop or withdraw from the class.
Writing Assignments
Students registered for credit will be required to submit exercises as we go along. Most of these will be small "studies" for a piece of your thesis. Due dates are firm. After week 3, the only way to "officially" make radical changes to your topic will be if you re-do the previously done exercises for the new topic. You will be responsible for showing the instructor a portfolio of these materials if you want to document a change in topic.
Exercises must be typed and carefully proofread (not just spell checked). Work with spelling errors, twisted syntax, sloppy grammar, lack of organization, stylistic atrocities, or a just plain ugly look about them will be returned ungraded (and possibly subjected to public ridicule, if you catch me on a bad day). General stylistic guidelines will be distributed or available on the class website.
Papers are due at the start of class on the day they are due. Deadlines for all written work are firm. Plan accordingly. Unannounced late work will NEVER be accepted. Except under the direst of circumstances, extensions will not be granted. Under no circumstances will any extension be granted within 24 hours of a due date. Plan your crises accordingly.
General Notes about Course
Course Format
This course will employ a seminar format. This means that we will sit around a table and work together to figure out what the texts we are reading mean, where our research is going, how we can help one another along. You are expected to join in this collective project. You will also be expected to comment on classmates' work regularly and to submit your work for their consideration.
The course schedule should be understood to be tentative. We may get behind or ahead. Readings may be added or dropped. Assignments may be dropped or modified (in the direction of less work).
Course adaptations will be made for students with disabilities. If you need accommodation, please go through the established processes at the Office of Disabled Student Services and let me know as soon as possible what accommodation(s) you will need to successfully complete all course requirements. In no case will it be acceptable to inform me of needed accommodations on the day an assignment is due.
Excuses and Such
“I didn’t understand what you meant” is not an excuse for not doing your work correctly. If you do not understand something on this syllabus or other documents handed out in class, ask for clarification. It is your responsibility to be sufficiently "ahead" in your work to discover such things in time to ask and give me a reasonable amount of time to reply. The night before something is due is usually too late.

Papers are due at the start of class on the day they are due. Missing class that day does not buy you an extension. Deadlines for all written work are firm. Plan accordingly. Unannounced late work will NEVER be accepted. Except under the direst of circumstances, extensions will not be granted. Under no circumstances will any extension be granted within 24 hours of a due date. Plan your crises accordingly.

Verified instances of plagiarism will result in a failing grade or option to withdraw from the course. When in doubt, use quotation marks and fully cite.
Options – How They Do It Elsewhere
The Honors Thesis (Sociology 99) . The Senior Thesis is optional in sociology but concentrators wishing to graduate with honors in Sociology must write an Honors Thesis, typically involving extended research in an area of sociology of particular interest to the student, under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Students are supported in their thesis work with a weekly scheduled, optional, group seminar for consultation and discussion about choice of problems, possible data, and procedures. Theses vary widely in their specific topic and in the methods used to do the research. Recent theses have included in depth interviews with poor teen-age mothers, participant observation in a southern civil rights organization, a re-analysis of the original data used for the book The Bell Curve , a study of news groups on the internet, an historical study of the struggle of an Indian tribe for federal recognition, and a sociological autobiography.
Skidmore College
SENIOR thesis in sociology provides students an opportunity to study a sociological problem independently and in depth. A student enrolled in S0 376/Senior Seminar in Sociology formulates a specific research question, identifies and reviews relevant literature, collects or obtains appropriate empirical data, analyzes data, and develops theoretically meaningful conclusions from the results of the analysis. A thesis is the written report of such a research project. Senior theses in sociology generally range from 25 to 50 pages in length and conform to the American Sociological Association's publication guidelines.
A thesis is required for departmental (although not all college) honors, in addition to a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher in sociology courses and a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher in all courses taken at Skidmore. (There are additional requirements for interdepartmental honors. Students with interdepartmental majors including sociology should consult their advisors in both the concerned departments and the Skidmore College Catalogue concerning the specific requirements for honors in their interdepartmental major.) However, grade point average is neither a prerequisite nor adequate reason for enrollment in senior thesis. Students who undertake a senior thesis should have a fully developed research question and design, the necessary academic preparation for independent research (including a strong methodological and theoretical background), the motivation to devote the required time and energy, and the ability to work independently.
With few exceptions, thesis research is a continuation, extension, and elaboration of the research project undertaken in the Senior Seminar in Sociology during the Fall semester. A student considering a senior thesis should consult and share copies of her or his written work in Senior Seminar with members of the sociology faculty who might serve as thesis advisor. The decision to serve as a student's thesis advisor is based on the faculty member's assessment of the scholarly promise of the student's Senior Seminar project and the educational value to the particular student of the thesis experience. Permission of a thesis advisor is a prerequisite for enrollment in S0376: Senior Thesis in Sociology during the Spring semester of a student's senior year.
Plan ahead: If you want to do a senior thesis, you should get permission from a sociology faculty member before registration for the semester in which you do the thesis. Since most theses are Spring semester projects, you need to find a thesis supervisor before registration in November.
In consultation with an advisor, a student enrolled in Senior Thesis in Sociology develops a schedule for the completion of different stages of the research and for the submission of various drafts of the thesis. The student is responsible for meeting the scheduled deadlines. The student must also select, in consultation with her or his thesis advisor, another member of the Skidmore faculty to serve as a second reader of the thesis. While the second reader is usually a sociologist, in cases of combined majors including sociology, she or he might be a faculty member from another department. Like the thesis advisor, the second reader may provide a student advice and guidance in the course of the thesis research. Both the second reader and thesis advisor evaluate preliminary and final versions of the thesis. The thesis advisor consults the second reader and assigns a grade based on their collective assessment of the scholarly quality of the final version of the thesis.
If you and your thesis advisor think your thesis is of high quality and you want to share your work with the Skidmore community, you may want to nominate your project for inclusion in the Academic Festival held at the college each April. Contact the Dean of Studies office for information on the Academic Festival.
Here are some examples of senior theses in sociology:
Individualistic and Collectivist Values Among Students of Asian and American Cultural Backgrounds: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Study (Kristin Van Wickle, 1993)
Institutional Construction of Subjective Experience: Adopting the Occupational Identity of Residential Child Care Worker (Bree Pasternack, 1994)
Applying the Traditional to Non-Traditional Families: A Sociological Study of the Christmas Holiday as a Complex Dilemma (Lucy Stinson, 1995)
Ritual, Narrative, and the Anonymous Alcoholic Identity: The Re-Formation of American Religiosity (Jennifer Dodge, 1995)
The Relationship Between Income Inequality and Life Expectancy Worldwide (Ellie Ulrich, 1996)

Proseminar Milestones (2 semester plan)
15 April Expect HSR OK.
1 April Submit Human Subjects Proposal
18 Mar Human Subjects Proposal Draft
Conduct pilot interviews/surveys/etc.
7 Mar Data collection and analysis plans
28 Feb Lit review draft for HSR
14 Feb Research question
7 Feb Substantive background initial draft
Reading background lit and scientific lit
31 Jan Five topics

Proseminar Readings

Proseminar Milestones
(1 semester plan)
4 May 4p.m. Submit final version for grade
3-4 May Copies, binders, etc.
3 May Final proofreading (no editing – just typos, etc.)
2 May midnight Freeze final version
25 Apr Get back penultimate draft with comments
In between: fix all footnotes, citations, etc. Copy edit.
18 Apr Penultimate draft submitted for comments
8 Apr Work out “analytical narrative” structure of essay
4 Apr Write-up sample of analysis
28 March Data collected and assembled
25 March Last day to submit HSR Proposals for work to be completed this semester
14 March Expect HSR OK. Start data collection.
28 Feb Submit Human Subjects Proposal
21 Feb Human Subjects Proposal Draft
Conduct pilot interviews/surveys/etc.
14 Feb Data collection and analysis plans
14 Feb Lit review draft
7 Feb Substantive background draft
Reading background lit and scientific lit
31 Jan Research question
24 Jan Five topics

Proseminar Exercises
(In Class Exercise) What about a project on…

Engaging With Abbott
(1) Select one sociological or anthropological work mentioned by Abbott in chapter 1, 2, or 3. Use the web and the library to learn more about it. Learn enough to produce a one page (max 250 words) summary for your classmates. Bring enough copies for other class members and instructor.
(2) Select one topic you have been considering and “apply” one of the topics and commonplaces heuristics described in chapter 3. Write up the results (not less than 250, not more than 500, words).
Doing sociology without human subjects
Brainstorm generic topics of interest to class. Discuss a bit to zero-in on small number. Next, assign students the task of figuring out ways to study the topic without involving human subjects. The take home assignment is then to describe a topic/question of interest to individual student and to sketch a few research questions and then five distinct ways to study the topic without using human subjects.
Scholarly Collaboration
(1) Select or be assigned a topic (2) Form collaboration pairs (3) Do independent research (4) Meet, talk, blackboard, plan, assign one partner to take first stab, set deadlines (5) forward, edit, return (6) repeat
A series of exercises. First, a straight text outline of an article. Boil 20+ pages down to single page. Then, do a marginal annotation outline. Then a topic sentence outline. Finally, a “rhetorical task” outline (highlight the text in which the author says what the research question is, what the motivation for the research is, why the project is sociologically interesting, what the concepts, variables, and operationalizations are, what methods were used, etc.)
How to write abstracts
Present students with four or five typical abstracts and identify rhetorical tasks being done in each. Establish the general structure of the genre “abstract” by lecture and example. Give students very short article sans abstract and have them construct abstract and then critique how theirs differs from published abstract.
Powerpoint/presentation skills
Each student is given an article to read (if possible, related to their topic or area of interest). Class instruction involves (1) how to convert paper into presentation (2) how to stand and talk (3) how to create powerpoint slides. Assignment is to produce 10 minute briefing on the article
GSS and/or other secondary data
Write a very brief description of your current topic/problem/question. Now go to the GSS (or comparable source of survey data). Assume that you must use this data to complete your project. By going back and forth between looking at available items and revising your topic, adjust your plans so that this would be possible. Then, re-write your problem statement, propose a “if A were the case then I’d expect to find X whereas if B were the case I’d expect to find Y” table-based analysis. Do the crosstabs and report your results.
Research Question, Etc.
Examine each of the following articles (all available in electronic form through Mills library). For each one, quote the exact text which you feel best explains the research question addressed by this article. Provide page:position references based on the PDF page image whenever possible.
Your write-up should look like this:
Smith 2004
“Blah, blah, blah.” (342a.4)
1. Allen, Michael Patrick and Lincoln, Anne E. 2004. “Critical Discourse and the Cultural Consecration of American Films.” Social Forces, 82, 3.
2. Benson, Michael L, John Wooldredge, Amy B Thistlethwaite, and Greer Litton Fox. 2004. “The Correlation between Race and Domestic Violence is Confounded with Community Context.” Social Problems, 51, 3.
3. Heckert, Alex and Druann Maria Heckert. 2004. “Using An Integrated Typology Of Deviance To Analyze Ten Common Norms Of The U.S. Middle Class.” Sociological Quarterly, 45, 2.
4. Keene, Jennifer Reid and Jill Quadagno. 2004. “Predictors Of Perceived Work-Family Balance: Gender Difference Or Gender Similarity?” Sociological Perspectives, 47, 1.
5. Kollmeyer, Christopher J. 2004. “Corporate Interests: How the News Media Portray the Economy.” Social Problems, 51, 3.
6. Rossman, Gabriel. 2004. “Elites, Masses, and Media Blacklists: The Dixie Chicks Controversy.” Social Forces, 83, 1.
Literature Reviews
In class demonstrate narrative structures of lit reviews using several straightforward examples. In addition to noting a few different narrative strategies (“two competing theories” vs. “development of this idea” vs. “lots of ways to look at this” etc.
Using the same six articles used for the research question exercise, identify the start and stop of “the lit review section” of each paper.

Unobtrusive observation
Tables and my expected results