Students in the Department of Sociology have a variety of opportunities to do independent research. These opportunities include an upper-level research seminar in which students design and implement their own study, a senior honors thesis in which a student works with a faculty advisor on a project chosen by the student, and readings and research courses in which a student and a faculty member explore a specific topic of mutual interest. In addition, students occasionally serve as research assistants on ongoing faculty research projects.
For example, a sociology major in our research seminar, a snowboarder, was interested in understanding the inner dynamics of the snowboarding subculture, including the slang and clothing, taste in music, and, most importantly, the status hierarchy. Using qualitative methods, he found, among other things, that status within that subculture was based on many things beyond snowboarding skills, including deep entrenchment in the lifestyle and willingness to make sacrifices for the sport.
In a current honors thesis, a student is investigating why there has been little change in support for legal abortion in the United States over the past 30 years. Since the 1970s, this country has experienced increases in women's labor force participation and divorce rates, growing acceptance of gender equality, and increasing liberalism in relation to sex education, homosexuality, and premarital sexual activity, but the mean level of support for abortion has remained virtually unchanged. The student’s hypothesis is that growth in Christian fundamentalism has been a response to the increase in sexual liberalism and acceptance of feminism that have swept through the nation, causing abortion attitudes to become more polarized over time. Thus, what appears to be an absence of change in attitudes may be a shrinking of the ambivalent middle group, with a corresponding increase in absolutist views at both ends of the abortion debate. She is testing this hypothesis with statistical analysis of data from the General Social Survey, which collected information on socio-economic factors and social attitudes between 1972 and 2000.Another student, a sociology major and an English minor, is writing a novella with the intent of introducing sociological concepts to a general audience. Specifically, through a narrative written in first-person, she intends to draw the reader into identifying with the main character, and then will interrupt the reader's presumed assumptions about the character by revealing and disrupting our common assumptions about how race is constructed. And in a recent honors thesis, a student explored the development of a viable environmental movement in project entitled "A revival of radicalism: The cultural and political foundations of the global justice movement."
Finally, two members of our faculty are currently working on a project investigating why girls are still less interested in math than boys and why markedly fewer females enter the fields of math and engineering. Two students are serving as research assistants in this effort and have been doing systematic library search of the literatures on girls and math, the function of role models, and girls and career choices.
For further information, contact Professor Mintz (firstname.lastname@example.org).