Research options include an upper-level research seminar in which you can design and implement your own study, a senior honors thesis in which you work with a faculty advisor on a project you choose, and readings and research courses in which a you and a faculty mentor member explore a specific topic of mutual interest. Many students serve as research assistants for ongoing faculty research projects.
Committed sociology majors have the opportunity to participate in sociological research and classwork that plays a real-life role. The department offers an advanced service learning based internship seminar, and several other courses have directly involved students in the community in various ways.
Superstorm Irene: The Aftermath
When a hurricane or earthquake strikes, a small group of unusual first responders is at the ready: sociologists. When Tropical Storm Irene devastated Vermont with destructive flash floods in 2011, Prof. Alice Fothergill had just started her seminar in the sociology of disasters. Responding quickly, she reorganized the course to get students in the field as volunteers, spending many weekends with students at disaster sites. Students helped clean up debris, sort out belongings, and rebuild homes. Fothergill noted that “Irene allowed us to volunteer and do research on how some groups are affected more than others. But it also allowed students to use the concepts that they have studied and apply them in real situations.”
Exploring Human Nature
Student research projects can embrace multiple disciplines and modes of expression. Some recent examples of original student research in sociology include:
- A student in the sociology research seminar, a snowboarder, used qualitative methods to discover 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 her honors thesis, a student investigated why there has been little change in support for legal abortion in the U.S. over the past 30 years. The student hypothesized that growth in Christian fundamentalism counterbalanced the acceptance of feminism and more liberal views about sex education and premarital sex, causing a polarization in attitudes towards abortion. She tested this hypothesis with data from the General Social Survey, which contains information on socio-economic factors and social attitudes between 1972 and 2000.
- A sociology major with a minor in English wrote a novella with the intent of introducing sociological concepts to a general audience. Through a first-person narrative, the author drew the reader into identifying with the main character, then interrupted the reader's presumed assumptions about the character by revealing our common assumptions about how race is constructed
- In an 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."