SOCI-304 Sociology Senior Seminar
Spring for 2017-2018
The Senior Seminar is a “capstone” experience in which each senior sociology major (here or in SOCI 438) devotes an entire semester to a research project of one’s own choice and produce a high quality research paper (some people call a “thesis”). Since each thesis topic varies from the next, the course cannot be described to you via its substantive contents. We will instead focus on the “how’s” of getting to that end rather than the “what’s” of your own thesis topics.

And yet the course is not just about writing a thesis. Rather, it is a review and synthesis of much of the Sociological theory and methodology that you have learned in earlier courses. The pedagogy of this course is about relearning, reviewing and extending the knowledge and analytic skills that you have already begun to develop. It is not about a student learning a new subject area not studied previously; indeed, any topic that you pursue, research, and write up for this course must be an extension of a subject matter you have formally studied in one or more previous courses.

Some Bench-Marks Along the Way. You will create a formal thesis-proposal (or statement of the research problem) no later than mid-January and immediately seek formal approval from the Institutional Review Board if said thesis involves directly working with human “subjects” (as they say). You will develop a critical review of the appropriate literature to demonstrate that your previous studies of your topic give you a core understanding of the field in question. You will present to the instructor and your fellow students a précis-talk wherein you lay out the dominant theoretical viewpoint(s) concerning your topic and also point out the problem-area(s) – theoretical and/or empirical – into which your own project will delve. (In each one of these steps toward a final, written thesis you will be subject to a series of peer-review processes wherein you get helpful advice from your fellow seniors and provide advice to them.) Your final thesis will be submitted in the later weeks of April, but will be preceded by partial completion of at least some chapter(s) thereof.

Grading. The final thesis submission will contribute at least half (50 percent) of your final grade, but will certainly not be the only element determining your final grade, for all of the elements in the preceding paragraph will also enter into that arithmetic.

Readings. Will be assigned by the start of term.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Sections:

SOCI-304-01 Sociology Senior Seminar
Spring for 2017-2018
Faculty:
M 11:00AM - 1:30PM

The Sociology Senior Seminar is the most “signature” course within the sociology major, and is certainly a distinctive experience when compared with seniors’ typical obligations across the main campus. Every sociology major must craft a detailed research paper during the spring term, which most of us are wont to call a “thesis,” whereas in most other departments only a select subgroup of seniors in any field are called upon to have that privilege (and that duty). In this respect, then, Georgetown’s Sociology majors follow a path trod by very few of their peers (e.g., in American Studies). You should feel proud to face and overcome such a challenge as an entire group of majors, not just an elite (so-called!) few. And since each thesis topic differs from the next, the course cannot be described to you via its substantive contents. We will instead focus on the “hows” of getting to that end rather than the “whats” of your own thesis topics.

This is thus the “capstone” experience of the work of sociology majors, and into it we expect you to invest your accumulated sociological expertise and wisdom, with your energies directed for the next 3-1/2 months into producing a polished piece of original research which addresses new topics and/or looks into previously unsolved puzzles and unanswered questions. And yet the course is not just about writing a thesis. Rather, it is a review and synthesis of much of the sociological theory and methodology you have learned in earlier courses. Nor do senior-seminar students learn about a new subject area not studied previously: instead, any topic pursued, researched, and written up for this course must be an extension of a subject matter you have already formally studied.

Some benchmarks. Throughout the term you will find yourself working with an assigned partner for intellectual feedback or in smallish discussion groups. You will create a formal thesis-proposal (or statement of the research problem) no later than mid-January and immediately seek formal approval from the Institutional Review Board if said thesis involves directly working with human “subjects” (as they say). You will then develop a critical review of the appropriate literature to demonstrate that your previous studies of your topic give you a core understanding of the field in question. As term progresses you will further develop your awareness of exacting scholarly practices, and will begin to outline your thesis and then start writing in earnest by roughly the middle of the semester. As term nears its end, you will present to the instructor and your fellow students a précis-talk wherein you lay out the problem or issue with which you have engaged, how existing sociological theories have influenced that project, and the initial conclusions to which you have then arrived. Your final thesis will be submitted in the last weeks of April, but will be preceded by partial completion of at least some chapter(s) thereof.

Grading. The final thesis submission will contribute half (50 percent) of your final grade. The other half will derive from your thoughtful, diligent, and timely contributions to the rest of the term’s assignments, including your work in the abovementioned feedback groups.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Sociology Majors Only
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Sociology Majors Only
More information
Look for this course in the schedule of classes.

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