Resources for Seniors


The Senior Thesis

The Senior Thesis is the culmination of a student's educational experience. It normally consists of four chapters: Chapter I: Theory and Problem Formulation; Chapter II: Review of the Literature; Chapter III: Findings; and Chapter IV: Summary and Conclusions. It is ideally written in close consultation with a mentor who tries to steer the student's work on a course that will prove most fruitful. Students are expected to become active producers of research, rather than simply passive consumers. This requires considerable familiarity with current research, for the department's practice has been to encourage its seniors to produce original scholarly work that contributes to a distinct subfield of sociology.

Although sociology's major paradigms can easily be understood with little quantitative sophistication, current research in the discipline's major journals uses advanced mathematics tools extensively. As a result, the department has a longstanding practice of encouraging students to take graduate or post-graduate level courses at other institutions prior to the start of their senior year, in particular at Ann Arbor's ICPSR Summer Institute, to consult with scholars at other institutions, and to produce the results of their thesis at professional conferences. As is normally the case at Reed College in the Division of Social Sciences and History, students are also expected to produce drafts of their thesis chapters at regular intervals, and in particular, they are expected to submit copies of a completed draft at the midpoint of their second semester. As is customary, the thesis concludes with a two-hour oral defense at which the advisor, two members of the Division of Social Sciences and History, and one external examiner, or "fourth" reader, test the student's ability to explain his or her results.

Recent Representative Theses

Elizabeth Eve Bruch." Neighborhoods, Networks and Communities: Rethinking the Chicago School of Human Ecology" (May 1999).

Sherilyn Holcombe. "Income Generating Crime in Urban Communities: Exploring the 'Embeddedness' Concept" (May 1997).

Erica Kathryn Lutz. "Schooling, Social Capital, and Educational Markets: Implications for Social Stratification" (May 1997).

Jay Sanders. "Symbolic Exclustion: Analyzing Different Pattersn of Boundary Work" (May 1997).

Adam Appleton Riggs. "Corporatism vs. Pluralism: The Political Economy of Vocational Education in Portland" (May 1995).