So you’re interested in pursuing a directed research with a faculty member – perhaps for Soc 3093, 3094, 4093 credit or as a way to complete the Capstone (Soc 4094W, 4 credits; Soc 4994W + an extra Soc elective)? This guide will get you started.
Start with meeting with me – Bobby Bryant, Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising in Sociology – and I will help you strategize.
Special Note: If you are planning to complete a directed study for your capstone project (4094W), you should also plan to contact a sociology faculty member who taught a course you completed earlier, or for those planning to use an extra Soc elective as the foundation for their capstone project (4994W), contact the sociology faculty member who is teaching the course you are registered to complete in the next semester.
First, a few DON’Ts
- Do not email the professor to ask about doing a directed study. Email is not an appropriate way to start the conversation. However, you can email to ask about when their office hours are.
- Do not expect professors to work with you on the directed study/research over the summer. Faculty members are typically not around and are doing their own research.
- Do not ask graduate students to supervise your research, that is beyond their scope of duties and is not allowed.
Second, a few DO’s
- Do go to office hours and talk about what you’re interested in doing and ask about what research the faculty member is currently doing.
- Do have an idea about what you going to do research on and have done at least a cursory look at what has already been published.
- Make sure your proposed research idea/project matches with the faculty member area of expertise.
- Talk with Bobby before approaching a professor.
- Many students have grand ideas for research projects, and in some ways it is easier to start with a big idea and pair it down. But it is very important to be realistic. For example, you may want to do research on gender roles in Nazi Germany. The first question to ask is: How good is your German? Second question is: when are you going to go to Germany? If the answer is ‘not fluent’ and ‘I’m not going to travel’ then that research question is too big.
- Know what a Literature Review is.
- Be mindful that in addition to teaching courses, doing their own research, and mentoring graduate students, faculty members do a variety of service hours to the Department, College, and University, often via committee work. From their point of view you are basically asking them to mentor you and they may already have students that they are doing directed research with – they may decline.
- It is very helpful to have had a course with the professor before (or to be in class with them currently) and for them to at least be able to recognize you as a familiar face.
Before you go to office hours it is advisable for you to come talk to Bobby first. Drop-in hours may work (just not during registration time) but an appointment is preferred.
Special Information for Students Interested in Completing Their Capstone via Directed Research:
Soc 4094W: Capstone Experience: Directed Research
1 semester, 4 credits
(Pre-reqs are the same as Soc 4966W)
Many of our majors have the opportunity to work with our faculty on research projects during their time in the department — whether as part of a GRPP project, a Research Assistant position, or a more informal research partnership. If you have developed a good working relationship with a professor, a directed research project may work well for you as the basis for your senior thesis. For example, say that you have already been working with a given professor, helping to code or transcribe some data. Under a directed research project you may propose to analyze some part of the data and write up the results as your own project with the professor acting as advisor for the project. The scope of this kind of project is more limited than is typical for an Honors project, but it is based on original research.
Please note that directed research projects need special approval and organization. If you are a self-directed and independent worker and you have a connection that might work for this sort of project, please inquire whether this would be a good option for you.
Soc 4994W: Capstone Experience: Directed Research
1 semester, 1 credit add-on to additional 6th sociology elective
(Pre-reqs are the same as Soc 4966W)
(Note: course number was previously 4967W prior to Fall 2018)
Under this option, students take an additional elective course in a topical area of interest — a 3-credit 3xxx or 4xxx course. Students are enrolled in the elective courses and complete all of the requirements in the same way as other enrolled students. However, they also add this 1-credit directed research, within which they complete an additional paper on the course topic, which will serve as their Capstone project paper.
The exact form of this paper will be negotiated between the professor and the student. For example, the paper might be in the form of an extended review of one area of the research literature. Alternately, it might be a chance for the student to do explore relevant data that bears on a central question for the area of study.
Much like the Directed Research route, Independent Study is a great option for students who want to explore a given topic. But also like the previous option, this requires students to be self-starters who can work on their own. Please note that this option requires special approval, so if you are interested please start early by talking with professors and Bobby
Paperwork needed for Directed Research:
Guide to the Capstone (formally called the Major/Senior Project):
Resources and Other Thoughts
Please understand that developing your research in this context means that you will have to be prepared to do much of the preparation work for your thesis on your own. Your advisor will likely be happy to talk over issues of writing and research with you, but can’t teach a one-on-one class. Below are some essential and recommended starting points that may help you and your advisor get on the same page. Please note that many of these resources are available in e-book form at substantially reduced cost.
Formatting, citing and organizing
Make sure you understand how to organize your work! This is an essential guide. More specific writing and editing guides are available for grammar and sentence structure as well — see in particular the Chicago Manual of Style (chicagomanualofstyle.org).
- American Sociological Association. 2014. American Sociological Association Style Guide. 5th Edition. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association. (An essential source for getting your writing into the format and style sociological readers expect. Note both the general writing advice and the specific ASA-style formatting and reference guidelines.)
Conceptualizing your work in relation to “the literature”
Your research doesn’t stand alone — it is read and understood as part of a broader, ongoing conversation among scholars. So your research has to be conceptualized in relation to that conversation, to reference it, and contribute to it. Be sure to ask your research advisor and others about where to start with key sources.
- Luker, Kristin. 2008. Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in the Age of Info-Glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (A highly useful guidebook for approaching social science research. Pay special attention to chapters 4-5 on conceptualizing your work in relation to existing research.)
- Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. The Craft of Research. 4th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Especially useful for Chapters 3-6 on moving from topics to research questions, and then grounding those questions in broader “problems” that links your work to existing research.)
Good science and good scientific writing rests on two things. It is important to organize your data and understand your methodological approach. But it is equally essential to understand how your methods relate to the way you pose your questions and your answers to those questions. Below are some starting points, but find the resources that will help you with the work you need to do.
- Alford, Robert R. 1998. The Craft of Inquiry: Theories, Methods, Evidence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (A useful guide to writing and thinking within different methodological modes — interpretive, historical and multivariate.
- Emerson, Robert M., Rachel I Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw. 2011. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd Edition. Chicago: Chicago University Press. (A wide-ranging guide to field research, field notes and qualitative coding.)
- Long, J. Scott and Jeremy Freese. 2014. Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata. 3rd Edition. College Station, TX: Stata Press. (An excellent and very practical guide to logistic regression models and other categorical methods in Stata.)