The Capstone Guide and FAQ’s

The Capstone (formally called the Major Project) is a course that most Sociology students take in their second-to-last or last semester here at the University.  This site will give you an overview of the course, what you need to do before you can take it, and cover some FAQ’s.  The course is currently 4 credits, but is scheduled to move to 3 credits effective Spring 2019.

When you declared the Sociology major we spent a little time covering the course.  Let’s review a few things first.

1) All major course work must be completed with a C- or better (students may have one remaining elective course outstanding when they register for 4966W). You may review the pre-reqs for Soc 4966W on the Class Catalog or with Sociology Advising.  This information is also on your APAS report and your Major Declaration form.

These pre-reqs also apply to Soc 4094W and 4994W (more info on them in a bit).  Soc 4977V and 4978V carry slightly different pre-reqs (more info on those in a bit as well).

Special Note for B.S. students – your Sub-Plan courses do NOT need to be completed, but we do encourage you to have them done since you can draw upon what you learned in those classes in the Capstone class.  The calculus course and Data Analysis course similarly do NOT need to be completed before taking the Capstone course, but students are encouraged to have those done as well.

Special Note for Honors students – Soc 4977V (Fall only) and Soc 4978V (Spring only) is a cohort experience.   All major coursework must be completed prior to beginning the pro-seminar with a grade of C- or higher.  The only exception is that students may have two remaining electives for Soc 4977V, one remaining elective for Soc 4978V; however, this is not encouraged.

2)  Students need a permission number in order to register and must be on the ‘Clearance List’ in order to pick up the permission number.  This is because Sociology Advising reviews all students for eligibility for Soc 4966W/4977V & 4978V.  When students declare the major they indicate the term in which they think they will take the Capstone (e.g. Spring 2019).  Sociology Advising then places the student a ‘Spring 2019’ list and then reviews all students on that list prior to Spring 2019 registration.

Sometimes students decide to take 4966W in a different term – please let Sociology Advising know this.  The process for permission for Soc 4094W or 4994W is a little different – see details toward the bottom of this page and then meet with Bobby.

Permission numbers go live on the first day of registration.  Keep an eye out for an email from Sociology Advising with instructions on how to get your permission number.   This email usually goes out a week or so before registration starts.  Please do not camp out or worry that you won’t get a permission number.  We know approximately how many students will take the course and when, and so we line up the appropriate number of instructors with a very small safety net for students who are returning from an extended absence.   Most students will get their permission number in the first week of registration.  All students must be registered for the course within the first two weeks of registration.

Again, all students must be registered for Soc 4966W or 4977V/4978V within the first two weeks of the start of registration, absolutely no exceptions.  This is done for a number of administrative (e.g. classroom assignment must fit the size of the enrollment) and academic reasons (e.g. your instructor may be sending you information to help prepare for the course).   We expect seniors to register in a timely manner.

In response to enrollments, Summer 2017 is the last summer term in which we will offer the Capstone course.  All students will take the Capstone course in either Fall or Spring semesters.

What is the course?
(The following information is for Soc 4966W only, students interested in 4094W, 4994W, 4977V and 4978V should review their descriptions below and see Bobby)

The course will also guide you through the process of writing your Capstone paper, a graduation requirement for all Sociology majors. Often, there is an option for your Capstone to be linked to community service learning.

Classes will include a combination of lectures, active learning exercises, writing exercises to help you prepare your main paper, and discussions of the required readings.

Specific topics could include: the status of social scientific research and writing in politics and public policy implementation; the ways in which sociological thinking and research inform movements for social change; the presence (or absence) of sociological research and thought in popular culture and the mainstream American media; the day-to-day work of professional sociologists in the academy; the professions and careers where sociological methods and insights are most useful and prominent; and the utility and value of situating one’s life and work in sociological perspective.

Your Capstone should be the capstone expression of your “sociological imagination.” You have spent a great deal of time and energy in the last few years developing core knowledge, skills and ethics that are central to the practice of Sociology. The Capstone class is the final venue in your undergraduate experience to engage deeply in a research or action effort and showcase your skills earned via your individual Sociological course work.

What are the different Paper Options?
Keep in mind that there are other options for completing the Capstone course other than Soc 4966W, such as Capstone Experience: Directed Research (Soc 4094W) or the Honors Capstone Experience I and II (Soc 4977V & 4978V).  For more information on these options see the details below and then contact Sociology Advising.  The vast majority of Soc students though complete the Capstone course via Soc 4966W.

1)  Service Learning Research Report
This option will involve writing a rather traditional sociological report and analysis based on community service learning with a local community organization of your choice. This paper will be based on a minimum of 30 hours of community service work completed during the course of the semester.  The Community Service Learning Center will help you find a place, or if you’re already volunteering they will help you formalize this so you can write on it.

2)  Service Learning Action Project
The project will be primarily service-based as well; however, instead of writing a traditional report based upon the service experience, the final product will involve working on an actual project of direct relevance or immediate concern to your respective organization, agency, group or movement. These projects might involve a variety of tasks such as writing a mission statement or action plan, creating program materials or a grant proposal, working on an evaluation study, or producing publicity information.


3)  Extended Reflective Essay
This option will involve writing a more traditional research paper or extended reflective essay on some aspect of sociology and its relevance for contemporary society and social life, focusing on how sociological research and insight can be applied to real world organizations, social issues, or public problems.  This option may also include writing a more traditional research paper, depending on the instructor and the class.  This is rarely done and may not be possible to do with your instructor.

4)  Ethnography Project
For this option, students will conduct their own participant-observation (P/O) research of a workplace or another site. P/O fieldwork is a method in which social processes and interactions are left studied as they happen “in the field.” The method emphasizes observations of social behavior and practices that capture social life as it is experienced by the participants rather than categories predetermined by the researcher.

This option requires students to take careful and copious fieldnotes and to work closely with the instructor on the analysis of the student’s fieldsite.  This option is rarely done and may not be possible to do with your instructor.

Are All of These Options Always Available with Each Instructor?
No.  Please contact your instructor to see if they will be offering the option you’re interested in.  The Ethnography Project (#4), for example, requires considerable instructor commitment, and in a class of 40 or more students that may simply not be possible.  All students should plan on doing option 1 or 2.


I’m a double major. Do I have to take two major project courses?
No.  Double majors in CLA need only one Major Project – the choice is yours.  If you do your Major Project with another major let us know and we’ll update the APAS report for you.  You’ll need an elective in lieu of our Major Project, so keep that in mind.   Important Note:  Those students who have added Soc as a 2nd major and are in another college (e.g. CBS) must take our Major Project.

Dual degree students must complete Capstone projects in both degrees.  See your College adviser for more details.

I’m in Honors. Do I take Soc 4966W?
No.  Honors students take our Honors Capstone Experience I and II – Soc 4977V in the Fall and then Soc 4978V in the Spring.  If you decide to do your honors proseminar with another major simply let us know and we’ll update your APAS report.  You’ll need an extra elective in lieu of our proseminar courses.  UHP students who are double majors but housed in different colleges still need to complete our Major Project, same rule as immediately above.

UHP students should meet with us to discuss how 4977V and 4978V are similar and different to 4966W and special Honors requirements.  You should also meet with your UHP adviser and the Faculty Honors Representative, Professor Joe Gerteis.  Your first person to talk to though should either be Bobby or your UHP adviser.

For Soc 4966W, how much preparation do I need before the class starts?  Do I need my topic picked out?

This is a hard question to answer universally.  Much of this depends on what the student might write on.  If the student is hoping to do a Service Learning Research Report, they may need to pass a background check before being able to volunteer at that organization – that may take 6 weeks or more.  It is very strongly recommended that this be done before the start of class, since if the student were to start volunteering 6 weeks into a 15 week term there would not be enough time to volunteer and write on the experiences.

Keep your topic reasonable in size – this is an 18 or so week class so you couldn’t possibly do something like interview every chief of police in the United States – 3 might be more realistic.

This is a very good question to ask the instructor during their office hours (email is not recommended for this question).

I have a topic in mind, can I check it with you?
Absolutely!   You’d probably also benefit from talking about it with your Research Methods instructor or your major project instructor.  Simply visit them in office hours.

Are there other options instead of 4966W?
Yes.  Please come see us to discuss these more, but some students may want to do Capstone Experience:  Directed Research (Soc 4094W) with a faculty member or take an extra elective and add Soc 4994W (formally Soc 4967W) onto that class.  Both options require faculty member agreement and approval by Bobby.  Five to ten students will do this option a year, so it is not especially common but can be a great fit for students looking to do a more independent research paper.

Details on the other options for the Capstone Experience (other than Soc 4966W)

Soc 4094W: Capstone Experience: Directed Research
1 semester, 4 credits

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
(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.

Are there any courses you recommend that be taken with the Major Project?
Yes!  We very strongly recommend that you take ID 3201 – Career Planning (2 credits) while you take this course, especially if you’re hoping to enter the workforce after graduation.  Nearly every student who has talked to Sociology Advising about ID 3201 has said ‘this class should be required’.

Can I take other courses or should this be the only class I take?
This answer applies to all versions of the Capstone (Soc 4094W, Soc 4966W, Soc 4994W, Soc 4977V and 4978V). This course is designed to be taken with a full course load, so please do not worry that this needs to be your only class because there is so much work in it – that is simply not the case.  Most students take a full credit load of 15 credits while taking this course.

Remember that everything for the Soc major must be completed with a C- or higher before taking the Capstone Project.

Can I look at a syllabus for the course?
Yes!  You’ll see three PDF’s of syllabi attached below.  Remember that yours will differ slightly as the course varies some from instructor to instructor and term to term.  Also please remember that Summer major project course, if offered that summer, is different than Spring or Fall due to the length of Summer term.  Please check with Sociology Advising if you are hoping to take the course over the Summer as we anticipate not offering the course over the Summer after Summer 2017.

4966 Schurman Spr18
4966 Mortimer Spr18
4966 Goldman F17

Library Research Help

Is it research paper time?? The U Libraries are here to help students with their academic research– from first year students to seniors working on capstones or theses projects. Please share and recommend the following services with students (in your one-on-ones, newsletters, emails, etc.) as it makes sense to do so.  Here are some of our tools and services for undergraduates:

1) Peer Research Consultants (PRCs) (a.k.a Library research tutors) are now available on East Bank (Walter SMART, Bio-Med) and West Bank (ISSS office and Wilson SMART). PRCs provide one-on-one assistance (drop-in or appointment) to help students develop research strategies, narrow or expand their topics, find scholarly or academic articles, and critically evaluate the information they find (no #fakenews). More information is below – including a slide you can insert into a PPT presentation.

2) The Library Course Pages are a great place for students to start research on course research topics– we have a page for every course with useful tools to find academic articles and more.

3) The Assignment Calculator can help students figure out the steps for a big project and stay on track (students can sign up for email reminders) like a research paper, video project, etc.

4) Tools like Zotoro and Mendeley are better than EastBib! These tools help students organize their PDFs then automatically insert the in-text citations and create a bibliography in seconds in APA, MLA and thousands of other citation styles.

5) *new* We now have 40+ group study rooms that can be reserved by students for group projects. We also have four 1:Button studios to easily record or practice speeches or presentations.

6) Students can get help in person at any of our 12 on-campus libraries, or by email, by phone or anytime 24/7 by Chat with a Librarian. Students can also set up an in-depth consultation with our team of subject librarians.

Peer Research Consultant