“Honors” at Rutgers can mean different things, and similarly “Honors” refers to different things within the Sociology department. Primarily when we speak of Sociology Honors we are referring to our capstone senior thesis project. The details of that program are described below. But we also periodically offer individual courses within the department with the ‘Honors’ designation (courses numbered 920:198, 298 or 398), and sometimes Sociology faculty members teach courses with considerable sociological content in the interdisciplinary School of Arts and Sciences Honors program (department code 090). You do not have to be a sociology major to take one of these courses, but typically you must obtain special permission from the instructor to register. For honors courses listed within the department, we normally like students to have taken Introduction to Sociology first, but this prerequisite is sometimes waived.
All Honors courses are organized as seminars with an enrollment of 15-20 students. They provide an excellent opportunity to develop your scholarly potential among a group of especially strong peers, and to become well acquainted with a particular faculty member. Students are more likely to earn detailed letters of recommendation from their professors in these courses—good to keep in mind when contemplating future applications to graduate or professional school.
The Sociology Honors Program involves an independent project developed over two semesters. Seniors in the Sociology Honors Program enroll in the Honors Seminar (920:497 in the fall, 498 in the spring), and, in consultation with the Honors Seminar instructor, they select an individual advisor from among all Sociology faculty. The Seminar, which meets weekly, covers topics that everyone faces when doing an independent sociological project, such as narrowing a topic, identifying researchable questions, carrying out a review of existing literature on the topic, getting approval for conducting research on human subjects, and organizing a long research paper. Students also present problems that they are trying to solve, and the class helps them find a solution.
Admission to the Sociology Honors Program requires completion of 18 or more credits in Sociology with a GPA of 3.5 or more. It also requires an overall GPA of 3.0 at the end of the junior year. To be considered, declare a Sociology major by February of your junior year. The Seminar (920:497, 498) meets the major requirement of a 400 level course, and it has the usual prerequisites for 400-level courses (2 courses selected from 311, 312, 313, and 314). We highly recommend that students have completed Introduction to Social Research (920:311) in particular, and at least one of our other core courses (312, 313, or 314) by Fall of the junior year if possible.
The Department identifies eligible students in March of the junior year. Eligible students are sent a letter of invitation that describes the program. Included in the letter is an application form and an invitation to submit a one-page project proposal. The Seminar coordinator typically is available to meet with prospective participants in April and early May to discuss their proposals. Those accepted receive a special permission number for 920:497, typically by late May or June. Be sure your official University records indicate a Sociology major by February of your junior year and that they show the correct graduation year. (If these are wrong on your official record, you will not appear on our list of majors with a 3.0 or higher average.)
Getting the invitation does not guarantee acceptance. We work to ensure in advance that students have workable projects, and that the Seminar is not overly full, so that students get the attention and guidance they deserve. We want students to succeed, not have to drop their projects part way along because they are infeasible. Furthermore, please note that all acceptances to the Sociology Honors Seminar are subject to the student’s continued level of outstanding work.
Each Honors student selects a topic for their project and an individual advisor who helps them develop the topic. The Honors Seminar instructor must approve the topic. Most students collect original data. Students have carried out informal interviews, developed questionnaires, observed behavior, and analyzed both texts and images such as advertisements. Some students use data already collected by someone else. Still others develop theoretical or conceptual analyses of a sociological issue. The final papers range in length; most are between 40 and 60 pages.
The project is due by late March. Each student turns in a final written copy, and they also present their project at a Department's Colloquia in early April. Faculty members attend, and students invite parents and friends.
Projects that involve "human subjects" must be reviewed by the IRB (Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects). This means writing a brief protocol that describes the project and identifies any risk to subjects. If you want to collect information from minors or information on a topic that involves risk "out of the everyday," your proposal requires a full review. This takes time. If the protocol is not ready by October 12, you are likely to have trouble collecting data in time. [It is difficult to collect data during exams and during the holidays.]
Grades and Level of Honors
At the end of the fall semester, each student doing good work gets a temporary grade of H. [It is possible, at this time, to convert from Honors to Independent Study. This requires permission from the Undergraduate Chair.] In April, the Honors Seminar instructor and the student's advisor together assign letter grades for both Fall and Spring. Honors students can graduate with Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors in Sociology. High or Highest Honors means the instructor, the advisor, and a small committee of other faculty members find the project exceptionally well done.
Anyone with questions regarding the Sociology Honors Program should contact:
Students who meet additional eligibility requirements and are willing to do extra work may participate in both the Sociology Honors Program and the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program. It is possible for the same research project to partially satisfy the requirements for both programs, although the project must then be more ambitious and of greater scope than is typically the case. Note that there are two separate application processes, both of which must be undertaken.