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Haverford College
Department of Sociology

Learning Goals

We want our students to learn how to do sociology. We expect that the completion of a major will enable them to do sociology autonomously, in a way that prepares those who seek it for graduate training at the discipline’s best departments. This does not entail a mastery of theory and methods for their own sake, but the ability to think theoretically and to evaluate arguments empirically and systematically using the methodology best suited to the argument. Similarly, the sociology they read in their courses is a means and not an end; these texts should be understood as a set of exemplifications of how sociology might be done.

To facilitate our student'’s ability to accomplish the goal of "doing sociology," each major enrolls in the two-semester "Foundations in Social Theory" seminar, where we provide a fundamental grounding in social theory. Our upper-division courses build on this foundation, specifying and developing the theory to address questions in substantive areas of the discipline. Ideally, the theory is portable, allowing students to construct theoretically-insightful arguments about substantive areas not covered in our curriculum. We teach seminars in both Quantitative Methods and Qualitative Methods to enable students to acquire a wide range of research skills for addressing problems of interest to them.

Sociology has a year-long senior thesis requirement. Each senior sociology major is expected to formulate a research topic that addresses a theoretical problem. Students are encouraged to evaluate their arguments through empirical investigations. Each senior selects and works regularly with a primary advisor, In addition, all seniors and all faculty meet periodically for more formal student presentations. This process provides the opportunity for students to develop their oral presentation skills; encourages and facilitates the ability of students to work with more than one member of the faculty on their theses; it also fosters cooperation and support among the students. The process culminates with formal presentations of the theses before the Department (including junior and prospective sophomore majors) and invited guests. Each student’s work is then evaluated by all of the faculty in the department (all of us read all of the theses); we are concerned with the cogency and sophistication of their theoretical arguments, their mastery of the literature relevant to their arguments, and the appropriateness and systematic nature of their empirical work. Each faculty member receives course credit per semester for supervising senior work; thus, for each of us, the supervision of the thesis projects over the course of the year is one of our five courses.