Sociology Major and Minor

The Sociology program at Haverford College engages students in a rigorous study of societies and social institutions. Here you will find a program known for its emphasis on sociology’s theoretical and methodological foundations.

Active researchers as well as dedicated teachers, our faculty move easily from grounding our students in sociological analysis and methods to collaborating with them as they cultivate their own points of view within the discipline and conduct their own original research. Students emerge from our program empowered to “do sociology” with integrity and impact.

Curriculum & Courses

All majors and minors receive a comprehensive introduction to the field through our required 2-semester course, Foundations in Social Theory. In addition to familiarizing students with some of the central ideas of sociology, this class—which presents various theoretical frameworks then evaluates them using the discipline’s analytical and methodological tools—introduces students to the approach many of our classes take.

Having completed the Foundations courses, majors and minors can pursue our more specialized courses, including those that examine a variety of sociological perspectives on the arts, immigration, labor markets, organizations, and religion.

Also required of students is a class in quantitative methods essential to sociological research. Students interested in exploring statistical methods in greater depth have the option of pursuing advanced courses in this area.

Minors pursue a course of study similar to majors; minors, however, must complete a total of six courses as opposed to majors, who must complete 11.

  • Major Requirements

    A total of at least eleven courses, including:

    SOCL H155A
    SOCL H155B
    Foundations in Social Theory
    and Foundations in Social Theory
    SOCL H215Quantitative Methods (or equivalent)1.0
    or ECON H203 Statistical Methods in Economics
    SOCL H450A
    SOCL H450B
    Senior Departmental Studies
    and Senior Departmental Studies
    Select six additional courses in sociology6.0

    Students should consult their advisor about the possibility of receiving major credit for sociology courses taken at other campuses, including Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania. Normally, the department will grant such credit if the courses enhance the integrity of a program grounded in the Haverford curriculum.

    Senior Project

    Sociology majors must complete a senior thesis, which is a year-long research project. The thesis serves as a culmination of the department’s aims of having students “do sociology.” In preparation they will have taken many classes inside the department that have provided them with opportunities to understand critical theoretical debates in the literature and have introduced them to different research traditions within the discipline. These courses also provide the opportunity to examine shorter theoretical topics, as well as write shorter research papers. The senior thesis is the longest and most involved writing assignment, and as such presents students with an opportunity to complete a real research project.

    The senior thesis consists of two courses, SOCL H450A and SOCL H450B. Each senior is required to formulate a research topic that addresses a theoretical problem that they evaluate through empirical investigations. Each senior selects and works regularly with a primary advisor, with whom they meet weekly, as part of a group and/or individually. They spend the fall semester refining their argument, working to construct an answerable research question that is generally based on concerns that have come from their previous coursework. Each senior also presents their work periodically to all department faculty and seniors. Students present their research problem, a report on how the work is developing, and a draft of a theoretical or an empirical section. This process provides the opportunity for students to develop their oral presentation skills. The process also encourages and facilitates the ability of students to work with more than one member of the faculty on their theses. These meetings also serve to foster cooperation and support among the students.

    The spring semester is spent further backing up their argument with their empirical work, and revising the thesis into a completed form. Students continue to meet with their primary thesis advisors, collectively and/or individually every week. They continue to make oral presentations to the faculty and seniors in the department, culminating in a final public presentation before the department, including junior and newly declared sophomore majors, as well as invited guests.

    Senior Project Learning Goals

    The goals of the senior thesis process are to:

    • provide students with an opportunity to pursue an original research question.
    • allow them to develop arguments that are longer in length and more empirically supported than in research papers submitted in lower-level courses in the major.
    • further develop research skills, including literature review and empirical analysis.
    • improve their writing and oral presentation skills.

    In regular classes faculty specify the nature of the work to be undertaken. Here students assume responsibility for their own work. They define their own research agenda autonomously—even if assisted by their advisors, and other faculty in (and outside of) the department—and they are expected to create a masterwork that manifests their ability to “do sociology.”

    Senior Project Assessment

    Each student’s work is then evaluated by all faculty in the department. Evaluation is based on whether the thesis:

    •  formulates a research problem in theoretical terms.
    • makes a cogent, sophisticated theoretical argument.
    • masters literature relevant to the main argument, and contextualizes the argument within it.
    • completes systematic empirical work appropriate to the research question
    • is presented well, in both oral and written formats.
  • Minor Requirements

    A total of at least six courses including:

    SOCL H155A
    SOCL H155B
    Foundations in Social Theory
    and Foundations in Social Theory
    SOCL H215Quantitative Methods (or equivalent)1.0
    Select at least three 200- and/or 300-level courses in the department3.0

    Students may take no more than four courses with a single professor.

Research & Outreach

Our major culminates in a thesis—a work of original research that addresses a theoretical problem. In it, students craft an argument and evaluate it through empirical investigations. The theses our majors produce are consistently impressive, propelled by a compelling point of view and underpinned by theoretical and methodological sophistication. Work on the thesis occurs throughout the senior year and is tied to a two-semester research seminar. Students also meet one-on-one with their thesis advisors throughout the year.


After Graduation

Our majors graduate exceptionally well-prepared for graduate work in sociology, and we have an excellent record of placing students in the nation’s top graduate programs in sociology. The strong analytic, statistical, and methodological skills honed in our program, however, open doors to a wide range of related fields and equip our majors to thrive in a variety of sectors—from government, to service, to education, to business, to journalism.

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