Social Sciences Division
Sociology engages students in the systematic examination of social life, from everyday face-to-face encounters to the movements of civilizations throughout history. Unlike disciplines that focus on a single aspect of society, sociology stresses the complex relationships governing all dimensions of social life, including the economy, state, family, religion, science, social inequality, culture and consciousness. Sociology also examines social structures such as groups, organizations, communities and social categories (class, sex, age or race) and analyzes their effect on people's attitudes, actions and opportunities in life. Sociological inquiry is guided by several theoretical traditions and grounded in the empirical observation of social reality.
The discipline emerged in the 19th century as a critical analysis of modern Western society, yet it is informed by philosophers and theorists from earlier centuries. Today, sociologists study ways in which the modern world continues to change, often by making comparisons with societies at other times and in other places. Sociology majors go on to take active roles in corporate boardrooms, law offices, government, social service agencies, classrooms and policy think tanks. In a broader sense, everyone can benefit from sociology's unique understanding of our common humanity and the diversity of social life.
Students begin their study of sociology by enrolling in any 100-level course in the department. Each course combines lecture and discussion. All of these courses apply the theory and methods of sociology to achieve an understanding of the character of life in modern societies, especially our own. Each course is distinguished by a particular thematic focus and accompanying course materials. Students may enroll in only one 100-level course in sociology. After that, they should enroll in a mid-level course.
Additional information about beginning studies in sociology is available on the department website.
The sociology curriculum places emphasis on four substantive areas of sociological investigation:
Institutions and change studies the forms and dynamics of institutional life, with emphasis on structural, historical and comparative perspectives.
Culture and identity explores the construction and transformation of cultural and symbolic forms and the development of self within the social process.
Social theory examines the historical development of the discipline, the works of major contributors, and particular schools of sociological thought.
Research methods investigates the assumptions and tools of sociological research as well as the connection between research and theory in sociological study.
Students majoring in sociology must complete a minimum of 10 courses in the discipline that meet the following requirements.
Foundation Courses SOCY 101–SOCY 108
One 100-level course is required. Students may not take additional foundation courses for credit.
Sociology majors are required to take SOCY 262 and 271 (or LGLS 371) as early as possible. Majors also are required to take two 300-level theory or methods courses of their choice. These core courses also count toward completion of area requirements. Students planning to attend graduate school in sociology or related fields are strongly encouraged to take more than four core courses.
One course in each of the four areas of the sociology curriculum (institutions and change, culture and identity, social theory, research methods). Two courses are required in three of these areas. One course must be a 400-level seminar.
Nine courses are required. At least one must be taken in each of the four areas of the sociology curriculum, and two must be taken in three of these areas. At least one course must be a 400-level seminar.
At least one course taken toward completion of the area requirements must be a 400-level seminar. We strongly recommend that students take two.
With departmental approval, students who do not receive sociology credit from off-campus study may count up to two courses in other disciplines toward the major requirements. Students who wish to pursue this option must first consult with their faculty advisor and then submit a written petition to the department chair, no later than their second semester of junior year.
The Senior Capstone asks the student to explore central themes in sociology and articulate an in-depth understanding of the discipline. All sociology majors are required to give a public presentation of a research project in the fall semester of their senior year. (Honors students may use their research project as the basis for this exercise.)
Important Dates for 2022-23
- Tuesday, April 5, 2022: Common Hour mandatory information meeting for rising seniors in sociology. (Students studying off campus should notify the chair of the department and arrange to receive information electronically.)
- Friday, September 2, 2022: Presentation proposal due.
- Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, 2022: Public presentation
- Friday, December 2, 2022: Research paper due for students who fail the public presentation.
Process of the Senior Capstone
Junior Mandatory Meeting
In April of the junior year, the chair of the sociology department calls a mandatory informational meeting for all sociology majors regarding the Senior Capstone. Students should start thinking about projects that could form the basis for their Senior Capstone, such as projects initiated in earlier classes that could be extended for the capstone.
In early September of the senior year, all senior majors are required to submit a short proposal (no more than four pages total) for public presentation. If the proposal is not approved initially, feedback is given that should help with the revision. After the proposal is revised or rewritten, it must be resubmitted. Only proposals approved by the faculty of the sociology department can go forward.
The proposal must have the following components:
- A two-page (double-spaced) proposal of the research project, which clearly states the research question and central thesis
- A one-page (single-spaced) list of sociology courses the student has completed that are relevant to the research project, with a brief explanation of how their content is expected to contribute to the research objective
- A one-page (single-spaced) bibliography including both books and articles
Students are encouraged to use, as the foundation of their presentation, any research project they have conducted in past sociology courses. Public presentation of the project, however, must go beyond course work and demonstrate substantial improvement or enhancement. As these are Senior Capstone projects, students alone are responsible for their content and quality, not any sociology professor they have worked with.
Honors Students: Honors students may rewrite their original honors proposal such that their research question and central thesis are more clearly and coherently defined. Additionally, the proposal includes the list of courses and the bibliography listed above. The student's faculty mentor can provide details.
The Public Presentation
Prior to Thanksgiving break, all senior majors give a 15-minute public presentation that uses the research indicated in the proposal to demonstrate a solid command of the discipline.
Honors students: The presentation revolves around the honors project. The student's faculty mentor can provide details.
Forms of the Senior Capstone
The student may expand upon or challenge a social theory or theorist. This format may focus on any era and/or subfield of social thought, and thus may be framed in response to a close reading of texts, historical cases or a contemporary social issue or problem of particular interest to the student. The presentation must go beyond a paper written for a class. For example, it may offer new interpretations or implications of theory, reflect upon its relevance to social issues, or articulate its importance to contemporary sociology.
The student may extend previous or ongoing research that analyzes either original or secondary data to explore a question from a sociological perspective. In most circumstances, this format should not include the collection of new data. Rather, it should use data collected for previous courses or projects. An empirical capstone must go beyond any analysis written for or presented to a class. For example, it may offer new interpretations of the data, establish new connections to theory or outline new applications to social problems.
The public presentation is open to all members of the Kenyon community, including; the sociology faculty, fellow sociology seniors and other guests. The student has 15 minutes to present the project. Students should practice their talk to ensure that it remains within the time limit. There will be a brief Q&A session (7-10 minutes) for faculty to ask questions about the project.
Once the proposal has been accepted, work in the Senior Capstone is evaluated on two primary criteria: demonstrated command of sociology as conveyed through the public presentation and the clarity and effectiveness of the presentation.
The result of the evaluation is provided in writing following completion of the presentation for all students, indicating whether they have passed and whether they have earned distinction.
- Distinction is earned by showing excellence with respect to both evaluation criteria.
- Students who attempt but fail the public presentation will have the opportunity to pass by submitting a 15-page research paper within 10 days of the date when one is notified of the result.
Please consult the College’s Academic Integrity Policy.
The Honors Program is designed to facilitate significant independent research by our department's finest students. Typically, the student proposes a topic for research in consultation with a member of the faculty who agrees to serve as the project advisor. The department then approves or rejects the honors research on the basis of the merit of the proposal itself as well as the student's past classroom performance, motivation to pursue excellence and demonstration of the organizational skills required for successful completion. In consultation with the project advisor, the student goes on to build an honors committee consisting of two members of the sociology faculty (including the advisor), one member from another department on campus, and one member from another institution of higher education (chosen by the advisor). The student spends the senior year conducting the research and writing an honors thesis. The thesis is finally defended orally before the honors committee, the members of which determine whether to award no honors, Honors, High Honors or Highest Honors.
Students interested in reading for honors should meet with a faculty member no later than March of the junior year to discuss procedures and develop a proposal. Proposals are due by the end of the first week in April of the junior year. Students approved for participation in the Honors Program enroll in two semesters of "Senior Honors" (SOCY 497, 498) in their senior year.
Additional information about the sociology honors program is available on the department website.
The sociology department typically accepts transfer credits from other colleges and universities for courses that are commensurate with the course offerings at Kenyon. Students should provide the department with the syllabus of the courses they wish to transfer. Students are especially encouraged to take courses that are not regularly offered in our curriculum.
We do not permit students to transfer credits earned through online evaluation or two-week special courses offered during winter breaks.
We do permit majors to transfer two courses earned while abroad for a semester and four courses earned while away for a complete academic year. Students must make arrangements for these provisions with their advisor and the department chair to ensure that diversification requirements within the sociology curriculum are properly met.