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, students 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:
Students majoring in sociology must complete a minimum of 10 courses in the discipline which meet the following requirements.
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. The social theory and research methods courses must be at the 300-level theory. One course must be 400-level seminar.
Nine courses are required. At least one course must be taken in each of the four areas of the sociology curriculum (institutions and change, culture and identity, social theory, research methods), and two courses 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, then submit a written petition to the department chair, no later than their second semester junior year.
The senior capstone asks you 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 capstone exercise.)
Junior Mandatory Meeting
In April of the junior year, there will be a mandatory informational meeting for all sociology majors regarding the senior capstone, called by the chair of the sociology department. Students should start thinking about projects that could form the basis for the senior capstone, for example, projects initiated in earlier classes that may be able to be extended for the senior 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 your public presentation. If your proposal is not approved initially, feedback will be given that should help with the revision. After revising or rewriting the proposal it must be resubmitted for approval. Only the proposals approved by the faculty of the sociology department can go forward.
The proposal must have the following components:
You are encouraged to use, as the foundation of your presentation, any research project you have conducted in past sociology courses. Your public presentation of the project, however, must go beyond your course work and demonstrate substantial improvement or enhancement. Since this is a senior capstone project, you alone are responsible for the content and quality of this research project, not any sociology professor you have worked with.
Honors students: For the proposal, Honors students may rewrite their original Honors proposal such that their research question and central thesis is more clearly and coherently defined. Additionally, the proposal will include parts B and C, listed above. Talk with your faculty mentor for details.
The Public Presentation
Prior to Thanksgiving break all senior majors will 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 will revolve around your Honors project – talk with your faculty mentor for details.
Forms of the Senior Capstone
You 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 you. Your presentation must go beyond a paper written for a class. For example, you may offer new interpretations or implications of theory, reflect upon its relevance to social issues, or articulate its importance to contemporary sociology.
You may extend previous or ongoing research in which you analyze 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, you should use data you have collected for prior courses or projects. An empirical capstone must go beyond any analysis written for or presented to a class. For example, you 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; that is, you will conduct the public presentation before the sociology faculty and your fellow sociology seniors, as well as other guests. You will have 15 minutes to present your project in front of the audience. Be sure to practice your talk to ensure that your presentation remains within the 15 minute time limit. There will be a brief Q&A session (7–10 minutes) for faculty to ask questions about your research project.
Once your proposal has been accepted, your work in the senior capstone will be evaluated on two primary criteria: (1) your demonstrated command of sociology as conveyed through your public presentation, and (2) the clarity and effectiveness of your presentation.
The result of the evaluation will be provided to you in writing following completion of the presentation for all students, indicating whether you have passed and whether you have earned distinction.
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 will propose a topic for research in consultation with a member of the faculty who agrees to serve as the project advisor. The department will then approve (or decline to approve) 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 will go 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 will spend 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 will 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. We especially encourage students 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 our 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.