Senior Thesis. Students will write a 20-page thesis, based on an empirical research project. They will select a sociologically relevant topic, conduct a literature review, select a research method (unobtrusive observation in a public setting, or analysis of existing documents), collect data, analyze data, and report their findings.
The following intermediary steps will be included:
1. Research Plan (10 points)
In Module 2, students will submit a research plan, explaining how they plan to collect and analyze their data. They should include a definition of their main concept(s) based on prior research (with appropriate citation of outside sources), and a hypothesis or research question.
Students planning to conduct observations should submit a tentative schedule indicating the days, times, and duration of their periods of observation. They should have a total of 15 to 20 hours of observations. They should also indicate how they plan to remain inconspicuous in the setting, and how they are going to record their observations.
Students planning to conduct an analysis of existing documents should describe their sample in detail, explain how they decided on it, and identify the sampling strategy they are using. They should also include a sample coding sheet that they are planning to use to record their observations.
2.Reference List (10 points)
In Module 3, students will submit a draft reference list of at least 10 academic sources that they can use for their literature review. It should be formatted using the American Sociological Association (ASA) formatting style. The required writer’s manual shows how to use this style, and students can also find examples in some of the web pages listed in the Sociology LibGuide. The list they turn in may not be their final completed list, but it is a way for the instructor to know that they have good background information on their topic, and that they know how to use the ASA style. Students may re-use some sources that they have used for other classes, and include textbooks. They will need to use at least 10 academic sources (peer-reviewed journal articles and no more than 3 scholarly books, including textbooks), and then may add any other sources that they deem relevant (newspaper and magazine articles, government reports, website sources, and possibly audio and video documents). With online sources, they should pay particular attention to validity! They may use sources used before in other classes, as long as they add new ones and write a new, original work.
3. Draft Literature Review (30 points)
In Module 5, students will submit a draft literature review to the Dropbox (linked to Turnitin.com), including their final reference list of at least 10 academic sources, and any additional sources. This literature review is NOT an annotated bibliography. Students should NOT write a list of 10 summaries. It is a thematic literature review, in which students combine their sources around a few common themes. The Writer’s Manual has a complete example of how to write a literature review, as opposed to an annotated bibliography. Grading will be based on correct formatting, the quality of the sources (how valid they are, and how well they fit with the topic), and the organization of the draft.
4. Final Thesis (120 points)
In Module 8, students will turn in a 20-page thesis (including title page, abstract, and reference list), worth 120 points. It should be formatted according to the guidelines of the Sociology Student Writer’s Manual, in ASA format. This manual is an excellent help, because in addition to instructions on how to format a paper, it contains examples of student papers, including research papers. The thesis will be submitted to the Dropbox (linked toTurnitin, which will check for originality). Plagiarism will be handled in accordance with the Saint Leo University Academic Honor Code. Until the deadline, students have the opportunity to submit their thesis as many times as they want, and are encouraged to do so. Be aware that after the first attempt, Turnitin may take about a day to give a report back, so students should plan their time accordingly.
How to organize your Senior Thesis
Your thesis is a research paper, and should be organized as such, with the sections listed here. You should follow the instructions provided in your Writer’s Manual for more details on the formatting of page numbers, titles, tables, etc. Also refer to the sample qualitative research paper provided in this manual, and to the instructions on ASA format provided in the Sociology LibGuide.
Page 1 of your paper, but it is not numbered
Be descriptive; possibly include a subtitle; your title should be a direct description of what your paper is about
Try to be catchy
Don’t be too wordy
On page 2 (and this is where you start the numbering)
Provide a short summary of your topic, method, and main finding(s)
Introduction (about 1 page)
Start at the top of page 3 (don’t leave blank lines at the top of the page)
May start with a vignette
Justify the research statement or question (why is it relevant?)
State your research questions or hypothesis
Briefly (a couple of sentences) explain how you conducted your research (research design)
Write it last!
Literature review (about 5 to 6 pages)
• A literature review is about what others have written, not what you are finding or how you are conducting your research.
• Make sure your sources fit with your topic!
• DO NOT write an annotated bibliography (a list of summaries of your references one after the other).
• DO present a thematic summary: Group your references according to the aspect of your topic they cover, summarize them, compare and contrast them; You will need to use more than one source in each theme; you may use some sources for several themes, and others just for one.
• Focus on presenting the topic and findings from these sources, not their lit review or their methodology. You should cover the methodology in one or two sentences.
• DO NOT try to relate them to you or your past experience. In the literature review, you are invisible. Avoid agreeing or disagreeing with research findings (agreeing or disagreeing with a fact is of little use).
• DO compare them to one another. You may criticize them on their methodology, or assumptions, or conclusions, from the perspective of your discipline and your training. You may talk about some limitations they have.
• Refer to your writer’s manual for examples (pp.179-184 in the Sociology manual are excellent).
• Check out the lit review in your sources for examples of how to write, and use the same writing style as these authors.
• Avoid direct quotes from your references; rephrase and paraphrase them, don’t plagiarize them (see your writer’s manual and the Sociology LibGuide for information on plagiarism). No more than half-a-page of your whole lit review can be made up of direct quotes. That’s combining ALL direct quotes.
• Use ASA style for your in-text citations, and make sure that you format your quotes properly. Your writer’s manual has detailed explanations of how to cite sources in the text.
• As a concluding paragraph, summarize the main findings you have gathered from this lit review, as they relate to your own research question.
A final paper that does not have a perfectly formatted literature review and reference list, and does not cite 10 academic sources, will not receive a grade higher than a C.
Methodology (about 3 to 4 pages)
For examples of how to phrase and organize this section, I suggest that you read the methodology section in your outside sources carefully, as well as the sample papers in your Writer’s Manual.
You may use the following headings as sub-section headings (properly formatted according to ASA guidelines), but you don’t have to.
Conceptualization: give a definition of your main concept(s), preferably using outside sources (textbooks, sociology articles, NOT dictionaries)
PLEASE NOTE: You are completing a research project here. Research is intended to build general knowledge and be shared with others. You have to come up with a definition that would be acceptable to a broad range of people, preferably a definition that you found in the literature (cite your source).
Research question(s) or hypothesis(es)
What research method did you use? How did you come up with your questions/items?
This section should be brief, since you did not interact with people. It describes your
personal connection to the topic: Why did you choose it? What are your impressions or intentions related to the topic at the beginning of the project? How may this have influenced how you conducted the research? What did you do to make sure you did not introduce bias in your data collection and analysis?
[For content analysis only] Population and sample
What is your population for this study?
What sampling strategy did you use? [make sure to give a definition and cite your source for the definition]
Include a table describing the characteristics of your sample [this can be a list of documents, or a schedule if you watched TV].
Briefly describe (one sentence each) the documents. For example, “CSI is a prime-time crime show on CBS.” “The New York Times is a nationally-read, left-leaning daily newspaper.”
[For observations only] Setting
Describe the setting in which you conducted your observations, in detail: how did you gain access? What did it look like? What kinds of activities take place there? What kind of people go there?
Describe in more detail how you collected the data. For content analysis: What kind of recording sheet did you use? Do not include the whole instrument in this section, describe it. You may include it as an appendix at the end of your thesis, and it does not count for the required 20 pages. For observations: indicate your observation schedule: What day(s) of the week? What time(s) of day? Why? How long did each observation session last? How did you take notes?
Mention any unexpected factors that led you to alter your initial plans, explain their relevance and how you addressed them.
What did you do to ensure that you were systematic and not biased in your recording?
Briefly explain how you analyzed the data.
Findings and Discussion (about 5 to 6 pages)
What do the data tell you?
This section should be divided into 2 to 4 subsections that reflect the patterns you have uncovered in your analysis.
Each subsection should be organized in the following way:
1) Describe the pattern, in your own words
2) Give specific examples from your research that illustrate what you are saying. These will be descriptions of situations or characters you observed, quotes from
interviews or documents (long quotes are allowed).
3) Offer a short analysis that explains how your examples relate to the pattern, and what conclusions you draw from it.
3) Relate your findings to the literature, citing the literature again.
If you are doing a content analysis, some of your findings may be frequencies, in which case you may present and analyze a table and/or graphs. However, these should be embedded in your subsections, and supported by quotes and descriptions.
Conclusion (1 to 1.5 pages)
Remind reader of your research question or statement.
Summarize your main findings.
Summarize how they compare to the existing literature.
If your findings are largely different from the literature, try to think of possible explanations for that.
Mention some limitations of your research and findings.
If applicable, make suggestions to policy makers regarding changes in policies, procedures or practices.
Suggest directions for future research: studies that would consolidate your findings or shed light on some findings that you can’t explain (go beyond suggesting a larger sample).
Reference list (1 to 2 pages)
Everything that is cited in your paper should be in your reference list, and every source that is listed in your reference list should be cited in your paper. If you are doing a content analysis, this includes any documents you have cited in your paper (not every document you have analyzed, that goes in your methodology), so your list may be quite long.
Optional, and do not count for the required 20 pages
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