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Senior Thesis

The Value of the Senior Thesis

Writing a senior thesis is valuable in several ways.

First and foremost, the experience of writing a thesis is intellectually valuable. Students who tackle a thesis have the opportunity to do in-depth research on a question of their own choosing. For students who want bona fide exposure to all the different phases of the research process, there is no substitute for writing your own thesis. You will need to come up with a good question, figure out how to answer it, collect the necessary data, analyze it in a credible manner, and then discus your results in a compelling piece of long-form writing. Students who successfully complete a thesis will go through a uniquely rewarding intellectual experience, and their skills and capacities typically grow tremendously over the course of the two quarters.

Of course, as you go through the thesis-writing process, you will have the benefit of working closely with two faculty members. In addition to receiving guidance and feedback from the Honors Coordinator, who oversees the work of all thesis-writers, you will also have the opportunity to be advised individually by a departmental faculty member with substantive or methodological expertise on your research question. The interactions that you have with faculty members regarding your thesis will be among the most intellectually rewarding in your time at Northwestern.

There is a social value to writing a thesis as well. Writing your thesis will be far from a solitary experience. Majors who decide to take on a thesis join a cohort of talented, motivated students who share many of their interests and who are going through the same experience. If the opportunity to meet and bond with other sociology majors is somewhat limited in the first few years of taking courses, students who decide to write a senior thesis often find that they have the opportunity to forge strong connections with several of their fellow thesis-writers.

Lastly, there is (for lack of a better phrase) a ‘professional development value” to writing a senior thesis. Students complete a thesis will have worked closely with two faculty members for two quarters, and this experience will have given these faculty members the opportunity to watch their advisees develop and grow. If you plan to attend graduate school at some point after graduating from Northwestern, you will need letters of recommendation from faculty who know you well, and the faculty who helped you complete a senior thesis will be among the faculty who know you the best.

Department Honors

The Department of Sociology recognizes the work of its outstanding seniors with departmental honor awards which are presented at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) Convocation. Departmental honor awards are given to those students who show outstanding scholarship in their major course of study.
Nominations are submitted to the College Committee on Superior Students and Honors, which has final authority to grant the honors degree. The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Committee on Superior Students and Honors reviews students' grade point average, senior research thesis, and faculty recommendations to determine which students receive Departmental Honors.

Senior Thesis with Distinction Award

The Department has established an award program for sociology majors, which recognizes outstanding thesis in the Senior Research Seminar. Senior thesis completed in other departments that satisfy the Department's thesis requirements, such as a senior thesis in Urban Studies, may also be submitted to the Department for consideration. This award is based on each student's creative ability, persuasiveness and systematic way of doing research. Recipients are determined by the Departmental Honors committee, and are announced each spring quarter (usually end of May).

Best Senior Thesis in Sociology Award

The Department has established an award for the Best Senior Thesis in sociology. Recipients are determined by the Departmental Honors committee, and are announced each spring quarter (usually end of May).

Sociology 2023 Senior Theses

Lucas Bezerra*
Brewing for a New Market:
The Effects of Shifting Consumer Preferences on Specialty Producers in Third-Wave Coffee

Zihan (Zorina) Chen**
Complex Identities and Socialization Experiences among Women Chinese International Students:
An Intersectional Analysis

Sierra Erdman-Luntz*
The Health Identities and Preferred Labels of Northwestern Students with Chronic Physical Health Conditions

Kate Feldstein**
I Know You Are but What Am I:
Presentation and Labelling within Queer Communities

José Medina*
'Si No Te Gusta, Adiós':
Mexican Temporal Assimilation in the Workplace

Samantha Powell*
Race, Place, and Disaster:
Newspaper Narration of Displaced Populations After Hurricane Katrina and the California Camp Fire"

Mychael Torres*
Defining Guilt for the Mentally Ill:
The Social Construction of Responsibility for Mentally Ill Offenders

*Thesis with Distinction

**Best Senior Thesis in Sociology Award