Comprehensive Requirement

Below you will find the comprehensive requirement options for 2019-20 and previous years. However, starting in the 2020-21 academic year, these options will be changing. Please review details of the 2020-21 changes here.


Comprehensive Requirement Options for 2019-20

Students majoring in the Sociology BA or Sociology with GISES concentration, must complete one of the comprehensive requirements outlined below. Students majoring in the Combined LALS/SOCY major should refer to the LALS department for the comprehensive requirements.

  1. Complete SOCY 196A, Captone: The Sociologist as a Public Intellectual
  2. Complete a Senior Thesis



Sociology Capstone Course SOCY 196A

SOCY 196A is offered Spring quarter ONLY, and is open to junior and senior declared sociology majors. Students hear from a selected group of faculty discuss their current research and how that research furthers public understanding and discussion of some vital contemporary social issue. The course explores public sociology and integrates current research with theoretical strands in sociology.

In 1988 and again in 2004, presidents of the American Sociological Association called on the discipline to practice "public sociology" and to think about ways that our discipline might offer its expertise to shape not just academic knowledge but real world issues, controversies, and problems. This course considers what sociology might offer, particularly in light of the current conjuncture where inhabitants of this earth face both tremendous crises and tremendous opportunities. What are the potentialities and pitfalls of public sociology? As students of sociology, what knowledge might we want to produce and where might we wish to intervene? What methods and substantive topics and theories might we pursue, as "public intellectuals" hoping to evaluate, diagnose, and offer possible solutions for the salient issues of our time? Those questions will act as a guide throughout this course as we listen to guest lectures given by Sociology Department faculty, graduate students, and affiliated faculty.

SOCY 196A aims to 1) expose you to the diversity of research carried out in the Sociology Department; 2) help you develop and practice skills necessary for listening to, reading, and critically analyzing others' arguments; and 3) provide a space for thinking collectively about what sociology means, what sociology does, how you too might participate in the creation of sociological knowledge, and toward what ends.

In exceptional cases, students unable to take the senior capstone course may be allowed to substitute a portfolio of work. This substitution must be approved in advance, by the department chair. The portfolio option consists of: 1) portfolio of materials from (at least) three upper-division sociology courses; 2) a synthetic essay; 3) a paper consisting of new research by the student on some contemporary social or political issue, analyzed using the theoretical and empirical materials from those three courses. Contact the department advisor for additional information.


Senior Thesis

A senior thesis is a large, independent research project that students may choose to complete in order to fulfill the comprehensive requirement in the major. The thesis should be a project that can be feasibly completed in 7-10 months. Generally, a thesis is about 40-80 pages, but there is no minimum or maximum.


Steps Towards a Thesis

  1. Prerequisites: SOCY 3A The Evaluation of Evidence (or equivalent) and, if possible, have completed or in progress with the Disciplinary Communications (DC) requirement, SOCY 105A and SOCY 105B. These prerequisites should ideally be completed by the end of junior year, as methodological and theoretical preparation for thesis research. If you are a Combined LALS/SOCY major student, you do not have SOCY 3A as a major requirement, therefore it is not a prerequisite for the thesis.
  2. You must be in good academic standing. Students on academic probation are not eligible to write a senior thesis. A senior thesis is an honors-level option for the comprehensive requirement in the major. Students should be doing well in their Sociology courses.
  3. Submit a thesis proposal to the preferred faculty thesis sponsor for approval. Students may begin this process with a discussion of their thesis topic ideas with their preferred faculty thesis sponsor, then formalize the idea in a thesis proposal. Or some students may choose to write a thesis proposal first before speaking to their preferred faculty thesis sponsor. The proposal must be submitted and approved by the faculty thesis sponsor one quarter prior to the commencement of the thesis work.
    1. The proposal must include: a working title, a description of the work to be undertaken, research question(s), methodology, a brief bibliography, a timeline to completion, at least three keywords describing your thesis topic, and materials from relevant courses that might help faculty determine your preparedness to complete the thesis. Students must also familiarize themselves with IRB protocols ( and include in their proposal whether an IRB review is needed. In general, you do not need an IRB review for a thesis unless the research will be made available to the public, used by other researchers, or there is a possibility that you will formally present or publish your research. If you are working with human subjects but are not required to complete an IRB review, the faculty sponsor is responsible for educating their student to safeguard the well being of the subjects.
    2. Students unsuccessful in obtaining a thesis sponsor through these means may submit their thesis proposal to the Sociology Undergraduate Education Committee (UEC), through the Undergraduate Advisor, no later than the sixth week of the quarter, one quarter prior to the commencement of the thesis. This is ideally in spring quarter of your junior year. UEC members will review the merits of the proposal and if approved, the UEC will consult with available faculty and assign the student to a faculty member who has not yet agreed to serve as a thesis advisor. Students will be notified of the UEC's decision within three weeks.
  4. Complete the “Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course once the faculty thesis sponsor has approved the proposal. Students must complete the form and obtain their faculty thesis sponsor signature prior to submitting it to the Undergraduate Advisor. The faculty thesis sponsor signature on the form indicates their approval of the project proposal and their approval to sponsor your thesis course.
  5. Submit an approved thesis proposal and “Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course” to the Undergraduate Advisor. Enrollment numbers will not be given to students until they have submitted the approved thesis proposal and the “Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course” signed by the thesis sponsor. You must submit a completed and signed form each quarter you are working on your thesis in order to receive the thesis enrollment number.
  6. Enroll in SOCY 195A: Senior Thesis. Two quarters of thesis work is required; however, three quarters is highly recommended. Students are allowed 10-15 units of individual study course credit for the thesis (195A, 195B and 195C), which may be taken consecutively or concurrently. Students must complete SOCY 195A and 195B, while 195C is optional. Five units of this course credit may be counted as one of the upper-division elective courses required for the major.
  7. Complete the first draft of the thesis early in your final quarter, or as discussed with the faculty thesis sponsor. Students are expected to take draft comments from the faculty thesis sponsor into account in revising for the final draft. For examples of previous students’ research and thesis writing, some copies of past projects are available in the department office, for review only.
  8. Submit the final thesis to the faculty thesis sponsor by the due date discussed with the faculty thesis sponsor. The thesis must be submitted no later than the end of the quarter in which the final thesis independent study course is taken, unless an incomplete grade notation was discussed with the faculty sponsor.
    1. It is recommended that students aim to complete their thesis prior to the end of the quarter in order to be eligible for the department’s Sociology of Race, Class and Gender Senior Thesis Award, the campus’s Deans’ and Chancellors Undergraduate Research Award. If an early completion date is not possible, students are also eligible to apply for both of these awards in the next cycle in following year, even if the student has already graduated.
  9. Email the undergraduate advisor a pdf version of the final thesis to be filed in the department’s thesis archives. All theses filed in the department archives will be available as examples for future students to refer to, unless you request otherwise. The thesis must be emailed to the advisor by the end of quarter in which the thesis was finalized.
  10. Comprehensive Honors can be awarded to a senior thesis. If the faculty thesis sponsor believes the thesis is of honors quality, the faculty member will ask a second reader to evaluate the thesis. If both the faculty sponsor and second reader approve of honors, then the approval is reported to the undergraduate advisor who can then note Comprehensive Honors during the student's graduation review.


Additional Notes for Combined Sociology/LALS Majors

Students in the Combined Sociology/LALS major who choose to complete a senior thesis for their comprehensive requirement, must meet the requirements of both departments. For LALS thesis information, see their website and Senior Exit Requirement details. The thesis must be planned in consultation with a faculty advisor from each department, completed under the supervision of a faculty member from either department, read and approved by both faculty advisors. One faculty advisor is sufficient if this faculty member belongs to both departments. Students may choose to enroll on either the Sociology side, SOCY 195A/B/C, with their Sociology faculty advisor, or on the LALS side, LALS 195A/B/C, with their LALS faculty advisor. Combined Sociology/LALS majors are not held to the SOCY 3A prerequisite listed at the top of this section


Recommended Timeline*

(Adapted from Harvard's "A Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Sociology")
Recommended timeline for senior thesis

Decide to write a thesis

Early spring quarter of your junior year

Develop research questions and project proposal

Mid Spring quarter of your junior year

Review Institution Review Board (IRB) information and determine if your research requires IRB review

Mid Spring quarter of your junior year

Select and meet with faculty advisor to discuss proposal approval

Spring quarter of your junior year

Obtain faculty advisor approval on the "Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course Form”. Submit proposal and form to Undergraduate Advisor to obtain thesis enrollment info.

By the last day of spring quarter if your junior year

Last Day to Submit "Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course Form" to the Undergraduate Advisor to Obtain Thesis Enrollment Number for Fall

Check the campus calendar for the add/drop/swap deadline:
And view advising availability times:

Read and research for literature review


Develop IRB application, if one is needed. Review with faculty advisor before submitting IRB application. Submit several weeks before research is scheduled to begin


Design instruments


Test instruments


Write intro and literature review

November-December, by end of quarter

Last Day to Submit "Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course Form" to the Undergraduate Advisor to Obtain Thesis Enrollment Number for Winter

Check the campus calendar for the add/drop/swap deadline:
And view advising availability times:

Data collection


Initial data analysis


Write methods chapter


Write results chapter

Early March

Revise intro and literature review based on faculty advisor feedback


Write discussion and conclusion


Last Day to Submit "Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course Form" to the Undergraduate Advisor to Obtain Thesis Enrollment Number for Spring

Check the campus calendar for the add/drop/swap deadline:
And view advising availability times:

Revise results chapter based on faculty advisor feedback

Early April

Complete first draft and submit to faculty advisor

Early April

Incorporate faculty advisor feedback


Complete final draft and submit to faculty advisor

Late April-Early May

Incorporate faculty advisor feedback and proofread


Thesis Due

Discuss due date with faculty sponsor. Thesis should be turned in no later than the end of the quarter in which the student is taking the final thesis course or quarter in which they are graduating. Email the final version to the Undergraduate Advisor as well.


* Additional Notes on Timeline:

  • This is a recommended timeline. Students must discuss a timeline to completion with their faculty thesis advisor.
  • It is highly recommended that students begin this process in spring of their junior year and take the full three quarters to complete the thesis.  Students who intend to complete the thesis in two quarters (SOCY 195A and 195B) or start this process late, must discuss the shortened timeline with their faculty thesis advisor.
  • Students are expected to meet with their faculty thesis advisor frequently, typically once every 1-2 weeks. Meeting frequency should be discussed with your faculty thesis advisor when you are obtaining their signature on the "Petition for Undergraduate Individual Studies Course" each quarter.
  • This timeline assumes that a student begins thesis research in the summer. While this is not required, it is highly recommended.


Senior Thesis Resources