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Sociology Major

Sociology studies the way in which the world around us is socially structured. As such, it analyzes processes through which we express our social being—cooperation, exchange, conflict, domination, morality, dependency, violence, crime, social control, and symbolism. Sociology also considers the structures that emerge from these processes: social networks, small groups, families, subcultures, professional affiliations, social classes, gender divisions, race and ethnicity, bureaucracies, social movements, the state, religion, and both popular and “high” culture. Finally, it asks how changes in basic components of a society, such as in the nature of its energy systems, necessarily imply fundamental shifts in social organization, in how people live.



Students majoring in sociology are required to complete 33 credit hours of work in Sociology (36 credit hours for students in the Honors Research Program Track). The major consists of five types of courses as listed below: introduction, theory, research skills, core areas, and electives. For exact requirements, please consult the undergraduate catalog for the year that you entered Vanderbilt. See the Director of Undergraduate Studies if you have questions or would like to request a variance.

Course work for the major is distributed as follows:

Program I (Standard Track)
A total of 33 credit hours as follows:

(1) Introduction: Sociology 1010, 1010W, 1020, or 1020W (3 credit hours)

(2) Theory: Sociology 3001 (3 credit hours)

(3) Research Skills: Sociology 3002 (or HOD 2500 for students who double major in sociology and HOD) (3 credit hours)

(4) Core Areas: 9 credit hours
Students must take at least one course in three of the four core areas listed below. A course cannot be used to satisfy more than one requirement in the major:

Culture, Institutions, and Socialization

Health, Environment, Population, and Migration

Politics, Law, and Conflict

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

(5) Electives: 15 credit hours
Any 5 sociology courses not used to satisfy the above requirements. There are some additional rules that are explained in the catalog. The Department of Sociology advises students to group their elective sociology courses in a cluster of advanced concentration electives to be selected with the student’s adviser.

The Sociology Department advises students to group their elective sociology courses
in a cluster of advanced concentration electives to be selected with the student’s advisor.

Program II (Honors Research Program Track)

A total of 36 credit hours as follows:
The Honors Research Program Track offers superior majors in sociology the opportunity to pursue intensive work through an independent research project. Students interested in pursuing the Honors Research Program Track in Sociology should contact the director of undergraduate studies for more information. To be considered for the Honors Research Program Track in Sociology, a student must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 and a minimum GPA of 3.3 for courses that count toward the sociology major. Students who are recommended for the program by the director of undergraduate studies will typically begin the program in the first semester of their junior or senior year.

The Honors Research Program Track in Sociology requires:

1. Successful completion of requirements 1-4 in Program I, for a total of 18 credit hours.

2. Successful completion of the statistics requirement: SOC 2100 or its equivalent (defined in requirement 5 of Program I).

3. Completion of 12 credit hours of elective courses. The statistics requirement is counted toward the electives. Electives may include only one of the following 1000-level sociology courses: Sociology 1041, 1040W, or 1111. No other 1000-level sociology course may be counted toward the electives requirement of the major except by permission of the director of undergraduate studies. If students take more than 6 credit hours of Soc 4981, the additional hours (7-12) are counted toward the elective courses.

4. Successful completion of at least two semesters of SOC 4981 (Honors Research). The first semester of 4981 (Honors Research) is a 3 credit hour seminar in which students develop the literature review and research plan for the honors thesis. In the second semester of 4981 (Honors Research), also for 3 credit hours, students must complete the research and data collection, data analysis, and initial write-up of results of the thesis. Students may elect to take a third or fourth semester of 4981 during their senior year, when they may, for example, work on revisions of the project and/or on publication. Students who begin the Honors Program in their senior year may also take more than 6 credit hours of 4981, up to a maximum of 12 credit hours.

5. Successful defense of the completed thesis through an oral defense attended by the chair and reader of the thesis; this oral defense typically takes place during the second semester of the student’s senior year. In order to earn honors in sociology, students must successfully complete and defend an honors thesis before graduation.

Comprehensive Exam
In order to graduate with a sociology major, students must take a comprehensive exam during their senior year. The exam is not graded, and no grade will appear on the student’s transcript.  The purpose of the exam is to test the extent to which sociology majors are retaining core aspects of the sociology curriculum.


Shaul Kelner, Director of Undergraduate Studies