4977 (FALL) & 4978 (SPRING) HONORS


Professor: Christopher Uggen (Chris You-Gun)                                   

office: 1167 Social Sciences: 612-624-4016                                   email: uggen001@umn.edu                    

hours: 5:30-7 Monday; before/after class or by appt.                   web: 4977-8 course page


Logic of the Course

Welcome! The Senior Honors Proseminar I is the first of two courses designed for honors students majoring in sociology. Students in Sociology 4977 will finalize their research problems, develop appropriate methodologies and research instruments, secure human subjects approval, collect original data or identify secondary sources, and begin data analysis. The course will operate as a seminar, with students leading discussions and critiquing their peers.


This course will likely differ from other courses you’ve taken, since our primary goal is to actually produce good social science (with learning how good social science is produced as a secondary goal). We’ll keep the course readings light, since you will be doing a lot of reading and note-taking on your chosen topic. I’ve assigned readings emphasizing research design, since good design will be critical to your success. Your success will also hinge on your ability to manage your time and emotions, so you must be both disciplined and flexible in meeting the challenges and embracing the opportunities ahead. Enjoy!



  • Strengthen the core research competencies you have learned in your major: literature searches, summarizing and critiquing articles, writing cogent literature reviews and convincing proposals, and presenting your ideas orally.
  • Use these competencies and experiences to propose and produce your own research.
  • In the first (Fall) Senior Proseminar, we emphasize conceptualization and measurement. You will narrow your topic to a thesis-sized research question, secure the data and permissions necessary to proceed with your work, identify your thesis committee, and take your first cut at the analysis.
  • In the second (Spring) Senior Proseminar, you will finish data analysis and focus on writing and rewriting your thesis. You will unify its component parts into a coherent whole, defend the thesis before your committee, and consider outlets for publication or dissemination of your work.

Course Requirements and Grading

  • 10% 1-2-page initial topic statement (draft due 9/10, revision due 9/17)
  • 10% Human Subjects Forms or statement (draft due 10/22)
  • 25% Front-end Theory and Literature (draft due 10/29, final due 11/5)
  • 25% Middle (Data, Methods, and Indicators) (draft due 11/19, final due 11/26)
  • 10% Class Participation
  • 20% Short assignments, Critiques, and In-class exercises


9/3      Welcome! See the thesis, be the thesis…

  • Big picture stuff: Where you want to be in December and in May
    • Identifying your committee, your models (and finding good examples), and your specialized methodological resources: people, courses, texts
    • Your cohort, the seminar Circle of Trust. and the 2000 honors seminar [big shoulders]
    • Establishing individual timelines.
  • READ: Faculty Research Activities[distributed in class]
  • READ: social media versus social science (Uggen) [distributed in class]
  • WORKSHOP:  Identify your (very preliminary) topic in a single sentence, share it with the class, and we’ll all work it over. Identify potential research questions.
    • Two questions: Is it sociology? Does it matter?
    • What sort of evidence do you find most convincing? 

Week 2

9/10    Your life and your thesis

  • DUE: Bring two copies of your 1-2 page initial topic statement to class
    • 1-2 paragraph “hook” showing your interest in topic and its importance for social science (and often policy).
    • Clear statement of at least one potential research question and why the answer matters (“how” or “why” questions often work better than “yes/no” questions).
    • A list of 3-5 “key works” or reference points in the literature.
  • How “big” is an honors thesis? [versus. a MS thesis, a dissertation, a career…] 7.5 months.
  • Discovering the “secret advantages” within your so-called boring biography
  • READ: C. Wright Mills, 1959. “The Promise.” Pp. 3-24 in The Sociological Imagination.
  • SKIM: Harvard pp. 1-16, “Before You Begin”
  • SKIM: Creswell, pp. 3-21, “The Selection of a Research Approach” [biographies and post-positivism, constructivism, transformativ[ism], pragmatism]
  • WORKSHOP: Topic statements; your favorite sociology reading; guidelines for faculty interviews


Week 3            




“Every designers’ dirty little secret is that they copy other designers’ work. They see work they like, and they imitate it. Rather cheekily, they call this inspiration.” — Aaron Russell


Week 4            

9/24    Getting serious about the literature

  • Authority and expertise: You will likely know more about your specific thesis problem than me or any other non-specialist in the area.
    • Literature as “state of knowledge” ≠ Theory
    • Depending on need and interest, we can arrange a class meeting with Nancy Herther, Social Science Librarian at Wilson library.
    • Ultimately, your thesis should be built on a foundation of at least 20 books or articles that provide context for and (more importantly) provide impetus to your project. But I won’t ask for a stand-alone “literature review” this semester. Instead, you will be integrating your literature review with the theory piece due 10/29.
  • WORKSHOP: Live searching with Uggen
  • DO: Search American Journal of Sociology and American Sociological Review to identify the conversations occurring around your topic in the field’s top two generalist journals (Social Forces and Social Problems are also highly regarded generalist journals).
  • DO: In consultation with Uggen, identify the top two or three specialty journals in your area (e.g., Gender & Society, Law & Society Review, Demography, Criminology, Racial and Ethnic Studies, and Administrative Science Quarterly would all represent top specialty journals) and articles bearing on your topic.
  • DO: Use google scholar to identify the most frequently cited recent books on your topic (there are exceptions, but look for volumes in reputable university presses). You are expected to know the highly cited work in your field, though the best work may not (yet) be cited.
  • READ: Becker, Howard S. 1986. Writing for Social Scientists. Chapter 8: “Terrorized by the Literature.” Pages 135-149. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 2, pp. 25-49. “Review of the Literature.”
  • SKIM: Harvard, pp. 18-20. “Beginning the Literature Review.”


Week 5

10/1 What are good sources?

  • DO: compile initial source list (can be long or short, but should include the Annual Review article you identified last week – these are the seeds of your reference list and I want to be sure you’re on-track). Who is now doing the best work in and around your question?
  • READ:  Angela Behrens, Christopher Uggen, and Jeff Manza. 2003. “Ballot Manipulation and the ‘Menace of Negro Domination’: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850-2002.” American Journal of Sociology 109:559-605. 
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 5, “The Introduction.” And 6 “The Purpose Statement.”
  • WORKSHOP: Analysis of publications from undergraduate thesis research.

Week 6

10/8 Theory and conceptualization: necessary evils or coolest things in the world?

  • How good theorization this semester will bail you out next semester
  • READ: Becker, Howard S. Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You’re Doing It. Chapter 4: “Concepts.” Pages 109-145. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • READ: Alford, Robert R. 1998. “The Construction of Arguments.” Pp. 32-53 in The Craft of Inquiry: Theories, Methods, Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 3: The Use of Theory, pp. 51-75.
  • DO: Define 3 core concepts for your study and provide operational definitions for each of them. Use the core concepts to reformulate your research question around Alford’s multivariate, interpretive, or historical paradigm.


Week 7

10/15 Generating and testing propositions: qualitative and quantitative approaches

    • Hypotheses and propositions
    • Boiling your thesis to its essences
  • READ: Hagan, John. “Testing Propositions about Gender and Crime.” Pp. 17-46 in Criminological Controversies: A Methodological Primer.” Boulder, CO: Westview.

READ: Lofland, John, and Lyn H. Lofland. 1995. “Developing Analysis” Pp. 181-203 in Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis, 3d. ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 7: Research Questions and Hypotheses, pp. 139-153.
  • PREPARE: Write two or more propositions derived from theory that make explicit reference to your concepts.


Week 8

10/22  Human subjects and research ethics

  • DO: Read IRB “Does my research need IRB review?” “About IRB” and “Is my research exempt?
  • READ: Oakes, J. Michael. 2002.  “Risks and Wrongs in Social Science Research: An Evaluator’s Guide to the IRB.” Evaluation Review: 443-79.
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 4 “Writing Strategies and Ethical Considerations”
  • Approval that Uggen can and cannot grant
    • Approval requiring student review and full committee review
    • Informed consent, anonymity, deception, and voluntary participation
    • Ethical considerations in writing and collaboration
    • Ethical considerations in ethnographic work and passive observation
  • DO: your literature review.
  • WORKSHOP: Draft Institutional Review forms and ethics statements.


Week 9

10/29  Workshopping our front-end drafts

  • DUE: front-end draft to Uggen and critics (bring two copies)
    • 1-paragraph introduction
    • 5ish-page literature review, with substantive heading (e.g. “Findings and Limitations of Research on Sentencing Reform” or “Factors Associated with Outcome Attainment” but NOT “literature review”) and topical subheadings (see style guide for format).
    • 5ish-page draft statement of theory, concepts, and propositions or hypotheses (e.g., “Two Views of Neighborhood Stability and Poverty” or “Conceptualizing Social Movement Outcomes” or “Two Ways of Thinking about Collective Memory”)
    • One paragraph “foreshadowing” your proposed analytic strategy
  • WORKSHOP: front-end assignments
    • Learning to rewrite; Trust, compromise, and constructive criticism
    • “I don't mind a repetitive chorus; I mind repetitive verse. I mean, it's the same amount of space. Why would you have only three diamonds if you can have six? Once you get that idea out of your head, then, if anything, the trouble is to not have forty of 'em. That's where editing comes in, and rewrites. That's the real secret of everything-rewriting. I always rewrite.”Lou Reed
    • Exchange a neat list of at least 5 critical but constructive comments on your partner’s front-end paper.
  • READ: absolutely nothing. Sometimes we read, sometimes we write.  



“Data is [are] sexy.” — Hans Rosling


Week 10

11/5    What’s already out there: secondary data sources

  • DUE: Final Front-end to Uggen
    • Costs and benefits of collecting your own data
    • Norms for undergraduate and graduate research
  • SKIM:  Singleton, Royce A., and Bruce C. Straits. 1999. “Research Using Available Data.” Pp. 357-392 in Approaches to Social Research, 3d. Ed. New York: Oxford.
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 8, Quantitative Methods
  • SKIM: Harvard, pp. 21-27 “Developing and Testing Your Methodology.”

DO:  Identify the best available source of secondary data for your project. Search the archives at ICPSR (https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/landing.jsp) or NACJD (http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NACJD/) or some other archive. Record the units of analysis, date of collection, sampling method, and specific questionnaire wording on the items closely related to the concepts of your study. Write up your rationale for choosing to analyze primary or secondary data in your thesis.


Week 11          

11/12 Collecting your own primary data

  • READ: Patricia Adler and Peter Adler, “The Promise and Pitfalls of Going into the Field.” Contexts 2:41-47.
  • READ: Howard Schuman. 2002 “Sense and Nonsense about Surveys.” Contexts 1:40-47.
  • SKIM: Creswell, Chapter 9, Qualitative Methods.
  • SKIM: Harvard, pp. 30-35 “Collecting Your Data.”
  • What counts as data?
  • Troubleshooting data problems
    • Collecting primary data
    • Cleaning secondary data
  • PREPARE:  Final copy of institutional review forms


Week 12          

11/19 Midsection draft due to Uggen and critic

  • 2-page data section: Discuss primary or secondary source, prior studies using data (for secondary), collection procedures (for primary), sample and population,  strengths and weaknesses of the data for your particular purposes.
  • 3-page measures section: Discuss operational indicators of the concepts discussed in your theory section. How are the major concepts measured?
  • 3-page methodology section: Discuss your research design and analytic strategy.
  • WORKSHOP: Compile a neat list of at least 5 critical but constructive comments on your partner’s paper.


Week 13          

11/26 Individual meetings to accommodate Thanksgiving travel (11/27)

  • DUE: Final midsection to Uggen



“Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, ‘Look at this.’” — David Craib


Week 14          

12/3  Analysis and the elaboration model.

    • Tables 1, 2, and 3: Univariate, Bivariate, and Multivariate Analysis
    • The elaboration model
  • SKIM: Harvard, pp. 36-39 “Analyzing Your Data”
  • SKIM: Creswell, chapter 10, “Mixed Methods Procedures”
  • PREPARE:  A one-page summary of your analytic strategy.


Week 15          

12/10 Taking Stock – Is it thesis yet?

  • WORKSHOP:  Present a 5-10 minute progress report to the class. Distribute a 1-page handout summarizing your research question, the current status of your data collection and analysis, and preliminary results.


“Our opportunity, as designers, is to learn how to handle the complexity, rather than shy away from it, and to realize that the big art of design is to make complicated things simple.” — Tim Parsey


Logic of the Course


Welcome! The Senior Honors Proseminar II is the second of two courses designed for honors students majoring in sociology. Students will conduct their empirical analyses, write the results, discussion, and conclusion sections of their theses, and develop a plan for disseminating their research. By the end of the semester, you will have unified the component parts of their thesis into a coherent whole and defended it before a three-person faculty committee.


In the first (Fall) Senior Proseminar, we emphasized conceptualization and measurement. You narrowed your topic to a thesis-sized research question, identified or secured the data and permissions necessary to proceed with your work, identified a thesis committee, and (in some cases) took your first cut at the analysis. In the second (Spring) Proseminar, you will focus on executing, writing, and rewriting the thesis. This course will likely differ from other courses you’ve taken, since our primary goal is to actually produce good social science (with learning how good social science is produced as a secondary goal). Your success will hinge on your ability to manage your time and emotions, so you must be both disciplined and flexible in meeting the challenges and embracing the opportunities ahead. Enjoy!

Course Requirements and Grading

  • This isn’t about getting an A, though most students earn A’s in 4978. Instead, your reward for this seminar is producing a senior project that represents the best work of your undergraduate career – work that could serve as a writing sample in any field you enter.
  • 10% Results section (draft due 3/11)
    • This is the very heart of your thesis – what, exactly, did you learn by doing this research? What does it mean for your research questions (usually about 8-15 pages, depending on the project)
  • 10% Discussion section/Complete rough draft (due 4/3)
    • The discussion is the most abused and neglected aspect of most articles. After you present your results, how do you interpret them in light of past research? You are essentially in conversation with the scholars that you cited in your literature review and theory section. What findings were consistent or inconsistent with other work? What intriguing or surprising results remain to be explained? (usually about 5-8 pages). This is followed by a 1-2 paragraph conclusion – your last chance to drive home the punchline for readers.
  • 10% Poster (due 4/8 for 4/17 SRI and 4/22 poster session)
  • 10% Oral presentation (due 4/8 for 4/17 SRI)
    • Making effective presentations is an increasingly important skill to develop. Here you will present your research on panels with graduate and undergraduate students before an audience of sociologists. These are typically organized by substantive areas (e.g., “law and social inequality”). The allotted time varies, but is usually 10-15 minutes per presenter. You will set up your research question, present your results, and leave the audience with the key take-home points.
  • 50% Final thesis (due 4/29)
    • The best theses are well-integrated, carefully presented, and polished – that is, they are more than an assemblage of impressive parts. Your final paper should thus include effective transition statements that bridge the different sections – and it will entail a good bit of rewriting on the front-end as well as the back-end sections.
  • 10% Participation and other short exercises
    • I will again ask you to be a critic as well as an author – and to contribute constructively by providing helpful feedback for your colleagues.
  • The Defense
    • You will walk into a small conference room to greet your committee members. You will then briefly present your research and key findings (5-10 minutes) and then the committee will ask questions about the work and its implications (45 minutes). You will then be asked to leave the room while the committee deliberates about whether revisions are necessary and the appropriate level of honors to assign for the project. This sounds scary because, well, it is a little scary. But! Rest assured that the committee wants to engage with you and your work and to see you do well. To make it less scary, make sure to stay organized and disciplined throughout the semester, to give committee members plenty of lead time (and to be courteous in your interactions), and to deliver a complete and polished final project.



“I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.” Steven Wright


Week 1

1/21    Welcome! See the thesis, be the thesis… (everybody)

  • Big picture stuff: Where you want to be in March, April, and May
    • Revisiting your committee, your models (and finding good examples), and your specialized methodological resources: people, courses, texts
    • Committee asks: Can we identify a clear research question? Does the answer matter for social science? For the broader world? Is the thesis complete, well-written, and nicely executed?
    • How “big” is an honors thesis? [versus MS thesis, dissertation, career…]
    • 3 months: Establishing individual timelines.
    • Etiquette and life skills
  • WORKSHOP:  Progress Reports


“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — E.L. Doctorow


Week 2

1/28    Half-hour individual meetings w/ Uggen (sign-up sheet 1/21)

  • Bring a hard copy of your “working draft”


Week 3            

2/4 Progress Reports on data collection and analysis (everybody)

  • Bring your data files, field notes, or interview information, where appropriate



“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” — Gustave Flaubert

Week 4            

2/11    Troubleshooting data collection and analysis (as needed)

  • WORKSHOP: Live problem-addressing (and hopefully problem solving)
  • Coding interview data
  • Poster design workshop #1, Tuesday 2/17/15 1:30-2:30, 310 Walter Library


Week 5

2/18  Presenting univariate descriptive results: tables & figures (everybody)

  • Describing your sample; quantitative and qualitative description
  • Creating ASR-style tables of means, percentages, standard deviations
  • Creating powerful figures in Excel and other packages
  • Writing it up: walking readers through the descriptives (tables can’t speak for themselves)

Week 6

2/25  Presenting Qualitative Analysis (as needed)

  • Textual analysis and computer analysis of qualitative data
  • The qualitative portions of quantitative theses
  • BRING: Your data, field notes, or interviews and any problems you might have
  • Poster design workshop #2 (same as #1,#3), Wednesday 2/25/15 1-2 Magrath Library rm 81

Week 7

3/4 Presenting bivariate and multivariate results (everybody)

  • Crosstabs, Chi-square tests, T-tests and other bivariate approaches
  • Multiple Regression and other multivariate approaches
  • BRING: Your data and output and any problems you might have


Week 8

3/11  Individual meetings on analysis issues (as needed)

DUE: Real draft of results section due to Uggen and critic by 3/13 at 6pm.

  • Organization: for the draft, I want everyone to follow the same general pattern (you will have freedom to deviate from this later on).
    • Front end (I want to see the whole thesis, so attach your front-end)
    • 1-paragraph section introduction
    • At least one table that describes your data (e.g., interview subjects) (follow conventions in ASA style guide and complete text describing this table)
    • At least one figure that graphs a key relationship or levels of key variables and complete text describing this figure
    • At least one table or narrative summary that presents your analysis and inference and complete text describing this table.
    • A narrative summary of key findings


3/18- Spring break – No class

Week 9

3/25  One-on-one meetings on results (as needed)

  • Make sure that you are writing now – continue to fine-tune the analysis if needed, but don’t put off the actual writing.
  • What if the research question “evolved” while conducting the analysis?
  • The discussion back-end must connect the results to the issues raised in the front end; if not, revise front- or back-end until it does.



“You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” -- Octavia Butler


Week 10

4/1      PowerPoint and posters / Writing the back-end (everybody)


DUE: A real draft of your complete thesis (including discussion and conclusion sections) due to Uggen and critic by Friday 4/3 at 6pm.

  • NOTE: You will be scheduling your oral thesis defenses throughout the month of April (do not plan to get your committee together the last week of classes), so make sure your draft is something you can send your committee without apology.
    • Title Page
    • Abstract
    • Literature Review, Theory, and Conceptualization (but don’t call it that)
    • Data, Measures, and Methodology
    • Results
    • Discussion (must refer back to questions raised in lit/theory section)
    • Conclusion (can be very brief- summary of results, caveats, remaining questions)
    • References
  • CRITERIA: Completeness; Clarity and internal logic; Style and presentation (syntax, spelling, punctuation); Appropriateness, specificity, and extent of literature review; Appropriateness and quality of analysis; Effectiveness of discussion in linking results to research questions, conceptualization, and literature review; Appropriateness of conclusions, caveats, and directions for future research



“Rewriting isn't just about dialogue; it's the order of the scenes, how you finish a scene, how you get into a scene.” – Tom Stoppard


Week 11          

4/8 Oral/Poster presentations (5-10 minutes) in preparation for SRI

DUE: Electronic copy of your poster to meet free printing deadline (TBA)


Week 12          

4/15 No class – but full draft is due (and SRI 4/17)





Week 13          

4/22  Undergraduate research symposium poster session (Great Hall, Coffman)

  • Sign up for Session 3, if possible (3:00-4:30)


Week 14          

4/29  Complete thesis due – Preparing for Defense (everybody)


Week 15          

5/6      Oral Exams (4/30-5/8)



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