Declaring a Major
Requirements of a Sociology Major
Junior Qualifying Exam

Declaring a Major

Students must declare a major by the end of the sophomore year. Students are granted upperclass status once they have declared a major and completed at least thirteen units of course work at Reed or elsewhere. The Declaration of Major form is available from the Registrar (Eliot 311). This must be signed by a faculty member in sociology and promptly returned to the Registrar.

Requirements of a Sociology Major

The department's requirements begin with an introductory course, and proceed through the Junior qualifying examination, a research methods course, a year long thesis course, and a total of five additional units of sociology. Students have long been encouraged to supplement their coursework with additional work in statistical techniques. According to the Catalogue, majors must fulfill the following requirements, exclusive of work needed to meet general college and divisional requirements:

  1. Sociology 211.
  2. Sociology 311.
  3. Sociology 470.
  4. Any five additional units of sociology.
  5. Junior qualifying examination. This requirement is satisfied by submitting a paper analyzing two research monographs in an area of substantive interest, preparatory to senior thesis work. Instructions are available on request and in the sociology folder on the courses server.

Recommended: Mathematics 141 is recommended and will apply to the Group D requirement. Further work in mathematics and in other fields in the Division of History and Social Sciences is strongly recommended for students planning to continue their studies at the graduate level or in professional schools.

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Junior Qualifying Exam

The qualifying examination is normally undertaken during the second semester of a student’s junior year, concurrently with taking Sociology 311. The requirement is satisfied by submitting a paper that critically engages the analysis of a specific sociological phenomenon by two modern sociologists working from different theoretical approaches, methodologies or data sets. The first key objective is for students to learn how contemporary sociologists identify, analyze, and formulate questions, respond to contributions made by prior scholarship, construct empirical research projects, and use findings to engage ongoing debates. An ideal scholar pairing considers a specific, common topic that the authors approach from different theoretical foundations, different research methodologies or types of data, and/or with different conclusions about factors, dynamics, or mechanisms responsible for a given phenomenon. This format gives the Department the opportunity to assess how well students are able to explore literature in a sociological subfield and to become familiar with the continuity of theoretically-motivated empirical research in that scholarly community. The second key objective is to prepare students for undertaking work on their senior thesis.

The paper to be submitted is a 25-30 page, double space exercise and is due soon or sometimes immediately after spring break. Students should prepare to devote a significant amount of time to the junior qualifying exercise, including weekly meetings leading up to the writing period. Many do the bulk of the qual writing during the spring break period.

Note that the qualifying paper is not itself a literature review, although accomplishing its core tasks (outlined below) requires students to review and map the relevant sociological literature.

Junior Qualifying Exam: Selecting authors, manuscripts, articles

Students focus on the research of two different sociologists in their paper, and have two choices to consider in selecting the format of the works they will analyze:

  1. Two (2) research monographs
  2. One research monograph and four (4) journal articles (all articles by the same author)

Students also have two options in the selection of the two authors:

  1. Students may select one of the suggested pairs of works from a list provided by the department
  2. Students may chose their own pair of authors and works, subject to departmental approval

The authors must be sociologists speaking to debates within sociology over the social world. They should also be modern or contemporary sociologists writing in the last decade or so, and not classical sociologists. Ideally, students choosing their own authors will select one that they student has read or learned about in a sociology course that they are taking or have taken. They would then choose a second author and identify how each approach a sociological puzzle. Proposals for mixing formats and other alternative formats are welcome; the Department’s aim is to facilitate and shape, but not constrict, students’ engagement with the literature.

Junior Qualifying Exam: Elements of the exercise and paper

The junior qualifying exercise requires students to accomplish four sets of tasks, which can be used to organize the format of the paper submitted.

Introduction: Formulate and state the basic research question the two authors pursue in their work, and briefly describe the broader context or debate in which the question is posed. What questions do they raise and together address? What broader intellectual space do they occupy?

  1. On average, an introduction runs 2-3 pages and might refer to the broader sociological traditions or research streams of which the books are a part or say something about the sociological significance of the phenomena they both study.
  2. This section should also briefly address the general conclusion of the paper. The conclusion should flow from the student’s overall assessment of the contributions, strengths and weaknesses of the two works.

Exposition and integration: Extract, outline and contrast the ways in which the two authors construct their research, including the theories and methods they use to address the question and their core findings.

  1. On average, this section runs 14-15 pages (7-8 pages per monograph or collection of articles). It should summarize and compare the two bodies of work, describing the thesis, theoretical approach, research design, methodological strategies, findings and interpretive conclusions of each author.
  2. This section should also address how each monograph or collection of articles speaks to the other(s). It should address the relative strengths and weaknesses of each work and whether or how well the authors speak to each other or the broader debate. Do the authors agree or disagree about the nature of the phenomenon they study and about the processes or factors that might matter for the outcome of interest? . Does one study use a method or approach that the other should use or should have used?

Impact in the field: Assess whether and how the authors’ research speaks to one another and shapes research and debate in the field.  In this section, student’s will assess how have the authors have contributed to the debate or understanding of the phenomenon of interest. Have the studies been read by others in the field? How have they been reviewed and been cited by peers?

  1. On average, this section runs approximately 5 pages. What do the studies add to research in the field? How do they move the debate forward or reshape the ways sociologists think about a social phenomenon?
  2. This section should look at how the book or stream of work has been received, using a bibliographic search for citations. This section should also include an analysis of published journal book reviews, if any, of the texts to examine the impact, contribution, and limits of the work.

Conclusion and research prospectus: Draw a general conclusion and consider what should be done to further address the research question or deal with issues not addressed by the two authors’ work. In conjunction with these aims, this section includes a brief proposal for future research.

  1. On average, this section runs 1-3 pages. What are the basic conclusions you derive from your analysis of the two authors and their impact on the field?
  2. What new or unresolved questions arise? How should we address them? This should be considered like first attempt at a thesis proposal, and should emerge organically and clearly from the two works discussed in the paper. The new or unresolved questions arising from the texts should be included her, as well as what suggestions you would have for pursuing those questions empirically.

Junior Qualifying Exam: Resources for literature review

Note that the junior qualifying exam is not meant to be simply a literature review. However, accomplishing the key tasks of the qual - understanding how authors formulate a research question, situating authors’ work in a broader context, and assessing how that work contributes to ongoing research and debate - requires that students review and map the relevant sociological literature. Students can access tools for reviewing the sociological literature on the department website.

Junior Qualifying Exam: Submission checklist for the final paper

Required Elements of the Document

  • Cover page, including:
    • Student’s Full Name
    • Title of Paper
    • Date of Submission
    • Student’s Mailstop Number
  • Abstract
    • Approximately 150 words
    • On its own page
  • Introduction
  • Summary and Integration
    • Include analysis of methodology
  • Impact in the Field
    • Include both reviews and citation analysis
  • Conclusion and Research Prospectus
  • Works Cited List

Proper Formatting

  • ASA Citation Format
    • Citations should be provided in text (not in footnotes or endnotes) and should include the author’s last name, date published, and page number.
      • Example: (Baker 2002:35)
    • “Works Cited” should be at the end of the document, on its own page, in alphabetical order by author’s last name, double-spaced, with a hanging indent.
    • Refer to for further formatting specifications.
  • Margins should be set to 1” on all four sides.
  • Font should be set to Times New Roman 12pt.
  • Page numbers should be on the top right hand corner; no page numbers should be included on the cover page or abstract page. Page numbers should include the students’ last name in the following format:
    • Baker 2
  •  All text in the document should be double-spaced.

On the date the exam is due (refer to cohort-specific documents for this information), complete and properly formatted quals should be posted on the Junior Qual: Submissions section of Department of Sociology Moodle page.

Junior Qualifying Exam: A note on evaluation

A conditional pass typically occurs when a student does not include required sections of the qual, or when the written product proves to be lacking in displaying sufficient understanding of the arguments, debates, or focus of their qual readings.  A conditional pass may also be given if the quality of the writing and argumentation is sufficiently lacking and in need of focused treatment.  Students who pass conditionally meet in person with a designated faculty member who provides extensive written and verbal feedback on the steps needed to produce an appropriate qualifying examination essay (usually making reference to the checklist on the department’s website). Students are informed that if they fail to turn in an appropriate revision, they will be expected to undertake remedial work on the topic of their proposed thesis, or to retake the exam altogether. This might involve critically analyzing several published articles on a topic related to their qual and writing a literature review essay by August 1 of the summer preceding their senior year.