Honors Program

Group of students sitting at desk with laptops in front of them looking in the direction of instructor


The objective of the program is for students to conduct original research that results in a substantial research paper. The program emphasizes the often non-linear process of research: how to translate an abstract interest into a sociological question that you can actually answer with research, learning to situate a topic in an existing literature, identifying research methods that would actually answer this question, and applying for institutional review board approval when appropriate.

Program Components

The first component is a year-long honors seminar (SOCIOL 495S and 496S) where students learn the craft of sociological research and create an intellectual community of colleagues to support and aid their independent work. The seminar is where students learn to both appreciate and have fun with sociological research. It is also the setting in which the seminar instructor and graduate student TA provide primary logistical support: getting situated with research questions, receiving assistance with IRB applications, editing drafts, etc.  

Second, students have weekly meetings outside of the seminar with their mentors – either the instructor, the class TA, or, in some cases, a faculty member with whom they are working on their thesis project. The role of the mentor is – in coordination with the seminar instructor – to provide additional moral and logistical support.  

The third component of the program is a spring research workshop where students, mentors, and interested students and faculty members come together for an informal, one-day mini-conference. Students will present their work following the format of a typical professional conference presentation, with the instructor serving as discussant. It is both a valuable intellectual experience and a celebration of the students' hard work.

Finished Product

Students who conduct quality research and write a strong thesis will graduate in sociology with distinction. The best thesis annually is awarded the Ida Harper Simpson Award for Research Excellence at commencement. The award carries a $500 prize.


Juniors with a minimum GPA of at least 3.3 in sociology, an excellent performance in sociological methods, and the strong endorsement of at least one faculty member will be considered for participation in the program. Interested students meeting these criteria should contact Prof. Jenifer Hamil-Luker (jenifer.hamil@duke.edu) to schedule an appointment. Students who do not meet these criteria but who have a strong desire to write a thesis may also request an interview. Please contact Prof. Jenifer Hamil-Luker (jenifer.hamil@duke.edu) for additional information or to schedule an appointment for an interview.