Independent Study and Research

Wherever there are people, there are things worth asking questions about, and such questions and attempts at answering them are the stuff from which original research is made. Majors are encouraged to undertake independent research, either during the school year, over breaks, or at their place of summer employment. Student research projects may be conducted on an independent study format (SOC 250/350), or as part of a collaborative partnership project. Ordinarily, such projects will last one semester. Sociology 250/350 may also be designed as a reading course covering a body of material not contained in any existing course. Normally, the SOC 250/350 results in one (or several) papers. SOC250/350 may be taken for a letter grade or for credit/non-credit.

Students often have taken one or more courses in the general field for the proposed topic; coursework at the 200-level is typically a prerequisite for 350 work. The student should submit a short written description of the project and must obtain an instructor's consent to be the 250/350 advisor and that instructor's approval of the topic and plan of work. Faculty in their first year at Wellesley should usually not be asked to be 250/350 advisors. Check the faculty resumes for research interests similar to your own.

The problem with doing independent research at Wellesley is that such projects often take on a schedule of their own and are not easily squeezed into a semester. Don't let this stop you, however. If you come across a topic that interests you, talk to a professor about how you could design a project on it. If one professor doesn't have time to supervise you on your project, ask another. Don't let the College's timetable interfere with this part of your education.

One major point to remember about graduate education and career: If you plan to go to graduate school or pursue professional employment, you should have a major research paper completed by the end of your junior year. You'll find this demonstration of research effort helpful in applying to graduate schools. If you plan on waiting a year or more before applying to graduate school, your senior research will usually more than suffice. Employers are also interested in evidence of your ability to work independently.


Students may elect to arrange an internship with specific faculty members in the department. Independent study credit may be received for participation in these programs, after consulting with a faculty advisor. Students have worked successfully on internship programs for credit in mass media, medical, and public service institutions in and around the Boston area.