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Senior Capstone Experience

The Senior Capstone Experience is an independent research project, on a topic of the student’s choosing, undertaken with the close guidance of a faculty thesis advisor.

Each student defines a problem or question he or she is interested in investigating and then utilizes a wide range of knowledge and skills gained from previous coursework to answer that question through the completion of a senior thesis.

Students begin to develop a research topic and proposal in their Research Methods in Sociology course (SOC 306), typically taken in the second semester of their junior year.

Work on the Capstone is also supported by some of the work of two courses, SOC 491-492: Senior Seminar, taken in the two semesters of the senior year. Students meet regularly with their faculty advisors as well as fellow students in the senior seminar to discuss their research and writing processes. The year concludes with a formal presentation of the completed research. The Capstone is graded by the department faculty as Honors, Pass, or Fail and Honors level projects are published on the Miller Library’s web site.

Some recent projects include:

  • “Trends of Gendered Violence in American Slasher Films,” Nicholas O’Meally, ’15
    • Gendered violence toward women in American Slasher Films has been a long standing controversy since the genre gained popularity in the 1970s. Stereotypes and cliches of sexually active women dying in these films have become mainstream, but there is a lack of research on how the genre has changed over time.  In this study, five films from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were analyzed to see how the treatment of female characters changed over time. Despite the several stereotypes associated with the genre, analyses showed that male characters are more likely to die in these films.  While more sexually active females than men died in the 1970s and 2000s, more sexually active men than women died in the 1980s and 1990s.  Women experienced longer sequences of violence more often than did men in the 1970s and 1980s, but men experienced longer sequences than women in the 2000s.
  • “Foolish Government,” Abiodum Bello Olatunji, ’15
    • In recent years Nigeria’s education system has been criticized for the quality of education that it provides. The poor quality of education is a symptom of the Nigerian
      government’s inability to run its institutions effectively. This paper uses qualitative interview data to document
      causes and consequences of governmental inefficiency in Nigeria. School officials were interviewed because they are
      the agents who put into place the policies created by the government. Five main themes were derived: corruption, policy, status, money, and culture. These themes are the mechanisms by which the government’s inefficiency is destroying public education. Findings suggest that Nigeria’s government has robbed education of its quality, and provided terrible conditions to those who dedicate their lives to education. The continued effects of the inequality created by federal policies on public education is hypothesized to cause Nigeria to lose its remaining skilled educators to brain drain.
  • “Women Targeted as Witches: Exploring Historical and Contemporary Accounts,” Anna Nazario, ’16
    • Over the course of modern history, women have been placed in a lower social ranking as compared with men.  Looking at historical accounts of witch hunting in Europe during the 14th-16th centuries, as well as the Salem Witch Trials in America’s colonial period, women were accused and persecuted at an overwhelmingly higher rate than men.  Witch hunting may seem like an occurrence of the past, but in the rural and tribal areas of India and some African countries, this is still a large problem.  The review of literature lays out a foundation of how women fit into the roles of scapegoats when it comes down to witchcraft accusations and women’s place in the social structure of early modern societies.  Although there are other areas in the world that still outcast women by accusing them of witchcraft, I use India and some African countries as the basis for contemporary examples.  The main theoretical perspective used in the discussion of this topic is Emile Durkheim’s Functionalist theory, accompanied by Feminist theories.