Professor Jason Beckfield, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies
Dr. David Ager, Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies

Sociology is the study of society, of the social frameworks within which we live our lives. It is a study of social life at every level, from two-person relationships to the rise and fall of nations and civilizations. More than any other discipline it is a meeting place of the social sciences, combining its own ideas and methods with insights from history, anthropology, economics, political science, and psychology in an extended examination of the ways societies work—or fail to work.

The Department of Sociology at Harvard has a diverse and distinguished faculty. It has particular strengths in race and ethnic relations, social stratification, sociology of culture, organizational behavior, comparative and historical sociology, the analysis of collective action, and sociological theory.

The concentration is a small one, which allows for personal attention to students. It also affords substantial access to faculty and administrators and flexibility in meeting individual intellectual agendas. Course emphases range widely from the theoretical to the applied and incorporate an array of approaches, including computer-based analysis, historical and comparative studies, field-based sociology, quantitative analysis, and theoretical explorations. Internship programs offer course credit for research with community organizations, city agencies, and research institutions, placing students in real communities dealing with real problems.

The department requires a thesis of honors candidates; however, there is no separate honors track. Close to half the graduating seniors typically write theses. Students may choose to focus their attention in an assortment of areas, among them organizational behavior, race and ethnic relations, or sociological theory, or they may put together a distinctive program of study reflecting their own particular interests.

Joint concentration is permitted, though the aims of such concentrations can often be met as well or better by choice of related courses and the honors thesis topic or by pursuing a secondary field. Joint concentrators whose primary field is Sociology must take a junior tutorial.

Because sociology grows out of the interaction of theory and research, a major effort is made to involve students in the research process. Sociology 128: Models of Social Science Research, a required course, examines the intellectual nature of social research and the logic of research methodologies. Sociology 156: Quantitative Methods in Sociology, a required course, teaches principles and practices of data analysis. The required junior tutorial, Sociology 98, is a research practicum designed to give students firsthand experience in observation, fieldwork, and historical or quantitative research.

Sociology concentrators go on to a variety of occupations, professional and academic, including law, medicine, business, journalism, and work in non-profit organizations. Concentrators may be eligible to obtain certification to teach in middle or secondary schools in Massachusetts and states with which Massachusetts has reciprocity. See Chapter 2 for more information about the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP).

The functioning of the concentration is continuously monitored by the Committee on Undergraduate Degrees (CUD), a faculty-student committee that also discusses all proposed changes to the concentration. Student representatives are chosen each year from among those who volunteer. The names of current representatives are available in the Sociology Undergraduate Office.

Basic Requirements: 12 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

    1. One course from the introductory series (Sociology 10-Sociology 89). Normally taken during the freshman year.

    2. Sociology 128. Normally taken in the fall of the sophomore year.

    3. Sociology 97. Normally taken in the fall or spring of the sophomore year (see item 2a).

    4. Sociology 156. Normally taken in the spring of the sophomore year.

    5. Sociology 98. Junior tutorial (see item 2b).

    6. Two half-courses in related social science fields: African and African American studies; anthropology; economics; government; history; psychology; social studies; studies of women, gender, and sexuality.

    7. Five half-courses in sociology.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: Sociology 97 (one term) required. Small seminars made up of eight to twelve students. An intensive introduction to classical and contemporary sociological theory.

    2. Junior year: Sociology 98 (one term) required. Small seminars made up of eight students who work together on an original research project (or set of interrelated projects) under the direction of a faculty member. The purpose of this tutorial is to give students experience with independent inquiry and in many cases to develop a senior thesis topic.

  3. Thesis: Optional.

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information:

    1. Research for Nonprofits (Sociology 95) and Community Research Internships (Sociology 96): The department offers a set of community research internships to concentrators and other interested students. These internships place students with local agencies and organizations to carry out research of interest both to those agencies and organizations and to the department. The object is to give students the opportunity to put sociological tools and ideas to work in real communities dealing with real problems. Internship opportunities are announced at the beginning of each term.

    2. Pass/Fail: One or two of the required twelve half-courses may be taken Pass/Fail (but not one of the five specifically required courses: Introductory Series, Sociology 97, 98, 128, or 156).

    3. The department encourages supervised reading and research projects (Sociology 91r) whose product is a written sociological analysis. Up to two courses will be counted toward concentration requirements, items 1f and 1g, provided one copy of the report is submitted to the Head Tutor.

    4. Joint concentrations: Information on joint concentrations may be obtained in the Sociology Undergraduate Office.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 12 half-courses

  1. Required courses:

        a-f. Same as Basic Requirements.

    1. Three half-courses in Sociology.

    2. Sociology 99. Senior tutorial (see item 2c).

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: Same as Basic Requirements.

    2. Junior year: Same as Basic Requirements.

    3. Senior year: Sociology 99 (two terms). Close supervision of thesis. Graded SAT/UNS.

  3. Thesis: Honors candidates must write a thesis and submit it to the co-directors of undergraduate studies in the spring of senior year. Students are urged to choose thesis topics and form their thesis committees (adviser and first reader) by the end of junior year. Course credit for the thesis work is obtained through enrolling in Sociology 99 with the thesis adviser in the fall of senior year. At the end of senior year, a second reader will be assigned by the Undergraduate Office. The overall thesis grade is determined by averaging the grades given by the adviser, first reader, and second reader. (Midyear seniors should consult the co-directors of undergraduate studies.)

  4. General Examination: None.

  5. Other information: Same as Basic Requirements.


The Department of Sociology encourages a joint concentration with any other department that permits a joint concentration. Sociology can serve as either the primary or allied field.

  1. Required courses when Sociology is the primary concentration (nine half-courses):

    1. One sociology course from the introductory series (Sociology 10-89)

    2. Sociology 97 (half-course, offered both fall and spring term)

    3. Sociology 98: Junior Tutorial (half-course, offered both fall and spring term)

    4. Sociology 128: Models of Social Science Research (half-course, offered fall term)

    5. Sociology 156: Quantitative Methods (half-course, offered spring term)

    6. Two half-courses in sociology

    7. Sociology 99: Senior Thesis (full year course)

  2. Required courses for Sociology as secondary concentration (six half-courses):

    1. One sociology course from the introductory series (Sociology 10-89)

    2. Sociology 97 (half-course, offered both fall and spring term)

    3. Sociology 128: Models of Social Science Research (half-course, offered fall term)

    4. Sociology 156: Quantitative Methods (half-course, offered spring term)

    5. Two half-courses in sociology.

Note: A joint concentration is always an honors concentration. Anyone wishing to pursue a Sociology joint concentration must meet with one of the department’s co-Directors of Undergraduate Study. For more information visit


The co-directors of undergraduate studies are responsible for providing advising to Sociology concentrators. During the sophomore year all advising is done by the co-directors of undergraduate studies (Professor Jason Beckfield and Dr. David Ager) as well as by faculty members of the Committee on Undergraduate Degrees. At the end of the sophomore year concentrators may ask for an individual faculty adviser.

Students writing a thesis select a thesis adviser by the end of the junior year. The student is free to choose from among current sociology faculty.

For up-to-date information on advising in Sociology, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


At regular department colloquia faculty or visiting scholars present current research. Notices of colloquia are posted in the department; students are invited to attend.


Further information may be obtained from the undergraduate coordinator in William James Hall 684, (Kate Drizos,, 617-495-3713.


Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

Foreign Cultures

Historical Study A

Historical Study B

Quantitative Reasoning

†Literature and Arts A

Social Analysis

Literature and Arts B

ONE of the areas marked †.

†Literature and Arts C


Moral Reasoning


Science A


Science B


For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.


Number of Concentrators as of December













Sociology + another field






Another field + Sociology