12 Sociology Passion Project Ideas For High School Students
9 minute read
Sociology is the study of society, examining social relationships, institutions, and the patterns of human behavior that shape our collective existence. Sociology scrutinizes issues like inequality, mental health issues, education, and power dynamics, allowing us to better understand the challenges of the world and what can be done to improve it. It’s a very interesting field that may often be overlooked in most high school curriculums, which is why a passion project in sociology can be a great way to learn more on your own.
Sociology encompasses a wide range of topics and issues, which can make it a bit of an overwhelming field. However, an easy fix is to just read through lists of different sociology topics or ideas and see what sticks out to you. You could use Google, ChatGPT, and the list provided below to see if anything interests you in particular. From there, you can then get a sense of what topic you might want to do a project on, whether that’s education, mental health, culture, politics, or ethics.
1. Female leadership in the Middle East
Aim: Learning about global cultures and understanding how female leadership works in different cultural contexts
This project would explore how female networks of power, such as knowledge workers, social leaders, and political figures, have functioned in different social contexts in the Middle East and North Africa. Feel free to focus specifically on one country or culture if there’s one that stands out to you.
Concepts and skills: Leadership, political power, Middle Eastern culture
2. Love thy neighbor (and their politics?)
Aim: Exploring America’s bipartisan political system and seeing how the neighborhood affects political choices.
We are more likely to vote and tune in to political events when our families and friends do the same. However, what role does the neighborhood play? In the current political climate, if a Democrat lives in a majority Republican neighborhood, are they going to be more likely to vote and be more protective of their political attitudes compared to Democrats living in more Democratic areas? In this project, the goal is to see whether neighborhood partisanship affects behaviors like turnout and attitudes toward political issues.
Concepts and skills: Voting, political parties, potential interviews/surveys
3. Social media and teenage disordered eating
Aim: Understanding how technology and social media can influence eating habits
This project will explore the ways that social media influences disordered eating in teenagers. Explore the ways that the media portrays different groups of people and how that impacts disordered eating within those groups. Also, focus on 1 or 2 specific social media platforms that are the main culprits for influencing disordered eating.
Concepts and skills: Eating disorders, social media, technological advancement, statistical analysis
4. Female achievement gaps in STEM
Aim: Discovering why women may struggle in STEM courses
This project will explore the gender achievement gaps that often occur for women in STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). In this project, try to identify the main reasons for academic gaps, as well as potential interventions to close gender gaps in STEM. What are a few potential solutions that could help resolve this issue? How difficult would they be to implement?
Concepts and skills: Policy ideation, secondary research, education
5. Anti-vaping campaigns
Aim: Determining why and how anti-vaping messages can stop people from vaping or change their attitudes about it
In this project, try to determine what aspects of anti-vaping messages are most persuasive. You can explore a whole range of different ads and messages, and see how they differ in their approach. Additionally, the project can establish how successful certain messages might be in changing attitudes and behaviors among individuals who use e-cigarettes, which could be achieved through performing a survey.
Concepts and skills: Marketing, survey design, copywriting
Aim: Understanding how fear of missing out can impact our moral cognition
The fear of missing out (FOMO), or anxiety that others may be having rewarding experiences that you aren't taking part in, is likely something most of us can relate to. Higher levels of FOMO have been found to be associated with increased social media use, texting while driving, and decreased life satisfaction. This suggests there may be an effect of FOMO on moral cognition - doing things that we know are wrong but we choose to do them anyway. There is little to no current research done in this area, so a paper discussing how FOMO may influence our moral cognition and resulting behaviors would be an incredibly interesting and meaningful contribution to the field!
Concepts and skills: Moral cognition, social media, mental health
Idea by sociology research mentor Paul
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7. Implicit moral bias
Aim: Exploring how our moral judgments influence the way we behave
Research shows that it's natural to be drawn to positive things and avoid negative ones. While past studies focused on words, spiders, and fears, our social interactions are crucial for survival today. These interactions involve moral judgments about right and wrong, affecting how we approach or avoid situations. Surprisingly, there hasn't been a study on how moral thinking influences our natural tendencies. Investigating the reasons, likelihood, and outcomes of an implicit moral bias in people would be a fantastic and important project!
Concepts and skills: Morality, behavioral sciences
Idea by sociology research mentor Paul
8. High school students’ self-efficacy and locus of control
Aim: Learning about how students have become more involved and proactive about their own educational experiences, and how you might be able to do the same
Students are often left out of the decision-making processes that directly affect them and their educational experiences. However, some students have found ways to become involved in these processes, by creating a student advocacy group, attending school board meetings regularly, or some new form of participation. This project would identify and then survey and interview a group of students who have gained access to these educational policy spaces.
Through these methods, you would seek to understand how much control these students feel they have in their educational experiences (locus of control) and how much they believe they can change their situation (self-efficacy). A control group of students could also be surveyed in comparison to see if participation in these types of processes is correlated with higher self-efficacy or locus of control.
Concepts and skills: Interviewing, survey design, education, experimental design, regression analysis
9. Disability in other cultures
Aim: Investigating how disability is defined in other cultures and what the differences are
Disability has many definitions, thus leading to its lack of clarity. What's more unknown, however, is how disability is defined in other cultures. In this project, investigate the literature on how disability is defined, and second, identify how these varied definitions of disability are defined in different cultural contexts.
Concepts and skills: Global cultures, secondary research
Idea by sociology research mentor Victoria
10. Integration in American professional sports
Aim: Analyzing the history of how American professional sports approached racial integration
The mid-1900s had numerous examples of players breaking "color barriers," but not all sports approached integration in the same way. Through analyzing the most popular sports of the time period, including basketball, baseball, and football, this project will be a historical analysis of how American professional sports differed in their approach to integration. Which leagues were the slowest to integrate, and how did the leagues' justifications for their actions differ? What forces may have been most significant in causing the leagues to take different approaches?
Concepts and skills: Historical analysis, racial integration, secondary research
Idea by sociology research mentor Noah
11. The lasting effects of covid on school attendance
Aim: Designing a survey to understand the perspectives of students in a post-pandemic world
As most schools have returned to the pre-2020 model of school administration (no longer wearing masks, social distancing, etc.), do students still attend school when feeling under the weather at the same rates as they did previously? Alternatively, are students more cautious about infecting their classmates, or perhaps less?
Design a survey that will attempt to get a picture of how students think about the risks that they pose to other students when sick, as well as the risks that other students pose to them. Using both qualitative and quantitative survey methodology, in addition to broader scholarly research, this project will try to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic affected school attendance during and after the pandemic.
Concepts and skills: Survey design, educational policy
Idea by sociology research mentor Noah
12. Cancel culture
Aim: Diving deeper into cancel culture and its inner workings
We hear in the news that a beloved celebrity cheated on their spouse, a famous YouTuber gives a half-hearted apology, or a politician is involved in a money-laundering scandal. Just one immoral action can lead to public "cancellation". A few different research questions can emerge from this topic: What is the function of publicly signaling moral praise or blame of individuals? Can immoral or "canceled" individuals be redeemed in the public eye or forgiven? What would it take to do so?
You could first start by looking at examples in pop culture - what seems the same or different between those who are "loved" vs those who are "hated" in the public eye? Next, turn to the academic literature to see what research exists on this topic. Then, you could develop a research question and think of ways to test it.
Concepts and skills: Secondary research, social media, cultural analysis
Idea by sociology research mentor Alexa
As you create your sociology passion project, start considering how you want to showcase your project. Keep in mind that not every single project has to be presented in the form of a research paper! There are many other options, like creating a YouTube video, a website, or even starting a series of blog posts. You’ll find that specific topics can lend themselves well to unique methods of showcasing.
For example, for the project about the effects of COVID on school attendance, you can collect data and present your findings through infographics or a research paper, but you can also supplement that with interview footage of you asking students about their opinions, which can really help bring your project alive!
Learn more about why it’s important to showcase your research
Sociology has been one of the most popular topics for passion projects created by Polygence alumni, and we wanted to highlight a few projects!
Carly’s project analyzed the underlying themes of Francophone novels, "The Stranger" by Albert Camus and "Meursault, contre-enqêute" by Kamel Daoud. Carly found that the themes from these novels were actually applicable to the heightened political unrest in the U.S. during the summer of 2020, and she was able to convey those connections in a comparative research paper that was later selected to be published in UC Berkeley’s Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal (CLUJ).
Sanaya looked at why Serbian radios in Croatia led to a rise in nationalism, exploring what occurs when two different groups of people disagree on politics and historical events. Sanaya wrote a research paper to discuss her findings and also presented it at the Polygence Symposium of Rising Scholars.
In this article, we covered how to find the right sociology project for you, shared 12 different research and passion project ideas that middle and high schoolers could take, and discussed how to showcase your completed project. If you’re interested in pursuing a sociology passion or research project, Polygence’s programs are a great opportunity to explore while learning from excellent mentors who are well-versed in sociology, philosophy, and ethics.
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