Building upon research started in their SOC 211 “Research Methods” course, Claire Criniti ’13, Jordan Hawn ’13, Samantha Prouty ’15 and Billy van der Wal ’15 recently took their scholarly work to the next level when they presented at the Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) annual meeting in Boston.
With the guidance of Associate Professor of Sociology Renee Monson, the four students, working in teams, each conducted a different sociological study that focused on aspects of the sexual double standard in contemporary hook-up culture, particularly among college students. Criniti, Hawn, Prouty, and van der Wal, presented their research findings to faculty, graduate students and peers during a poster session for undergraduate researchers at the ESS conference.
“Being able to see this project all the way through and present it at an academic conference was a great journey that taught me a lot about social research and the process involved in dissecting the social interactions between people,” says Criniti, a sociology major with a minor in public policy, who used the method of field observation to investigate conversations pertaining to the subject matter.
Criniti says her involvement in the research was an important experience, allowing her and her classmates to seize the opportunity of honing their research skills.
In advising the students on their projects, Monson, who teaches “Research Methods,” says that the students were able to see firsthand the process of conducting and then presenting social scientific research to a diverse professional audience. In addition, she says, “The findings from each project expand our knowledge of how the sexual double standard works in the context of the contemporary hook-up culture on college campuses, and raise new questions for further research.”
The student researchers, Monson says, were able to launch into their respective investigations based on previous research, including that of scholars such as Kathleen Bogle, with studies indicating that since the 1970s hook-up culture has largely replaced traditional dating, but disagreement lingers over whether these new scripts for sexual intimacy and the formation of romantic relationships among young adults continue to disadvantage women.
As the students continued their investigations, Monson says each conducted a more extensive literature review and pursued additional analysis of data. In addition, the students also submitted their research projects to the HWS Institutional Review Board in order to receive permission to present their findings outside campus, and the students requested funding from various offices at the Colleges to support their travel to the conference.
When the students first began their research methods projects last fall, Monson assigned the four teams to a particular research approach: surveys, in-depth interviews, content analysis and field observation.
Using in-depth interviews, Hawn, a major in international relations with a minor in sociology, says her work focused on exploring the male perspective and experiences with the sexual double standard and hook-up culture.
“This project contributes to better understanding this phenomenon with respect to gender of the interviewer affecting interviewee responses,” Hawn says. “There are many questions left to inquire about the sexual double standard, and at the moment there are no immediate solutions to this societal inequality. I also think this conference has contributed to my overall experience at HWS and has helped advance my presentation skills.”
Monson says the survey research team used a stratified random sample to examine hook-up behaviors, their rationalizations for hooking up, and their feelings of self-judgment and experiences of peer judgment.
“Our project was able to give the quantitative data to back up the findings of the qualitative research. It was very exciting to have everyone’s research connect and verify all of our findings,” says Prouty, a double major in sociology and architecture. “We would definitely like to see our study conducted on a campus where sororities are present, since fraternities were so crucial to our findings. This experience has been a major confidence booster. Being able to discuss something I had worked on with professionals in the field definitely was an assurance of my abilities.”
Using content analysis to investigate the subject, van der Wal says he and his fellow researchers examined articles published in HWS’s Martini and The Herald, and noted the references to the sexual double standard and its influence within the articles.
Having the opportunity to conduct the research and demonstrate the findings was an important step for his future, says van der Wal, who is majoring in sociology with a minor in public policy.
“Presenting at the conference was an incredibly valuable experience to have professional sociologists examine my work and question me about it as a student who is planning to make a career out of social research,” he says.