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Undergraduate Research Opportunities



Moral Motivations in Participation in Collective Action.

(Faculty Leader: Robb Willer)

Description: In 2015-16 Professor Willer will be conducting a series of experimental studies of the role of moral motivations in participation in collective action. Past theory and research suggest that individuals are most likely to make costly contributions to a collective effort where some moral motivation compels them to set aside self-interest. Prof. Willer will test this and several ancillary theoretical claims about the role of moral concerns in cost/benefit calculation in a series of laboratory and field experiments.

Responsibilities: RAs will assist in the recruitment of participants for in-person social psychology studies, run experimental sessions, assist with scheduling and study programming, and will be involved in the design of experimental materials and procedures. The team will meet weekly to discuss research design and methods, and discuss projects with graduate students and other team members.


Relationship Dynamics and Break-up.

(Faculty Leader: Michael Rosenfeld)

Description:  This project will examine subject’s relationship histories (and the stories of relationship breakup) through in-depth interview. This year we will be focusing on subjects’ experiences with phone dating apps like Tinder and Grindr.

Responsibilities: The undergraduate RA will interview subjects, always together with Professor Rosenfeld. The undergraduate RA will be responsible for transcribing the interviews, and the undergraduate RA, together with professor Rosenfeld, will work on interpreting the interviews.


Social Adaptations of Lymphoma Patients through the Life course Phase II.

(Faculty Leader: Karen Cook)

Description: This is a continuing project that examines the patterns of social adaptation of transplant recipients at various stages of their lives. This year we will analyze data from a survey of the surviving recipients of Blood and Marrow Transplantations and their caregivers using an online survey tool. To date we have collected over 250 survey responses.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate research assistants will assist in managing and analyzing survey responses.  The graduate student co-investigator on the project will train the research assistants in survey data management and some preliminary analysis.


The Impact of Protest on Gay and Lesbian Business Organizations.

(Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

Description: This project explores the impact of social protest activity mobilized by pro- and anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) organizations in a sample of 13 cities in the United States, 1989-2007. Our key idea is that protest and organizational vitality (of ordinary businesses serving the LBGT community) shape anti-discrimination policies and ordinances at the municipal level.

Responsibilities:Students will be engaged in collecting information on protest and attacks using online archives of local newspapers to code information on gay and lesbian rights’ protest /and /anti-gay and lesbian attacks. Over the past two years, VPUE research assistants were assigned a particular newspaper to prepare an excel spreadsheet of pro- and anti-LBGT events. During 2015-16, students will also collect information on city-level ordinances on hate crimes, gay marriage, and other non-discrimination ordinances in each city. Previous students have used these data for senior theses, term papers, and presentations in department undergraduate research colloquia.


The Impact of Ideological Categories and Specialization on the Longevity of Environmental Social Movement Organizations.

(Faculty Leader: Susan Olzak)

Description: This project examines a comprehensive dataset to explore the impact of a wide variety of “social movement frames” (e.g., “the deep ecology movement,” or the “wilderness preservation” movement) on the fate of over 2000 environmental social movement organizations that existed from 1900-present. This project will also analyze the effect of movement and countermovement dynamics of pro- and anti-environmentalist groups.

Responsibilities: Students will search online and in the library to developed detailed histories of each environmental social movement organization in the dataset. Students will use a pre-tested coding scheme to record information on the ideologies (or mission statements), goals, and establishment dates associated with each organization. We will meet weekly to discuss ongoing progress. During 2013-14, a student who has been working with me on this project prepared an impressive presentation for the Symposium for Undergraduate Research Projects (SURPS) for Alumni Weekend, in October 2014.


The Impact of Unemployment and the Great Recession on Social Institutions.

(Faculty Leader: Cristobal Young)

Description: Large scale joblessness can have wide ranging impacts on society, influencing patterns of marriage, divorce, crime, education, immigration, health, charitable giving, and political engagement. This research project will collect current data on how the Great Recession has diffused into many areas of social life.

Responsibilities: Students will focus on exploring data sources, searching through newspaper articles, and reports from government offices and social service agencies. The goal will be to collect descriptive data and identify possible data sets that would allow more detailed statistical analysis. Progress and ideas will be discussed in bi-weekly meetings.


Millionaire Migration and State Taxation of Top Incomes.

(Faculty Leader: Cristobal Young)

Description: Do millionaires migrate to avoid high state income taxes? In recent years, a growing number of U.S. states have established “millionaire taxes” on their highest income earners. This has raised concerns of millionaire migration towards lower tax climates, especially to states like Florida and Nevada which do not collect state income taxes at all. Evidence on the extent of millionaire tax flight has been limited by both the relative newness of these taxes and the difficulty of collecting data on individuals at the very top of the income distribution. This project draws on confidential income tax data from California’s Franchise Tax Board and the Internal Revenue Service to study cross-state migration at the very top of the income distribution.

Responsibilities: Research tasks will include conducting case studies of different states, collecting state-level data, writing memos on findings, working on the project website, and attending regular meetings to discuss the project.


Immigration in History Textbooks.

(Faculty Leader: Tomás Jiménez)

Description: This project will examine how US history high school textbooks from 1930 - 2008 have discussed immigration as part of the American national narrative.  The US is a self-described "nation of immigrants," but we have limited sociological understanding of how this self-description has developed over time. 

Responsibilities: An RA will locate, scan, and code relevant portions of text from high school US history textbooks and will also be involved in the preliminary analysis of these texts.  Jimenez will meet with the RA bi-weekly to discuss progress on the project, and to map out the broad trends in portrayal of immigrants and immigration in the texts.


Immigrant adjustment in Silicon Valley.

(Faculty Leader: Tomás Jiménez)

Description: The project draws on interviews with established individuals (people who are born in the United States to US-born parents) in Silicon Valley in order to understand how they adjust to a context heavily characterized by immigration. The interviews are with individuals who live in East Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Berryessa. The project has already resulted into publications and a major book manuscript.

Responsibilities: The project was partially funded by the National Science Foundation, which requires that all data be made public. In order to do that, I need a student to help me take out any identifying information from the interviews. The student will read the interviews and replace information that would otherwise allow someone reading the interviews to identify the interviewee.


What affects attitudes towards sexual assault on college campuses? 

(Faculty Leader: Shelley Correll)

Description: Many universities have recently surveyed their students to assess the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. Universities have responded to their survey results with press releases and letters from their presidents. This project asks how the content of these communications affects the extent to which students, community members and the general public see sexual assault as problematic and how it affects their endorsement of various remedies.  

Responsibilities: The student RA will collect and compile university sexual assault reports and university communications from the dozens of universities who have recently conducted sexual assault surveys.  The RA will then assist in devising experimental materials that vary several key features of these communications and measure respondents' attitudes towards sexual assault and its remedies. 


Collaboration, Innovation and Authenticity in the American Craft Brewing Industry.

(Faculty Leaders: Shelley J. Correll and Sarah A. Soule)

Description: The number of US craft breweries has increased astronomically in recent years, with the number of breweries now exceeding the number prior to prohibition. This project seeks to understand the role of collaboration in the craft beer industry. Why collaborate with potential competitors? How does that purpose differ by status of brewer? To what extent does collaboration spur innovation and a sense of authenticity (i.e. the sense that brewer is brewing beer because s/he loves beer)?  Does collaboration and rapid growth facilitate or hinder the entry of women into this space?

Responsibilities: The RAs will collect data from websites about collaborations and help map the network of brewer relationships.  They will also work with data from the Brewer’s Association to locate characteristics of breweries (e.g. size, types of beer brewed, age). Finally, RAs will help generate a sample of female brewers to be interviewed and then generate a matched sample of male brewers for interviews. 


Remembering the Dawsons: The Role of Legal and Legislative Processes in Structuring Collective Memory.

(Faculty Leader: Corey Fields)

Description: In 2002, Darnell Brooks broke into the Dawsons’ home in Baltimore, MD and started a fire, killing the Dawsons and their 5 children. The arson was retaliation for reporting neighborhood drug dealers to the police. The project examines the process through which crime and is interpreted.

Responsibilities: Students involved will collect news accounts and archival documents (speeches, legal documents, legislative reports) related to the Dawson family, and will be supervised in the development and implementation of a coding scheme to analyze the articles. The student will work closely with Professor Fields as he develops an article manuscript, and receive full acknowledgement of his/her efforts in any resulting publications.


Covering African-American Republicans.

(Faculty Leader: Corey Fields)

Description: This project explores how media coverage of African-American Republicans has evolved over time. The project involves the analysis and coding of over 1,800 newspaper articles.

Responsibilities: The student responsibilities will include collecting archival materials relating to African-American Republicans, tracking popular press articles about African-American Republicans, reading and coding newspaper articles under faculty supervision, and meeting regularly to discuss progress with members of the research team.


Explaining Singleness.

(Faculty Leader: Corey Fields)

Description: Blacks in the US are the least likely people to marry. Yet, media coverage of this issue often cites black women as the “problem,” pointing to things like their impossibly high standards or their overly domineering nature. This study asks how people account for women’s single status in practice, and using experimental methods attempts to see how those accountings vary by race.

Responsibilities: The student RA will work with Professor Fields to develop an extensive literature review on racial differences in dating and dating attitudes, as well as media analyses of stories about black women's singleness.


Financial aid and college rhetoric.

(Faculty Leader: Michelle Jackson)

Description: The cost of a college education has increased substantially in recent decades.  At the same time, there has been increasing concern about how far the costs of college might deter applications from students of disadvantaged background. Financial aid represents an effort, on the part of both government and colleges, to encourage applications from disadvantaged students.  This project examines the rhetoric that colleges use to describe financial aid, and the prominence given to financial aid and social background diversity when colleges describe their aims and mission.

Responsibilities: The RA will gather information on financial aid and social background diversity policies from college websites and identify key themes in the material.  The RA will attend bi-weekly meetings and will help to transform the written material into quantitative data for analysis.


Elite Mobility in the Chinese Bureaucracy.

(Faculty Leader: Xueguang Zhou)

Description: We will collect data on patterns of cadre mobility in selected Chinese regions and examine, through the flow of personnel, the interconnectedness of bureaucratic offices in the Chinese bureaucracy. We will answer questions about the incentives and capacities of mobilization in the Chinese organizations.

Responsibilities: The RA’s main responsibility is to collect data and conduct data analysis on this project. The student can learn real processes of conducting social science research, from data collection, data cleaning, to data analysis and report writing. I will have weekly meetings with my RA, and he/she will also have frequent contact with the graduate student who works on this project. This process is a continuous, interactive experience.


Stanford Class of 2017.

(Faculty Leader: Doug McAdam)

Description: What factors predict which members of a college class come to participate in various forms of campus activism?  By surveying the member of the incoming Stanford class of 2017 before their arrival on campus and then following up with 6 survey and 2 interview waves spanning their 4 years at Stanford, we hope, through this research to answer this question.

Responsibilities: Undergraduate RAs will be hired to help with two key project tasks: the transcription of 30 interviews conducted at the end of last year and with the cleaning of the first 3 waves of survey data collected to date.