Sociology PEARL Initiative

PEARL - Practical, Experiential, Applied Research and Learning

The PEARL Initiative in Sociology facilitates opportunities for students to connect sociological theory, ideas, and concepts to experiences and practice. The initiative provides paid opportunities, structure for independent studies done for credit, pathways to conduct original research, and communities of practice for students to grow with peers. Students participating in PEARL gain valuable experience that will be helpful for their job search or continuing education post-Penn.

There are several pathways in PEARL. If you have questions about any of these pathways, please contact



Site-Based Study

Students engage in a small-scale research study for an office or organization under the guidance of a SOCI faculty member​. As an independent study for credit​, students complete the semester with a 10-15 page substantive paper. Examples of small scale site-based studies include analyzing secondary data (i.e. archival research, historical analysis, content analysis, quantitative data analysis); observational studies and participatory research​. The Department of Sociology has partnered with several sites to offer study opportunities. For more, visit our Site-Based Study page.


Baltzell Scholar Research Program

Students support faculty research and receive payment. ​Students work for 10 hours per week, engaging in practical tasks such as coding, translating, reviewing literature, and synthesizing data.

Research Assistantship Program

Students support faculty research for course credit instead of pay. Visit the Research Assistantship Program page for more details.


Semester-Long Study

Students explore a topic of interest through a sociological lens under the guidance of a SOCI faculty member. As an independent study for credit​, students complete the semester with a 10-15 page substantive paper. Examples of semester-long studies include a review of academic literature and quantitative analysis of public-use data. Contact us for ideas and resources that are ready-made to be implemented into a semester-long study.

Sociology Thesis Program

Students develop and engage in a two-semester long, original research project under the guidance of the Thesis Workshop instructor and a thesis advisor. Upon completion, students can qualify for an honors designation if they meet the GPA requirements. Visit the Sociology Thesis Program page for more details.



Baltzell Scholar Learning Assistant Program

Baltzell Scholar LA’s provide course support and individualized engagement for students in Sociology classes at Penn. The exact responsibilities for each course vary according to the needs of the faculty or instructor who is teaching the course. Students receive payment for 10 hours of work per week.

Alternatively, students can receive course credit in this role but must connect with the faculty member to determine a topic for a substantive paper, as well as readings and reflections throughout the semester to supplement the learning experience.



Health and Healthcare Fellowship

Students explore topics and experiences in the health and healthcare fields with a cohort of students throughout the academic year. ​The fellowship is non-credit, but provides a community of practice for students interested in the intersection of health and society. Programming includes speaker and alumni panels, lunches with faculty, field trips to the medical-focused schools at Penn, book discussions, advising sessions from Career Services, and more.