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is an upper-level course on theoretical developments in sociology since
the mid-19th century. In this course students should develop
in . . .
theories' key concepts, assumptions, arguments, and implications.
according to a variety of theoretical perspectives.
with the semester's second week, the focus of each
class will be a class
presentation by a team of students on the theorist(s) assigned for
that day. This presentation will be organized around one or more
graphics or tables that depict the theories being discussed. The
group of presenters will then entertain questions from the class and
instructor about the day's readings. In all class discussions,
objective is to make explicit both the mechanism(s) that underlies each
theory, and the ways that each theorist builds on (or can be
distinguished from) the ideas of other
whom we may already have discussed. As the semester proceeds, we
shall spend increasing time contrasting the week's theorists with those
discussed during previous weeks.
components in distinct theories that account for why they yield
the semester's third week, classes will begin with one-minute
of theorists that have been discussed in previous classes. These
brief syntheses will be given by individual students, who were assigned
to this task at the beginning of the previous class. Please note
that a one-minute synthesis is NOT a summary of what a theorist
It is a concise explanation of the theorist's understanding of how
works (i.e., of her theoretical mechanism[s]). Your skill in
these syntheses is expected to improve during the semester.
put, you are not expected to know how to synthesize theorists' ideas on
Day 1. This is why you are encouraged to seek help from your
as you strive to develop this skill.
instructor will also provide you with ongoing support in writing your term
paper. For example, no classes will be held on October 15th
or November 19th. Instead, during the week of October 18-22 we
scheduled student-instructor meetings, within which an outline
(due on Friday, October
will form the basis for jointly exploring
the topic and analytic strategy that you foresee for your term
On Friday, November 5th, a
of at least 5 articles or book
(other than those listed on the Readingspage) is due, and the term
is due on Friday of dead
week. In preparation for writing the
paper, a smaller position paper will be due on Friday, October 1st. The
assignment due for each of these 4 Friday deadlines is a Word document
e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
before midnight on the due date.
readings for the course (approximately 25 pages per class period) are
one of the the following texts:
Peter. 2008. Social Theory: Roots and Branches, 3rd
Edition. New York, NY: Oxford U. Press.
The following readings have been placed on
e-reserve at Parks Library:
Peter. 2003. Social Theory: Roots and Branches, 2nd
Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.
Robert K. 1938. "Social Structure and
Anomie." American Sociological Review 3:672-682.
readings are available in a packet of photocopies from Copyworks (105
Welch Avenue). A listing of each class's readings is accessible
the above “Readingspage” link.
Herbert. 1947. “Sociological Theory in Industrial
Sociological Review 12:271-278.
course involves students in “cooperative learning” for most
During the first week of classes, teams of about 3 students each will
assigned. These students will be responsible for making three
presentations during the semester, and they will usually meet twice
week to prepare class notes. Responsible teams will be listed in red
on the Readingspage. (For example, your instructor's name, Carl,
is listed as the “team” responsible for presentations during the first
two and the last classes.) You should keep checking the
to make sure your team does not miss its assignment to give a
Moreover, teams can choose their presentation assignments if they make
their preferences known to the instructor before a different team has
its desire to present a particular theorist(s).
presentations: At the beginning of each class, the team
for giving that day's presentation will distribute a handout to all
of the class. This handout should be comprised of sketches
or tables in which the key ideas in each reading are organized in a
way. Presentations should not summarize readings linearly (i.e.,
in the sequence provided by the author). Since everyone has read
(linearly) the author's words, such summaries would be repetitive and
waste precious time in class. Instead, presentations should
how the various parts of the theorists' ideas fit into a single
Moreover, please note that EVERYONE should have studied the assigned
prior to their discussion. Only if everyone comes to class
shall we all enjoy (and learn from) an informed discussion, right?
that your team's presentations should improve as the semester
Thus the same presentation will get a higher grade as a first
than as a second one. For example, summarizing (rather than
an article will earn a grade of A-minus on a first presentation, but a
B-minus on a second.
No later than 5:00 p.m. on the evening prior to each class, every team
(i.e., NOT every individual student) should submit 1-2 pages of
notes on the theorists to be discussed in the next day's class.
should be sent by e-mail to email@example.com
as a Microsoft Word document, and must consist of your team's work on
following five components:
notes will help me ensure that any misunderstandings of the theorists
be corrected in class. Note that team members will only receive
credit for their notes if they include all five of these
Also, make sure that you
during the class when they are discussed. If possible, notes from
the team responsible for the class presentation should include a copy
the team's handout within its Word file.
- A statement of the theorist's "why question." Every
sociological theory provides an answer to a question about why
behaviors are patterned in some ways but not others. For example,
Nancy White's "why question" might be phrased as, "Why do some people
remain lazy, deceitful children, whereas others become considerate
- A synthesis
of the theorist's answer to this question, in which the following
- What are
the theorist's key concepts?
- How are
these concepts defined?
- How are these concepts used to answer the theorist's why
- An explanation of what, according to the theorist, motivates
human behavior. The mechanism driving every social theory is
grounded in the theorist's conception of what motivates people to act
as they do. For example, Nancy White depicts people as having
either selfish or altruistic motives, and her theory is about why
peoples' motives are sometimes of one kind and sometimes of the other
on how the theorist's argument parallels or contrasts with the
of other theorists previously discussed in class.
- A table
or graphic depiction of the theorist's argument (possibly on a third
Please do not use "clip-art" in your graphics.
the material presented in this course does not "fit" with your ideas,
may experience feelings of annoyance, irritation, or outrage (but also,
hopefully, ones of challenge). Learning to experience the world
others' eyes usually has this effect. However, the learning
by such experiences can only happen if you are at least temporarily
to let go (or to suspend) your own mode of experience, and to adopt
of another. In fact, if you are always comfortable with the
material, this is very likely a sign that you are not learning much at
course is an opportunity to let “what you know is true” be challenged,
contested, and even shattered then reassembled at times. So,
be open to the different perspectives, theories, arguments, and life
brought to class discussions by your classmates. And, please be
respectful, and empathetic (or at least tolerant) of differences.
No one should claim ultimate knowledge of what is real or true.
course offers you a space for open discourse--for a dialogue to which
should expect to neither discover nor reaffirm “the Truth” in this
Instead, the course's primary focus is on your developing the
skill of revealing (or deconstructing) the theories behind others' words.
Although nonsociological texts could have been used, this skill is
during the semester based on the words of contemporary sociological
Thus a second objective is that you leave this course with a big
of the multifaceted ideas that comprise contemporary sociological