Course: SOC101
Instructor: Nelson
F 2018

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

The goal of the course is to give students a broad introduction to the discipline of sociology, which is the systematic study of human groups, institutions, and societies. The course aims to provide students the tools necessary to explain how foundational concepts of sociology apply to the social world, apply theoretical orientations of sociological thought to social reality, compare methodological approaches, and recognize the impacts of socio-cultural change on societies.

The course is divided into four main units: sociological concepts and methods, social institutions, social inequalities, and social change & dynamics. The first unit gives an introduction to important foundational information in the field in sociology, the second and third units expose the student to new concepts and applications in sociology, and the final unit starts to look at more current sociological problems and projections about the future.

I think it is important to have a good understanding of the first unit material if you want to thrive in the rest of the course. The key figures and theories introduced in the first unit remain relevant throughout subsequent material, so getting a good grasp on the first unit will help you to understand and synthesize later content much better. Creating flashcards for this material or going to office hours early in the semester to ask questions would be good strategies to make sure you understand the content presented in the beginning of the semester.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Within the four main units, each lecture addresses a different topic that is analyzed from the sociological perspective, such as “Social Control and Deviance,” “Authority and the State,” and “Stratification.” Lectures often addresses the readings, but also introduce new concepts or new applications related to the topic of the lecture. At the beginning of the lecture, forms are passed out to all students which ask what the most interesting thing they learned was in that lecture, what they are still confused about, and what they want to learn more about. These forms are submitted at the end of class and make up a portion of the participation grade. It is a good strategy to think about how you would answer these questions throughout the lecture and perhaps mark sections of your notes that address topics that were particularly interesting or confusing to you. Doing this during lecture ensures that you won’t have to spend much time after the lecture is over filling the form out. Other important thing to note is that the teacher does not allow computers for taking notes unless you have special accommodations. So make sure to get a notebook if you are thinking of enrolling in this course. Note that in my semester, pop quizzes were given at the beginning of some classes (a coin was flipped to determine whether it would happen). If interested in the extra credit, it would be crucial to do the readings in advance of class and to get to class on time.

Most of the reading is done in the textbook and is thematically paired with the lecture topics in the course. There is typically also an additional reading, such as an article or book chapter that presents research or introduces other important concepts related to the lecture’s topic. The reading and lecture material does often overlap, but neither in isolation will give you a full understanding of the material. The best practice for learning from the reading is to do it in advance of class. When the reading is brought up in lecture, you can check your understanding of the reading and take notes on any key points you missed or any additional insights the professor has on it.

The purpose of precept in this course is to be an applied discussion of the material that is covered in readings and lectures each week. It is an opportunity to further discuss the themes covered in the course and to get questions answered. The precept agenda is partially influenced by the forms filled out in each lecture detailing personal interests and confusions of the class, so make sure to fill that out thoughtfully in order to have a better precept. In order to get all your questions answered, it is a good idea to look through notes prior to precept to see if there was anything that confused you in that week’s lecture or readings.

Learning For and From Assignments

Understanding the function of course tasks and what learning methods and processes they require help students align their learning with instructional purposes. Additionally, assignments and tests are not only parts of the course where knowledge and skills are learned and practiced also reveal the skills and knowledge most valued in the course. Reflect on the prompts, questions or problems on exams and other assignments as well as what counted as a good answer to clarify the kinds of knowledge and thinking skills students will need to master in this course. In short, what types of knowledge, skills and ways of thinking are most important in this course?

Each of the three short papers required for the course gave students a choice of 3-4 prompts. The papers were expected to be composed of observation/reflection and written analysis. Some of the prompts required looking at additional materials, such as a film, images, or another reading that are provided in order to do the initial observation and reflection. I’d recommend selecting paper topics by what you are personally interested in, even if it means doing extra reading. Ultimately, the paper will be more interesting to write if it is a topic that interests you. While the papers are relatively informal, it is important to include substantial analysis in addition to personal observation and reflection.

A slightly longer book review paper is another element of the course. Students expected to both summarize the book, through including key points like the author’s thesis, the research methodology, and the evidence presented, and evaluate the strengths and limitations of the book. Marking key points, evidence, methodology, and making a note of any sections that strike you as being problematic or effective while you are reading will make it easier to write the review.

The midterm consisted of multiple-choice questions related to the course content. Doing well on it requires a good understanding of major concepts and figures in sociology, as well as the arguments in the non-textbook readings. A pretty comprehensive midterm review sheet was provided. Given that answering the questions will likely require returning back to notes and readings, writing out answers to questions asked in the review sheet is a great way to review. It could also be useful to make flashcards for key terms and figures on the review sheet to to ensure you have a good grasp on the material.

The take-home final exam consisted of short answer questions that requires the student to synthesize material introduced in readings and lectures throughout the course. There was no time limit and all course resources (that is, readings, notes, lecture slides) were available for use. The exam is a good opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the material throughout the course, so careful reading and thoughtful explanation of important material should allow students to be successful on this exam.

External Resources

Your preceptor is a great resource, particularly if you are taking the course because you are considering a major in sociology. I met with my preceptor to discuss sociology as a potential major, and she was very helpful to me in trying to understand my academic interests and suggesting professors she could imagine to be good matches as thesis advisors.

The textbook also has online content that allow you to learn more about sociology topics that are interesting to you. In creating the textbook, the author interviewed a lot of interesting people. While the interview content is briefly addressed in the text, the full interviews are all available online.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Students in this course can be expected to get a broad overview of the discipline of sociology, and to begin to apply their sociological understanding in the writing assignment. This class is required for sociology majors, but also can be applicable to most Princeton students since the course studies topics like social groups and institutions, which are important to understanding society.No previous knowledge in sociology is expected. In fact, this would be a good class to take in your freshman year if you are considering a major in sociology. There are quite a few assignments in this course – weekly responses for precept, three short papers, one midterm, one book review, and one take-home final --- so beware that you will have to keep up with these assignments. The most valuable benefits I took from this class were an increased knowledge about sociology and interest in the topic. In providing examples that allowed me to connect what I was learning to my own life, I felt like the course offered me a great introduction to the discipline that makes me excited to take more sociology classes in the future.

Introduction to Sociology

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