Sociology 331: Foundations of Sociological Theory
Queens College, CUNY, Spring 2014 / Instructor: Nicole Hala, PhD / email: / Office hours: Wednesdays, 4-6pm, Powdermaker 252-GG, or by appointment

“Social theory is what we do when we are able to put into words what no one else seems to want to talk about.” -Charles Lemert

Course description:
This undergraduate course is intended to introduce students to the foundations of sociological theory, from its classical roots to its contemporary branches.  Beginning with sociology’s “Big Three,” Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, this course examines many of the central concepts, analytic frameworks and theories social researchers use to understand and explain the social world.  As we review a range of approaches to fundamental sociological concerns such as power, inequality, authority and identity, we assess how well the Western founders of sociology illuminate contemporary social problems in a global context.

This course demands active engagement with abstract concepts and requires in-depth and careful reading – typically, multiple readings.  It is therefore imperative to complete the assigned reading in advance of class meetings. Doing so will vastly increase your comprehension of lectures, making it more likely that the ideas presented will “click.” The SOC331 blog is integral to the course and will serve as a hub for critique and discussion outside the classroom. As co-authors of the blog, students will post short responses to the assigned reading and other posted material, as well as comment on their classmates’ posts.

Course objectives:

  • To master the vocabulary of sociological theory
  • To critically analyze the major theoretical traditions, their basic assumptions, key concepts, main arguments and major representatives
  • To apply key concepts and ideas to everyday life and to current and past social problems
  • To demystify sociological theory and build an understanding of theory as the basis of sociological inquiry

Course content: The required text, Sociological Theory in the Classical Era: Text and Readings, 2nd Edition by Laura D. Edles and Scott Appelrouth (Pine Forge Press), can be purchased for $89 (at the QC bookstore) or rented for $45.  All remaining course material (texts, podcasts, videos) can be found on the course blog (on Schedule/Content page) and is marked on the schedule below with an asterisk (*).

Course requirements, grading policies, and classroom etiquette: Requirements include: a midterm exam (25%) and final exam (30%), as as well as active participation in class discussion and on the course blog, where students are required to post responses (5 in total) to the assigned reading (30%); and an optional (short, theory-application) essay (15%).  Again, reading of assigned course material in advance of discussion is critical, and necessary for effective participation. Unexcused absences, lateness, or lack of preparation for class discussion will result in a lower final grade. If you miss class, you are expected to get notes and announcements from a classmate. Make-up tests will be offered only for students with justifiable emergencies. There will be no extra credit.  Once class begins, phones must be set to vibrate or turned off.   Laptops are permitted, but internet use for any “non-theory” purposes is forbidden and will be penalized.

Students are bound by the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity.

Excerpts from the CUNY Policy Statement on Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in CUNY.  Penalties include academic sanctions, such as failing or otherwise reduced grades, and/or disciplinary sanctions, including suspension or expulsion.

Definitions and Examples of Academic Dishonesty:

1.1. Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise. Examples of cheating include:

  • Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work.
  • Unauthorized collaboration on a take home assignment or examination.
  • Using notes during a closed book examination.
  • Taking an examination for another student, or asking or allowing another student to take an examination for you.
  • Changing a graded exam and returning it for more credit.
  • Submitting substantial portions of the same paper to more than one course without consulting with each instructor.
  • Preparing answers or writing notes in a blue book (exam booklet) before an examination.
  • Allowing others to research and write assigned papers or do assigned projects, including using commercial term paper services.
  • Giving assistance to acts of academic misconduct/ dishonesty.
  • Fabricating data (in whole or in part).
  • Falsifying data (in whole or in part).
  •  Submitting someone else’s work as your own.
  • Unauthorized use during an examination of any electronic devices such as cell phones, computers or other technologies to retrieve or send information.

1.2. Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own. Examples of plagiarism include:

  • Copying another person’s actual words or images without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source.
  • Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source.
  • Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.
  • Internet plagiarism,  including submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, or “cutting & pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.

1.3. Obtaining Unfair Advantage is any action taken by a student that gives the student an unfair advantage in academic work over another student, or an action taken by a student through which a student attempts to gain an unfair advantage in academic work over another student. Examples of obtaining unfair advantage include:

  • Stealing, reproducing, circulating or otherwise gaining advance access to examination materials.
  • Depriving other students of access to library materials by stealing, destroying, defacing, or concealing them.
  • Retaining, using or circulating examination materials which clearly indicate that they should be returned at the end of the exam.
  • Intentionally obstructing or interfering with another student’s work.

The full policy may be found at CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity.


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