Sociology / SOCY-101 Syllabus

Sociology / SOCY 101
Professor Tricarico

Research Projects with Guide for Writing Papers


Part 1: Subject Matter of Sociology 

  1. The general in the particular

    Mills maintains that sociology studies patterns of behavior in order to draw conclusions about a social issue that transcends the effect of the problem or issue on any particular individual.
    1. A behavior or event is “patterned” when it is recurrent. Find patterns in your everyday life for example, in mass media use, dietary choices, musical preferences, and clothing styles (e.g., a commitment to heavy metal music).
    2. Connect your particular, or personal, pattern to a more general pattern for a “group” or “category” of people (e.g., the core audience for heavy metal music is young while males). Is this a named pattern (e.g., youth culture)? Does it designate a social category (e.g., Metalheads, Nerds)?
    3. What generalizations can you offer to explain these patterns sociologically (e.g., heavy metal reflects and channels the symbolic rebellion of certain young males against adult authority).
  2. The group and the individual

    The French sociologist Emile Durkheim defined “the social” as a reality that is “external” to the individual and that “constrains” individual behavior.
    1. How is your involvement in a relationship (e.g., marriage), or membership in a group (e.g., a family), a reality that is outside of you as an individual? Specify when this social reality is named.
    2. Describe situations in which this reality “constrains” your behavior? Consider expectations to conform to group norms in regard to matters like dress (e.g., fashion), speech (e.g., jargon), beliefs, taste preferences, etc.
    3. Why do you submit to these social constraints?
    4. Does constraint and conformity leave room for your individuality? Elaborate.

Part 2: Culture and Socialization

  1. Agents of Socialization
    • Assess the role of “agents of socialization” (family, school, peer group, mass media) that shaped your “self”. Assess their relative importance distinguishing between “primary” and “secondary” influences.
    • How were they complimentary and how did they conflict?
    • Were there occasions when you rebelled against any of these influences?
    • To what extent was individual rebellion can be a function of socialization conflict?
  2. Age Norms

    Now he’s too old to rock and roll, too young to die.
    [Jethro Tull]
    • In what social situations do you act your age? When are you not acting your age? Explain by referencing the concept of age norms - social rules governing age-appropriate behavior.
    • Are certain achievements, responsibilities, or performances necessary to validate adulthood? What does this signify for the adult role?
    • In your culture, are there any events that publicly signify change in age status, in particular the attainment of adulthood?
    • To what extent does “becoming an adult” vary for gender? Is one sex more “adult” than the other?
    • Can you be “too old to rock and roll”? How does Jethro Tull’s lament illustrate the emergence of the “childlike adult” (i.e., the blurring of major age categories)? [In order to answer this question you have to understand the cultural significance of rock n’roll].
  3. The Social Self
    • G.H. Mead and C. Cooley maintained that the “self” is a social product. Evaluate this position by considering how you have learned to “see yourself” by internalizing the “point of view” of “significant others” (e.g., family, teachers, age peers, media figures).
    • Use actual experiences to evaluate Goffman’s point that the individual can shape what others “see” via the “management of impressions” and “expressions”.
    • What self do you “present” to others? Does this vary from one situation to another?

Part 3: Family

  1. Dating and Courtship Patterns

    Interview someone in your parents’ or grandparents’ generations about their experience with dating and courtship. Specify the time frame and locate the experience in the social structure to the best of your ability (e.g., class, ethnicity, gender, religion). Ask if you can make “generalizations” from their “particular” experiences. Contrast with patterns for your generation. Note relevant distinctions for gender.

    With your case in mind, differentiate between courtship and dating. Remember, elements of both may be present. Take into account the following factors:
    • How is the couple relationship initiated? Consider the extent of individual choice and family and peer influences.
    • When does dating or courtship begin? Are relationships placed “on a clock” leading to marriage?
    • What are the social constraints on who dates whom? Are they the same for eligible marriage partners (i.e., endogamy)?
    • Discuss the major courtship rituals?
  2. Rules for Forming Family
    • To what extent is marriage the socially accepted route to family formation in your community? Cite statistics where available.
    • Would you characterize the typical family form as nuclear or extended? Explain.
    • What is family’s relationship to the kinship group? Consider rules for naming children and residence patterns (who is included in the household and the proximity of kin households).
    • Is the conjugal or spouse-centered family becoming more prevalent at the expense of kinship solidarity?
    • How is conjugality related to the independence of the young and the erosion of parental control of mate selection?
    • Have any alternatives (e.g., out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation) become institutionalized in lieu of marriage? Does the “pair bond” alternative have a name (e.g., “baby daddy/mama”)?

Part 4: Social Stratification

  1. Individuals are positioned in status hierarchies. Interview someone to ascertain their subjective sense of position in society (i.e., where they believe their status to be).
    • How do they conceive of their social status or position in the social hierarchy? Do they measure their status in terms of wealth and income, occupation, and education? Do they describe their status in terms of social class? Take the opportunity to ask them about their sense of the class system including the extent of inequality and its causes.
    • Does their sense of social positioning refer to ethnic stratification? Elaborate.
    • How “objective” is their “subjectively” experienced sense of status? In other words, interpret their self-described status from a sociological perspective.
  2. Interview someone about the types of capital (economic, social, cultural) available to them as they position themselves in society.
    • Assess relative amounts of each type and “consistency”.
    • Differentiate for capital that is inherited versus capital that is achieved by the individual.
    • Where do they believe their capital places them in society? Why?
    • Where do you believe their capital places them? Why?
  3. Interview someone who is consciously styling their lives for prestige or “distinction” on the basis of consumption.
    • What is the basis of prestige claims (e.g., fashion, cars, jewelry, cuisine, travel and vacations, house)?
    • Describe the status group or social hierarchy that ranks people by prestige (e.g., the Hamptons, “players and haters”, “in crowd” and “losers”, “popular kids and wannabes”).
    • Is there media representation and validation, e.g., the MTV show, Cribs?


Guide for Writing Papers:

Social Sciences Disciplines

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