SOCI 100 (6 cr): Introduction to Sociology

SOCI 100

Course Sections: 99A / 99C

Instructor / Contact:
Dr. Neil Guppy
An/So Bldg, Rm 2107
Ph: 604 822-3670 (O)

Sociology 100 UBC Calendar Description:  Introduction to problems in the analysis of social structures and processes. Basic sociological concepts will be introduced and their application demonstrated in various areas of sociology. The course includes a survey of research methods, major theoretical trends, and representative works of contributors to sociology. Credits: 6

Teaching Assistants: TBA

Navigating Sociology 100:
In order to do well in this course, it is necessary that you:

  1. Complete all readings and assignments.
  2. Participate in the online discussion groups.
  3. Complete all assignments and exams.

Textbooks: Two books are required.  As well a set of readings aligned to each of the course topics will be available online.

  • Joel M Charon Ten Questions: A Sociological Perspective 7th Ed. Thomson.
  • William G. Roy Making Societies 1st Ed.  Pine Forge Press.

See also the Guide to Writing Papers and the Guide to Reading Critically, both on the course’s Vista web site.

Course Website:
Sociology 100 is delivered within WebCT Vista. You will need access to the Internet and a computer in order to take this course.

Grading distribution:

Graded modular assignments/discussions 48%
Discussion Questions (2% per unit=16%)
Assignments (4% per unit= 32%)
Independent research essay 15%
Midterm examination 7%
Final examination 30%*

*To pass the class, students must pass the final exam (i.e. achieve at least 50%).

1 Graded Assignments and Discussion Groups

There is an assignment or discussion report due at the end of each unit. These assignments require integration of material across topics in the unit. Assignments will vary across the units, but will involve both individual work and group work. Assignments will all require written submission although sometimes this will involve multiple submissions for the same assignment (and some peer reviewing of material).

The format for each assignment is essay style with a maximum of length of 1500 words.

Each assignment is worth 4% of the total mark (8 assignments worth 4% each making a total of 32%).

Discussion questions and group deliberation is worth 2% of the total mark (8 units worth 2% each making a total of 16%). Students will be asked to select one of their responses, which they feel is particularly insightful and reflects their best work, to submit at the end of each unit.  Their grade for discussion will be a combination of assessment of the sample response they submit as well as an assessment of the quantity and frequency of their participation overall.

2 Independent Research Essay

Students will be expected to write a research essay selected from a list of topics. The essay will require an outline first (ungraded) and then a finished paper of no more than 3000 words. This essay is due at the end of the 8th unit.

This essay consists of independent research that students will do on their own, with guidance and suggestions from the instruction team as needed and requested.

This assignment is worth 15% of the total mark.

3 Midterm Exam

There will be a midterm examination after the fourth unit. This exam will be worth 7% of the total mark for the course. This exam will be composed of multiple choice and short answer questions and students will complete it at home in a limited time period.

4 Final Examination

The final examination comprises 30% of the total mark and consists of two sections.

Multiple choice; there will be 40 multiple choice questions selected from all units. The questions will be similar in format and difficulty to the practice questions on the course website.

These multiple-choice questions are worth 40% of the exam grade.

Short essays

From a list of 8 essay topics, students will select 6 short essays to complete.  These short essays are worth 60% of the exam grade.

Course Topics and objectives

  • The course consists of 25 topics across eight units
  • Students must complete all 25 topics
  • As part of their studies in particular units, students will be required to explore independent in-depth research that goes beyond the coverage of course materials.

Sociology at UBC stresses two overarching themes in its focus: global citizens and sustainable civil societies. These are strengths of the Department and key areas of teaching and research interest. These two themes provide a broader thematic content for the course, linking across the various units to enhance interconnections and illustrative materials.

Unit 1 – Ways of Seeing

This unit provides students with a grounding in our taken for granted assumptions about how to view the world.  It challenges basic beliefs by subjecting different world views to scrutiny, both as templates that have influenced the development of western industrial societies and as frameworks that have allowed humans to presume they occupy a privileged place in the world. It argues that there is no perfectly objective standpoint from which to observe the world in some unbiased or undistorted way, while also arguing that there are accepted community standards by which our contemporaries do understand why some things are better than others, why some things work and other things do not, and why evidence is a viable medium for coming to agreement or resolving disputes.

  • Topic 1 – Topic: Introduction
    Objectives: Introduction to the course and online learning. Students learn about group participation and how to participate in group learning. Students will also participate in an ice-breaker to meet their groups of 30. A short reading on racism in the English language will provide an introduction to sociology.
  • Topic 2 – Topic: The Sociological Imagination
    Objectives: Sociology is fundamentally concerned with the connection between individuals and social structure. The Sociological Imagination is a lens through which one can look at the world, seeing the connection between individual biography and the history of society as a whole. Using the example of university participation over time, students will examine the ways in which their personal biographies overlap or diverge from the larger historical trends over time.
  • Topic 3 – Topic: Language and society
    Objectives: Society is more than just the individuals who compose it. The concept of society will be examined through the classic work of Durkheim. In addition, this topic examines the role of language in society, including the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which challenges us to see the ways in which language shapes our understanding of society. An example of the effect of sexist and racist language illustrates the power of language in society. (Introduction of the students to their small group of 5.)

Unit 2 – Social Construction and Socialization

Much of the complexity of the modern world comes about from our social inventions. Money as a medium of exchange and time as an organizational co-ordinating device are both examples of socially constructed phenomena that have profound effects on our lives. How this complexity is transmitted and negotiated intergenerationally also crease important problems for study.

  • Topic 4 – Topic: Science and religion as a ways of seeing
    Objectives: Recognize the various ways in which science and religion as cultural systems of authority can be understood and how those cultural systems have changed through time. Understand the widespread influence of ideas linked to Thomas Kuhn and his work on the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
  • Topic 5 – Topic: Social Construction
    Objectives: Identify how concepts like time, race, and money are constructions that depend upon shared taken for granted assumptions.  Realize how the definition of situations or concepts have real consequences for people’s lives.
  • Topic 6 – Topic: Socialization
    Objectives: Explore what it takes to become an adult member of society? Understand that socialization is an on-going process that is repeated with different levels of intensity as people proceed through life. Appreciate that socialization is a process of negotiation as well as a process of learning.

Unit 3 –  Societal Types and Globalization

Societies are not all of piece – they differ when compared both across time and space. Societal comparison provides useful insight into both social change and social uniformity. This unit focuses especially upon the development and spread of advanced industrial society.

  • Topic 7 – Topic: Types of Society
    Objectives: Explain core features of any society. Recognize the various ways sociologists have used to differentiate between different types of society. Consider how societies change through time. How did European feudalism transform into capitalism? How has capitalism globalized?
  • Topic 8 – Topic: Globalization
    Objectives: Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of different ways of thinking about globalization. Appreciate different types of evidence that shed light on globalization processes. Understand reasons for why globalization has occurred at this particular historical juncture.

Unit 4 – Population Processes

People – their numbers, composition, and distribution – have implications for many social phenomena. How is population growth best understood? Do these processes work in similar ways across different societies and world regions? What are the reasons for and consequences of a growing mobility in the world’s population?

  • Topic 9 – Topic: Population Growth and Movement
    Objectives: Recognize the various growth trajectories that have occurred around the globe.  Compare and contrast different explanations for growth. Contrast push and pull factors in explaining human geographic mobility.  Recognize differences between and reasons for temporary versus permanent relocation.  Discuss the advantages and disadvantages for host societies of different levels of in-migration.
  • Topic 10 – Topic: Religion
    Objectives: Historically religion has shaped our society and has reinforced its basic structure, such as our capitalist system.  In addition, religion works as a powerful socialization agent in society. The role of religion and its interaction with other institutions, such as education and government, will be examined.  In addition, the changing role of religion in society will be discussed.
  • Topic 11 – Topic: Multiculturalism
    Objectives: Understand the various meanings of this concept. Explore the ways in which the Canadian variant of multiculturalism can be understood as a success or a failure.

Unit 5 – Media and Ways of Seeing

This unit returns to themes of framing and sensemaking (Unit 1) by exploring the media as a major institutional form influencing more and more of social life and personal identities.  As well the unit ties in with issues of political economy (Unit 3) and socialization (Unit 2).

  • Topic 12 – Topic: Media Theories
    Objectives: Recognize the various debates about media messages, especially as reflected in McLuhan and Chomsky. Compare and contrast different explanations about audience effects.
  • Topic 13 – Topic: Political Economy of the Media
    Objectives: Understand how the ownership and control of the media has changed over time. Appreciate debates about factors that influence the messages of the media.
  • Topic 14 – Topic: Media and Spectacle
    Objectives: Understand the development of reality TV, especially in the guise of crime shows such as COPS. Consider whether such shows support or refute the ideas of McLuhan and Chomsky.

Unit 6 – Crime and Deviance

How is it that some activities come to be criminalized (e.g., marijuana use) while others are not (e.g., alcohol or cigarette use)?  Who decides?  Who benefits from such decisions?  Some abhorrent activities generate high levels of consensus as violations of rule-breaking (e.g., rape, killing of law enforcement officers).  Why do some people nevertheless commit such egregious acts?

  • Topic 15 – Topic: Crime and Social Construction
    Objectives: Recognize what counts as crime.  Understand how the nature of legal definitions exacerbates certain types of crime. Recognize how official statistics relate to the so-called trends in criminal activity.
  • Topic 16 – Topic: Explaining Criminal Activity
    Objectives: Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of various explanations for criminal activity. How the ownership and control of the media has changed over time.  Appreciate debates about factors that influence the messages of the media. Explore the issue of youth crime in Canadian cities by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a specific sociological research study.

Unit 7 – Social Inequality

Power and privilege vary both among individuals, nations, and world regions.  Along which dimensions of power is inequality most profoundly structured and how and why has this distribution changed over time?

  • Topic 17 – Topic: Social Inequality
    Objectives: Understand how social inequality is defined. Recognize the different dimensions along which inequality is organized. Understand that social inequality is a feature of all societies, although its form and extent varies. Compare and contrast different definitions of poverty.
  • Topic 18 – Topic: Race, ethnicity, and ancestry
    Objectives: Compare and contrast ways of understanding race, racialization, and ethnicity. Discuss how the concepts of race and ethnicity help or hinder in explaining inequality in different societies. Explore if these patterns have changed over time in different societies.
  • Topic 19 – Topic: Gender and Sexuality
    Objectives: Understand differences between sex and gender, recognize how gender inequality structures inequality and how those patterns of inequality have altered over time.  Recognize how sexuality is implicated in patterns of inequality.
  • Topic 20 – Topic: Social Class
    Objectives: Compare and contrast definitions of social class. Discuss how the concept of social class helps or hinders in explaining inequality in different societies.
  • Topic 21 – Topic: Processes of Inequality
    Objectives: Inequality is perpetuated over time through socialization.  In this topic, we will discuss how stereotypes are developed, why and how individuals become prejudiced, and how this can lead to overt discrimination. These processes are fundamentally social. We will examine the ways in which the social context can be altered and how this could reduce feelings of prejudice and discrimination in society.
  • Topic 22 – Topic: Inequality and Social Policy
    Objectives: Inequality features in all societies – why? Asked another way, what are the social drivers of inequality?  Inequality is a core aspect of human misery, with over one billion of our contemporaries eking out a bare existence on less than one dollar a day – the ‘bottom billion’. After exploring broad causes of social inequality, and its connection with human misery, we also explore issue of social policy – what can be done to alleviate inequality? Some forms of social organization promote a much more just and equitable distribution of human welfare and so we explore some possible solutions.

Unit 8 – Social Change, Global Citizens and Civil Societies

Globalization is an increasingly obvious process in the modern world.  For example, many people recognize the face of Nelson Mandela more easily than that of their neighbour.  What does this process (explored in Unit 3) mean for issues of citizenship, human rights, civil society, and environmental sustainability.  Globalization distributes both goods (e.g., human rights) and bads (e.g., global warming) and understanding the social processes underlying these flows is critical to our world.

  • Topic 23 – Topic: Social Change and Social Movements
    Objectives:  How is social change possible? This topic will introduce students to different routes to social change, including legal, cultural, electoral, and social movements.
  • Topic 24 – Topic: Human Rights and Global Citizenship
    Objectives: Understand different approaches to human rights.  Discuss how these rights are promoted and protected, or not, in various modern societies. Understand the origins of citizenship and the processes whereby citizenship rights were granted to increasing numbers of people. Realize the differences among sociologists regarding the best way to understand citizenship.
  • Topic 25 – Topic: Civil and Sustainable Societies
    Objectives: Understand various definitions of civil society. Appreciate the core role of trust as a key element in the institutions of civil society, especially the voluntary nature of such institutional relations. Understand the issues of environmentalism as related to social justice and inequality

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