About the Curriculum
The curriculum in sociology is designed to develop a series of skills in students. These skills are cumulative and begin with those developed in the introductory courses. The skills are developed and expanded in second- and third-level courses and culminate in the capstone experience of a seminar course and the senior oral examination.
Introductory courses in sociology
By the end of an introductory course, students should be able to:
• have a working familiarity with the list of major concepts in Sociology (above).
• identify and find sociology journals in the library and/or in electronic databases such as JSTOR and Academic Search Premier.
• Conduct an electronic search of the journals on a topic of interest.
• evaluate and critique a published article; decipher what is important in a research article such as purpose, methods, and findings; begin to distinguish between anecdotal information and sociological research as ways of knowing.
• identify the major paradigms in sociology.
• be familiar with different sociological research methods for investigating sociological questions.
• develop critical thinking skills in which they formulate their own understanding of American society, how it works and how it is shaped by issues of power and privilege.
• develop an appreciation for the impact of race, class, and gender upon social life.
• demonstrate skills in finding sociological data on the web.
• illustrate their understanding and appreciation of the sociological imagination and demonstrate skills in asking sociological questions.
Second-level courses are courses which tend to serve a broad audience of both majors and non-majors (Criminology; Globalization; Conformity, Deviance, and Identity; Gender and Sexuality; Families in Society; Race and Ethnicity; and Childhood and Youth). Students in second-level courses will:
• hone skills in asking sociological questions.
• learn and apply more specific concepts relevant to subfields
• apply at least one of the major theoretical paradigms of sociology to a specific area
• examine the impact of race, class and gender upon specific areas of social life
• develop awareness of the intersection of race, class and gender.
• construct and write a feasible research proposal.
• complete a group research paper
• formulate an hypothesis and propose a method for testing it.
• formulate a research question and investigate it
• produce and evaluate a literature on a particular subject.
• begin developing the ability to collect and analyze data on sociological topics
• develop oral presentations on sociological research where at least some of the students in the class have not read the research
Third-level courses in the sociology curriculum are primarily for majors or minors or other students who have particular interest in the discipline. As noted in the college catalog, in general, students should have had at least two other courses in sociology and anthropology before taking these courses. Some of them may employ the skills acquired in Research Methods. In these third-level courses, students will:
• continue to develop the ability to collect and analyze data on sociological topics. For courses focusing on quantitative research projects, students are expected to be able to use SPSS to do simple analyses in different topic areas.
• develop a more sophisticated ability to do a literature review and connect it to research.
• develop oral presentations which include their own research.
• continue to apply the major theoretical paradigms of sociology to a specific area
• develop a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of race, class and gender upon specific areas of social life
The final level of skill development in the sociology curriculum comes with the capstone course. In this course students each work on their own individual projects and develop skills which allow them to:
• discuss and evaluate empirical research articles as a group, highlighting the purpose, methods, findings, and strengths and limitations of each scholarly piece
• devise and carry out a semester-long individual research project
• develop a research question
• develop a mastery of a specific body of literature
• collect and analyze data
• synthesize literature with findings
• write a formal sociology paper with the following sections: introduction, literature review, methods, findings, discussion.
• report the results of that research in relation to the existing body of knowledge.
• listen to the reports of others and provide constructive criticism in a community of scholars.
The descriptions above outline the types of learning outcomes that we hope students will achieve at each level in the curriculum. After completing the sociology major we hope that students will be able to illustrate and apply their understanding and appreciation of the sociological imagination as well as demonstrate skills in framing sociological questions. A central part of C. Wright Mills’ description of the sociological imagination is the ability to distinguish between personal troubles and public issues. As part of developing this sociological imagination, we hope to cultivate in students an ability to reflect upon their experience and synthesize the material from all of their sociology courses, including the central importance of race, class and gender. In the senior oral final, for example, students may be asked to reflect upon contemporary newspaper articles using the sociological imagination. Further, they might be asked to outline how a sociological study could examine a specific research question related to a social issue in contemporary society.
(This set of cumulative skills was first formulated at a curriculum meeting with Dr. Dan Hilliard, Dr. Edward L. Kain, and Dr. Maria Lowe, 19 July, 1995. It has been revised several times, with the most recent revision completed in May 2013 by Dr. Reggie Byron, Dr. Edward L. Kain, Dr. Maria Lowe, and Dr. Sandi K. Nenga.)