490: Current Issues in Sociology
Welcome to your senior year in sociology! The primary objective of this course is to deepen your grasp of sociological thinking through study and discussion of recent literature in the field. In addition, some attention will be paid to helping senior majors select a thesis topic and develop a problem statement and literature review for the thesis that you will be completing in the Spring semester.
In-Class Presentations and Discussion:
Following the first class meeting, there will be 3 class sessions where we meet in two sections of approximately 9 persons each, to discuss a book written by Charles Lemert called Social Things. Two faculty members will attend and participate in each section. Sections will meet in either the Prentiss or Douglas Hall conference rooms. In each section, a team of two or three students will be responsible for presenting the day's assigned reading material -- to summarize basic arguments, define key concepts, and raise various questions and criticisms -- after which the class will open up to a general discussion. Then, after a few weeks focused on the thesis process and careers in sociology, the class will meet in two sections again, this time with each section led by groups of two or three students (with the readings listed below in the course schedule). Presenting teams will be formed by random assignment during the first class period.
How we assign grades for team presentations:
Each student in the class will be responsible for two presentations, each worth 15% of your final grade. To help everyone get to know one another, and to facilitate as much diversity in discussions as possible, presenting teams will rotate out to the other section the week following their presentation. Faculty members will also rotate on a weekly basis.
The faculty encourages presenting teams to meet with them prior to class to discuss the material and consider possible formats for its presentation. Please arrange these meetings as far in advance as possible, and come to them on time and prepared with questions or ideas for discussion. While not a direct part of your evaluation, these discussions can have a major impact on the quality of team presentations, which are a portion of your final grade.
Your team will earn an "A" if it meets all the criteria below:
- Briefly but thoroughly summarizes the key concepts and arguments of the assigned readings for the day
- Draws connections both between the readings and to broader issues in sociology
- Effectively facilitates the participation of everyone in class
- Incorporates the email reactions of class members to the readings
- Equally divides the labor between presenters
- Shows preparation and creativity in its presentation
Your team will earn a "B" if your presentation could be improved in one or two areas listed above, a "C" if improvement is needed in about half of the areas, and a "D" or "F" if many or most of the criteria need improvement.
How we assign grades for participating in discussions:
All students in the class are expected to read carefully the assigned readings for each class period. You may find it useful to make a copy of each reading, and bring it with you to class on the day that we discuss it. You will be evaluated on your discussion participation on the five days that you do not present a reading. These five days of discussion grades will add up to 30% of your final grade.
- You will earn an "A" if you contribute substantially in a quantitative sense and move the discussion forward by making insightful and relevant remarks, referring to specific passages or arguments in the text.
- A "B," if you contribute only once or twice but still manage to move the conversation forward with insightful and relevant remarks.
- A "C," if you contribute minimally in a quantitative sense, and your remarks were off topic or failed to engage the discussion.
- A "D," if you were a physically present but otherwise an inert mass during discussion.
- A zero, if you miss a discussion without a good reason.
E-mail Group Reactions:
For the class periods involving readings, each section will divide itself into several discussion groups (of no fewer than 2 students and no more than 4 students each) to complement the presenters. These groups must arrange to meet prior to class to discuss the readings and compose a short (200-300 word) reaction to them. Written reactions must be emailed to everyone on the class ListServ (email@example.com) no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday preceding class in order to give everyone an opportunity to read and reflect on them. Please note that presenters are not required to do this for the articles they present. They must, however, integrate group reactions in some way into their discussion-leading. Students must rotate their membership in these groups, so that teams are made up of different combinations of people for each class.
Thoughtful reactions can take many forms, including critical assessments of an article's importance or relevance, the quality of its research, its limitations, its connections to other readings in the course, its practical or theoretical implications, counter-arguments, and so on. However, reactions should address all the readings for a given day, not just one of them. All emails must be electronically "signed" by the students who generated them. Students should print copies of all the questions they receive and bring them to class. Reactions will be graded by the faculty according to the following criteria: check-plus = thoughtful reaction submitted on time; check = minimal effort but submitted on time; 0 = not submitted on time or not turned in. What is the difference between thoughtful and minimal reactions? Thoughtful reactions draw connections to other readings, previous class discussions, outside readings, larger sociological issues, contain more than just a summary, and are written efficiently.
Together, these 5 e-mail reactions will be worth 10% of your final grade in the course.
Students are expected to attend all scheduled classes, and any absences must be excused. If you must miss a class for an excused reason, please inform either Professor Bogard or Janning before class meets that week. Each unexcused absence will result in a penalty of one letter grade (of your final course grade).
The Senior Thesis:
1. Written Resources: For your information, and as general resources as you anticipate and begin work on your thesis, copies of the following books have been placed on reserve in the library.
- The Sociology Writing Group. 1998. A guide to writing sociology papers, 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press.
- Johnson, William A., Jr., Richard P. Rettig, Gregory M. Scott, & Stephen M. Garrison. 2004. The sociology student writer's manual, 4th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Rudestam, Kjell Erik, & Rae R. Newton. 1992. Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Pyrczak, Fred, & Randall R. Bruce. 1992. Writing empirical research reports: A basic guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing.
- Krenzin, Joan, & James Kanan. 1997. Handbook of the mechanics of paper, thesis, and dissertation preparation. Washington, D.C.: ASA Teaching Resources.
Each of these books is directly relevant to planning, researching, and writing a high quality senior thesis, and the faculty strongly recommends that you make use of them both this semester and next.
In addition to these resources, sociology honors theses are available in the library. These are often helpful to students who wish to see examples of successful theses in sociology, both in terms of content and format.
2. In-Class Resources: There will be several class days devoted exclusively to thesis preparation. Topics will include: information literacy, views from alumni/ae on the thesis-writing process, discussion of thesis due dates and procedures, and examination/critique of past theses for format ideas.
A. Problem Statement: On October 7th, there will be a special meeting of all students in Maxey 207 to discuss various aspects of the senior thesis process. On October 14th, please bring 4 copies of a short (2 pages) typed statement of your potential thesis topic, and be prepared to give a brief one or two minute explanation of it for the rest of the class. Your problem statement must include a list of at least 5 sources that you have examined for ideas on the topic. You must also meet with at least one faculty member in the sociology department (the 4 listed on this syllabus) to discuss your topic. In your problem statement, please include a paragraph describing this discussion -- which faculty member and what the conversation entailed. Since problem statements are likely to be tentative at this early point in the senior thesis process, they will not be assigned grades. The faculty will collect these at the end of class and will give feedback. A note about honors thesis applications: Honors candidate applications are due in class on October 14th. Please turn in your problem statement along with a completed honors application form that you can print off the Registrar's Office web page.
B. Thesis Proposal: This semester, you will write a 10-12 page paper describing the thesis topic which you intend to investigate next semester. This paper must include a) a clear statement of your thesis problem; b) the presentation of a clearly sociological perspective -- either theoretical and/or empirical -- that serves to frame your problem; c) a review of the literature relating to your problem, based upon and referring to at least fifteen appropriate journal articles or books drawn from professional resources such as Sociological Abstracts and the Social Science Citation Index, etc. (you are advised to develop this section carefully in consultation with departmental faculty to determine which materials are most relevant to your problem); d) a concluding section entitled Next Steps (1-2 pages), in which you describe how you intend to proceed with your project next semester; and e) a full reference section in proper sociological citation format, citing each of the sources which you referred to in your paper.
These papers will be read and evaluated by each of the four instructors, and grades will be assigned according to the following criteria: a) the clarity, originality, and overall importance of the problem which the student has chosen to investigate; b) the extent to which the approach which will be taken in investigating this problem is (largely, if not exclusively) sociological in nature; c) the presentation of a review of the literature, grounded primarily in the discipline of sociology, which pertains directly to the issue in question; d) the quality of the paper as a piece of written work; and e) the inclusion of a full, properly formatted bibliography of the sources utilized in the paper.
Due December 9. Please make FOUR COPIES of this paper (one for each faculty member), double-sided (to save paper), typed, and double-spaced.
30% -- 2 in-class presentations (15% each)
30% -- 5 discussion participation grades (6% each)
30% -- 10-12 page Proposal
10% -- Group e-mail reactions (5 x 2% each)
SCHEDULE OF CLASSES, READINGS, AND ASSIGNMENTS:
9/2 -- Introduction and Initial Class Discussion: all students and faculty meet in Maxey 207. Read Lemert: Introduction
9/9 -- Lemert: Section I (The Sociological Life) Chs. 1-3
9/16 -- Lemert: Section II (Sociology) Chs. 4-7
9/23 -- Lemert: Section III (Social Things) Chs. 8-12
9/30 -- Information literacy day. All students meet in Maxey Computer Lab.
10/7 -- Special meeting to discuss thesis preparation & past thesis projects.
10/14 -- Special meeting to discuss senior thesis logistics and next steps. All students meet in Maxey 207. Please bring four copies of your thesis problem statement with you and be prepared to summarize and discuss it in class. Please note that there will be a party for all sociology majors at Michelle Janning's, 1103 Figueroa, following class.
10/21 -- Special meeting to discuss career options in sociology. All students meet in Maxey 207. Please prepare and bring a copy of your personal resume to class.
Reserve Reading: Billson, Janet Mancini, & Bettina J. Huber. 1998. Embarking upon a career with an undergraduate sociology degree. Washington, D.C.: American Sociological Association.
Read also "Careers in Sociology," a short but very helpful document at http://www.asanet.org/student/career/homepage.html. This web page provides links to all of the individual chapters found in the document.
For the next few classes, here are instructions for finding the full-text articles online (for those that are available online):
- Go to http://orbis.goldrush.coalliance.org
- Type the journal name (e.g., Sociological Perspectives)
- Select "Journal Title" from the pull down menu
- Click "Full Text Resources"
- Click "Search"
- From there, look under "Full Text Resources Online" and you'll see links to online journal home pages, or other search engines that allow you to type in article titles, or find the volume listed in the citation. From there you can find the title of the article, view it, and print it as a PDF file.
10/28 -- Student Teams 1A & 2A Prentiss & Douglas Conference Rooms
Erickson, Karla. 2004. Bodies at work: Performing service in American restaurants. Space & Culture 7(1): 76-89.
Jones, Meredith. 2004. Architecture of the Body: Cosmetic surgery and postmodern space. Space & Culture 7(1): 90-101.
11/4 -- Student Teams 1B & 2B Prentiss & Douglas Conference Rooms
Foerster, Amy. 2004. Race, identity, and belonging: "Blackness" and the struggle for solidarity in a multiethnic labor union. Social Problems 51(3).
Rawls, Anne Warfield. 2000. "Race" as an interaction order phenomenon: W.E.B. Du Bois's "Double Consciousness" thesis revisited. Sociological Theory 18(2): 241-274.
11/11 -- Student Teams 1C & 2C Prentiss & Douglas Conference Rooms
Ritzer, George. 2003. Rethinking globalization: Glocalization/Grobalization and Something/Nothing. Sociological Theory 21(3): 193-209.
Kellner, Douglas. 2002. Theorizing globalization. Sociological Theory 20(3): 285-305.
11/18 -- Student Teams 1D & 2D Prentiss & Douglas Conference Rooms
Turnbull, Neil. 2004. Thinking and the art of furniture. Space & Culture 7(2): 156-172.
Richardson, Tim, & Ole B. Jensen. 2003. Linking discourse and space: towards a cultural sociology of space in analyzing spatial policy discourses. Urban Studies 40(1): 7-22.
12/2 -- Alumni/ae views on the thesis writing process. All students meet in Maxey 207.
12/9 -- End-of-semester class party at Keith Farrington's house, 709 University Street. Four copies of Thesis Proposal due, one for each professor. All papers are due on this date, no exceptions. Please also turn in class evaluations on this date. Have a happy holiday!