Introduction to Sociology (16 week)

(The complete syllabus is available as a PDF on Blackboard.)

What questions are we asking?

Through readings, discussion, and classroom activities, this course examines three main questions:

  • What does it mean to think sociologically?
  • How do sociologists study the social world?
  • How can we use sociology as a tool to understand and improve our lives?

What assumptions are we making?

Seeing the world from a sociological perspective means making some assumptions about people and how we related to each other, for example:

  • We are not simply individuals with complete autonomy and self-determination. We are social beings who both shape and are shaped by the social world around us.
  • There is nothing natural or inevitable about our current social world. People made this social world, and people can change it. Therefore, we should first consider how social worlds are constructed and maintained so we can imagine how they might be different.
  • Sociology is an integral part of a general education, and a sociological analysis of the world is useful and important.
  • Social justice is important. We need to study social structures that create inequalities, so that our studies can contribute to positive social change.

You don’t have to agree with these assumptions, however you will need to understand and apply sociological arguments, and to understand sociological analyses of inequality.

What are our goals?

The goal of this course is to provide you with tools to better understand the social world around you. To reach this goal, we will ask some specific questions, such as:

  • How are social forces influencing the spread of the coronavirus?
  • How are they influencing how people respond to mask and vaccine mandates, social distancing, and other safety protocols?
  • How are different groups affected by the social changes related to the pandemic?
  • What can we learn from this collection of information about the social world?

To do this, we will also:

  • Connect our “personal troubles” with the “public issues” of the social world around us, building what C Wright Mills famously called the “sociological imagination.”
  • Recognize and describe patterns of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality in our social worlds. 
  • Understand the relations between day-to-day social interactions, institutional processes, and national and global structures of power.
  • Expand our analytical skills of critical thinking and social science writing.

We will also learn to:

  • Understand what a sociological perspective looks like.
  • Analyze pieces of social life from a sociological perspective.
  • Apply important sociological concepts to social life.
  • Carry out social research.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of examples of sociological work.
  • Build convincing arguments using concepts and evidence.
  • Communicate effectively in writing.

By the end of the term, you will have done the kinds of day-to-day activities that sociologists do, such as research, thinking, reading, writing, and talking with other people about sociology. Most importantly, I hope that by the end of the term, you will have learned to ask questions about the social world. It is the asking of questions, rather than the finding of answers, that is the most joyous part of the sociologist’s job.

What materials do we need?

You are required to have access to a computer with internet access to complete the required work. The books for this course are available at the college bookstore, and also through online resellers.

Readings for Sociology
  1. Readings for Sociology. Eighth Edition. Edited by Garth Massey. 2015. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (ISBN: 978-0-393-93884-5)
  2. Introduction to Sociology 3e. Third Edition. OpenStax College. 2021. Houston, TX: Rice University. (ISBN: 978-1-711493-98-5 for hardcover, 978-1-951693-37-4 for paperback)
  3. Other readings are accessible online, through the COD Library website. Links to these readings are provided in the syllabus.
  4. You will need a subscription to the New York Times to access some of these readings. Luckily, the COD Library provides students with free digital subscriptions! Students can sign up for this free subscription via the Library website.

How will you determine my grade?

In this class, you will participate in class and complete quizzes, personal connections, worksheets, and three essays.

How much is each assignment worth?

Class participation5% of final grade
Personal connections10%
First essay5%
Midterm essay20%
Final essay20%

Make sure you complete all the assignments. Missing assignments count as 0%, not 50%. You have to complete the midterm and final essays to pass the class. I may also offer some extra credit assignments.

What score do I need for each grade?

I will compute your final grade as follows:


What happens in class?

I believe that students learn best by actively engaging with the course material, and not by memorizing names and concepts. Participation can include not just speaking in class, but also asking questions during office hours, and engaging with classmates through other means. Participation can also mean allowing quieter classmates to speak. It means engaging with ideas that are different from your own in a respectful manner, even when you may have serious disagreements. I encourage constructive criticism, but do not tolerate personal attacks.

Your participation makes up 5% of your final grade. If you anticipate any problems, please let me know in advance so we can make arrangements.

Per college policies, students who have not completed any coursework by the 10th day of instruction may be dropped from the class.

Class participation

I will mark absent students who are more than 20 minutes late to our class meetings. I will count arriving late to class by 10 minutes or more 3 times as 1 absence. Students who miss more than one-third of the class meetings without documentation of an illness or family emergency may fail the class.

I certainly welcome you to express your questions, concerns, and suggestions to me online, via email, texting, or during my virtual office hours. If you would like to contact me during my office hours, I am available by phone, text, and email. If you would like to meet with me via Zoom, please contact me by phone, text, or email to request a meeting.

What are your class policies?

Click here to access my policies for this class, including information on submitting late work, covid accommodations, and withdrawing from the class.

What are the weekly assignments?

Click here to access the weekly reading assignments. You can find more detailed information on the class Blackboard site.

Please note that all items in this syllabus are subject to change.