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Sociology 212 – Course Description
This course is concerned with "what constitutes a good explanation." How does a social scientist decide that one explanation of a given set of events is more valid than competing explanations? What standards of judgment are appropriate? How do we decide? One way to approach this question is to look closely at the arguments and assumptions of a particular text and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Another way is to look at conflicting interpretations of a particular set of events and then try to decide which interpretation is better. We use both approaches. The aim of these detailed examinations will be to develop skills and sensitivity in social scientific analysis. We will pay particular attention to the advantages and limitations of various research strategies, to the questionable assumptions which may be hidden in research techniques, and to the grounds on which one interpretation of events is judged to be better than another. We also, in very practical and concrete ways, learn some of the basics of social science research methods. Sociological Analysis is both an introduction to social scientific analysis, and to social science methods. It is a course which has broad applicability and portability, one relevant to all the social sciences.
In the course, we pay attention to the differences between the different social sciences, to the differences between the social sciences and the natural sciences, and to the differences between social scientific and historical forms of explanation. Students learn to distinguish between nomothetic and idiographic forms of explanation.
The heart of the course will involve learning how to use the social research techniques demonstrated in the readings, to help you evaluate research done by others and to plan how to do research of your own. There will be a number of short papers, which are intended to give experience in particular research skills. The assignments may be thought of as stages in a research project. The first assignment is to identify a particular social science research topic.
The next step is to explore the literature. For this assignment, we have two workshop computer lab sessions to introduce students to bibliographic resources. The result is an annotated bibliography. The next assignment is to write a research review of the most important literature relevant to the research topic. The final project will be to write a research proposal in which the research topic is restated as a research question.
In this paper, students propose a plan for research to gather data to answer the research question. Along the way, there are a number of short exercises to provide hands-on experience with various skills and analytic techniques. There is also a midterm exam and a final exam.
Area of Knowledge and Inquiry: Analyzing Social Structures (SS) Context of Experience: Not Applicable Extended Requirement: Not Applicable
Credits: 3 Prerequisites: Soc 101; or Anthro 101;or Econ 101; or FNES 106; or HSS 1; or PSCI 101; or URBST 101 Existing Course: Existing Existing Course Number: Soc 212 Course Anticipated to be offered: Every Semester Other (if specified): Number of Sections: 9 Number of Seats: 225
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