Detailed Descriptions of Sociology Courses

SOC 100 Introduction to Sociology (3 hrs)

Several sections of this course are taught every semester. This course is designed as an overall introduction to the field of sociology. The course generally begins with an introduction to the goals of sociological research, the methods used by sociologists, and some of the basic concepts of what "society" and "culture" are. This course will include study of the major social processes (socialization, deviation, stratification, power, and social change) and how they develop in the context of major social institutions: gender, race, the family, the economy, the educational system, the political system, and many more. For example, in this course you might look at how race is related to the educational system in the United States, at how owners of businesses relate to their employees, or at who does the housework in families where both the husband and wife work full-time. A main goal of this course is to develop a "theoretical perspective" on these kinds of things; in other words, sociologists are not just interested in "the educational system" or "gender relations," but in understanding why things are the way they are, and how they came to be that way.

SOC 105 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (3 hrs)

Dr. Bhavani Sitaraman

This course introduces you to the discipline of anthropology through a focus on cultural anthropology. The course explores how anthropologists define and study "culture" and cultural differences. You will learn key concepts and theoretical perspectives in cultural anthropology and apply them to original ethnographic texts you read. You will also learn to apply anthropological ideas to understand culture in everyday life and in the context of contemporary global issues. The course is organized around the following topics: (a) origin and development of anthropological approaches to culture (b) fieldwork and ethnographic description of cultures (c) cultural materialism and idealism as perspectives (d) kinship and marriage (e) power, prestige and inequalities (f) religion, art and symbolic systems (g) politics (h) cultural change.

SOC 150 Sociological Perspectives on Science and Technology (3 hrs)

Dr. Richard Simon

Science and technology are inextricably linked with every aspect of daily life. Our ideas of progress and advancement depend on assumptions about science, technology, rationality, and expertise, in areas from stem cell research and global warming to space exploration and quantum physics. Science and technology hold and exert an amazing amount of power to influence how we think and what we do, in every single area of our lives. In this course we take a sociological approach to science and technology to ask some basic (and often unconsidered) questions about how science and technology work. We consider how the social forces that shape other aspects of our lives also shape, and are shaped by, science and technology, and we consider how the ways we produce science and technology both reflect and contribute to other social issues, such as gender and racial/ethnic stratification, government interference in private lives, religion in public life, and conflicting visions of humanity’s future.

In addition to sociology, this course fulfills core requirements of the Science, Technology, and Society cognate, and it has been approved for GER Credit (Area III or V) for the College of Liberal Arts.


Note on prerequisites: The sociology courses listed below are open only to students who have completed SOC 100. With the exception of SOC 303 and SOC 435, there are no other prerequisites (but see recommendations preceding 400-level courses below).

SOC 102 Analysis of Social Problems (3 hrs)

Dr. Kyle Knight

In this course, we will use the sociological perspective to examine social problems in a variety of institutions, such as the economy, education, and health care.  Topics to be covered include drug abuse, unemployment, divorce, and poverty among others.  We will be exploring different approaches to understanding the causes of social problems as well as social responses to them.  We will also discuss how these problems are framed and perceived by various social groups.  The goal is for students to learn how to apply the sociological perspective to understanding important contemporary social issues and the social actions and policies that attempt to address them.

SOC 202 Research Methods (3 hrs)

Dr. Mitch Berbrier

Research is the process by which social scientists answer focused questions. This course deals with the logic and practice of social research. You will gain a conceptual and practical understanding of the process of social science research. Students will acquire useful skills such as understanding of measurement, operationalization, sampling, and how decisions regarding these issues affect the research results. The course will also explore the ethics and politics involved in social research and how they affect the design, execution, and presentation of research. This course will be conducted as a seminar and students will present and lead discussions of research articles. At the beginning of the term, each student will pick a research topic in consultation with the instructor that will be developed into a research project during the term. The topics discussed in class will have practical applications for your research project. This is not a course in statistics. Do not panic if you dislike numbers. You will gain a conceptual understanding of statistics and the ability to interpret some basic statistics presented in research articles.

SOC 206 Marriage and Family (3 hrs)

Dr. Richard Simon

This course introduces the sociological study of the institution of the family and familiarizes students with the basic theories, concepts, and techniques used by contemporary sociologists to study family. There is a particular effort to provide an opportunity to examine the diversity of family forms with the United States and in other societies, and to question common assumptions made about the functioning of the family. This examination will take into account the historical changes in the family in a multicultural environment. The course also focuses on helping the student develop an understanding of the relationship between family and other social institutions, such as the economy and the polity. This understanding should include an examination of how public policy affects families and how the organization of families affects public policy. We will examine the roles, positions, and structures of the family institution and learn how to assess and critique the research on family dynamics. There are typically three in-class exams and a global project presentation and paper.

SOC 302 Sociological Theory (3 hrs)

Dr. Christina Steidl

From, "How does society hold itself together?" to "What is the basis of our 'self'? — these are the types of questions pondered by sociologists since the beginning of the discipline. This course explores sociologists' basic questions and the theories they pose to address them. Beginning with the classic statements we trace ideas as they are expressed through theorists' writings through contemporary presentations. Theoretical positions are further understood within the context of modernization and the times in which authors write. Students will be able to engage in the theoretical debates that form the basis of the sociological enterprise, and keep the discipline dynamic and lively. Through writing and discussion we decipher, critique, apply, and sometimes even develop social theories. This is a senior-level course that should be of interest not only to majors in sociology, but students of philosophy, political science, and psychology as well.

SOC 303 Statistics for the Social Sciences (4 hrs)

Dr. Kyle Knight / Dr. Bhavani Sitaraman

This course is required for all sociology majors because familiarity with statistical methods is an integral part of understanding and participating in sociological research. This course is an introduction to the basic concepts and skills involved in performing statistical analyses of quantitative social data. In the first part of the course, we will concentrate on descriptive statistics. These include measures of central tendency, variation, and distribution that allow social scientists to describe social phenomena. We will then move on to inferential statistics, which allow social scientists to infer types of relationships between two or more variables. The concepts and skills learned in this part of the course include calculation of measures of association, calculation of confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing, including an introduction to basic regression methods. Throughout the course, you will also learn how to use a statistical package of computer software (SPSS) in a weekly lab session in order to perform and interpret statistical analyses of social data. Assessment will consist of three exams, homework and lab assignments. Prerequisite: 3 hours college math.

SOC 306 Sociology of Gender (3 hrs)

Dr. Richard Simon

Gender is an ever present feature of our daily lives and of our social organization. The sociological study of gender allows us to see how the meaning of gender is constructed for both men and women, and the consequences this has for our everyday lives and social institutions. In this course, we examine the sociological perspective of gender and familiarize students with the basic theories, concepts, and techniques used to study gender. This helps develop an understanding of current issues concerning women and men in society, such as female/male relations, the social change of roles in the economy, family, and polity; and their importance to society at large. Many different critical perspectives are used in this class and the student gets exposed to various ways to view gender. No matter how you thought about gender before, you'll have an additional way to think of it after this course.

SOC 319 Deviance and Social Control (3 hrs)

Dr. Mitch Berbrier

This course is designed as a general survey of the sociology of deviance and social control. More specifically, this course is about perspectives on deviance: methods of looking at deviance and deviant behavior, as well as approaches to controlling that behavior. We take a somewhat historical approach to the literature. Early in the course we look at the development of some non-sociological perspectives (the demonic, classical, and pathological perspectives), and also discuss some of the traditional sociological approaches (control theory, functionalism, opportunity theory). Then we engage some of the more contemporary cultural perspectives in more detail (especially constructionist and interactionist perspective) and conclude with conflict perspectives (including the Marxist and feminist views). While we will look at how some social scientists have conceptualized why "others" are so weird, sick, cruel, deviant etc., and exactly what they think (or thought) we have to do to fix them, we will spend much of our time looking at the process of deviance -- how people come to be understood as "deviant," the consequences of being labeled "deviant," and how "deviants" deal with the experience. In addition to the readings, course material will include several feature length motion pictures, and students should be prepared to either rent these, view them at the Salmon Library, or in some cases attend scheduled on-campus screenings of them outside of the regularly scheduled class period. Grades will be based on analyses of those films and approximately four exams.

SOC 325 Sociology of Education (3 hrs)

Dr. Christina Steidl

This course will analyze schooling from a sociological perspective. Some of the questions we will address include: What are the effects of schooling? How does education fit into society as a whole? How does schooling contribute to both social mobility and the reproduction of the prevailing social order? We will also examine policy issues, including school funding, ability tracking, and the No Child Left Behind Act. The course will also utilize a comparative perspective, presenting descriptions and analyses of the educational systems of other countries as a means of evaluating the American system. (Same as ED 325)

SOC 330 Sociology of Race and Ethnicity (3 hrs)

Dr. Mitch Berbrier

This course is designed as a general and broad introduction to the scientific study of social processes related to ethnicity and race, with a focus on the United States and a secondary focus on global issues. The groups most frequently discussed in the course will be white Americans and the "white ethnics," black and/or African Americans, Latino and Asian Americans, and American Indians.

Issues addressed in the course include the following: how ethnicity and race are social and historical constructs; assimilationism and cultural pluralism; immigration and immigrants; the causes of ethnic pluralism in America; discrimination, institutionalized racism, and racial inequalities; residential segregation.

The course is taught primarily using a lecture format. Readings include three books (The Ethnic Myth, Ethnicity and Race, and Who is White?) and several articles placed on reserve. Grades will be based primarily on performance on four or five exams which may include all types of questions (multiple choice, short answers, and essays).

SOC 340: Special Topics: Medical Sociology (3 hrs)

Dr. Isaac Sakyi-Addo

This course is designed to overview major issues in the sociology of health and medicine. Medical sociology and sociology of health are much more practical ("applied") than many of the other branches of sociology. For this reason, the primary emphasis of the course will be to develop and deepen sociological understandings of selected empirical issues.

SOC 340: Special Topics: Sociology of Law (3 hrs)

J. Dale Gipson, J.D.

The field of Sociology of Law asks a number of questions, including:What is the relationship between law and society? Can laws produce social change or vice versa? Where do laws come from and what are their effects on different members of a society? How can sociology contribute to understanding how laws are made, or how legal systems work in different places and times? What is the relationship between law and social control? What is the role of law in effecting or precluding social change? In this course students will examine some of these and other questions from a multi-disciplinary framework. The course is taught by Dale Gipson, J.D., a local lawyer working at Lanier Ford. In 2004, Mr. Gipson graduated from UAH with a major in Sociology.

SOC 340: Special Topics: Sociology of Tourism and Travel (3 hrs)

Dr. Bhavani Sitaraman

Pilgrimages, safaris, cattle drives, heritage tours, cruises,package tours, native tours, cannibal tours, disaster tours, theme parks, and even, slum tours represent the breadth and specialization of contemporary domestic and international tourism. Sociology of Tourism is a serious study of the practices of travel, leisure and consumption in contemporary societies. For sociologists, tourism raises interesting questions about the nature of modern life and the quest for authentic, novel and pleasurable escape from ordinary routines. Have you ever wondered why some people love to travel and others dread traveling to unfamiliar places? Why do some places become designated as tourist sites while others are considered ordinary? Why do we seek authentic experiences of culture and heritage when we travel? What makes a cultural experience “authentic?” What is the impact of tourism on host economies, cultures, and environments? This course takes up some of these questions by examining (a) motivations for tourism (b) the touristic experience and social interactions between tourists and hosts, (c) the social construction of tourism sites and the commodification of culture, and (d) the social and ecological consequences of tourism. The course will include exams, one research project based on field research of a tourist site, and class participation through brief presentations and discussion.

SOC 340: Special Topics: Sociology of Sport (3 hrs)

Dr. Jason Smith

This course is intended to introduce students to the sociological analysis of sport. This analysis will focus on the rationalization of sport and physical activity, the Prolympic Feeder System of elite level sport, the stratification of both amateur and professional sport systems in the U.S. (in terms of class, race, and gender), and historical developments leading to the institutionalization of sport in its present form.

SOC 350 Social Stratification (3 hrs)

Dr. Christina Steidl

This course on stratification and inequality looks at social class, social status, social mobility and how these are related to power. We will address fundamental questions like why does inequality exist? Where does it come from? What sustains or changes structures of stratification and inequality? To answer these questions we will examine theories of stratification, trends in inequalities and policy strategies to deal with inequality primarily in the United States.

SOC 369 Environmental Sociology (3 hrs)

Dr. Kyle Knight

Environmental sociology explores the ways in which human societies and the natural environment interact and shape each other.  We will engage with the major debates in the field of environmental sociology over the last few decades in an attempt to understand the challenges and options humans face as we confront our global environmental crisis. We will investigate from a sociological perspective a number of currently recognized environmental problems and issues, such as climate change, natural resource consumption, pollution, and population growth.

SOC 375 Social Psychology (3 hrs)

This course examines many "real life" issues from a perspective that provides an interface between psychology (causes due to characteristics of individuals) and sociology (causes due to societal structures). For example, homelessness may be explained in terms of addiction or lack of initiative (psychological analysis) or in terms of an inadequate educational system or poor economy. We will examine both levels of explanation in this course, using both culture (e.g., ethnicity, nation) and gender as lenses for examination. More specifically, we will compare and contrast individualism and collectivism as value systems and as motivators of behavior. Topics will include development and maintenance of attitudes as well as persuasion techniques. We will also study social perception (self concept and group concepts) as they impact stereotyping, prejudice, intergroup relations, and aggression. Students will engage in several web-based class projects. This course can be applied to either a Sociology or to a Psychology major or minor (depending on the prefix of the course in which the student enrolled) or as an elective in the Women's Studies minor. Either SOC 100 or PY 101 is a pre-requisite for this course.

SOC 376 Mass Media in America: Theory and Criticism (3 hrs)

Dr. Pavica Sheldon

This course explores Western media from production to consumption. We will discuss how cultural factors work to shape the way media products are made, filtered, and generated and the way we as audiences make use of the media messages we see. Overarching issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and bureaucracy are all part of our media system, so in this class, we work to not only identify such moments, but to find value in what may seem like an institutionally controlled landscape. The class relies heavily on film and television clips and the final project includes creating a media literacy campaign proposal. The class requires a great degree of student participation and discussion and active engagement with the material and outside resources. (Same as CM 430)

SOC 390 Readings and Individual Research (3 hrs)

Supervised readings or in-depth research or both in area of specialized interest to student or instructor. Permission of instructor. May be taken twice for credit with advisor's approval.

The department strongly recommends that the following 400-level courses be reserved for those who have taken several sociology courses and have junior or senior standing, or have permission of the instructor. Some courses may have other prerequisites.

SOC 410 Sociology of Childhood (3 hrs)

Childhood is not simply a stage on the way to adulthood. It has sociological meaning in its own right. This course will examine the main sociological theories and studies concerning childhood in industrial societies, and will include some cross cultural comparisons with childhood worldwide. While we will look at the basic socialization process, we will also extend to critical thinking about the meaning and construction of childhood. This will include topics such as the historical development of childhood as a separate stage of life, the impact of state intervention and social policies on the experiences of childhood, the social construction of issues like child abuse, and the interface of parenting and other social roles. The study of childhood has impact on many aspects of our social and political world, and this course will help us see how powerfully our conceptions of childhood affect us all.

SOC 415 Sociology of Globalization (3 hrs)

Dr. Bhavani Sitaraman

Why do we find McDonald's in China and Chinese take-out in the U.S.? Is Bollywood simply another example of Hollywood's worldwide reach? What are out-sourcing and off-shoring, and what does it mean for American workers and consumers? Why are some countries rich and others poor? Is globalization a new fad or an old story? If you are interested in answers to these questions about the global economy, politics, and its impact on cultural change, this course will provide a systematic analysis of economic developments and cultural conflicts in a global context. We will examine the processes of modernization and globalization and their impact on cultures, economies and environments of developing societies. A central theme guiding this course is inequality in global economic relations. The world economy and its evolution is the primary lens through which we investigate changes in cultures and their implications for people living in developed and developing countries.

Goals of the Course: (1) To help students understand the importance of a global approach to understanding contemporary social problems such as inequality, hunger, war, overpopulation, and environmental pollution; (2) To provide theoretical tools to understand some key issues in global economic and political relations; (4) To ensure basic familiarity with economic concepts that figure in debates about globalization and (5) To instill a curiosity for learning more about global and international issues.

SOC 435 Sociology of Social Movements (3 hrs)

Dr. Christina Steidl

This course looks at the social processes involved in Social Movements, understood as relatively organized efforts to achieve social change. Examples include The Civil Rights Movement, The Christian Right, various women's movements (e.g suffrage), as well as Pro-Life, Lesbian and Gay Rights, and Anti-Globalization movements. Here are some of the questions we may address: How do movements begin? How do social contexts impact movement processes? How are people mobilized to activism? Which people? Which strategies and tactics are used and why? Why is "being organized" important - or is it? Why do movements decline? What constitutes success? Grades will be based upon performance on two open book exams, a major research paper in the form of a research proposal, and participation in discussions of course readings and in research seminars. The course presumes an advanced level of sophistication in sociology. It is aimed at Juniors and Seniors who are pursuing the Major or Minor in sociology and who have already taken several upper level sociology courses. This course can also be used for credit in the Women's Studies Minor or the Global Studies Minor. Prerequisites: SOC 202 and SOC 303, or permission of the instructor.

SOC 440 Sociology of Religion (3 hrs)

Dr. Bhavani Sitaraman

SOC 440 is a senior-level course designed to introduce advanced undergraduate students to the sociological aspects of religious beliefs and institutions. In this course, we will investigate questions like: (1) Has society become more "secular" over time? (2) What factors are relevant to the success or failure of religious movements? (3) What is religion? Does it matter how we define it? (4) How do changes in non-religious "stuff" (e.g. the economy, educational system, immigration patterns, technological developments etc.) influence religion, and (5) in what ways can religion itself be a force for social change (or for maintaining the status quo)? It is imperative that students who are interested in this course understand very clearly that this is not a course on religious philosophy or theology: Sociologists of religion research the interaction between religion and social life. In other words, the purpose of the sociology of religion is to do sociology, not to do religion. And so we analyze religion in much the same spirit as when we study "the family" or "the stratification system."

Substantively, there will be a general emphasis on the United States. The class time will be divided between a traditional lecture format (early on) and an advanced seminar format (latter part of semester). In addition to examinations, much of the coursework will involve developing a major term paper in the form of a detailed research proposal related to the sociology of religion. A level of sociological sophistication, including the ability to engage in independent reading and research, will be presumed from the beginning of this course. Thus, while not formal pre-requisites, rigorous upper-level courses in sociology, and particularly SOC 202 (Research Methods) and SOC 303 (Statistics for Sociology), can be helpful in the successful completion of this course.

SOC 480 Sociology of Science and Technology (3 hrs)

Dr. Richard Simon

This course examines the ways in which social and cultural processes constitute the sciences and technological systems, and the ways in which scientific and technological advances shape cultures and societies on a global scale. The course begins by contrasting sociological analyses of science with traditional historical and philosophical approaches. It then moves on to ethnographic studies of scientific institutions, practices, and controversies, and concludes with readings on the politics of science. This final section of the course considers the uneasy relations that obtain among scientific experts, the state, and various public constituencies in democratic social orders.