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Introduction to Sociology

SO1310/1311 Introduction to Sociology (10 ECTS credits)

Lecturer(s): Prof Richard Layte and Dr Pablo Gracia

Module Content/Outline: 

This module introduces students to the discipline of Sociology. Sociology enables us to understand and critically explore the social world in which we live. The module introduces students to the distinctive questions that sociologists ask about human society and the theories, concepts and analytical tools used in the search for answers. Students are encouraged to develop a ‘sociological imagination’ in order to understand the inter-relationships and dependencies between the individual, society and wider global processes.
The first term of the module explores why we need a sociological approach to the explanation of human behaviour and the historical emergence of sociology as a way of understanding key issues in social life. It then examines core sociological processes such as how social norms shape behaviour, the structure of social networks and the roles of social capital, social conformism and group identity. The module also examines issues of social stratification and inequality and the role of educational reproduction in this plus the dynamics of social movements and collective action. The module provides an introduction to the nature of explanation in sociology as well as the methods which sociologists use to gather data and analyse their data.
The second term of the module applies different sociological concepts to empirical research using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Topics covered include patterns of migration, demographic transformation and its relationship to change in the nature of occupations, family form and gender roles. The module will also examine the consequences of these changes for social inequalities. In addition, the module will examine some of the policy responses to these changes and how they vary across different countries in Europe and North America. Special attention is given to the rapid social, demographic and cultural changes that have occurred in the Irish society in recent decades.

Learning Objectives:

Students successfully completing the module should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a general knowledge of Sociology as a discipline, outline the chronology of the main periods of development of human society, and recognise the canonical theorists referred to in the module;
  • Discuss and understand key sociological concepts such as social networks, social capital, social norms and social institutions and the application of these concepts to issues in education, ethnicity, family relationships, social stratification and inequalities and social movements;
  • Compare and contrast different theories about key dimensions of society;
  • Compare and contrast the main quantitative and qualitative methods in the research process;
  • Articulate an informed and independent argument in discussions and examination questions;
  • Demonstrate an ability to apply theoretical concepts in the analysis of real world sociological issues.

Lectures &Tutorials/ Contact hours:

Two lectures and one tutorial per week.

Workload: Lectures: 44 hrs; Tutorials: 22 hrs; Exams/assignments: 44 hrs; Self-study: 140 hrs. Total: 250 hours.

Recommended Texts / Key Reading:

The main textbook recommended for purchase is:

  • Macionis J. and K. Plummer (2012) Sociology: A Global Introduction, Harlow: Pearson Education/Prentice Hall Europe (5th edition).

Please note that this textbook is available from Hodges Figgis bookstore as ‘Introduction to Sociology’ compiled by Daniel Faas and Elaine Moriarty (Pearson Custom Publishing).

All other resources will be on reserve in the library and/or on Blackboard in folder SO1310/1311. The Blackboard folder is updated regularly (


Multple Choice Exam (30%)
A 1500 word essay in Hilary Term (70%)

Attendance at tutorials is compulsory. Failure to attend at least half of the tutorials will automatically result in a 10% (one full grade) deduction from the overall module grade.

Penalties for late submission: Without an authorised extension, the mark given will be lowered by one grade