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Introduction to Sociology

SO1110/1111/1120/1121Introduction to Sociology (10 ECTS credits)

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

Module Content/Outline: 

Sociology is one of a group of social sciences which includes economics and politics. These disciplines seek to explain individual behaviours and social patterns through the interaction of individuals in social groups (families, neighbourhoods, societies). What’s social about these disciplines is that they believe that patterns of social behaviour are the outcome of group processes, that is, emergent patterns from the interaction of individuals within groups or the influence of shared beliefs and expectations on how individuals act. The first six weeks of SO1110/SO1120: Introduction to sociology in Michaelmas Term provides students with an understanding of what is ‘social’ about the social sciences and the core mechanisms of sociological analysis. Week by week the course then shows how varieties of these core mechanisms have been used across a number of substantive areas in sociology to account for patterns and outcomes both within and across societies. The module also provides an introduction to the ways in which sociologists collect evidence and data and the ways in which these are used in research projects.

This module introduces students to the discipline of Sociology. 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. It will examine contemporary sociological concepts applied to the study of specific ‘real-world’ phenomena by covering topics like the transition from an industrial to a post-industrial society, recent demographic transformations and its relationship to changes in the nature of occupations, family forms, gender roles and ethnic diversity in our society. The module also pays attention to the consequences that recent socioeconomic and population changes have had on social inequalities. Special attention is given to the rapid social, demographic and cultural changes occurred in industrialised countries over the last decades, using examples of real quantitative and qualitative studies from Ireland, Europe or North America.

Learning Objectives:

Students successfully completing the module should be able to:

      • Explain the main contemporary sociological theories and concepts that have been developed in recent decades.
      • Use sociological theories and concepts to identify and understand the main social changes that have occurred since 1945.
      • Use examples of quantitative and qualitative empirical research that serve to test the validity of existing sociological theories.
      • Identify and apply sociological theories to real world social phenomena, particularly for the case of industrialised countries in the European context.
      • Understand how evidence can be used to differentiate between better and worse explanations in social science.

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:

Students will be expected to have read the articles and book chapters listed under ‘required readings’ and are strongly urged to read the literature listed under ‘suggested readings’. Obviously, the list of recommended readings is not comprehensive and you are free, indeed encouraged, to read beyond the reading list.

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


Multiple Choice Exam (100%)
A 1500 word essay in Hilary Term (100%)

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