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SOC1031 : Knowing in Sociology: An Introduction to Theory, Methods and Epistemology

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Dariusz Gafijczuk
  • Lecturer: Professor Tracy Shildrick
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Central to any academic discipline is the question of how we get to know what we assert, whether it concerns the laws of nature or society and human interaction. This module will explore this question of ‘epistemology’ - ‘how we know what we know’ by building on the semester 1 introduction to sociology (Imagining Sociology). The module will introduce students to central theoretical ideas about Sociology as a specific type of practice and ‘analytical consciousness’ whilst also discussing what theories ‘do’ and how they come about. It will then turn to introducing key concepts and skills in methods, showing how methods and theory interrelate in the production of academic knowledge. The module prepares students for compulsory theory and methods modules in Stage 2, helping to build a foundation for independent inquiry in sociology and social anthropology as the degree progresses.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will begin with an introduction to the structural framework that underpins the discipline of sociology. Lectures and seminars will focus on epistemology, looking various frames of reference in sociology and closely related fields, to show that what we see is closely is derived from how we see. We use various frames of reference and conceptual schemas that support divergent ‘lived environments’ to expose this process. The lectures will be supported by three seminars and one two-hour workshop emphasizing the practical application of epistemology/theory.

In the second part the module will turn to focus on methods: introducing quantitative methods, qualitative methods, ‘methodology’ and ethics in research. The seven lectures will be supported by five two hour long workshops during which methodological skills will be tried out and practiced through students exploring and collecting data on the theme of work in the UK. The module finishes with a return to theory in relation to methodological approaches and work.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture211:0021:0021 lectures, two of which are assignment preparations/Q&A sessions.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading163:2063:20N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching31:003:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice120:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops62:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery20:200:403x2 hr slots for assessment feedback; students typically sign up for a 15-20min slot per assignment.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures deliver key knowledge and concept with regard to theory and methods and relate these to the sociological issue of work. In seminars and workshops students will be able to interrogate theoretical material working with these concepts, in methods workshops students will practice working with methodological tools and methods such as tables, charts, numbers, interviews, research reports. Both seminars and workshops further the accumulation of knowledge through putting this knowledge to use and the development of skills in theorising and researching. Between workshops students will complete tasks for independent skills practice and for assessment. Two sessions on assessment allow staff to introduce students to these, explain details and field queries.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination902A50N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M25The assessment on methods will ask students to compare two different studies on poverty and evaluate. Approx 1,000
Written exercise2M25Take home exam, asking to analyse a ‘social fact’ through different frames of reference. appr.1000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam will test crucial knowledge on both theory and methods at the end of the module to ensure that learning outcome are met, i.e. that students are familiar with the basic concepts and terminology they need to do well in subsequent modules in stages 2 and 3.

The take home exam will test students’ ability to reflect on and discuss two theories which they have learned about in the module. It will test their skills in some basic theorising by asking them to apply and contrast two theoretical perspectives to case study materials on the theme of work. Similarly, the methods portfolio will test students’ skills in applying some of the methodological skills they have practiced during the module including interviewing, presenting data in tables and charts, appraising a research report.

The combination of all three assignments ensures that the key learning outcomes of this module with regard to both knowledge and skills have been achieved.

Reading Lists