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

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Dariusz Gafijczuk
  • Co-Module Leader: Dr Chris Moreh
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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. The synchronous and asynchronous delivery 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. Here, the blended delivery will be supported by various online activities 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
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Timetabled PiP sessions (2hr x 11)
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00PiP (timetabled)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1137:00137:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time31:003:00Q&A, online live sessions, timetabled
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

In 23/24, like in the previous year most of the teaching will be delivered through the PiP method, as historically I have found this is of the greatest benefit for stage 1 students, as they become integrated into the university structure and a new mode of intellectual work. The remaining synchronous and asynchronous elements of the module will deliver key knowledge and concepts with regard to theory and methods and relate these to the sociological issues of contemporary relevance introduced in lectures. Through live instruction, as well as blended delivery of materials students will be able to interrogate theoretical constructs working with concepts and various epistemic frameworks. Through online methods and theorizing activities, students will practice working with methodological tools and theoretical paradigms. Both the synchronous and asynchronous modes of delivery will further the accumulation of knowledge and development of analytical skills by performing a series of tasks designed to put this knowledge to use.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Case study2M50Approx 2000 words. Case Study asks for a critical. epistemological evaluation of a contemporary issue of social and political relevance
Case study2M50Approx 2000 words. Comparative, methodological evaluation of two sociological studies.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Case Study 1 will test students’ ability to analytically engage a modern phenomenon of current relevance by using theories and epistemological tools learned in the first half of the module. It will test students’ skills in theorising by asking them to apply and contrast theoretical perspectives relevant to case study based on the current anti-vaxxer movement, thinking about knowledge construction and varieties of ‘factual’ information. Similarly, Case Study 2 will test students’ skills in comparative evaluation and understanding of the strengths, weaknesses as well as appropriateness methodological tools they have practiced during the module including interviewing, presenting data in tables and charts, appraising a research report.

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

Reading Lists