This course acts as an introduction to major theoretical perspectives used in sociology. In addition to familiarizing you with the ideas of well-known social theorists, this class will also give you tools for critical thinking in general. Doing well in this course will require more than just memorizing other people’s ideas. You will also have to apply those frameworks of thought to new situations and learn how to develop your own thinking in a systematic and clear way.
The beginning of the course will consider what “theory” is and does. From this discussion, we’ll identify a natural division between those social theories that focus on “individuals” and those that focus on “society” we will use to organize the rest of our course. In the first half of the quarter, we will compare two two classes of perspectives that focus on individuals and in the second half, two that focus on society. As we consider each pair, it will become clear how it is possible to paint very different pictures of the exact same world just by beginning from a different set of simple, reasonable sounding assumptions. In the process of taking on these different perspectives and learning to use them in your analyses of the social world, you will not only gain new insights into society but also greatly increase your own analytical skills.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This course is writing-intensive and meets the criteria for writing (“W”) credit. As such, in addition to exams, quizzes, and participation, two papers will also be required.
Foundations of Social Inquiry
The world is full of claims about what is going on in our society. Some say we need gun control and others say we do not. Some say sexism and racism are still major issues, others disagree. Some say we are safer than ever while others say we have never been more at risk.
Politicians, activists, and the media are all examples of the sorts of groups who have major agendas in making you think certain things are happening. But what is really going on in your society? The purpose of this class is to give you the tools you need to sort out the facts from the hype. By the end of this course, not only will you be able to decide for yourself what is going on in society, you will also know how to skillfully back up your own claims with evidence and logic. Along the way, you will learn how to read and interpret academic articles, formulate research hypotheses, develop plans for empirically testing those hypotheses, understand and interpret social statistics, and learn to distinguish between good and bad social science research.
Applied Social Statistics
As the sole teaching assistant for UW’s 3 quarter, graduate-level applied social statistics sequence, I have experience teaching a wide range of statistical material to students coming from a variety of math and programming backgrounds. Some examples of the concepts I have taught include but are not limited to: the basic properties of probability distributions, principles of representative sampling, ANOVA, basic multivariate linear regression, interaction terms, dummy variables, methods for dealing with problematic data (e.g. identification of outliers, heteroskedasticity), logistic regression, regression with count data and categorical data as the dependent variables, Maximum Likelihood Estimation, and basic computer programming concepts required to work with Stata and R.