Introduction to Sociology

Purpose of Course  showclose

Sociology is the scientific study of society. As such, it closely examines human interactions and cultural phenomena, including topics like inequality and urbanization and the effects of these on groups and individuals. To do their work, sociologists rely on a philosophy of science called positivism, which you will study in Unit 1. The philosophy of positivism asserts that authentic knowledge, or truth, can only be gained through empirical observations. In other words, we need to be able to experience our observations or use scientific measurement with a form of sensory experience, as opposed to using faith-based or emotional experiences.

Another central concept to sociology is that of the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination allows sociologists to make connections between personal experiences and larger social issues. For example, did you know the U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world? In order to understand this trend, sociologists use scientific methods to make concrete connections between social issues like sex education in schools, sexualization in the media, and poverty and the personal issue of teenage sexual activity and pregnancy.

This course is designed to introduce you to a range of basic sociological principles so that you can develop your own sociological imagination. You will learn about the origins of sociology as a discipline and be introduced to major sociological theories and methods of research. You will also explore such topics as sex and gender, deviance, and racism. As you move through the course, try to develop your sociological imagination by relating the topics and theories you read about to your own life experiences.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to SOC101 Introduction to Sociology. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Kathryn Coleman

Primary Resources: This course makes primary use of the following online textbook:
  • Rice University: Nathan Kierns, Eric Strayer, Heather Griffiths, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, and Sally Vyain’s Introduction to Sociology
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials, including the assessments. Pay special attention to Unit 1 and Unit 2, as these lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced material presented in the later units.

In order to pass this course, you will need to complete the final exam and earn a grade of 70% or higher. Your grade on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you finish it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for it, you will need to work through all the reading assignments and the accompanying assessments in the course.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 95.25 hours. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit in order to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you approximately 13.75 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete Subunit 1.1 (a total of 5 hours) on Monday, Subunit 1.2 (a total of 8.75 hours) on Tuesday and Wednesday night, etc.

Tips/Suggestions: Make sure to review the learning outcomes and time estimates for the course and those set out for each unit. Keep these in mind as you work through the course materials and take notes on each of the resources in the course. These notes will be a useful review as you study for your final exam.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • define sociology and its purpose;

  • define and discuss sociological imagination;

  • use the sociological perspective or imagination to interpret or describe social phenomena, such as racism, sexism, and deviance;

  • describe and critically discuss major theoretical perspectives, such as conflict theory, structural functionalism, and symbolic interactionism; and

  • apply sociological concepts to observable events and social issues.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    have competency in the English language; and

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: Introduction to Sociology  

    In this unit, you will be introduced to the discipline of sociology. You will learn about the development of sociology as a field of research and discover various theoretical perspectives central to the study of society. You will also take a look at the process of sociological research and explore different ethical concerns social scientists and researchers face in their work. In addition, you will learn why it is worthwhile to study sociology and how sociology can be applied in the real world.

    For example, did you know that sociologists helped the Supreme Court end “separate but equal” racial segregation in the United States? It might also interest you to know that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Robin Williams, and First Lady Michelle Obama, were all sociology majors.

    Sociologists have helped change and mold the social world we know today, and sociology continues to be an exciting topic to study because it teaches people how they fit into the bigger picture of society. We can look at ourselves through a sociological perspective to see how we classify ourselves and how others classify us. This is an invaluable tool for living and working in an increasingly diverse and globalized world.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 An Introduction to Sociology  
  • 1.1.1 What Is Sociology?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.1. Write down the definition of sociology on a separate notepad. Also, focus on Mill’s concept of the sociological imagination.

  • 1.1.2 The History of Sociology  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.1. Take note of important sociological figures, such as Karl Marx and Auguste Comte, as well as the bold terms.

  • 1.1.3 Theoretical Perspectives  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.1. Take notes on the three major sociological theoretical perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism.

  • 1.1.4 Why Study Sociology?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.1. Take note of the societal, as well as personal, benefits of studying sociology. How will studying sociology help you in your life?

  • 1.2 Sociological Research  
  • 1.2.1 Introduction to Sociological Research  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.2. Take note of the bold terms throughout the reading.

  • 1.2.2 Approaches to Sociological Research  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 1.2. Take note of all bold terms throughout the reading. Also, take some time to study Figure 1 and the accompanying text, which outline the scientific process of studying sociology.

  • 1.2.3 Research Methods  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in Subunit 1.2. Take note of the differences in scientific approaches to studying sociology, including surveys, field research, participant observation, ethnographies, case studies, experiments, and secondary data analysis.

  • 1.2.4 Ethical Concerns  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in Subunit 1.2. Take note of the code of ethics and think about how these ethical standards are vital to conducting research about human subjects.

    • Assessment: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Chapter 2 Section Quizzes”

      Link: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Chapter 2 Section Quizzes” (PDF)

      Instructions: Complete the assessments for each of the following sections: “Approaches to Sociological Research Section Quiz”, “Research Methods Section Quiz”, and “Ethical Concerns Section Quiz.” Answer all of the quiz questions on a separate piece of paper. The answers are found on the last page of the document. The questions in this exercise will review the sections you read in subunit 1.2.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: This material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to Rice University and OpenStax College. You can access the original version here.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101: Introduction to Sociology Discussion Forum: “Unit 1 Discussion”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101: Introduction to Sociology Discussion Forum: “Unit 1 Discussion” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials and completing the assessments, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board. Feel free to start your own related posts and respond to other students’ postings as well. If you haven’t done so already, you will need to create a free account at the link above to participate in the discussions.


      1. Explain how each of the three major theoretical paradigms discussed in this section (structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory) might be used in looking at the issue of inequality and share some examples.

      2. Using the sociological imagination, how might one explain the personal trouble of experiencing an eating disorder?

      3. How can sociological theories be beneficial when studying various groups or institutions within a society? Provide some examples which support your claims.

      4. Why is it so vital to follow ethical standards and guidelines when conducting sociological research? Can you think of a time when ethical guidelines were violated during scientific research? Please share some examples.

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take you approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes.

  • Unit 2: Culture, the Socialized Self, and the Individual in Society  

    This unit will expose you to some of the most fascinating aspects of sociology. You will be introduced to such sociological concerns as culture, social interaction, groups and organizations, deviance and social control, and media and technology. As you explore these areas of sociological study, you will gain insight into some of the most common unwritten rules for behavior in our social world. Then, you will investigate why these social rules are so significant in our everyday interactions. For example, what would happen if you deliberately distrusted social order by committing even a minor social offense like cutting in line, walking backwards, or wearing two different shoes? It’s the unwritten rules (or normative behaviors) that do not permit this kind of deviance without reactions (sometimes hostile) from social actors.

    Finally, you will be given the opportunity to think critically about how technology has affected our social interactions as well as how it has affected deviant behavior. Think about Facebook. While it is a virtual interactive world, it has very much impacted our social thinking. For example, friend has been turned into a verb, and we can use Facebook to like something, bridging our lives and experiences with hundreds of others in seconds.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Culture  
  • 2.1.1 Introduction to Culture  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.1. Write down the differences between culture and society.

  • 2.1.2 What Is Culture?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.1. Focus on the bold terms, paying close attention to the differences between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Then, write down some ideas as to why these two concepts would be central to studying societies.

  • 2.1.3 Elements of Culture  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.1. Take note of the bold terms in this section, focusing on the different kinds of norms as well as the significance of symbols.

  • 2.1.4 Pop Culture, Subculture, and Cultural Change  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.1. Take note of the different types of cultures as well as the effect of globalization on those cultures.

  • 2.1.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.1. Read this section while making connections to the three theoretical perspectives you studied in subunit 1.1.3.

  • 2.2 Society and Social Interaction  
  • 2.2.1 Introduction to Society and Social Interaction  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.2. Take note of the Maasai village in Tanzania. How does this village differ from a rural American town?

  • 2.2.2 Types of Societies  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.2. Take note of the different types of societies, making connections to the society in which you currently live.

  • 2.2.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Society  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.2. Take notes on Durkheim’s functionalist approach, Marx’s conflict approach, and Weber’s symbolic interactionist approach to studying societies.

  • 2.2.4 Social Constructions of Reality  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.2. Take note of the bold terms and how they contribute to your own construction of reality as well as how they affect larger social phenomena.

  • 2.3 Socialization  
  • 2.3.1 Introduction to Socialization  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.3. Take note of the definition of socialization. Can you think of factors (or people) that have influenced your socialized self?

  • 2.3.2 Theories of Self Development  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.3. Take note of the main differences between the psychological and sociological theories of development.

  • 2.3.3 Why Socialization Matters  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.3. Focus on the nature vs. nurture section, taking note of the different skills that are innate and those that are learned. Pay close attention to the section about Chris Langan.

  • 2.3.4 Agents of Socialization  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.3. Take note of the various agents for socialization, including family, peers, institutions, schools, work, religion, government, and media.

  • 2.3.5 Socialization across the Life Course  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.3. Take note of resocialization and how it differs from socialization.

  • 2.4 Groups and Organization  
  • 2.4.1 Introduction to Groups and Organizations  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.4. Focus on the three major theoretical perspectives in relation to groups and organizations.

  • 2.4.2 Types of Groups  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.4. Take note of the bold terms outlining the different types of groups.

  • 2.4.3 Group Size and Structure  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.4. Take note of the bold terms, focusing on the sections titled “Dyads, Triads, and Large Groups” and “Group Leadership.”

  • 2.4.4 Formal Organizations  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.4. Take note of the bold terms and Table 1: Table of Formal Organizations. Also, pay close attention to the section “The McDonaldization of Society.”

  • 2.5 Deviance, Crime, and Social Control  
  • 2.5.1 Introduction to Deviance, Crime, and Social Control  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.5. Read this section for an introduction to deviance and social control. What do you think about the experiences of the two students discussed in the reading? Do you agree with the school’s ruling about the dress code? Why or why not?

  • 2.5.2 Deviance and Control  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.5. Take note of the definition of deviance and how social control is enforced through types of sanctions (Table 1). Can you think of times when you have been affected by sanctions?

  • 2.5.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.5. Take note of the various theoretical perspectives typically used in sociology to describe or explain deviant behavior. Focusing on labeling theory and secondary deviance, can you think of a time in your life when a label assigned to you may have affected your behavior?

  • 2.5.4 Crime and the Law  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.5. Take note of the various theoretical perspectives explaining deviance in society. Take note of the examples accompanying each theoretical model.

  • 2.6 Media and Technology  
  • 2.6.1 Introduction to Media and Technology  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.6. Take note of how a functionalist might explain the social purposes of media and technology.

  • 2.6.2 Technology Today  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.6. Focus on the bold terms throughout the reading. Have you ever experienced technological inequality? Can you think of ways to overcome technological inequality?

  • 2.6.3 Media and Technology in Society  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.6. Take note of the different types of media and their social impacts. What are some types of media common in your life? How might these mediums affect your everyday interactions?

  • 2.6.4 Global Implications  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.6. Take note of the differences between media globalization and technological globalization. After reading about the impact of cell phones in Sub-Saharan Africa, what are your initial thoughts on shared phone programs?

  • 2.6.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 2.6. Take note of the various theoretical perspectives pertaining to media and technology. In addition, Take note of the new theoretical perspective introduced in this chapter: the feminist perspective. Lastly, focus on how the social construction of reality will be affected by mass media.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 2 Discussion”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 2 Discussion” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials and completing the assessments, please post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board. Feel free to start your own related posts and respond to other students’ postings as well. If you haven’t done so already, you will need to create a free account at the link above to participate in the discussions.

      1. What is the difference between culture and society? Please provide some examples.

      2. Discuss the roles nature and nurture play in the formation of the individual.

      3. Discuss how each of the following influence the socialization process in children: family, peers, and media.

      4. Define and discuss resocialization.

      5. Define primary and secondary groups. Then, provide some examples of primary and secondary groups in your social experience.

      6. Explain technological inequality and issues related to unequal access to technology. Please provide some examples.

      7. Provide examples of acts that are deviant but NOT criminal; and criminal but NOT deviant.

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 8 hours.

    • Assessment: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Chapter 8 Section Quizzes”

      Link: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Chapter 8 Section Quizzes” (PDF)

      Instructions: Complete the assessment for each of the following sections: “Technology Today Section Quiz”, “Media and Technology in Society Section Quiz”, “Global Implications Section Quiz”, and “Theoretical Perspectives on Media and Technology Section Quiz”. Answer all of the quiz questions on a separate piece of paper. The answers are found on the last page of the document. The questions in this exercise will review the sections you read for subunit 2.6.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to Rice University and OpenStax College. You can access the original version here.

  • Unit 3: Social Inequality  

    In this unit, you will address the growing concerns of global and national inequality. You will explore questions like how did wealth become concentrated in some nations? And how can we address the needs of the world’s population when we live in a world with more than 7 billion people?

    You will also be introduced to institutionalized inequalities, such as racism, sexism, and ageism, and delve into questions like how do our own prejudices guide our interactions? And how might we overcome our preconceived notions that lead to prejudice?

    In addition, we will discuss the differences between sex and gender, along with issues like gender identity and sexuality. In this phase of the unit, we will explore various theoretical perspectives on sex and gender in order to demonstrate a description of the topics as well as alleviate bias from the description (not always an easy feat).

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Social Stratification in the United States  
  • 3.1.1 Introduction to Social Stratification in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.1. Read the introduction to social stratification, paying attention to Robert and Joan’s story. Make guesses or connections between the example provided and why you think this example might be an introduction to stratification.

  • 3.1.2 What Is Social Stratification?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.1. Take notes on the bold terms as well as on the three systems of stratification. What stratification system is found in the U.S.? How might this affect one’s life chances?

  • 3.1.3 Social Stratification and Mobility in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.1. Take note of the different classes found in the United States and the types of mobility. Other than homes or luxury items, what are some things money can buy that are not readily available to people living in the lower class? How might being in the lower class affect one’s chances at upward social mobility?

  • 3.1.4 Global Stratification and Inequality  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.1. Read the two sections found in this chapter. In addition, you should spend a few minutes comparing the two photos in Figure 1, jotting down some thoughts on the photos and the accompanying text.

  • 3.1.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Social Stratification  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.1. Take note of the three different theoretical approaches to studying social stratification. How do you think Marx would view the Davis-Moore thesis?

  • 3.2 Global Inequality  
  • 3.2.1 Introduction to Global Inequality  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.2. Read about the UN member nations’ goals to eradicate global inequality. While reading about these goals, be sure to consider “extreme poverty” in a global context as well as how we might be able to address the needs of the world’s population.

  • 3.2.2 Global Stratification and Classification  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.2. Take note of the terms global inequality and global classification. Also take note of high-, middle-, and low-income nations as well as factors contributing to a nation’s classification.

  • 3.2.3 Global Wealth and Poverty  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.2. Focus on the differences between relative, absolute, and subjective poverty. Write down some ideas on the cyclical impact of the consequences of poverty.

  • 3.2.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Global Stratification  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.2. Read on the differences between modernization and dependency theory pertaining to global stratification. On a separate piece of paper, create a compare/contrast list of each of the theories. Then, look at the list you’ve made and draw conclusions as to how each of these theories attempts to explain global stratification.

  • 3.3 Race and Ethnicity  
  • 3.3.1 Introduction to Race and Ethnicity  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Read the Introduction to race and ethnicity. Can you identify areas in your life where race and ethnicity have an effect?

  • 3.3.2 Racial, Ethnic, and Minority Groups  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Take note of the differences between race and ethnicity. Explore the idea behind race being a social construction, rather than a biological identifier. Take note of the definitions of majority and minority groups.

  • 3.3.3 Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Take note of the differences between stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism. Challenge yourself to think about some common stereotypes you might be familiar with.

  • 3.3.4 Theories of Race and Ethnicity  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Read about how the major theoretical perspectives view race and ethnicity. On a separate piece of paper, make a list of examples of culture of prejudice. For example, when you see an actor of (presumably) Middle Eastern descent in a film, how often are they either the hero or the villain? When you’re watching television and commercials come on, what are some common themes you notice in the racial categories of the actors? How about images in high fashion magazines? Often times, when women of color appear in these ads, they are eroticized in some way, creating a visual of someone who is less than human.

  • 3.3.5 Intergroup Relationships  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Take note of the definitions of genocide, expulsion, segregation, pluralism, and assimilation. Also, pay attention to amalgamation and how it is somewhat similar to the classic melting pot theory.

  • 3.3.6 Race and Ethnicity in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.3. Focus on the different experiences of various ethnic groups in the United States. Due to the current racial stratification in the U.S., how might race or ethnicity affect access to valuable resources like education or health care?

  • 3.4 Gender, Sex, and Sexuality  
  • 3.4.1 Introduction to Gender, Sex, and Sexuality  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.4. In the “Introduction to Sex and Gender,” read about Harry’s journey to becoming Hailey. On a separate piece of paper, write a personal reaction to your thoughts on Hailey’s parents allowing her to make this transition. Then, turn the paper over and write a sociological reaction to Hailey’s parents allowing her to make the transition. Remember: A sociological reaction will be one without bias or judgment.

  • 3.4.2 The Difference between Sex and Gender  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.4. Take thorough notes on the differences between sex and gender. Which one is ascribed? Which one is achieved? Also, take note of gender identity and what populations of people fall under the transgender umbrella.

  • 3.4.3 Gender  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.4. Take note of how socialization plays a role in gender identity and gendered behaviors. Focus on the stratification of gender within the United States. In addition, explore the various theoretical perspectives on gender, taking note of feminist theory as it relates to gender-related issues.

  • 3.4.4 Sex and Sexuality  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.4. Take note of varying attitudes associated with sex and sexuality. Define sexual inequality. What has been the greatest influence on sexual behavior in most societies? How have those influences recently shifted? Also, take note of Queer Theory as it pertains to sex and sexuality.

  • 3.5 Aging and the Elderly  
  • 3.5.1 Introduction to Aging and the Elderly  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.5. Read this section, focusing on various social factors affecting the aging experience. What does age represent other than just a number? How might this affect life chances?

  • 3.5.2 Who Are the Elderly? Aging in Society  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.5. Take note of the phases of aging (young-old, middle-old, and old-old). Also, make sure you’re able to explain the “graying” of the United States.

  • 3.5.3 The Process of Aging  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.5. Read about and take note of the biological, social, and psychological changes associated with the aging process. Read about aging and sexuality, comparing this phase of sexuality with those discussed in the chapter on sex and gender. How does the social construction of sexuality change when considering age as a variable? Examine the attitudes associated with death and dying.

  • 3.5.4 Challenges Facing the Elderly  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.5. Read about the historic and current trends of poverty among elderly populations. Focus on ageist attitudes within individuals and institutions. Consider the question: How and why are the elderly so vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse?

  • 3.5.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Aging  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 3.5. Read about various theoretical perspectives on aging. On a separate piece of paper, make a list comparing and contrasting the theoretical perspectives to demonstrate the differences between the viewpoints on aging.

  • Unit 4: Institutions  

    This unit will introduce you to some of the most powerful and influential social institutions: family, religion, education, and government. First, you will study the institution of family. Did you know the number of unmarried couples in the United States grew from fewer than 1 million in the 1970s to 6.4 million in 2008? Now, cohabiting couples account for 10 percent of all opposite-sex couples in the United States! This information is significant to sociologists (and you) because these numbers indicate dramatic changes in the structure of the American family.

    Next you will take a look at religion. Religion, like family, is yet another significant indicator of social structures within a culture. It is important to note that you will be studying religion from a sociological perspective, not a religious perspective. For instance, sociologist Émile Durkheim studied the functions of religion within a society. Durkheim found that some people use religion for healing and faith, others use it for communal bond, and even others may use it for understanding “the meaning of life.” All of these functions of religion will affect the society’s structure and balance.

    You will also study the American school and educational systems. In sociology, we understand education to be both a social problem and a social solution. You will learn how schools can be agents for social change – tools that can break even poverty or racism – as well as how education can be a social problem, like when schools become drop-out factories due to low funding or high levels of institutional disorganization. In addition, we often observe political and religious opposition to specific curriculum in schools, such as adequate sex education or the concept of evolution. These are the kinds of questions sociologists consider when studying schools and education.

    Finally, you will learn about government and politics as well as work and the economy from a sociological perspective. In these sections, you will be challenged to define power – is it something you are born into? Is it something you earn? Who decides your level of social power? You will study power, work, and economy (one of the world’s earliest social structures) by exploring various types of economic systems and their functions in societies.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Marriage and Family  
  • 4.1.1 Introduction to Marriage and Family  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.1. Read about Christina and James as an introduction to the topic of marriage and family. When reading about Christina and James, consider their mothers’ reactions to living together or getting married. How are their reactions different, and how might these attitudinal responses indicate social ideas about living together or being married?

  • 4.1.2 What Is Marriage? What Is a Family?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.1. Take note of society’s current understanding of the family. Recognize changes in marriage and family patterns, paying close attention to cohabitation.

  • 4.1.3 Variations in Family Life  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.1. Read about variations in family structure, acknowledging and understanding the prevalence of single parents, cohabitation, same-sex couples, and unmarried individuals. Think critically about how the politicization of sexuality has affected the family structure as well as our social construction of the family.

  • 4.1.4 Challenges Families Face  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.1. Take note of the social and interpersonal impacts of divorce, focusing also on children of divorce and remarriage. Also take notes on the problems of violence and abuse in the family.

  • 4.2 Religion  
  • 4.2.1 Introduction to Religion  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.2. Read the “Introduction to Religion,” paying close attention to the sociological definition of religion.

  • 4.2.2 The Sociological Approach to Religion  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.2. Take note of the sociological view of religion and attempt to understand how each of the major sociological perspectives consider religion.

  • 4.2.3 World Religions  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.2. On a separate piece of paper, list the differences between various types of religious organizations. Take note of classifications of religion, such as animism, polytheism, monotheism, and atheism.

  • 4.2.4 Religion in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.2. Take note of how religion can be used as an agent of social change. In addition, focus on trends in secularization and the significance of secularization on a fundamental social institution.

  • 4.3 Education  
  • 4.3.1 Introduction to Education  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.3. Take note of the expectations and norms taught in American schools outside of the mandated curriculum. Can you identify any norms you’ve been taught through your schooling and education? How do they affect your actions and world view?

  • 4.3.2 Education around the World  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.3. Identify the differences in educational resources around the world. On a separate piece of paper, take note of the concept of universal access to education.

  • 4.3.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Education  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.3. Take note of manifest and latent functions of education. Focus on how functionalism, conflict theory, feminism, and interactionism view issues of education.

  • 4.3.4 Issues in Education  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.3. Take note of historical and contemporary issues in education. How do Sociologists typically view “No Child Left Behind,” and why?

  • 4.4 Government and Politics  
  • 4.4.1 Introduction to Government and Politics  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.4. After reading about Prince William and Kate, on a separate piece of paper, make a list of how their political power differs from that of the President of the United States.

  • 4.4.2 Power and Authority  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.4. Take note of the differences between power and authority. Identify and describe, on a separate piece of paper, the three types of authority.

  • 4.4.3 Forms of Government  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.4. Take note of the common forms of government, including monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, and democracy. On a separate piece of paper, please cite examples of each.

  • 4.4.4 Politics in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.4. Take note of the significance of “one person, one vote” in determining American policy. How does voter participation affect politics in the United States? Explore the influence of race, gender, and class issues on the voting process.

  • 4.4.5 Theoretical Perspectives on Government and Power  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.4. Focus on how functionalists, conflict theorists, and interactionists view government and politics.

  • 4.5 Work and the Economy  
  • 4.5.1 Introduction to Work and the Economy  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.5. Take note of the bold terms found in this section. What kinds of goods and services do you rely on to function in life?

  • 4.5.2 Economic Systems  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.5. Take note of the types of economic systems and their historical development. Explore how functionalists, conflict theorists, and symbolic interactionists view the economy and work.

  • 4.5.3 Globalization and the Economy  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.5. Focus on globalization and its manifestation in modern society. Take note of the pros and cons of globalization from an economic standpoint.

  • 4.5.4 Work in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 4.5. Take note of the current United States’ workforce and the trend of polarization. Concentrate on how women and immigrants have impacted the modern American workforce. Lastly, focus on the basic elements of poverty in the U.S. today.

    • Assessment: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Economic Systems Section Quiz”, “Globalization and the Economy Section Quiz”, and “Work in the United States Section Quiz”

      Link: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology“Economic Systems Section Quiz” (HTML), “Globalization and the Economy Section Quiz” (HTML), and “Work in the United States Section Quiz” (HTML)

      Instructions: Starting with the second section, each section has a corresponding quiz. Click on the links above, and scroll down each page until you find the “Section Quiz.” Then, on a separate piece of paper, answer all of the quiz questions. Finally, click on the [Show] button at the end of each question to check your answers. The questions in this exercise will review the sections you read for Subunit 4.5.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to Rice University and OpenStax College.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 4 Discussion”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 4 Discussion” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials and completing the assessments, post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board. Feel free to start your own related posts and respond to other students’ postings as well. If you haven’t done so already, you will need to create a free account at the link above to participate in the discussions.

      1. Describe the differences between single parents, cohabitation, same-sex couples, and unmarried individuals. Who are some famous (or infamous) people that can be used as examples for each of these categories?

      2. What are some conclusions one can draw from the fact that there is a growing single population?

      3. Explain how Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim view religion. How are their views similar? How are they different?

      4. What are some manifest and latent functions of education? Provide examples.

      5. How would a conflict theorist evaluate education in American public schools? How might this affect factors contributing to the dropout rate for high school students?

      6. Define and differentiate between power, authority, and different types of authority. Provide examples.

      7. Describe the current United States’ workforce and the trend of polarization. What are some examples in which we are seeing these trends occur?

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 8 hours.

  • Unit 5: Social Change and Social Issues  

    In your final unit for the course, you will learn about the great social issues surrounding health care, urbanization, and social movements. The sociology of health encompasses social epidemiology, disease, mental health, disability, and medicalization. You will discover that the way we perceive and treat medicine and health care constantly evolves. Furthermore, as you study the sociology of health, you will be challenged to answer questions like: What does health mean to you? How do you feel about legalized drugs? And are too many people on prescription medicines in America?

    Also, in this unit, you will read about population, urbanization, and the environment. You will explore possible reasons for the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas as well as how these shifts in population and urbanization may affect the environment.

    Lastly, you will study different types of social movements. Social movements are typically of a large scale and have great social impact; although, they usually start out as grassroots organizations, relying heavily on word of mouth. Grassroots movements that gain success, however, often become institutionalized and evolve into a more fixed and formal part of the social structure.

    For example, the Second Wave of Feminism, which occurred from the 1960s through the 1980s, started as a grassroots movement to fight against inequalities between the sexes. Men and women who participated in this movement typically did not belong to formal organizations. Instead, they spread the word of their cause through conscious-raising groups in hopes of creating social change. One such group was destined to become the National Organization for Women (NOW). Started by a group of about 28 women in 1966, NOW remains one of the prominent political and social voices for women’s rights today with a membership of over 500,000. Indeed, we are still witnessing changes instigated by the Second Wave of Feminism, such as stronger legislation protecting women from discrimination in the workplace and from abuse in the home.

    As you take a closer look at social movements, you will explore the questions: How does collective behavior affect social change? How does social change differ on state, national, and global levels? And how do different theoretical perspectives interpret social movements?

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Health and Medicine  
  • 5.1.1 Introduction to Health and Medicine  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. On a separate piece of paper, please answer these three questions:

    1. Should parents be forced to immunize their children?

    2. What might sociologists make of the fact that most of the families who chose not to vaccinate were of a higher socioeconomic group?

    3. How does this story of vaccines in a high-income region compare to that in a low-income region, like sub-Saharan Africa, where populations are often eagerly seeking vaccines rather than refusing them?

  • 5.1.2 The Social Construction of Health  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. Take note of the term medical sociology as well as the difference between the cultural meaning of illness, the social construction of illness, and the social construction of medical knowledge.

  • 5.1.3 Global Health  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. Take notes of social epidemiology and various theories of social epidemiology used to understand global health issues. What are some of the differences between high-income and low-income nations?

  • 5.1.4 Health in the United States  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. Take note of the application of social epidemiology to health in the United States. Also focus on the disparities of health based on gender, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity. Lastly, be able to define the terms stigma and medicalization.

  • 5.1.5 Comparative Health and Medicine  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. Take note of the different types of health care in the United States. How do these health care systems compare with those of other countries?

  • 5.1.6 Theoretical Perspectives on Health and Medicine  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.1. Explore health care issues through conflict, interactionist, and functionalist perspectives.

  • 5.2 Populations, Urbanization, and the Environment  
  • 5.2.1 Introduction to Population, Urbanization, and the Environment  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.2. What are your initial reactions to 12-year-old Todd Domboski? What might your reaction be if this was your son or brother?

  • 5.2.2 Demography and Population  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.2. Focus on demographic measures such as fertility and mortality rates. Then, familiarize yourself with current population trends and patterns.

  • 5.2.3 Urbanization  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.2. Take note of the process of urbanization in the United States. Also focus on the function of suburbs, exurbs, and concentric zones and urbanization from various sociological perspectives.

  • 5.2.4 The Environment and Society  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.2. Take note of the bold terms in this section. On a separate piece of paper, be sure to make a list of challenges presented by pollution, garbage, e-waste, and toxic hazards. Also focus on real-world instances of environmental racism.

  • 5.3 Social Movements and Change  
  • 5.3.1 Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.3. The text asks: “What do Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the anti-globalization movement, and the Tea Party have in common?” Answer this question on a separate piece of paper.

  • 5.3.2 Collective Behavior  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.3. Take note of the different forms of collective behaviors. Also take note of the different types of crowds.

  • 5.3.3 Social Movements  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.3. Take note of social movements on a state, national, and global level. Be able to distinguish between different types of social movements, and explore the theoretical perspectives on social movements, such as resource mobilization, framing, and new social movement theory.

  • 5.3.4 Social Change  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned in subunit 5.3. Take note on how technology, social institutions, population, and the environment can bring about social change. Also note the importance of modernization in relation to social change.

    • Assessment: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology: “Collective Behavior Section Quiz”, “Social Movements Section Quiz”, and “Social Change Section Quiz”

      Link: Rice University: OpenStax College’s Introduction to Sociology“Collective Behavior Section Quiz” (HTML), “Social Movements Section Quiz” (HTML), and “Social Change Section Quiz” (HTML)

      Instructions: Starting with the second section, each section has a corresponding quiz. Click on the links above, and scroll down each page until you find the “Section Quiz.” Then, on a separate piece of paper, answer all of the quiz questions. Finally, click on the [Show] button at the end of each question to check your answers. The questions in this exercise will review the sections you read for Subunit 5.2.

      Completing this assessment should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to Rice University and OpenStax College.

    • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 5 Discussion”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s SOC101 Discussion Forum: “Unit 5 Discussion” (HTML)

      Instructions: After reviewing the unit materials and completing the assessments, post and respond to the following topics on the course discussion board. Feel free to start your own related posts and respond to other students’ postings as well. If you haven’t done so already, you will need to create a free account at the link above to participate in the discussions.

      1. Compare and contrast the cultural meaning of illness, the social construction of illness, and the social construction of medical knowledge.

      2. What are somedisparities of health based on gender, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity?

      3. What are some real-world examples of environmental racism? Provide examples to support your answer.

      4. Where do you think one would expect to find the greatest urban growth rate in the world?

      5. What are some effects of migration from rural areas to urban centers in the United States?

      6. Describe different forms of collective behavior. Provide some contemporary examples of these forms.

      7. Explain how technology, social institutions, population, and the environment can bring about social change. Provide some examples.

      Posting and responding on the discussion board should take approximately 8 hours.

  • Final Exam  
    • Optional Mobile App: Ion Citadel LLC’s CLEP Exams

      Link: Ion Citadel LLC’s CLEP Exams (iOS App)

      Instructions: Note that this app is optional, since it is only available for iOS users. The initial download of the app is free, but to access the full set of exam prep questions, there is a small fee. No final exam questions will be derived from this material, but it is still a useful supplementary resource, especially if you plan to take the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam for Introductory Sociology.

      Once you have downloaded the app, open it and select the “Introductory Sociology” questions. If you will be taking the CLEP exam, it is recommended that you retake the quiz as needed until you fully understand the material behind all 300 questions.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation’s “SOC101 Final Exam”

      Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “SOC101 Final Exam”

      Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this exam.  If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.