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Module SXU-1003:
Understanding Society

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Corinna Patterson

Overall aims and purpose

This module introduces students to sociology and provides a foundation for further study in the subject. It begins with a general overview of the ways in which sociologists have made sense of the world we live in and how they construct theories to explain the patterns and regularities of social life. It examines the nature of 'society' and processes of historical change and it explores the origins and development of social institutions such as the family, education, work and religion.

The module aims: 1. To introduce students of varying backgrounds to the 'sociological imagination', focusing on key theories, concepts and topics in sociology. 2. To consider the nature and definition of 'society', and the types of social classification and social groupings of which it is made up, including social class, gender and race. 3. To examine the causes and consequences of social change, including urbanization, modernization, and globalization. 4. To investigate the origins and development of social institutions such as the educational system and the nation state. 5. To discuss the nature and role of culture in social life and in relation to social behaviour and social identity. 6. To explore the processes of social interaction and collective behaviours between people in terms of socialization and collective actions associated with social movements.

Course content

This module introduces students to Sociology. The module runs over Semester One, giving students a comprehensive sociological foundation to some of the key sociological issues and debates.

The module introduces following aspects of social sciences:

Semester 1  The nature of social sciences and relations between key disciplines and methods  Interaction and communication  Life course and the family  Gender and socialization  Culture and media  Social stratification, education and work  Organizations and institutions (the politics of welfare)  Globalization  The environment and urbanization  Political sociology and social movements.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold = D- to D+. Students will show a very basic understanding of sociological perspectives on society, social institutions, culture, identity and social interaction and will have only done a minimum of reading and research, relying too heavily on basic text books and lecture notes and poor sources. their work will be lacking critical or analytical analysis, and contextual understanding and structure and coherence is likely to be weak.

Students in the higher band of C- to C+ must demonstrate some ability to critically evaluate academic text; show an ability to engage with the topic in a factual, evidence-based way; presenting their work logically and clearly.


Good = B- to B+. Students must demonstrate the ability to examine and evaluate a range of academic texts; demonstrate a substantial understanding of sociological perspectives on society, social institutions, culture, identity and social interaction, using a range of sources; to demonstrate the ability to summarize some of the main theoretical perspectives; to present their work in a logical, evidenced-based and clear manner.


Excellent = A- to A*. Students must demonstrate an exceptional understanding of sociological perspectives on society, social institutions, culture, identity and social interaction; use a range of sources; must demonstrate the ability to examine and critically evaluate a wide range of academic texts; present their arguments in a logical, evidence-based and well communicated manner.

Learning outcomes

  1. Identify and apply key theories and concepts in Sociology.

  2. Understand the origins and development of social institutions in contemporary society.

  3. Demonstrate an understanding of social continuities, change and diversity.

  4. Discuss ways in which social life is ordered and shaped in the context of culture, social identities and social interaction.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY 1,500 Word Essay

Students will be required to write a 1,500 word essay

COURSEWORK Mid-term Assignment

Students will be required to read a sociological quote and answer four questions relating to the topics covered in class.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


1 Weekly 2 hour lecture over Semester One ( 2 hours x 12 weeks) and 1 weekly seminar over Semester One
(1 hour x 12 weeks)


One weekly one hour seminar over Semester One (1 semester x 12 weeks).

Private study 164

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Critically evaluate the mixed economy of welfare and the interrelationships between health and social care and between the agencies, practitioners and individuals involved in their provision;
  • Capacity to identify and describe the causes and consequences of social order and change in specific contexts.
  • Ability to formulate and investigate sociologically informed questions.
  • Appreciate a range of research designs and strategies and how they may be applied to sociological investigations.
  • Be able to recognize how social data and sociological knowledge apply to questions of public policy.
  • Use the theories and concepts of social policy and other social sciences to analyse policy problems and issues
  • The ability to identify criminological problems, formulate questions and investigate them
  • the ability to formulate and investigate sociologically informed questions
  • competence in using major theoretical perspectives and concepts in sociology, and their application to social life
  • the capacity to analyse, assess and communicate empirical sociological information
  • the ability to conduct sociological research
  • the ability to recognise the relevance of sociological knowledge to social, public and civic policy.
  • the ability to understand the ethical implications of sociological enquiry


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Course Textbook:

Giddens, A. Sutton, P.W. (2017) Sociology (8th Edition). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Additional Suggested Reading:

Allen, G. (1999) The Sociology of the Family. Oxford: Blackwell.

Allen, G. & Crow, G. (2001) Families, Households and Society. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Allen, J. & Hamnett, C. (1995) A Shrinking World? Global Unevenness and Inequality. Oxford: Oxford University.

Bauman, Z. (1998) Globalization: The Human Consequences. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bauman, Z. & May, T. (2001) Thinking Sociologically (2nd Edition). Oxford: Blackwell.

Bennet, Tony. (2010) Bordieu: Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.

Wendy Bottero (2004) Class Identities and the Identity of Class. London: Sage.

Beuchler, Steven M. (2000) Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coffey, A. (2001) Education and Social Change. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Charles, N. (2002) Gender in Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Oxford

Cohen, Robin and KJennedy, Paul (2007) Global Sociology. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillain.

Crompton, R. (1997) Women & Work in Modern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Delamont, S. (2001) Changing Women, Unchanged Men? Sociological Perspectives on Gender in a Post-industrial Society. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Falk, P. (1994) The Consuming Body. London: Sage. Fine, Cornelia (2011) Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. London: W. W. Norton and Company. Fulcher, Scott (2013) Sociology 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Giddens, A. Sutton, P.W. (2017) Essential Concepts in Sociology (2ndh Edition). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self Identity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday.

Hughes, J., Martin, P., Sharrock, W. (1995) Understanding Classical Sociology. London: Sage.

Irwin, Alan (2001) Sociology and the Environment: A Critical Introduction to Society, Nature and Knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Lury, Ceilia (2011) Consumer Culture (2nd Edition). Cambridge: Polity Press

MacGillivaray, Alex (2006) A Brief History of Globalization. London: Robinsons.

Macoionis, John J. and Plummer, Ken. (2012) Sociology: A Global Introduction (5th Edition). Harlow: Pearsons.

Mayer, David S., Whittier, Nancy and Robnett, Belinda (2002) Social Movements: Identity Culture and the State. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Jenkins, R. (1996) Social Identity. London: Routledge.

Layder, D. (2006) Understanding Social Theory. London: Sage.

Putnam, Robert D. (2016) Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. New York, Simon & Schuster

Putnam, Robert, D. (2001) Bowling Alone: New York, Simon & Schuster

Ritzer, George (2000) The McDonaldization of Society. London: Pine Forge Press.

Ritzer, George (2007) The Globalization of Nothing. London: Pine Forge Press.

Ritzer G. (2015) Introduction to Sociology 2nd Edition, London: SAGE Publications Additional materials for that book are available on:

Skeggs, B. (1997) Formations of Class and Identity. London: Sage.

Stoetzler, Marcel (2017) Beginning Classical Social Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Stones, R. (Ed) (2007) Key Sociological Thinkers (2nd Edition).

Taylor, S. (Ed) (1999) Sociology – Issues and Debates. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Taylor, G. & Spencer, S. (2004) Social Identities. London: Routledge.

Wright Mills, C. (1999) The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: