Sociological Analysis

a blog


Sociology 212W: Sociological Analysis

Queens College, CUNY, Spring 2011

T/TH 8:15 – 10:05AM, PH/118

Instructor: Nicole Akai Hala, PhD

Office Hours: Powdermaker Hall 252-GG, Tues. 11am-12:30pm and Thurs. 12-1pm, and by appointment


How do we know what we know?  People’s understandings of the world are the product of various factors: family upbringing, ethnic traditions, religious texts, popular media, direct experience, etc.  Sociological understandings of the world are distinguished by their reliance on research. This course familiarizes students with social research, how to assess others’ research and how to conduct your own. What are the features of a good research question?  What constitutes a good explanation? How does a social scientist decide that one explanation of a given set of events is more valid than another? What standards of judgment are appropriate? Tackling these questions, we develop skills and sensitivity in social scientific analysis.  We pay particular attention to the advantages and limitations of various research techniques, to the questionable assumptions which may be hidden in research designs, and to the grounds on which one explanation of events is judged to be better than another.  We will also, in very practical and concrete ways, learn some of the basics of social science research methods.

We will start by spending a number of class periods on the basic tools of social research. The main text for this introduction is W. Lawrence Neuman, Understanding Research (Boston: Pearson, 2009), a paperback which you should purchase. Toward the end of the course, we will read Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets (New York: Penguin, 2008).  Additionally, we will be reading articles on various topics which employ different methods and approaches in social scientific research; these, along with selected multimedia materials (videos, audio podcasts) will be available on our course blog — — i.e., right here!

The heart of the course is learning how to use the social research techniques demonstrated in the readings, to help you evaluate research done by others and to plan how to do research of your own.  Short papers are intended to give experience in particular research skills.  The assignments may be thought of as stages in a research project.  The first assignment will be to identify a particular social science research topic that interests you, one that you may have always been curious about, and would like to learn more about.  You will draft a one-page description of your topic early in the semester.  The next step is to explore the literature on your topic. For this assignment, we will have two workshop computer lab sessions to help you use bibliographic resources. The result will be an annotated bibliography.  Working from the bibliography, you will select the most relevant literature and carefully write a review of the most important findings.  The final project will be a research proposal in which you restate your research topic, and propose a plan to gather data on a specific aspect of your topic.  There will also be a midterm exam and a final exam.  Along the way, there will be several short exercises to give you hands-on experience with some of the skills and analytic techniques presented in the readings.

Class discussion is important in this course.  It is crucial to do the reading assigned for a given day before coming to class.  This course can be extremely useful to you for work in all your other social science courses ‑ for reading, critical evaluation of research, and for doing your own research ‑ but in order to get the most out of it, you will need to stay current on the readings.  The short exercises (which may be supplemented with pop quizzes or brief in-class response papers, depending on how the class develops) will show me whether you are grasping the material as we go along.

Course requirements, grading policies, and classroom etiquette

Below are the components of your final grade:

Annotated bibliography and literature review                   15%

Research design                                                                        20%

Midterm                                                                        25%

Final Exam                                                                    25%

Participation                                                                  15%

Participation grades will be based on preparation for and active involvement in class discussion, in-class assignments/quizzes, and occasional blog postings. Make-up exams will be offered only for students with justifiable emergencies.  If you know that you will be unavailable for an exam you must make arrangements to take it early. There will be no extra credit.  Late papers will be penalized (one full grade penalty per day).  Access to the course blog is required and students are responsible for checking it and their email regularly. Access to Blackboard will be necessary in order to submit Assignments #2 and #3, and to check your course grades.

Once class begins, cell phones or beepers must be set to vibrate or turned off.

Getting Started

The SOC212 blog is an essential component of this course.  To set up an account go to If this is your first time at the site, follow the “Sign Up” link and use your QC/CAMS email and password information. You’ll receive activation information via email.  Then go to our blog and add yourself as an author (at the top of the left sidebar). Author status allows you to compose and comment on any posts on the main site. You will need to use your email address to sign up for an account. Please register for a QC computer account (if you haven’t already) by logging onto and providing the necessary information.  Having an account will permit you to log on to any computer on campus, to use the computers in the sociology lab and the regular computer labs.  For help with blogging at Queens, visit

This course is part of a college-wide project focusing on student writing.  We will ask everyone to submit your work to Blackboard in electronic form. Throughout the semester, samples of students’ work may be made available to those professionals involved in this project. All identifying information is removed from any samples that might be collected.  However, if you do not wish to have your work made available for these purposes, please let the professor know before the start of the third class.  Your cooperation on this is very much appreciated.


I.              Definitions and Examples of Academic Dishonesty

Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise.  The following are some examples of cheating, but by no means is it an exhaustive list:

Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work.

Unauthorized collaboration on a take home assignment or examination.

Using notes during a closed book examination.

Taking an examination for another student, or asking or allowing another student to take an exam for you.

Changing a graded exam and returning it for more credit.

Submitting substantial portions of the same paper to more than one course without consulting with each instructor

Preparing answers or writing notes in a blue book (exam booklet) before an examination.

Allowing others to research and write assigned papers or do assigned projects, including use of commercial term paper services.

Giving assistance to acts of academic misconduct/ dishonesty.

Fabricating data (all or in part).

Submitting someone else’s work as your own.

Unauthorized use during an examination of any electronic devices such as cell phones, palm pilots, computers or other technologies to retrieve or send information.

Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writings as your own.  The following are some examples of plagiarism, but by no means is it an exhaustive list:

  • Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes attributing the words to their source.
  • Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging the source.
  • Using information that is not common knowledge without acknowledging the source.
  • Failing to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignments.

Internet plagiarism includes submitting downloaded term papers or parts of term papers, paraphrasing or copying information from the internet without citing the source, and “cutting & pasting” from various sources without proper attribution.

The full policy may be found at

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