Fall 2016 - SA 250 D100

Introduction to Sociological Theory (S) (4)

Class Number: 3441

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2016: Tue, Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 150.



An account of sociological theory, outlining the main ideas and concepts of the principal schools of thought.


Although many people consider “theory” to be developed by specialists removed from the real world, everyone uses implicit or practical theory in everyday life. When we argue about politics, or debate the merits of a movie, we are making claims and evaluations based on a set of presuppositions about how the world works – or ought to work. Each time we meet a new person, we make assumptions and judgements about their social status. When we dress, we exhibit or hide key aspects of who we believe ourselves to be – our social and individual identity.

“Doing theory” means examining these daily assumptions in a systematic way. We will ask how humans organize themselves and what implications do various organizational schemes have for individual and collective life. By comparing social theories’ explanations of specific aspects of social life – coordination of activity, state legitimation, aesthetics – we can begin to define our individual values in a more systematic way. Mastering the key concepts of social theory, and understanding why particular issues were of interest to theorists at different historical moments, will enable us to appreciate the shifting field of sociology. We will spend the first three weeks examining classical works: Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, and Max Weber. Part II will then consider the emergence of “sociology” as a distinct discipline with competing explanations for social phenomenon, and an interest in affecting policy and practice. Here, we will consider, among other minor trends, the major traditions of functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Part III will explore feminist, neo-marxist, structuralist, poststructuralist, critical race, post-colonial, and post-modern theories.

This course assumes no prior knowledge of sociological theory, but requires an eagerness to take intellectual risks. Class time will be divided into short lectures, followed by small group discussion, and collaborative activities designed to develop critical thinking and writing skills. For example, in place of a conventional written exam, students will work each week to design their own exam, asking not only “what were the important concepts this week?” but also “what does it mean to give and take ‘tests’?”


  • Identify and describe the major theoretical traditions in sociology, including major and minor theorists and the contributions to social theory 
  • Master and employ key vocabulary and concepts used is social theory 
  • Apply social theories to contemporary social problems 
  • Develop analytical writing skills


  • Group Presentations/Debates 30%
  • Term Test 1 15%
  • Term Test 2 15%
  • Weekly test development activity 10%
  • Analysis of contemporary event using a social theory (7 pages) 15%
  • Analysis of contemporary event using two social theories for comparison 15%


Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned an N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04).  Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.    



Thompson, Anthony (2016) Modern Social Thought: An Introduction, OUP Canada. 2016 edition or equivalent.

Primary source materials (student will be instructed in how to find and utilize primary materials)

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html