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Contemporary Issues in Sociology

  • Module code: SO4004
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 4
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None


Contemporary Issues in Sociology has two key objectives. The first is to provide the theoretical grounding necessary to becoming a sociologist. It introduces students to some of sociology’s key thinkers and tracks the historical development of sociological theory from ‘classical’ to 'contemporary'. It presents a critical account of theory and by the end of the module students will have a repertoire of theory available to them. The second objective is to make theory ‘useful’ by offering the professional tools necessary to apply it to a range of fresh, contemporary social issues.

Students are expected to demonstrate their full engagement with the module by keeping a regular, up to date personal research diary. This diary will be used to produce research notes relevant to everyday experiences and students will be expected to reflect on these experiences within the context of the theoretical discussions in the lectures. Students will be expected to discuss their diary entries in seminars.

The module teaches theory and its application and provides an appropriate theoretical and skills grounding for Levels 5 and 6.


  • To introduce students to a range of contemporary issues of interest to sociologists
  • To demonstrate the possibilities of utilizing sociological theory to understand aspects of everyday life
  • To build confidence in applying, reading, writing about and critiquing social theory
  • To inspire interest in the relevance and importance of sociological theory and criticism in our understandings of contemporary social life

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module student will be able to:

  • Select appropriate theories for the understanding of a range of contemporary social issues and to provide justification for these choices
  • Understand and discuss the limitations and criticisms of a range of sociological theories
  • Apply with confidence social theory to contemporary issues
  • Identify, discuss and critically assess the work of the sociological thinkers introduced throughout this module
  • To develop competency on academic skills

Curriculum content

  • What it means to 'think sociologically'
  • McDonaldization and 'the Global'
  • Social network sites and collectivity
  • Money, banks and inequalities
  • The 2011 English riots
  • Reality TV and social class
  • Ikea and the rise of mass consumption
  • Understanding social facts
  • Bad science
  • Religious fundamentalism
  • Power and corruption
  • Technology and bureaucracy
  • Fashion and the individual
  • The croupier and frontstage/backstage
  • What makes us happy?
  • Urban spaces of consumption
  • The socially constructed body
  • Islamophobia
  • Common sense vs sociological knowledge
  • Academic skills

Teaching and learning strategy

This module is taught through integrated workshops that combine the features of lectures and seminars.  The workshops will provide a discussion of different contemporary issues and will relate them to social theory.  This will ground and orientate students in sociological perspectives and their application.  There will also be space for students to discuss their reading in core texts and relate their reading to the issues raised through the discussion.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Workshops 3 hours x 22 66
Guided independent study Reading, journalling, group work and assessment 234
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

There are three summative assessments for this module: a 500 word critical analysis, a 15 minute group presentation and a seen exam. You will be asked to write a critical reflection on a piece of reading that you will be able to select from the first part of the course. You will then work in groups to produce a poster presentation applying social theory to an aspect of your everyday lives, showing  the relevance of social theory for understanding the world around us. Finally, the seen exam will give you the chance to demonstrate your knowledge of several different aspects of the course. You will receive the questions for this in advance and will have support and advice from staff when preparing your answers.

Critical Reflection: 500 words (15%)

Group Poster Presentation (20%)

Seen Exam (65%)

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Select appropriate theories for the understanding of a range of contemporary social issues and to provide justification for these choices Group Poster Presentation Critical Reflection Seen Exam
Understand and discuss the limitations and criticisms of a range of sociological theories Critical Reflection Group Poster Presentation Seen Exam
Apply with confidence sociological theory to contemporary issues Critical Reflection Group Poster Presentation Seen Exam
To develop competency in academic skills Critical Reflection Group Poster Presentation Seen Exam

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Critical Reflection 15
CWK Poster Presentation 20
EXWR 2 hour seen exam 65
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Kivisto, P (2011) Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary Theory Revisited. Sage: London

Bibliography recommended reading

Allan, K (2005) Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory, CA: Pine Forge Press

Northedge, A (2005) The Good Study Guide, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Wright Mills, C (1959) The Sociological Imagination, NY: Free Press.

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