Seton Hall University
Department of Sociology/Anthropology

SOCI 1101 CC: Understanding Society
Prof. Philip M. Kayal
Spring, 2003

Office Hours: MTR: 10:00am-11:00am; 12:00-12:45; and by Appt.
Office: A&S Hall 214



A syllabus is an outline of a course. It reviews course content, goals, and assignments. It is a guide to what is expected of each of you as contributors and participants in this course. Familiarize yourself, therefore, with this syllabus, taking note of its logic and expectations. Do the same with the Course Projects Assignment Handouts, noting the pace you need to set for yourself to keep up with the readings, discussions, and assignments.


Unlike other courses, this one is designed to help you understand yourself, albeit sociologically. Everyone needs to know how social forces have shaped their lives. For a sociologist, individuals reflect the social world around them. To understand this process your active participation in the course is required. This means reading the required texts and articles, doing the projects assigned on time, participating in class, taking relevant notes that you can study from, and self assessing your progress in understanding and utilizing sociology to make sense of how society (its institutions and organization) affects your life. In addition to examinations, your grade will be based on how well you master the above.


Course Objective: Our collective concern, as students of sociology, is how social life (that is group life) is organized and how different groups live together in society. This is our goal because we believe that to be human is to be social. The groups we belong to determine who we are and all our relationships, life-chances, and interactions with one another, whether we are female, male, gay, "straight," lesbian, Asian, Black, poor, Jewish, Moslem, Christian, old or young, etc. How these groups relate to one another in a society is our focus. How groups are organized and influence behavior and how our membership and position in different groups affects our identities, world-views, knowledge, values, and ability to relate to others, etc., are some of the questions we are interested in as sociologists..


Method: We will learn how to be sociologists together by actually doing sociology. You are encouraged to discuss the class material with one another directly or via our discussion group in BLACKBOARD. You can start by asking basic questions about your own social world. For example, why do you think we need groups? What groups do you belong to? How are the groups you belong to organized and what holds them together? How are your life chances affected by your group membership? How does the position you hold in any particular group affect the way you act, think, behave, feel, etc.? On a more sophisticated level, we will ask how group membership and your position in some group are determined? What experiences or position in these groups shaped you the most? How did your social class, sex, age, nationality, religion, etc. influence your life chances? Even better, how do you identify yourself sociologically (see article on Latino identity in the Henslin reader).


Obviously, all answers in this course to any questions will be sociological in nature, that is, they will identify how social forces or variables like social norms, values, expectations, social structure (organization), etc., affect us. Answering questions sociologically means employing a specific type of vocabulary (one which you have already started to learn from just reading this syllabus) and not by using another (like from psychology or theology). You can start to develop this vocabulary by listening to the way this professor expresses his thoughts, interprets reality, and thinks about and responds to questions or issues brought up in class. You could also compare what is emphasized in this class and how topics are approached by your other teachers and courses. Take notes as to how they differ. This way you will learn how sociology differs from other disciplines.


For a start, answer tonight in your notebooks the questions listed above under the section called METHOD. Use your own intuitive sense (verstehen) of what the answers might be and then examine them empirically, that is, against reality. (Sociology is a language of analysis and you need to understand it and know how to use it). These questions are only think questions. So give them a try. Imagine yourself in some other group and then decide how your life would be affected by this change.


Teacher Expectations: You are being asked to explain human behavior. Among other things, that means discovering how humans engage in "world building" or "reality construction." We will explore how sociologists approach this question.. You need not agree with or accept this perspective, but you should learn how to utilize it, see the sociological point of view, and ask for explanations and reasons why sociologists perceive and think about behavior the way we do. You can do sociology without accepting its "truth," but you need to know what sociologists do and be able to do it yourself. I expect you to be able to think and express yourselves sociologically (use sociological concepts) by the end of this course.


Most importantly, you should also try to formulate your questions, complaints, disagreements, etc., in such a way as to be CRITICAL. This means making informed evaluations rather than just stating an opinion. A judgment is a reasoned conclusion, drawn from evidence and grounded in knowledge. It can be based on intuition, experience, or fact, but it needs support and evidence. Your questions and responses, likewise, should be specifically sociological, that is, reflect a sociological frame of reference.


You can begin developing this skill by reading your assignments carefully, becoming aware of the POINT of VIEW, the ASSUMPTION, and the PROCEDURES used in each specific article and assignment. Imagine what it is your teacher, or the author, or the project wishes you to learn. The same is true in your personal relations. What do people really mean when they speak to you? What kinds of people say which kinds of things under which kinds of circumstances? Look for the subjectivity and objectivity and/or relativity in all social phenomena. Look for patterns, identify how and why your interpret symbols the way you do.


Again, one of the best ways of learning sociology is to do sociology, especially a sociology of "the self" (yourself), that is, a review of your own experiences and assessment of your own behavior as influenced by other things, like situations or relationships you find yourself in (as, for example, a child, friend, student, worker) and by people (bosses, parents, teachers) you interact with. Be both an object and subject to yourself, that is, see yourself as a product of social interaction and social arrangements. For example, examine yourself sociologically. What social or demographic characteristics differentiate or define you? How do these characteristics affect how your opportunities and world view?. What symbols do you use to let others know something about yourself?


Course Emphasis: Because sociologists, like all scientists and artists, believe that it is the rhythm of fact and concept, of logical proposition and data, of analysis and experience that makes a field of study an intellectual discipline, this course will stress the working together of concepts or the language of analysis, and the facts or data of experience or experimentation. Always try to use the language of sociology throughout the course and in all your assignments.


To use this vocabulary (or sociological concepts) more effectively, write down each concept when you hear them in class or come across them in your readings. Look up their meaning at home in your textbooks or in the library in The Dictionary of the Social Sciences.


Course Requirements

Each student is expected to have a functioning e-mail account operative by the beginning of the second week of class. Do not delay or hesitate. You are also expected to be familiar with "surfing the web." In this class, we will search out sociological topics relevant to the course.


All students are expected to participate in class discussions both in person (classroom) and via Blackboard or email. All students are expected to contribute to our class discussion group either with queries or responses. By the time this course is over, you will be savvy Internet users. . . among the best on campus. However, you cannot do anything on the NET until your account is in order. Your e-mail or account ID allows you entrance into all campus wide information systems. Immediately attend to establishing an account. All account difficulties can be resolved in the basement of Corrigan Hall or by calling the help desk at ex. 2222..

The following books are required for this course. They can be purchased in the bookstore.




Ballantine, J and L. Cargan,  2002,  Sociological Footprints,  Wadsworth: Belmont, Calif.


Charon, Joel. 2001. Ten Questions.  4th edition. Wadsworth: Belmont, Calif.


Charon, Joel. 2002. The Meaning of Sociology.  Prentice Hall: Saddle Brook, New Jersey.




While some articles will be distributed to you in class, the following are on reserve in the library and will be assigned during the semester: They can be accessed directly from the library on your own computer.

        Weiss, "The Clustering of America"

        Wyatt, Gary. "Skipping Class: An Analysis of Absenteeism Among First-Year College Students"

        Caplow, Theodore. "The American Way of Celebrating Christmas."

        Travis, Carol and Alice Baumgartner, "How Would Your Life Be Different."

        Marx, Gary. "Unintended Consequences of Undercover Work."


NOTE BENE: This course is logical and orderly. Virtually each chapter theme in the "text" book (Johnson) has a corresponding article in the reader by Henslin. Stay current and match the readings to the topic. If the teacher, for example, is discussing socialization, clearly the chapters and readings on this topic are indicated in the texts. Do not ask the teacher where we are at after the teacher has already told you what to be reading. However, the professor will assign the appropriate readings from Henslin


The following list of concepts are central to the sociological enterprise. You are expected to be familiar with them by the end of the course. Learn their meanings and use as many of them as you can in any and all assignments.




Cultural Relativism



Social Group


Primary Group

Secondary Group




Reference Group


Role Conflict

False Consciousness



Social Value

Boundary Maintenance

Achieved Status

Negative Sanctions

Positive Sanctions

Ascribed Status



The World-Taken-for-Granted

Civil Inattention

Social Structure

Impression Management

Manifest and Latent Function


The Self

Social Stratification


Rite of Passage

Upward Mobility

Social Control

Social Class


Peer Group









You grade is ultimately determined by yourself. However, the professor will exercise discretionary power depending on the student's classroom performance and etiquette (classroom behavior, lateness, tardiness in handing in assignments, professionalism, ability to follow instructions, inexcusable delays, problems, etc.).


Objectively, your grade will be based on several factors:

  1. class attendance and participation,
  2. accuracy in examinations,
  3. successful completion of projects as per directions


Generally, examinations will carry the most weight. There will be two or three official examinations and an occasional spot test via e-mail or in class quiz. Depending on their importance, projects will account for a significant part of your grade.


  1. Cutting: Attending classroom lectures is required by this professor. Missing class without an excuse is not permitted. Continuous cutting will result in a reduction of grade in proportion to the amount of classes missed. Excessive cutting can result in a Failure.


Students are expected to do their reading assignments on time and to participate in informed classroom discussions on the material presented in lectures and readings. It is expected that each student read at least 30 pages of the text or reader each evening.

  1. Examinations: All examination dates will be announced in time for you to prepare. There will be no trick questions. A grade of "A" is reserved for those students whose answers accurately reflect the readings and lectures the most. An "F" grade is reserved for those students whose answers are opinions or are irrelevant. Students are welcomed to discuss their grades with the professor. No make-up exams are permitted without the professor's permission before-hand, that is, student knows s/he cannot take test or hand in an assignment on the assigned day and informs me before hand!
  2. Projects: Due dates for projects will be announced early enough to give you time. Grade is determined by accuracy of answers and application of concepts to project at hand. All projects are clearly outlined and students are expected to carefully follow the instructions for each project. Projects and assignments must be typed or neatly written on lined paper not paper pulled out of a notebook.



Everything submitted must be stapled.





A Project Assignment Outline for this course will be distributed to the class shortly via the net. These projects, for the most part, are designed to help you see Patterns or relationships between two variables. For example, how does religious practice relate to prejudice, how do men and women act towards each other, how does behavior differ between one cluster of people and another, etc. Once you see a correlation and that relationship exists of time predictably, we have a pattern.


More on all this on the Project Sheet. However, the "A" student is normally one who starts to notice how people's behavior is related to some social situation/variable rather than their personalities. We can make observations and get impressions and then we can see if they are empirically true (factually supported through study and research). The "A" student can observe correlations and explain them.


AGAIN, Everything submitted must be stapled.

Some Useful Internet Sites"

World Wide Web Resources for Sociology

Timeline for Sociology the birth and growth of the field


Society for Applied Sociology what we do besides teach/research

The Sociological Tour through Cyberspace

The SocioWeb links to surveys and statistics, theory, activists, writings and search engines

Robert O'Keel's Internet Resources for Sociologists

Is there a "sociology of....." everything? See for yourself at Sociological Subject Areas

Take a look at the radical Virtual Cafe at the Progessive Sociologists site

What is Sociology

Dead Sociologists Society

Famous Sociologists

A-Z Sociologists

Emile Durkheim

Martineau - On Women's Work

Socialization and Human Development

Zip Code Sites (First site leads to others) (click on Free Data)





Statistical Abstract of the United States

Differential Association Theory (Crime, etc.)

Excite: Relationships (sexuality)

The Existence of Social Stratification


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