Seton Hall University

Department of Sociology/Anthropology


SOCI 1101 CC Professor Philip M. Kayal,


Course Project Assignments

Class Participation:

Class participation will take several forms. In-class discussions and contributions between you and the teacher (raising hand, asking questions, commenting on lectures, observations, responses to other students, commentary on newspaper articles/movies/TV shows/books/radio programs, etc. Questions about and commentary on articles read are highly valued. News commentary from The New York Times are especially valued. To do sociology, you must understand current events!

There will be constant interchanges (some collective and some individual) between yourself and the teacher via e-mail, discussion groups and web assignments. I will lay the groundwork for most of these interactions, but you are free (and encouraged) to take the initiative yourself. Generally, these interchanges should be limited to professional discussions of sociological interest, but can be personal on your part. At all times, I will respond to you sociologically, that is, I will interpret your "problem," statement or question sociologically. Sociologists can solve, (or at least explain) problems as well as psychologists by linking "your problem" to a social circumstance. If you need therapy, however, there is a counseling center in Mooney Hall.

When requested, the following assignments should be completed on time by all students. We will work on them together continuously, throughout the semester. Some, however, will be due sooner than others. We can do most of the discussion of the projects via e-mail. This will allow more time to informally evaluate your development as a partner in learning. You will see what I mean when you begin engaging this process which could be, if you wish, as early as tonight.

There are four assignments with outlines included. As we discuss them, I will further add on instructions and examples to help you.

A) Thinking about your Identity: This assignment is related to the opening day assignment indicated on the syllabus. Object is to compare yourself with others with an eye towards identifying differences. How has group membership shaped these differences? Question is: Who are you and how do you feel about your Social location/identity? How do you see yourself socially.

The very subject matter of this class means that when we discuss who a person is we think of their social characteristics and social situation rather than their personal or psychological characteristics. Your own identity is created in interaction with others and is presented in terms of social concepts like social class, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Discuss your identity and how and why you see yourself a certain way. How do you feel about this identity? What personal trait might be a social issue that bothers you?

B) Reading Assignment And Application:

Read the article on reserve by Gary Wyatt on "Cutting Class." It is on reserve (see syllabus). Identify his findings by making a brief list of them. Write a brief report in your notebook on why you agree or disagree with his explanations, paying strict attention to how he did the research. Did he follow the procedures outlined in class and in your readings regarding research methods! We will eventually be using his research outline on various projects we discuss in class. Think about his assumptions, suggest alternative explanations, and think of questions you would ask to test his hypotheses and any other hypotheses we may come up with here at Seton Hall. Make note of his independent and dependent variables.

As you can see, Wyatt does what we call EMPIRICAL Research, that is, he collects information from a questionnaire and has findings backed up by DATA. Now that you have experienced Empirical Research regarding Cutting class, do the same by finding some sites (3) and one (1) Academic article from a Research Sociology JOURNAL (library) like Social Problems, The Journal of Marriage and the Family, etc. and summarizing them. Contrast and compare them in terms of the research methods, assumptions and conclusions.  Some research possibilities connecting two variables: Marriage Success and Ethnicity/Religion or age at marriage; Divorce and Effects on Children; Homelessness and Gender; Prejudice and Religion; Education; Sexual Orientation and Political Philosophy, Pot smoking and Parental politics; Binge drinking and school success, etc.

C) Some Internet Assignments:

Throughout the semester, various Internet search assignments will be given. Some will be taken from the topics offered in each chapter of the textbook (and the attachment called Surfing Sociology) Others will be derived from readings. For example, by Weiss "The Clustering of America" on reserve in the library is about zip codes. I will be asking you below to check out your own zip code area via the Internet to garner demographic characteristics about your neighbors and then compare them with South Orange.

Assignment I: Compare and Contrast.

Using the sites below (and on your syllabus) on Sociologists, contrast and compare 2 sociologists. Understand their approach and contributions to the discipline. Choose any you like, but at least one should begin with the first letter of either or both your first and last name.

A more explicit sheet of instructions will be issued shortly.

Assignment II: The following Internet sites are taken from the Federal Census. Follow the directions in each site and contrast and compare your hometown zip code and that of So. Orange in terms of some sociological variables. (You identify them). While doing this, it might be wise to get a visual schemata in your mind of the layout and demographics of your own home town and So. Orange. You do this by taking a ride around town, either by bike, foot or car. What groups do you see, how do the act and interact, what distinguishes them from others?, etc. Indicate how the data about and your experience of the town’s population differ from your original mental image or stereotypical impression of the area. In other words, what did you discover about "reality" from both the empirical data and your observations.


A more specific guide will be distributed in class shortly regarding the above.

Project D:

D) Do One of the options below. The concepts or language below should be part and parcel of all submissions, discussions and explanations presented in this course. You will use these concepts in either Project A, B or C listed below.

Concepts: culture, cultural relativism, folkways, socialization, social group, upward mobility, interaction, anomie, primary group, secondary group, authority, identity, social control, the self, self-system, reference group, goals, role conflict, false consciousness, social class, social stratification, institution, mores, social values, boundary maintenance, achieved status, charisma, stereotype, negative sanctions, positive sanctions, ascribed status, deviance, routinization, peer group, rite of passage, the world-taken-for- granted, civil inattention, social structure, impression management, manifest and latent function, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.

Project A: Film, Book, Commercial Review or Sport Event (use concepts)

Obviously by now you understand that the personal is political and the political, personal and that there is a "political economy" affecting what you think, how you dress and see yourself, etc.? You should be able to look at the sociological content of any event going on around you or any situation a person finds themselves in. You should be able to analyze everyday events sociologically.

Discuss some phenomenon in American society (movie, book, athletic event, commercial/adverstising) sociologically. Draw on your readings for help or seek the professor's guidance. Describe its structure, the roles played, the message or meaning, the interactions and interconnections, etc. Look, for examples, at the images created by the media of different groups in society. Your looking for the point behind the obvious point being made. For example, apply as many of the above concepts as possible to a review of a movie, commercials or book.

Project B: Sociological Autobiography (Use at least 25 concepts)

This assignment is designed to help you utilize sociological concepts in the examination of your own life. You are being asked to explain how your membership in specific groups (your family, religion, social class, school, work environments, etc) have shaped you. In a word: Illustrate the concepts below by making reference to your own life and experiences. What groups do you belong to? How are they organized? WHAT ROLE DID YOU PLAY IN THEM? HOW DOES THIS ROLE FIT INTO THE STRUCTURE OF THE GROUP, I.E., RELATE TO OTHER ROLES? WHAT HELD THESE GROUPS TOGETHER? HOW WAS DEVIANCE HANDLED?, HOW WAS MEMBERSHIP ESTABLISHED? HOW WAS AUTHORITY AND LEADERSHIP ESTABLISHED AND EXERCISED? How were these groups organized and what position did you hold in them, what roles did you play?

You could begin by describing the groups in your life which have affected the development of your attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Describe them. How were they organized? How did they affect the social being that you are? Which INTERACTIONS affected you the most? What determined who was a significant other in your life? How did your sibling order in the family, your ethnicity, religion, neighborhood, etc., affect you options, etc. How did the groups you belonged to, your position in them and their composition, affect how you came to see and understand the world and yourself. Use sociological jargon throughout your report because you are being asked to analyze your life, that is, interpret life events from this perspective.

You are being asked to outline and analyze who you are. "Who are you" sociologically is the question, and how did you get that way? What were the experiences, the structure of the experiences you have been through which affected you the most. What roles have you played and how were they assigned you? How did they differ from one another? Where they compatible? How did you learn them, how did you integrate all the different ones?

This assignment is designed to utilize sociological concepts in the examination of your own life. You should begin by describing events and experiences in your life which have affected the development of your attitudes, beliefs, goals, feelings, and perceptions of reality. Your concern is to determine and describe how and why these events and experiences have shaped you. How did you come to be the social being that you are?

Your objective is to describe which social factors influenced and shaped your life. Some of these social forces are broad and general, like cultural values and expectations. Others are more specific, like institutions (schools, families, etc)., and your membership in certain groups (neighborhoods, clubs, etc). How did you develop your goals and self-identity? Who were role models in your life? How has exposure to senior citizens affected you or how were your attitudes about property, material goods, money, death, life, success develop? How have you come to manage role conflicts?

Most likely, you have come to have very strong opinions about certain things: drugs, sex, rock and roll, marriage, patriotism, god, religion, your own bodies, etc.? How are your opinions influenced by your group memberships (family, religion, social class, education, etc.? Or do you still think you are simply unique and only an individual?)

The above are some of the questions or ways you can approach this assignment. Another approach might be to ask how you life would be different if you were born into a different ethnic group, religion, social class, race, or sex.

To do this assignment successfully, you should be familiar with sociological jargon. So be sure you know the definitions of the terms you are using to describe yourself through. Be sure your use of them exemplifies their meaning. Use these terms (concepts) in the context of your own life in such a way as to make them comprehensible to the listener or reader. Use the terms in full sentences as exemplified below.


Procedure: After you write your story, go back again and translate each sentence into sociology. For examples do not speak about your large family, but rather your extended family!

a) Wrong Way: Because my family is rich, my parents threw a party for me to celebrate my graduation to the second grade. My friends were invited and this was the first time that I was allowed to mix with them at home together with my relatives.

I was promoted to the next grade, but felt out of place. Lots of different people were there and I did not know how to act. We did not get along because I thought they were ill-behaved and because I thought everyone agreed on what was right or wrong and how to act. I soon learned that there were a lot of differences between people.

b) Right Way: My nuclear family is well-situated in the upper-middle class because my parent's education and occupation permit us to have a life-style commensurate with those people considered professionals. I did not realize it but this meant living by a certain set of norms and cultural expectations, like acting and dressing a certain way. The graduation was the first formal event I remember attending. My peers were there and were invited to my home where they met my extended family. Unfortunately, their backgrounds were different from my own family's and there was a great deal of culture conflict at the party.

Part of it was generational and part of it was ethnically based. This "rite of passage" was difficult for me because the scripts were not that clear and I experienced both anomie and role conflicts when I tried to act correctly. I did not know which group (family or friends) should be my reference group. When I changed my social location, I had to break into a group which already had its own boundaries. It was difficult finding out what they expected of me and to become part of their system of relations. Through frequent interaction with them, I learned the norms I would have to live up to for me to become an insider. I had to learn to be less ethnocentric. Going to school without a supportive primary group was difficult and it became harder without them as guides to help me figure out how the social system of the school operated, that is, who mixed with who, under which circumstances, and for which reasons. etc. And of course, who had power?

Project C: Sociological Concepts (Use at least 25 concepts to explain your life)

Like both assignments above, this project is designed to help you utilize sociological concepts in the examination of your own life. You are being asked to explain how your membership in specific groups (your family, religion, social class, school, work environments, etc) have shaped you. In a word: Illustrate the concepts below and those indicated in class by first defining them correctly and then using them to express a complete thought in a sentence.

The objective here is to see how well you can explain sociological concepts to others, yourself, and to me. I want you to demonstrate your ability to use the concepts. You should read for the definition in the sociological literature. Ideally, find reference to the concept in the literature that you are readings rather than merely copying the definition from the text.. Give me the official definition from the literature. Indicate the source of your definition after you enter it. Then, redefine correctly in your own words in a way that illustrates and demonstrates the concept. Make sure you just don't repeat the concept in a sentence, but use it in a way that conveys its meaning.

You can experiment with this before you do it. Pick any one of the concepts listed on the next page and explain it to one of your parents, relatives, or friends. Watch your reaction and theirs. Who was more cooperative? Who learned it faster? Why? Remember, you know or understand something when you can teach it to someone else. Use full citation first time and shorter version henceforth. You can also find definitions and examples of concepts on the web. Feel free to give them, but indicate the site you took them from.

For example:

Concept 1: Anomie

Definition: "Normlessness, the absence of norms in social interaction." Source: Durkheim, Suicide. City, Publ., p. 10.

My Definition: No rules of behavior, no clear social expectations.

When John went to Vietnam, the situation was so new to him and the rules so unclear that he suffered from anomie. During the war, the rules were suspended. There was no authority to obey. No one knew what he was doing? It was hard to tell wrong from right? In the absence of norms, he created his own, but they lacked legitimacy. How would he know that he was right? He still did not know how to act, who to obey, what rules applied. He solved the problem by identifying with his field unit and doing what was expected of him in his reference group, whether or not it was right or wrong.

Caution: Anomie means the absence of norms. It does not mean that you did not know the norms. The point is there was nothing to know since there were NO norms. Like in a war, economic depression, riot. Something like Lord of the Flies.  

Again, here are some topical sites on web that may be of interest to you. You can check these for definitions and examples.

World Wide Web Resources for Sociology

Explore Sociology on the Web:

Excite Social Results for Sociology

What is Sociology

Dead Sociologists Society

Durkheim- Social Facts

Martineau - On Women=s Work

Socialization and Human Development

Zip Code Sites (First site leads to others)


Statistical Abstract of the United States

Differential Association Theory (Crime, etc.)

Excite: Relationships (sexuality)

The Existence of Social Stratification


See sites by topic in Surfing Sociology