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Aims And Objectives


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The Sociology Curriculum
Why Study Sociology at Reading?
Five basic principles guide our curriculum, so as to offer students: 
  1. maximum choice and flexibility in putting together a curriculum tailored to their needs and their interests;
  2. structure to provide guidance and progression;
  3. varied pedagogical environments, based on a mixture of the large survey classes of Part I and Part II, to the small Advanced seminars of Part III;
  4. varied assessment regimes, where the weight of exams generally declines through the curriculum and where, in any case, exams constitute only one aspect of assessment (with an average .5 overall weight of exams throughout the curriculum);
  5. transferable skills, in particular, analytical, research methods, data analysis, IT, writing and presentational skills.

Most importantly, the curriculum is designed to spark the "sociological imagination" by directly involving students in research. This should give Reading graduates a distinct profile of passionate involvement in their subjects in a spirit of critical and independent thinking.


Choice and flexibility

The principle of choice and flexibility rests upon three characteristics of the curriculum:

two streams: a Bachelor's of Arts (BA) is the standard stream, but we also offer CARS (Certification in Analysis and Research Studies) for students to expand their research skills. In the 2002 syllabus we intend to replace CARS with a Bachelor's of Science (BSc), which will demand students take more courses in research methods and statistics than students who opt for a BA.

term-long courses: all courses taught in the department are term-long; each member of staff in the department is expected to offer four different courses a year (two per term, including graduate teaching); this leads to over 30 different courses available to Sociology undergraduates.

minimum number of compulsory courses versus optional courses.

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Although students exercise choice and flexibility in putting together their curriculum, students must make their choices from five areas of concentration (clusters):

  1. Sociology of Culture
  2. Political Sociology
  3. Economic Sociology
  4. Social Organisation
  5. Research Methods

These clusters constitute core areas in the discipline and areas of research and teaching interests among members of staff. Courses offered in the department are nearly evenly distributed among these five clusters. In the goal of fostering both breadth and depth of knowledge, we require that students carry at least two different clusters of their choosing. To fulfil the requirement of carrying a cluster, a student must begin with the Core course in that cluster (in Part II) and choose three Options (taken in the Part III, one in each term) and one Advanced seminar (defined below) from that cluster. Students can, if they desire, further specialise and take more than three Options in a cluster. Single Sociology students are expected to carry at least two different clusters. Joint students are expected to carry two different clusters (three courses each, six courses total) linked to their areas of study. Students may be exceptionally permitted to take a single Option outside their clusters. The Department recommends students write dissertations, but allows single-subject students the option of taking two Advanced seminars and an Option in lieu of this. CARS students are obliged to take a four-module dissertation (which computes to three courses). Joint students will take a dissertation if their syllabus requires it.

Furthermore, different courses may have pre-requisites, i.e. registration in the course may not be allowed unless students have taken other course(s).

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Varied Pedagogical Environments

Teaching will be done in three basic formats: lectures accompanied by discussion groups or labs, lectures, and seminars. Most courses are offered in lecture formats, varying in size from the introductory courses of Part I (up to 400 students), to the Cores of Part II (up to 80-90 students), the Options of Part II and III (up to an expected average of 20-30 students, given the large number of Options offered), and the Advanced seminars of Part III (maximum 12 students per Advanced seminar). (Except for Part I, by "seminar" we mean small, highly interactive, participatory classes on a specialised topic.)

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Varied Assessment Regimes

The Department proposes to progressively reduce the weight of examinations from Year 1 to Year 3 and to allow a flexible regime of assessment depending upon the type of course (seminar, standard or methodological course). The Department plans to make use of multiple-choice tests in the very large classes (particularly Part I) either as a way to examine students or to ensure that they keep up with the readings. Essay writing - in a variety of forms, depending upon a convener's professional judgment - remains the cornerstone in the training of a Sociology Reading graduate.

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Transferable Skills 

The Department expects its graduates to enjoy good career prospects. Our curriculum, particularly CARS (and the future BSc), offers a variety of transferable skills. Take a closer look at what we offer!


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Last Published 08 August 2003