Syllabus for SOC-417



Contemporary Sociological Theory explores recent and contemporary sociological theories in an effort to help you understand how society functions. It examines theories of Simmel, Mead, Giddens, Habermas, and Bourdieu, providing you with the opportunity to explore and compare the sociological ideas of these theorists. The course will also consider the concept of a shift from modernity to postmodernity in sociological theory to provide you with the opportunity to critically examine the thrust of sociological theory in the present day. You will be expected to critically examine whether/how the theories relate to real-world situations and events.


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Explain the enduring issues basic to the construction of a sociological theory.
  2. Explain the difference between modernity and postmodernity in sociological theory, and evaluate the purported shift from modernity to postmodernity.
  3. Analyze the sociological theories of classical theorist Georg Simmel.
  4. Evaluate the contributions of George Herbert Mead to the symbolic interactionism school of thought.
  5. Explain and analyze the concept of structuration developed by Anthony Giddens.
  6. Explain and analyze the views of Jürgen Habermas as a critical theorist, including the concepts of life-world and system.
  7. Analyze Pierre Bourdieu's theories of habitus and field as they relate to the agency/structure debate in sociological theory.
  8. Explain the dimensions and dynamism of the concept of modernity, and interpret Giddens' and Habermas's views of it.
  9. Compare and contrast the theoretical perspectives of Simmel, Mead, Giddens, Habermas, and Bourdieu.
  10. Compare the major concepts of the theorists in this course to real-world situations in order to assess the validity of the theories.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.  The Study Guides are available online within this course in .pdf format. However, if you have not done so already, you will need to install the free Adobe® Reader® program on your computer in order to view or print the Study Guides. See the section of the Syllabus titled "Minimum System Requirements."

Required Textbook

ISBN-13: 978-0078027017

Study Guides


To participate fully in course assignments, you need to have daily access to a personal computer and command of certain basic computer skills, including the ability to send and receive e-mail with attachments.

In addition, your computer system must meet the following minimum specifications:

Note that in order to view and print the Study Guide files found in Course Documents, you will need to download a software program called Adobe® Reader®. You may download this program for free from: Once on this page, click the "Get Adobe® Reader®" image and follow the downloading instructions. At the time of this posting, the link for the reader is along the left side of the Adobe home page.


Contemporary Sociological Theory is a three-credit online course, consisting of five modules. Modules include learning objectives, study materials, and activities. Modular study assignments include text and study guide readings.  Module titles are listed below.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in five graded online discussions as well as an ungraded but required "Introductions" forum, which occurs during the first week of the semester, complete five written assignments, and complete a final project. See below for more details.

Consult the Course Calendar for due dates.

Promoting Originality

One or more of your course activities may utilize a tool designed to promote original work and evaluate your submissions for plagiarism. More information about this tool is available in this document.

Discussion Forums

In addition to an ungraded "Introductions" forum, Contemporary Sociological Theory requires you to participate in five graded class discussions.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses.

You will be evaluated both on the quality of your responses (i.e., your understanding of readings, and concepts as demonstrated by well-articulated, critical thinking) and quantity of your participation (i.e., the number of times you participate meaningfully in the assigned forums). Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Meaningful participation in online discussions is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete five written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the courses modules.

The written assignments are the primary means for you to express yourself verbally during the semester, controlling content and meaning. Due dates for each assignment are listed in the Course Calendar.


Take the time to familiarize yourself with the Assignment Modules area of the course Web site, and read through the written assignment questions before you begin the reading for that assignment.

Your answers to the assignment questions should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts. They should also adequately answer the questions posed. If you need help in writing, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Also, formulate responses in your own words. Do not merely copy answers from your reading materials. When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA or APA guidelines (Thomas Edison State University’s Writing Style Guides). However, your mentor will guide you in accordance with the correct style of documentation.

Final Project

There is no proctored examination (midterm or final) in this course. An 8- to 12-page paper acts as your final assessment and is worth 50 percent of your grade. You may begin work on this paper at any time during the course, but you must submit it by the last day of the semester.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a course not in your area of study), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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