Sociological Analysis (MPhil, MSc)

Course Provider: Dr Michael Biggs


This course develops intellectual skills in explaining social phenomena: identifying puzzles, developing theoretical explanations, and testing them empirically.

Each week a lecture introduces one type of explanation, while a seminar that discusses empirical research on a related topic. The topic illustrates this type of explanation in practice, revealing its strengths and weaknesses. The lectures and seminars are complementary but distinct; the lecture will not cover the research discussed in the seminar.

On completing the course, students will understand the main theoretical tools used to explain social phenomena. They will also be familiar with current debates in various substantive areas of sociology.

One lecture and one one-hour seminar per week in Michaelmas Term.

• Eight short essays (1500 words each) on the seminar readings; questions will be specified in advance.
• One long essay (3000 words) on a more general question.

One 3-hour unseen examination in Trinity Term.

• Elster, J. (2015) Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press.
• Collins, R. (1994) Four Sociological Traditions, Oxford University Press.