INTEGRATED WRITING WITHIN THE SOCIOLOGY MAJOR

The Department of Sociology offers a wide array of courses which (will) fulfill the new “integrated writing” requirements which begin for all first-year students who arrive at Georgetown University in fall 2015.  After taking a first General Education course focused on writing, the second such course which sociology majors will take must come from among selected sociology offerings.  Our majors get to choose from among those courses we designate as Integrated Writing courses (occasionally abbreviated below as “IW”).  The most basic information you will need to know is which sociology courses will fulfill that requirement, so we list them here, and will update that list as needed:

Sociology Courses with Integrated-Writing (IW) Strategies

SOCI 138: Identity and Religion

Professor C. Margaret Hall

Traditional and non-traditional religious values and beliefs are examined as sources of meanings and individual or social identities. The processes and consequences of internalizations of specific religious values are analyzed in a variety of historical and cultural settings, with attention to the influence of religious organizations as social structures. The range of belief systems focused on in this course includes cults, sects, and denominations, as well as personal spirituality. Data from major world religions, as well as individual life histories, are resources and research materials. There are class discussions on identity and secularization or identity and secular religions in modern industrial societies. Links are made between religion and family, gender, social class, race, ethnicity, education, work, politics, health, and recreation.
Students design research about their own special interests in identity and religion. Projects may include field work in Washington D.C. Local religious communities are also possible sites for research on particular aspects of identity and religious practices. Some library research is required. Students present historical and/or cross-cultural data on major world religions. These data may be used in lectures, class discussions, research projects, or the midterm exam.

Required Readings
Kurtz, Lester, 1995, Gods in the Global Village–The World’s Religions in Sociological Perspective, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
McGuire, Meredith B., 1997, Religion–The Social Context (4th edition), Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Course Grade
20% Midterm Exam - 2 essays typed as take-home exam.
60% Class Participation - Reviews of required readings; research paper outlines and reports; annotated bibliographies of books and articles for research paper.
20% Research Paper - Scientific report write-up of identity and religion research: 15 pages; no extensions, no emails, no faxes

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 139: Race, Color, Culture

Professor Timothy Wickham-Crowley

In the 1850s, New York establishments advertising for new employees often added the coda, “No Irish need apply,” reflecting Americans’ widespread fear of being swamped by low-class, Catholic immigrants from Éire. In 1857 in the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney pronounced black Americans “so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his own benefit.” In the 1920s, the U.S. Congress passed deeply restrictive immigration laws for the first time since our independence, certainly targeting and limiting immigrants then arriving from East Asia, but more so the larger numbers from eastern and southern Europe, notably peasants from Italy and Jews from Russia and Poland. In 1939, the U.S. government refused to allow a ship loaded with German Jewish refugees to dock at our ports; the ship was forced to return to Germany, and its passengers to their fates. By the 2050s, some demographic prophets tell us, fully half of the U.S. population will (may?) be Latinos, due to current -- and for many native-born Americans, much feared -- waves of immigration from Latin America.

Such political targetings of selected “suspect” groups are thus a near-constant in U.S. history: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Yet a closer historical look suggests that adage to be both deeply right and thoroughly wrong. By 1960, a wealthy Catholic of Irish descent, John F. Kennedy, won the presidency of the United States; less than a half-century later, a Harvard-educated African-American repeated the unlikely story, as Barack Obama rose to assume the title, Mr. President. We no longer wring our hands over the huge numbers of our fellow citizens who ethnically identify with the Irish, Italians, or Germans (the last being the most common national heritage that Americans claim). Instead, we live in world where a spate of books tells us how, over time, the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews each “became white,” and where a 1992 novel, perhaps also portending a thoroughly assimilated future for Latinas (and their brothers), describes How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.

To better instruct ourselves about the hues of our humanity, we will also consider other societies where race, color, and culture intersect in intriguing ways. In Peru, an old racist adage declared that “[t]he indian is the animal that most resembles man,” yet Peruvians elected a full-blooded Inca-descendent to the presidency early in this century. Brazil has recently instituted quota-systems by (dark) skin-color for greater access to the public universities, a matter tricky to implement given the complex skin-tone spectrum that prevails there. (The policy is attacked by critics as injecting into Brazilian society’s vaunted “racial democracy” some previously unknown forms of tension, i.e., American-style race-mongering.) Brazil’s race-mixture has long included Japanese-descent Brazilians from early 20th-century immigrant waves. Now a recent wave of counter-migration, wherein hundreds of thousands of Japanese-descent Brazilians have gone back to their ancestral homeland, vividly shows the cultural differences between those of the Japanese “race” who stayed put, and the samba- and beach-loving returnees who are Brazilian born-and-bred.

Throughout this term we will critically and deeply explore the three concepts that compose its title, and how they relate to one another in our minds, in our cultural attitudes (both today and in the past), and (by term’s end) in some better understood social reality. Research from the fields of sociology, anthropology, and history may be central to our venture, but we also will draw fruitfully on materials and studies ranging from population genetics all the way to visual and verbal symbolic representations, such as caricatures, comedy routines, posters, and ethnic jokes.

Why is any of this important? Throughout the entire semester, we will be confronted with the “facts of life” for various races, skin-colorations, etc. in the U.S. and elsewhere. Precisely because different “types” of people often come into tension-filled contacts with one another, their life-courses are predictably apt to go down very different roads. Those differences, and our interactions with others of different races, colors, and cultures, are thus profoundly consequential for people’s life-styles and – far more importantly, in my view – for their life chances: their likelihoods of having good (or bad) jobs, high (or low) incomes, more (or fewer) years of education, better (or worse) health and life expectancy, and so forth.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 150: Social Intelligence in Everyday Life

Professor C. Margaret Hall

Social Intelligence in Everyday Life reviews and assesses the scope and potential of applied sociology. We examine the usefulness, limits, and possibilities of drawing upon the discipline of sociology to challenge common sense understandings of self and society, as well as to modify day-to-day social routines and practices. Social intelligence is the degree of awareness individuals and groups have about the complexity and predictability of diverse social forms and processes.
Sociological theories used in these analyses emphasize differences among social classes, inequalities in power relations, social institutions, social systems, and contrasting cultural styles and viewpoints. We give particular attention to the influence of increased diversity in the U.S. and the world. We also question the extent to which a learned social intelligence and collective action can ameliorate problematic social conditions and increase social justice.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: SOCI-001

SOCI-160: Sociology of Sexualities

Professor Kathleen Guidroz

In this course, we will examine sexual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors from a sociological perspective. We will also consider how the biology of sex gets sociologically constructed, and the myriad ways sexual desire and sexual activity are structured by social relations. Cross-cultural and historical accounts of sexual practices and sexual identities will be considered, as well as the contemporary theories and methods in sexuality studies. The course also focuses on the ways in which sexuality as social institution and identity intersects with other major hierarchies of privilege and inequality, specifically race, ethnicity, social class, and gender. Students will finish the course with a knowledge- and skills-based research project.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 178: Capitalism: Culture, Markets, Power

Professor Dameon Alexander

Max Weber and Emile Durkheim offered a concise definition of Economic Sociology: “the sociological perspective applied to economic phenomena.” Early sociologists were interested in the causes and consequences of the rise of capitalism. Interest in economic effects viewed through a sociological lens was thin as the 20th century progressed. But, by the 1980s economic sociology began to gain more attention as capitalism spread into various aspects of global society.
This course covers economic sociology’s general concerns amid economic systems, institutions, and behavior in the capitalist system. We will also explore intersections to the economy such as education, religion, and technology.

Aspects of this course will be conducted more like a seminar than a traditional lecture. The expectation is that students not only sit and take notes, but participate and be able to discuss the topics covered in class. Students are expected to complete all assigned readings for critical discussion in class. While economic sociology encompasses a breadth of theory and methodology this course will be an experience more closely related to a food tasting tour. We will sample different paradigms, methods, and topics each week looking at economic situations and causation through the lens of a sociologist. In some ways this course will be similar to socioeconomics where we will consider very specific economic situations and examine the potential sociological effects.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 201: Methods of Social Research

Professor Leslie R. Hinkson or Professor William McDonald

In this course students are introduced to the basic concepts and techniques that are used in social science research. The course is divided into three sections: a) social scientific inquiry and research design; b) quantitative data gathering and analysis; and c) qualitative data gathering and analysis. As a result of taking the course, students should be able to:

1) Demonstrate their understanding of the basic principles and procedures of research methodology;
2) Critically evaluate both quantitative and qualitative research studies; and
3) Write a research proposal to be used as a template for their senior thesis projects.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: Sociology Majors and Minors Only

SOCI 202: Sociological Theory

Professor Timothy Wickham-Crowley

This course examines major theories of society exemplified in the work of sociological theorists. We will give special emphasis and at least half of the term to those classical theorists whose insights form the foundation of sociology: Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. In the latter part of the course we will survey and also "map out" a variety of contemporary perspectives on society, including symbolic interactionism and its variants, structural-functionalism, conflict and exchange theories, various neo-Marxisms and critical theory, postmodernism and the sociology of knowledge, and feminism. In addition, we will give some attention to the social and organizational contexts in which classical and contemporary theory have emerged.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 221: CBL: DC: Neighborhoods, Poverty & Inequality

Professor Brian McCabe

This seminar explores the causes and consequences of neighborhood inequality. Using Washington, DC as background for the course, the seminar draws extensively on a burgeoning sociological tradition of neighborhood studies to understand how spatial inequalities shape the life chances of the urban poor. Course themes include: the causes of racial segregation in American cities; the relationship between health and place; disparities in school quality and educational achievement; housing programs and the concentration of poverty; unequal access to transportation; local government and planning efforts to ameliorate inequalities; and the role of the non-profit sector in combatting urban poverty. As a community-based learning seminar, students are required to spend at least four hours each week working at a community-based organization in Washington, DC. The seminar will also include several site visits to community organizations or government offices, as well as classroom visits by local practitioners and city officials.

Credits: 4 (internship)
Prerequisites: None

SOCI 230: Family Interaction

Professor Margaret Hall

This course considers broad social influences on families in the United States and in international contexts, with emphases on family interactions among family members in at least three different generations of the same families. The usefulness of conceptualizing families as relatively closed multigenerational social systems is assessed by referring to families in different social classes, races, and ethnic groups, as well as families with varied sexual orientations.Life history data are collected to explore, illustrate, and substantiate distinctive patterns of family interaction. Each class member is responsible for collecting data from at least three generations of one family for class presentations, discussions, and research analyses. Substantive research topics studied include:
• “Vertical” relationships between different generations in the same families; • Contrasts in socialization in the same and different families; • Impacts of deaths and losses on family members; • Profiles of family and social behavior in different sibling positions; • Families' life cycles (birth, growth and development, courtship and marriage, parenting, • Health and dysfunction/disability of family members; • Conformity and deviance in patterns of family interaction; • Family processes and religious practices; • Race, ethnicity, and social class differences and similarities in family exchanges; • Gay and lesbian families; • Individual and collective family responsibilities; • Family participation and cut-offs. • Frames of reference and perspectives used in class discussions and research are Murray Bowen’s family systems theory (see www.thebowencenter.org) and sociological theories. • Research projects may include fieldwork in Washington D.C. Local community organizations may be sources for research on particular aspects of family interaction, as well as monographs and journals. • Life history data (family histories, oral histories, interviews, etc.) are facts that describe and explain how individuals and families are influenced by specific patterns of behavior and social conditions in three generation interactions.old age, death, etc.);

The above table merely lists those courses which we currently “flag” for you as helping you to fulfill that university-wide requirement.  But what does it mean to do “integrated writing” within the sociology major? A lot of that has to do with our core desire to foster our students’ abilities to “think like sociologists,” and we know best that you have begun to do so when you also can effectively write like sociologists.  

Let’s qualify that thought: we want you to write in the mode of the best sociological prose, not the worst (and there is plenty of the latter to go around).  Here we will give you two types of guides to that goal.  First you will see the well-framed suggestions offered some years ago by one our senior sociologists, who properly places both creativity and imagination at the very heart of any sociological enterprise worthy of the name.  Second will be a rather more “nuts-and-bolts” approach to writing in the discipline, wherein we show you how we hope for your efforts in “integrated writing” to be wedded to the learning goals which our department has long endorsed.

Writing Sociology:  Thoughts from Professor Dennis McNamara, S. J.

  (these and other selections are from his The Art of Social Science [2003])

Writing harnesses insight with craft.  Craft suggests a tradition often within a profession.  The craft guilds of the medieval European cities designed and built cathedrals that remain today a testament to their beliefs and imagination.  Women in homes and cottage industries kept arts of spinning, weaving, and sewing alive across generations prior to the industrial revolution.  A craft represents a tradition of teaching and learning, of trial and error, of imagination and practical action.  Writing likewise draws us into a heritage of poets and dramatists and chroniclers who have crafted a language to convey something of themselves, hand on their traditions, and design their future.

Clarity and brevity define the craft but not the art of writing.  The craft includes a discipline of writing and rewriting, of composition and correction, of thinking and rethinking, of organizing and reorganizing.  It is a regimen deeply embedded in the professions we now term humanities or social sciences.  We learn in part by imitation.  We learn to write by reading and writing.  We learn to shape ideas by sifting through the ideas of others who have hewn trails through forests of ideas and events distinguishing our history.

Creativity begins in the crucible of craft.  Without the discipline of clear expression, there is no place for imagination. 

             [ … later in the same document…]

Prose, poetry, and drama share a similar goal of communication.  Good writing brings your argument home and gives it drama.  Make the argument your argument.  Some reminders about writing might help as you put pen to paper.  Style, structure, and transitions are particularly important in marshaling an argument.  Use the suggestions to draw together some other recommendations on writing which you have found helpful.  A thesis is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your writing style, and gain confidence in your own power of expression.  I see expression more as a tool, while observation and analysis provide the substance or insight of a study.  Unfortunately, poor writing often dooms an argument and diverts attention from the strength of your study.

A longer paper permits time to develop an idea.  Take the time, and ease the reader into your study with attractive, manageable sentences and active verbs.  Shorter sentences force you to be very clear from the outset.  Longer sentences appear more useful in the data presentation, or possibly in the analysis.  Sentences fall naturally together into paragraphs in a well-conceived paper.  Each paragraph is a step in your argument, and should begin with an introductory sentence, follow into a substantive statement, and close with a conclusion.  Longer paragraphs might extend to a full page or more, but never quite two pages of double-spaced text..  Paragraphs provide an opportunity to reintroduce your argument, reassert the significance of your findings, and make conclusions.  They thus provide maps and signposts for the reader who expects summaries and conclusions to keep up with your argument.

Turning from paragraphs and sentences to the framework of a paper, you might use divisions to clarify your argument and help the reader.  I would suggest three or four divisions in a paper [intro, argument, data, conclusion].  A paper usually falls into three general sections, including an introduction with the theory and specific hypothesis, and overview of the progression of your argument.  The second section of the paper is the main body of the study including your data and interpretation, support or rejection of the hypothesis.  A conclusion brings you back to the introduction with thesis refined, and reflections on how your study expands the general theory with which you began.  Tell us what you have learned.  Never bring new data into a conclusion, or new issues.  It is usually not helpful to cite yet more authors in a conclusion - this is your section. 

Finally, a word from the audience.  Keep the reader in mind.  You are not writing for yourself, but for the reader.  Give them transitions, tell them where you are going and why, and keep them interested.  Why are you changing the topic, where are you going?  Why is this significant, and how does it fit into your argument?  Restate your thesis and summarize your argument at every break in the paper.  You might use some good transition words and phrases  such as, "turning from,"  "moving from," "a good point of departure," "one counter argument."

How Might Sociology’s Learning Goals Connect to Better Writing?

So let us connect your abilities to think and write sociologically to the learning goals we have set out for our Georgetown sociology students.  Several of those learning goals, in fact, link directly to the types of writing – please notice that plural! -- we hope to see our students produce as they mature in their grasp of our field.

1.    To integrate social theory and research and

2.    To apply sociological concepts to real life conditions and

3.    To formulate hypotheses

Again and again in the writings we often ask of you, we want you to bring general theoretical propositions and more specific hypotheses into contact with real-life evidence about culture and society.  Such evidence may be quantitative and countable, or it may instead be qualitative and not readily turned into numerical indicators.  Good sociologists that you hope to be, you will learn to appreciate both types of approaches.  More specifically, you should always be looking for systematic ways to “measure” the important theoretical ideas and attendant concepts which you posit, and to confront your hypotheses about sociocultural life with the real evidence you will gather in your own researches.

The theories and concepts and hypotheses which you will employ may be learned both in our general sociology courses and also in the focal course on “Sociological Theory.”  In the writings of sociologists who have gone on before you, many rich sociological ideas have guided their systematic gathering of evidence.  We think those predecessors most valuable guides to our field, which is why you read so many of their writings in our courses.

Thus when you do your own term papers and other independent researches in many sociology courses, culminating in the Senior Thesis which you all will write, you will notice that your professors routinely ask you to do a “review of the literature.”  Such a review is a special form of writing wherein you assess works that antedated your own interest in that research topic, and from which you seek to find guidance – critically assessed by you, of course -- on your own research plans.  None of us are all that clever and original, after all, even the smartest among us.  Let us remember the aphorism attributed to (but not coined by) that scientific genius, Isaac Newton:  “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

4.    To examine critically social issues of importance

In our sociological enterprise, we spend a good deal of our energies making visibly problematic what many among us might see as completely unremarkable, what may seem like “the world taken for granted,” as one famous theorist put it.  Such efforts will appear in virtually any sociology course we offer, but from those few listed above we can specify just a few and suggest the opportunities you might have to explore those and many other  issues in the writings you do within those courses.  How do family types vary across humanity, beyond the nuclear family structure which so many of us take as a “natural” form of social ordering?  How do human beings’ orientations toward and expressions of sexual desire vary, and how might we best understand them? Are the patterns of poverty and deep inequality visible within major American inner cities, including Washington D.C., simply something to wring our hands over, or do they have understandable social roots, which might be addressed by public policy?  Why should any of us assume some neat relationship between the skin colors which our bodies feature and the social labels or cultural orientations which we so casually attach to those features, whether in the U.S.A. or other societies?

Some of our faculty who teach IW courses also pose for their students special types of writing – typically called “memos” or “memoranda” -- meant to speak directly to socially important matters involving values and/or policy positions.  Both Kathleen Guidroz (“Sociology of Sexualities”) and Dameon Alexander (“Capitalism: Culture, Markets, Power”) ask such forms of writing from their students.

5. To make reasoned arguments based on social facts and

6.  To apply data to test hypotheses  and

7.  To analyze quantitative and qualitative data and

8.  To interpret already analyzed data to generate conclusions

Our course-offerings on (inter alia)  “Methods of Social Research” offered by Leslie Hinkson and William McDonald insist that all of us make our sociological assessments on the basis of social facts, not imagined or fantasized realities, because often “what everybody knows”  turns out to be factually false.  As Robert Merton advised us all many years ago, researchers need first to “establish the phenomenon,” before they try to figure out its whys and wherefores.  Thus we set out as sociologists via a wide array of research methods to ascertain those social facts as carefully as we might, using a wide array of research-tools toward such ends:  surveys and questionnaires; structured interviews; the occasional experiment; scrutiny of primary and secondary written (or even recorded) sources, often historical ones; field research and participant observation; and even unobtrusive measures, wherein people may not even know that they are being systematically studied, by indirect means, and thus the researcher’s “presence” cannot lead people to put on highly selective or even false fronts.

We routinely refer to those varied forms of social evidence we have gathered as “data,” and Dennis McNamara again offers wise words about how we should, as sociologists, relate to such data.  “If theory is your friend, data are your saviors.  Data save us from ourselves.  Data bring society to us, whether we are ready or not.  Most importantly, data call us beyond our own biases, our own preconceptions, and set us within a broader context of society.  Our purpose is analysis and understanding, not advocacy.  Engagement with the real world of data helps insure both the concreteness necessary for sharp analysis, and the breadth necessary for objectivity.  The argument of your paper should suggest the kind of data that you need.  Most of us aim for a blend of statistical and qualitative data, balancing and extending both types of data with the comparison and contrasts.”

Some of the data we analyze are awaiting us “out there,” already systematically gathered and arranged for us and other researchers to study.  When doing such analyses, we typically proceed by the use of statistical methods wherein “counting things carefully” becomes central to the process of research and writing up one’s findings.  In several of the courses he teaches, William McDonald points his students directly to readily available data-sets on crime or on social life in general (e.g., “Microcase”), shows them how to proceed to analyze relevant data from such sources, and then guides them in how to write up the resulting study-papers in a manner worthy of professional sociologists.

Some of the data which we gather are of a different sort, and not so readily “countable.”  For example, students enrolled in Margaret Hall’s courses, such as “Family Interaction,” may be directed to seek out and examine a variety of largely qualitative data-sources:  “library research, historical data, life history data, oral histories, interviews, participant-observation, and content analyses.”  Like Professor McDonald, she also provides clear guidelines on how to structure the writings which students produce out of such researches.

9.  To foster imaginations that envision a more just society.

In many of our departmental course-offerings, but not solely the IW ones, these concerns for a “more just society” are front and center, and often flagged in the courses’ very titles.  All of our courses which feature Community-Based Learning (those with the CBL prefix) embrace that concern with social justice.  A fine example of such a course with IW elements is Brian McCabe’s “CBL: DC Neighborhoods, Poverty, and Inequality.” Concerns with a more just society also can readily be found in pretty much all of the sociology courses focused on social inequality, power differences, social movements, poverty, social justice itself, gender, and race.  Touching the last-named topic is the new IW course-offering on “Race, Color, Culture” offered by Timothy Wickham-Crowley.

Georgetown University has long pursued analogous goals, and they are found in its very mottoes.  The University wants to foster students who will “be for others,” and as an institution promises to pursue the “care of the whole person” (cura personalis).

Dennis McNamara again has put the matter well for us, giving us a kind of envoi, or message to take with us into the world at large:  “Social scientists bring imagination to society through empathy, understanding, and criticism.  Empathy sets us within society.  Understanding brings the power of analysis to society.  Criticism represents our effort to reimagine and reshape society from what it is to what it could be.”

Learn more about the University Integrated Writing Program here.