SOC4013 Sociological Theory Syllabus

Unit 1: Introduction

Unit 2: Karl Marx

Unit 3: Immanuel Wallerstein

Unit 4: Emile Durkheim

Unit 5: Robert Nisbet

Unit 6: Max Weber

Unit 7: C. Wright Mills

Unit 8: T. Robert Malthus

Unit 9: Marvin Harris

Unit 10: Gerhard Lesnski

Unit 11: Conclusions

Other Notables:

August Comte

Herbert Spencer

Alexis de Toqueville

Thorstein Veblen

W.E.B. Dubois

Harry Braverman

John Bellamy Foster

Robert K. Merton

Neil Postman

George Ritzer

Norbert Elias

Stephen K. Sanderson


This course is now on Rogers State University e-campus. The syllabus is presented here for potential students to get a feel for what the course entails.

Contact: Information:
Dr. Frank Elwell 
Office Hours: Daily 8:00 to 11:00 
Office: 202-B Prep Hall 
Phone: 918.343.7851

Required Texts:

Elwell, Frank W.  2013. Foundations of Sociology. To be distributed in class.

Elwell, Frank W. 2006. Macrosociology: Four Modern Theorists. Colorado: Paradigm Publishing.*

Elwell, Frank W., 1996/2013, Glossary of Social Sciences 

Catalog Description: A study of the great classical tradition in sociological theory and the expression of this tradition in contemporary theory. The course will include (but not be limited to) such theorists as Weber, Marx, Durkheim, and Spencer. Prerequisites: twelve hours of social science credit.

This course is a requirement in the Sociology Option of the Bachelor of Science in Social Science, as well as a required course for the Sociology Minor. The course can also be used elective credit in any of the BSSS Social Science Options, the BALA Liberal Arts Elective Option taken in lieu of a minor, or for straight elective credit in any program.

Course Outline: We will study the summaries and critiques of the theorists named below. You are to do the required reading and study before the class period. There is a Study Guide associated with each theorist which contains assigned essay and short answer assignment that are to be turned in the morning of your exams, required and recommended readings, vocabulary to master for the week, links to websites, PowerPoint presentations on the theorist under study, and other material useful in mastering the course.

RSU Writing Center is in Baird Hall 206. There, you may access free writing help with any paper at any point of time while you are a student at RSU. Call 918.343.7838 to set up an appointment. The Writing Consultants are friendly and professional and can help you with any writing issue.

The SLA Tutoring Center is in Prep Hall 105. There you may arrange for free tutoring help with any class offered by the School of Liberal Arts (other schools have their own centers). Call 918.343.7572 to set up an appointment.

Course Organization: The course is organized around the macro theory of four classical theorists:  Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and T. Robert Malthus--each of whom represents a distinct classical tradition in sociology. We will first examine the ideas of a classical theorist in some detail, we will then turn to the theory of a  modern theorist writing within that tradition. By taking this approach the course is intended to provide students with a comprehensive treatment of a range of classical theories as well as the usefulness of these theories in understanding the contemporary world.

Americans with Disabilities Act: Rogers State University is committed to providing students with disabilities equal access to educational programs and services. Any student who has a disability that he or she believes will require some form of academic accommodation must inform the professor of such need during or immediately following the first class attended. Before any educational accommodation can be provided, it is the responsibility of each student to prove eligibility for assistance by registering for services through Student Affairs. Students needing more information about Student Disability Services should contact Kendra Cagle, Coordinator of Student Disability Services at Rogers State University, 1701 W. Will Rogers Blvd., Claremore, OK 74017 or 918-343-6828. 

Work Required & Grading: Students should have the indicated units (see below) completed by the examination dates. Completion of the unit means doing all required reading and fully answering the essay and short-answer Study Guide questions. When completed fully, these study questions will provide you with excellent preparation for exams.

Weekly Quizzes: Consistent with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (look it up!), I believe that in order to truly master a discipline you must first master its vocabulary. Accordingly, you will learn the vocabulary of the social sciences in this class. Each week you will have a vocabulary quiz consisting of 10 fill-in-the-blanks giving you a definition as it appears in the Glossary of the unit we are covering. You are to supply the term. I expect to have 12 such quizzes over the course of the semester, I will drop the two lowest grades. These quizzes will be equal to one exam grade! Do well and it will go a long way toward passing this class.

This course is quite demanding and requires higher order skills of synthesis, critical thinking, and integration. The vocabulary words are measuring the far more basic skill of memorization. While most undergraduates are good at it (and thus it boosts many grades), there are a few in every class who struggle with it (I was never very good at it either). For students like us it takes discipline, repetition, and actual use to finally sink in. I suggest handwritten flash cards to people who are in our predicament. I should add that in addition to boosting grades mastering the vocabulary is really the first step in mastering a subject area—it can only help you in the rest of the course (and in life itself).

Take-home exams: You are to keep up on the required reading and take-home exams before they are discussed in class. There are take-home essay questions associated with each week of the course. Your answers are to be submitted by class time Tuesday morning through The weekly units also contain links to required and recommended readings, vocabulary to master for the week, links to websites, and other material useful in mastering the course.

You are responsible for learning how to submit your take-home essays  through It is only through turnitin that you can get credit for your work. Here is a link to training videos for students: Student Training Videos. You should number and state first each essay and short answer question in the order it is stated in the Week's Unit. You will lose points for incomplete answers, shoddy thinking and writing, late work (these are to be turned in before 9:30 on Tuesday whether you attend class or not!), and failure to adequately address the questions. It is very important that you use your own words and voice in answering these questions. It is through thoughtfully addressing these questions that higher order thinking skills--integration, synthesis, and evaluation--are learned. Writing is not simply telling me what you know, it is a reflection of the process of learning itself; through your interaction with the written word you sharpen and refine your thinking, you discover truths that were obscure through mere reading. Here is a link to how to format your study guides: Example Student Study Guide.

 The essay questions on each theorist are questions that are designed to do the following: 1) Solicit the main points of the readings and presentations, thereby helping you master the course material; 2) Focus your attention on what is valuable and relevant in the perspectives of each of the theorists; 3) Draw comparisons to other readings; 4) Elicit your evaluations of the material; and 5) Give you opportunity to improve your course grade.

 All exams and written assignments are graded in accordance with the standards explained on the attached Grading Rubric.

 Here is how they will be graded:

·         Quality (20 points) Is the answer accurate and evidenced based?

·         Development (20 points) Is the answer fully developed and fully drawn?

·         Complete (20 points) Are all questions answered fully and completely?

·         Originality (20 points) Are the answers in your own words and voice?

·         On Time (10 points) Is the test turned in by 9:30 on Tuesday morning?

Your score on each weekly take-home exam will be the total number of points from above divided by 90.

Quality __________________20

Development ______________20



On Time_________________10


Student Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): I know that this seems like a significant amount of work. This is not an easy class. But if you are of average intelligence, have some interest in sociology, and have a good work ethic ("Life is easier when you work hard") you will do fine. So that this is clearly understood I ask each of your to print, sign, and turn in the Student MOU.

Attendance: Both physical and mental attendance should be regular. Traditional lecture material is presented off of this web site. Class time will be spent in discussion, occasional presentations, and perhaps the viewing of films. To take full advantage of this class (and to get a passing grade) you should attend all scheduled class meetings. Inappropriate classroom behavior (sleeping, talking, and other disruptive behavior) will be cause for dismissal from the classroom. This is a blended course. It is important that you attend both physically and mentally. Studying the texts and the lecture/ presentations are key. Inappropriate classroom behavior will cause you to be dismissed from the class.

 Academic Integrity: By signing your name to a test or paper you are indicating that the work is yours and yours alone. Any academic cheating will result in failure of the course. "Plagiarism is the representation of the words or ideas of another as one’s own, including: direct quotation without both attribution and indication that the material is being directly quoted, e.g. quotation marks; paraphrase without attribution; paraphrase with or without attribution where the wording of the original remains substantially intact and is represented as the author’s own; expression in one’s own words, but without attribution, of ideas, arguments, lines of reasoning, facts, processes, or other products of the intellect where such material is learned from the work of another and is not part of the general fund of common knowledge" (Office of Academic Affairs, Rogers State University). One of the social problems that appears to be on the rise in American society is academic dishonesty. Don't do it!

 Classroom Organization: Much of the class will be given over to informed discussion. You should begin your reading immediately, in the order stated to the left of this page, the Week 1 essays are due August 20th. While the occasional articles I will send through e-mail are usually optional, reading them will help you master class material. Class discussion will often center on the required readings and the take-home essays. It is therefore imperative that all assigned reading and take-home essays be completed by each Tuesday. 

 A Final Point: You are encouraged to ask questions on the readings either in class or through e-mail. It is not expected that you will always agree with the perspectives of the instructor or the authors of other texts. As have all human beings we have been influenced by the values of our society as well as our roles in various social structures. However, it is the duty of the social scientist to acknowledge these influences and attempt to minimize their effects upon social analysis. Should the resulting analyses be counter to your perceptions, challenge them on the basis of empirical fact, logic, and reason--not ideology, prejudice, wishful thinking, or "politically correct" assertions. The goal of this course is for you to develop your own critical thought processes and world view, not for you to blindly accept any one perspective. 


©Frank Elwell Send comments to


*Any royalties earned from the sale of my books at the Rogers State University Bookstore will be donated to the RSU Foundation and be used to strengthen the Liberal Arts.