Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

Sociology & Anthropology

Major Concepts

Major Concepts in Sociology

All students must take an introductory course in sociology as a prerequisite to upper-level courses in the discipline. The sociology faculty has agreed upon a basic set of concepts, ideas, theories and terms to which all students should be introduced in this first course. These will be covered irrespective of who is teaching the course or which introductory course (Social Patterns and Processes or Social Problems) is being taken. Upper-level courses in the department will assume a familiarity with this list.

This list is by no means exhaustive of the things students will learn in introductory sociology. Instead, it outlines a common core of material with which all majors should be familiar. In addition to providing information about the core of the introductory courses, it can serve as a useful study tool for both the GRE in sociology and for the senior oral examination.

A Common Core of Sociological Concepts, Ideas,
 Theories, and Terms from Introductory Sociology
After taking an introductory course in sociology at Southwestern University, students should be familiar with the following concepts, ideas, theories, and terms:

History and theory:

  • The purpose of sociology (to establish, explain and predict patterned human behavior and interaction) ("patterned human regularities")
  • The sociological imagination
  • An understanding of the basic paradigms in sociology--functionalist, conflict, symbolic interactionist, exchange, ethno-methodology
  • Different functions (manifest, latent, dis)
  • The Chicago School
  • Thomas theorem
  • Micro- versus macro- approaches


  • Correlation
  • Different methodologies--content analysis, interview, questionnaire, participant observation, secondary analysis, historical/comparative, field research, experiments (lab and field)
  • Hawthorne effect
  • hypothesis
  • independent and dependent variables
  • inductive versus deductive research
  • intersubjectivity/objectivity
  • mean/median/mode
  • population
  • qualitative/quantitative research
  • reliability and validity
  • sample
  • spurious relationships
  • know how social scientific research is published. . . how each study is only part of a broader literature. . .

Culture and Society:

  • components of culture (symbols, language, values, norms, material culture)
  • countercultures
  • cultureshock
  • ethnocentrism and cultural relativism
  • Eurocentrism
  • folkways/mores
  • ideal versus real culture
  • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
  • social production of culture
  • subcultures
  • Emile Durkheim--anomie, division of labor, mechanical and organic solidarity
  • Ferdinand Toennies--Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft
  • Karl Marx--alienation, bourgeoisie, class consciousness, false consciousness, proletariat, the dialectic--thesis/antithesis/synthesis
  • Lenski and Lenski's ecological/evolutionary theory, levels of technological development (hunting/gathering, horticultural, agrarian, industrial)
  • Max Weber--authority vs. power, types of authority (traditional, rational, charismatic), the characteristics of bureaucracy, class/status/power, critique of bureaucracy

Socialization, Social Interaction, Groups and Organizations, Deviance and Social Control:

  • anticipatory socialization
  • instrumental and expressive leadership
  • labelling theory in deviance
  • misdemeanor and felony
  • white collar crime
  • relationship between deviance and social control
  • resocialization
  • different groups (primary, secondary, in-, out-, reference)
  • Charles Horton Cooley--looking-glass self
  • Erving Goffman--dramaturgical sociology
  • George Herbert Mead--the self, I, me, three components of the developmental process (Preparatory, play, game), generalized other
  • role (role conflict, role strain, role performance, role expectation)
  • status (ascribed, achieved, master)
  • stigma
  • structural/strain theory of deviance (Merton's anomie)
  • victimless crimes


  • class/caste systems
  • classism
  • Davis-Moore thesis
  • developed and developing nations/periphery and core ideology
  • income and wealth
  • inter- and intra- generational mobility
  • privilege and oppression
  • social mobility
  • structural social mobility
  • the world system

Sex, Gender, and Sexuality:

  • dual labor market
  • essentialism and constructionism
  • feminism
  • feminization of poverty
  • heterosexism
  • homophobia
  • patriarchy
  • second shift/double day
  • sex/gender
  • sexism
  • sexual harassment
  • sociobiology
  • wage gap


  • discrimination
  • homogeneity and heterogeneity
  • minority/majority groups
  • prejudice
  • race/ethnicity
  • race theories: Anglo-conformity/melting pot/cultural pluralism/ internal colonialism/assimilation model
  • racism

Age Stratification and Aging:

  • activity theory vs. disengagement theory in the study of aging
  • ageism
  • the graying of modern society


  • endogamy/exogamy
  • types of families--nuclear/extended
  • types of marriages--monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, polygamy

Economy and Politics:

  • capitalism, communism, socialism
  • models of political process--power elite model and pluralistic model


  • education as a reproduction of the status system
  • the hidden curriculum
  • schooling and social class
  • tracking


  • the sick role
  • morbidity and mortality
  • professions (characteristics of)


  • civil religion
  • different types of religious organizations (denomination, ecclesia, cult, church, sect)
  • liberation theology
  • Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • secularization
  • Weber vs. Marx on religion
  • world religions vs. more localized religious systems

Demography and Urban:

  • cohort
  • deindustrialization
  • demographic transition theory
  • fertility/mortality/migration
  • gentrification
  • urban ecology (POET)

Collective Behavior and Social Movements:

  • collective behavior
  • emergent norm theory of mass behavior
  • relative deprivation
  • riot
  • social movements
  • structural-strain vs. resource mobilization theories of social movements

Social Change

  • dependency theory/modernization theory (convergence theory)
  • mass society/mass culture

(This compilation was first formulated at a curriculum meeting with Dr. Dan Hilliard, Dr. Edward L. Kain, and Dr. Maria Lowe, 19 July, 1995)