Contemporary sociology Critical review

Contemporary Social Theory

Coursework 1: A critical review (approximately 1500 words) based on a Reading by the theorist  Anthony Giddens

Guidelines and Criteria for Critical Review


You are required to be reflexive in this review section 4 below is therefore particularly important and this will be reflected in the marking. You don t have to answer all the questions in each section, but it would be worthwhile trying to ask them. Finally, write the review as an essay NOT as a technical report. You may, however, wish to use the sub-headings. Give it your own trade-mark. Feel that it sounds like you! The result should be well-informed, critical opinion.

Before you start, read some book reviews in the relevant Journals e.g. Sociology to gain some idea of the task of writing a review. Read  around the theorist before starting on the text to be reviewed. Find out all you can about the author and the general themes of his/her work. Try to locate the author in his/her historical/theoretical context. Identify and try to define the key concepts used by the author. Draw a  conceptual map that explains how each concept relates to others used by the author.

Only after you have done all the above should you carry out an in-depth, close reading of the text. Identify key sections/pages of the reading which you wish to explore and examine in detail. These should reflect the central issues/problems of the text.

Then provide a review which has the following structure:

(percentages refer to the approximate allocation of marks for each section plus presentation eg. referencing, use of English)

(1) Summary details (10%)

Briefly, identify the aims and/or the main or central themes/issues/argument of the text.

(2) Context (15%)

What relationship does the text have with the main themes of this module? Is it part of an ongoing debate? What prompted the author to write the article? Are there any background or unstated assumptions in the text? Does the text reflect the overall argument/position of the author as you understand it? (This will require you to research the current perspective of the author).

(3) Evaluation/Discussion (45%)

You need to structure your evaluation and focus on some of the key issues relating to the text. You cannot deal with everything! Identify a series of questions/themes and, using the text wherever possible, illustrate and discuss some (not all may be relevant to your text) of the following:

Which central themes /debates in social theory does the article attempt to address? Does the author draw upon/dispute other (including  classic ) theoretical approaches? Does the author introduce new concepts/ideas? Does the author use substantive issues/ real social issues/case studies to support his/her argument?
What kind of evidence/argument is used? Does it appear confirm or refute a thesis? Can any conclusions be drawn from the evidence? Are there are gaps or weaknesses in the arguments being made? Are there any omissions, contradictions, hidden assumptions or false arguments? To what extent in the context of the extracts discussed are problems left unresolved? What might critics of the theorist suggest? As a  theory , does it work for you? What are the alternative explanations/theories?

(4) Reflexivity (30%)

Was the Reading difficult? If so, why? (This may include your initial lack of knowledge; the writer s style; the subject matter.) Did the Reading help you to understand more clearly the issues involved? was it interesting or enjoyable if so, why? Did it change however slightly the way you think or would argue about the topic?

Coursework 2  Essay (1500 words max.)

Choose an  everyday topic/situation and evaluate it using the ideas of the theorist Pierre Bourdieu.

Guidelines and Criteria for Essay

Your essay will be assessed using the items in bold below as the marking criteria.

Your essay should be structured. A clear and concise introduction: a substantive discussion arranged according the importance of the issues; a conclusion which identifies a standpoint based on the argument/evidence presented.

It should contain a reasoned argument backed by appropriate evidence/illustration. Organise/prioritise your discussion using (a selection of) these prompt questions as a guide:

In general, what role does  theory perform?
To what extent does theory enable us to really  see the issue/situation i.e. recognise issues we could not previously grasp?
How, exactly, does it add to our knowledge?
To what extent is the  theory useful in correcting our  common knowledge?
Does the theory complicate or simplify the issue/situation?
Is the theory more complex than necessary for the task in which it is employed?
In general is theory useful?
What are the shortcomings of contemporary social theory?
What have you learned about  theorising ?
Where does social theory go from here?

Identify any additional issues/questions where you can. Relate the discussion to some of the general themes of the module. Be reflexive state your viewpoint and what you have learned from studying this module and its themes.

It should be well-presented: within the word limit (1500 words); fully-referenced using the Harvard system; typed where possible with at least 1.5 spacing and 12 pt font; pages numbered and a full bibliography of sources used.
UK referencing