General Sociology (Fall, 2008)

Syllabus/Student Contract


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Class Meets:         Monday/Wednesday/ 5:30 PM – 6:45 PM; Hibbs, Rm 403                    

Instructor:            Dr. John S. Mahoney; 923 W. Franklin St. (Scherer Hall), Rm. 414 Phone: 828-6515                                                                     (      

Office Hours:      Monday/Wednesday 9:30-10:30 AM;  Tuesday/Thursday 1:00 - 2:30PM (or by appointment) Fridays (by appointment)     

Web site:     



Required Texts:  (Available at the Virginia Book Company, corner of West Franklin and Shafer Streets and the VCU Book Store.  You may also want to check the VCU Student Government Sponsored Book Exchange web page at  Be careful to compare prices and make sure that you get the right edition.)


Schaefer, Richard T.  Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 7th ed. New York: McGraw‑Hill Book Company, Inc., 2008.

(I will be posting additional readings for you on Blackboard).



Overview:  This course will introduce you to the study of humankind's most important creation‑‑ the social group.  Everything that we do is either directly or indirectly influenced by social groups.  All of our greatest achievements, good and bad, are the products of human groups.  Even the most solitary artist or writer would be utterly devoid of creativity without a social context in which to nurture individual genius or without an audience from which to draw critical evaluation.  It is said that the "pen is mightier than the sword," but both were created by a far stronger power‑‑ the human group.  Indeed, there is very little in our life that occurs outside the group context.  Chances are that you awoke this morning within the confines of one group‑‑ your family (or dormitory roommates).  Perhaps you went to work, meaning that you were in the presence of another group at your place of employment.  Right now you find yourself in quite a different group‑‑ this class.  Each of these groups influences your behavior in very different ways.  In this course, you will examine the various skills and techniques that sociologists employ when studying groups of people.  You will then examine a wide variety of groups themselves and the behavior they produce. 


Course Objectives:  The major objective of this course is to teach you to develop a "Sociological Imagination." In American society we tend to attribute human action to individual autonomy and responsibil­ity.  For example, if two people divorce, we say that it is a private problem and most likely, their own fault.   There may be truth to this, but we live in a society at a time when nearly half of all marriages formed will end in divorce.  Thus, in addition to personal factors, we must examine the "social forces" that influence people to break their marriages.  The "Sociological Imagination" is the ability to understand the impact of society on the individual.  Another course objective is to encourage you to think critically about the social world around you and not to rely on "common sense" when analyzing a social issue.   Sociology, after all, is an empirical discipline that employs rigorous data collection techniques, testable theories, and the publication of findings in an open and objective manner.  I encourage you to partici­pate in class discussion and question what is presented in class.  In general, I will try to present both sides of an issue along with available data and "hard facts" associated with each side.


Grading:  Your performance in this course will be evaluated through class participation, three short tests, three brief papers, and a final exam.  The tests will cover material presented in class and the texts.  They will be short (30-45 minutes).  You can expect to see a variety of formats, including multiple choice, true/false, matching, etc.  The final exam is cumulative and will be given on Wednesday, December 10 from 4-6:50 PM.   I do not give make‑up tests and exams without a valid excuse, e.g., documented illness, etc.  Test scores will comprise 45 percent of your grade.  Papers will count for a total of  15 percent.  Class participation and the final exam count 20 percent, each.  (Note that this semester the last day to withdraw from VCU courses with a grade of  “W” is October 31st).


Class Attendance:  Cutting class is not allowed.  Absentees will get a "0" for the day.  If you have a serious concern that will cause you to miss class, call or write to me in advance on the internet.  Students who miss more than 5 lectures (for any reason) may be dropped from the course at my discretion. 


Academic Integrity Policy:  I expect all students to abide by VCU's Honor Code, which means simply, that all the work that you do for this course (and the university as a whole) must be your own.  Do not cheat and do not tolerate those who do!   Class participants who violate the honor code can be dismissed from this course and from the university.  


Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Accommodation Policy:  If you have a disability which is covered under the ADA and you wish an accommoda­tion relative to this class, please discuss this with me within the first two weeks of class.  This informal discussion must be followed up with a formal request, in writing.  Together we will find the right accommodation.  Assistance in the form of accommodation ideas, can also be obtained through VCU's Office of Disability Support Services (Ms. Joyce Knight (, coordinator) University Student Commons, Suite 102 Mailing address: PO Box 842500, Richmond VA 23284-2500 (828‑2253).  


Classroom Conduct:  Please do not carry on private conversations in class‑‑ it is distracting and inconsiderate.  Also, please arrive on time.  If you must leave early, sit near the exit and depart as quietly as possible.  Turn off your cell phones and pagers before you enter the classroom.


Security-- What to Know and Do To Be Prepared for Emergencies at VCU:
1. Sign up to receive VCU text messaging alerts ( Keep your information up-to-date.
2. Know the safe evacuation route from each of your classrooms. Emergency evacuation routes are posted in on-campus classrooms.
3. Listen for and follow instructions from VCU or other designated authorities.
4. Know where to go for additional emergency information (
5. Know the emergency phone number for the VCU Police (828-1234).  Report suspicious activities and objects.













Aug.        25- Sept 1

Introduction to Sociology

Chapter 1              

Sept.       3 - 10

Research Methods

Chapter 2             

Sept.       15 - 17


Chapter 3             

Sept.       22 - 24


Chapter 4




Sept.       29









Oct.           1 -  8

Social Interaction/Social Structure;

Chapter 5             

Oct.         13 - 15

Groups and Organizations

Chapter 6      (No Class 16; 17 October—Reading Days)  

Oct.         20 - 22

Deviance and Social Control

Chapter 8                             




Oct.         27









Oct.      29 -  Nov. 5

Social Stratification/Mobility;

Chapter 9      (Oct. 31-- Last day to Withdraw with “W”)          


Global Inequality

Chapter 9   

Nov.       10 - 12

Racial and Ethnic Inequality;

Chapter 10          

Nov.       17 - 19

Stratification by Gender and Age;

Chapter 11




Nov.       24












Nov.       26 - Dec. 3

Social Institutions; Family

Chapter 12     (Thanksgiving vacation begins Nov 27th at 4:00 PM)


Government; Economy; Environment

Chapter 14          


Population, Communities, and Health

Chapter 15

Dec.        6

Fall Classes End





Dec. 10 (Wednesday)

FINAL EXAM  4:00 to 6:50 PM

Hibbs Building, Room 403


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