module assessment

1. Formative Essay (1,500 words)
i) Briefly outline the distinctive features of a sociological approach to
understanding human life and then illustrate how a sociological approach would
make sense of ONE of the following: your biography; your first few weeks at
university; a contemporary social issue of your choice.
ii) Drawing on relevant social statistics, briefly summarise the key sociodemographic trends in the UK and discuss their consequences for social policies.
In this essay we are looking for evidence that:
- you are able to write coherently and fashion your own arguments
- you are able to consult and interpret a range of information sources
- you are able to accurately reference your work both within the body of the
essay, and in the list of references at the end of your essay
Although the mark you are given for this piece will not count in your overall
module mark, completing this assessment is a condition of passing the module
and proceeding to the second year.
As this is your first university essay you may find it helpful to consult study skills
texts, for example:
Creme, P. and Lea, M. (2008) Writing at University, 3rd ed. Maidenhead: Open
University Press
Redman, P. (2006) Good essay writing: a social sciences guide, 3rd ed. London:
Bonnett, A. (2008) How to Argue, 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson
You should also consult the University’s skills website:
and above all follow the referencing guidelines in the School Student Handbook
and Neville, C. (2007) The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding
Plagiarism, Maidenhead: Open University Press, noting that the School’s preferred
system of referencing is the Harvard system.
2. Review of academic journal article (1, 500 words) 20% of the module
For this assessment you are required to write a review of up to 1, 500 words of a
research study of your choice published in an academic journal within the
following limits:
i) It should not be one of the five main articles discussed in lectures 5, 7, 8 or 9.
ii) You must choose to review a journal article which includes data collection by
the researcher(s) (i.e. the researcher(s) gathered their own data, interview
material, observations or images).
iii) You should not choose to review a piece using advanced statistical techniques
unless you really understand log-linear regression, multivariate analysis and
factor analysis.
iv) You should choose an article published since 2000 from one of these
British Journal of Sociology
Sociological Review
Sociology of Health and Illness
American Journal of Sociology
American Sociological Review
Cultural Studies
Media, Culture and Society
Work, Employment and Society
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Ethnic and Racial Studies
Critical Social Policy
Journal of Social Policy
Social Policy and Administration
Social Policy and Society
British Journal of Social Work
European Journal of Social Work
Social Work and Society
Your review should contain the following:
- a brief summary of the research
- an account of the research method(s) employed
- an evaluation of the research and its findings which is more sophisticated than
the simple assertion “the researcher was biased”.
You MUST submit a photocopy of the article you discuss along with your
Some questions to consider in writing your review of the article:
Here are a few questions that might help you when writing this assessment. They
are intended as guidance only, not all of these questions may be appropriate. You
should NOT write your essay as a report which tries to answer these questions
sequentially, they are intended to give you a starting point.
1. Why did you choose to study the piece in question?
2. In which particular field of social research is the piece located?
3. How does the research relate to past studies of the topic?
4. What are the key concepts used by the researcher(s)?
5. What are the sites of social investigation chosen?
6. How were the areas/people investigated chosen?
7. How representative are the cases studied by the researcher(s)?
8. What is the stated purpose of the research?
9. Can you identify central hypotheses?
10. What research techniques are used in the study?
11. What are the main forms of data presented?
12. How is the data used by the researcher(s)?
13. What are the central claims of the author(s)?
Do you feel these claims are justified by the evidence presented in the study?
Are the findings reliable? Are they valid?
In what ways is the research distinctively social scientific?
Are there any ethical issues to consider?
Does the research have broader political objectives?
Did the conclusions surprise you in any way?
How, if at all, might the research have been improved?
3. First Assessed Essay on Modernity (3,000 words)
(40% of the module mark)
For any two of the following thinkers, assess their intellectual contribution to the
understanding of modern society:
John Locke, Thomas Paine, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Charles
Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Theodor
4. Second Assessed Essay on contemporary society (3,000 words)
(40% of the module mark)
For any two of the following thinkers, assess their intellectual contribution to the
understanding of contemporary society:
Raymond Williams, Heidi Hartmann, Iris Marion Young, Zygmunt Bauman, Stuart
Hall, Paul Gilroy, John Rawls, David Miller, Martha Nussbaum, Amartya Sen
Considerations for BOTH the 3,000 word assessed essays:
- Think carefully about your choice of thinkers: are there any connections
between them?
- We have designed the essays to encourage you to develop the skill of reading
thinkers in their own words. Initially this might be difficult, so you should support
your reading by looking at general social studies textbooks and secondary
commentaries on the thinkers you choose to write about.
- It is important for you to show evidence of having read and understood some of
the first hand works written by the thinkers you address in your essay.
- Although the reading list looks long, it only shows a fraction of the sources that
are of potential relevance to support your essay writing. Students often panic
when an item on the reading list is out on loan. You should remember there are
likely to be other sources nearby on the shelves and available electronically,
particularly in academic journal articles, that might help you. Part of the
challenge of university study is finding sources your teachers haven’t
- Essays that depend on vague internet sources and wikipedia are extremely
unlikely to have the depth and reliability that university assessed work requires.
Always consider the scholarly authority (or lack of it) of the sources you are
using. Last year several students were awarded marks of zero for copying
material from inappropriate sources.
- You should ensure that your essay develops a logical argument, follows
standard referencing conventions, and has a full bibliography.