This course has two goals. First, to introduce students to the diversity of methods that social scientists use to answer questions about the social world. Second, to prepare thesis writers to conduct original research. We will survey both qualitative and quantitative approaches, reading a combination of methodological texts and exemplary empirical work. For their final project, students will write a research proposal that will anchor their future thesis work.
This course is designed to introduce you to the foundational problems of modern sociology. As we wrestle with sociology's canon, we will ask some of the big questions that lie behind the concerns of sociologists today. What is modern society? Why did it arise? What makes it tick? Why does it sometimes break down? Why does it mostly not? And what is the role of the sociologist, her science and her values?
Most academics who think and write about Mass Incarceration do so because we believe it to be wrong. But what exactly is wrong with it? This course canvases the range of answers that social scientists, lawyers, philosophers, and activists have given to that question. It is motivated by our view (to be developed in a forthcoming book) that the most common answers make both logical and empirical errors, and that better answers will require more clarity about facts and more explicit normative reasoning. Our view is still developing, and students will be strongly encouraged to argue against us. The ambition of this course is to help us and to help students, whether aspiring social scientists or budding lawyers, to think more carefully about the relationship between facts and values in discussions of race, class, crime, and punishment.