Why study Sociology?
If you believe that Sociology has meaning, relevance and applicability beyond the university, you are already one step ahead in developing your sociological imagination. This term was coined by the American sociologist, C. Wright Mills, who wanted to see how our 'private troubles' related to 'public issues'.
Sociology is useful for anyone working with people, particularly in groups or organisational settings. Sociological research and analysis can make an important contribution to the development of sound social policies that address inequality and promote social justice.
In the words of Mills, "The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. That is its task and its promise. To recognise this task and this promise is the mark of the classic social analyst." (Mills, 1959, p.12)
By igniting your sociological imagination, you will begin to understand how personal choice is shaped by social context.
Sociology at Otago
Sociology can be studied as a major or a minor subject within the 3-year Bachelor of Arts degree. Many students who choose to major in the Arts or Social Sciences include Sociology papers in their degree. Throughout your degree you will be challenged to design and conduct research that explores the operation of social power and the production of social inequality.
In the first year, Sociology students are introduced to the key concepts and approaches in local and global sociology. Topics include race, class and gender; deviance and crime; basic social processes (such as interaction, socialisation and culture); aspects of institutional life (such as family, religion, education, politics and the economy); and drivers of social change (such as globalisation, environmental sustainability and popular protest).
Second and third-year courses expand on these foundations, and students are given the opportunity to develop their critical and analytical skills by engaging in social theorising, research design and data analysis.
The single most important requirement for the study of Sociology is curiosity and the willingness to look beneath the surface. A background in history, social geography and liberal arts is useful but not required. Most students will be studying Sociology for the first time so everyone will be on an equal footing.
Sociology graduates work in a variety of fields such as local and national politics, government departments and non-profit organisations, trade unions, social services, public health, journalism, social policy development, advertising and marketing, human resources, socio-legal associations and academia.