Sociology Theory Core

Theory is the activity of relating specific facts together into an overall pattern.  In sociology, theory and empirical research are closely connected: sociological theorizing is based on the results of past research, and works to explain those results while framing new research questions.  Theory also helps connect sociological knowledge to the practical demands of personal troubles and public issues. 

In sociology, basic theoretical questions include:

  • What is society? 

  • What are the key problems in society and what causes them?  
  • 
What binds individuals together into communities, and what fuels the conflicts between people? 

  • How has our society developed to the condition it is in, and how is it likely to develop in the future? 
  • How can individuals act to change society for the better – and what is ‘better’ anyway?

One of the exciting things about sociology as a discipline is that it suggests more than one possible answer to each of these questions.  Within the discipline, several quite different theoretical orientations are engaged in a debate over the most basic questions of social life.  Students are invited to join in that debate!

2000 Level Theory Course

Sociological Theoretical Foundations (SOC 2220), a required course for the Sociology major and honours programs, has two main objectives. First, it introduces students to the debates over basic questions at the core of the discipline.  Students learn to see how differing claims about society presuppose differing theoretical choices. Second, it offers students the chance to develop skills in reading and critically analyzing the original writings of important theorists.

3000 Level Theory Courses

Building on the basic skills laid down in SOC 2220, the third-year courses offer students a chance to explore sociological theory in some depth through the examination of specific topics or issues.  These courses especially allow instructors to engage students with their own areas of theoretical interest, and to help students develop their own budding research agendas. 

Sociology majors choose one; honours students take two of these courses:

  • SOC 3310 Theorizing Crime, Law & Social Justice
  • SOC 3330 Origins of Sociological Thought
  • SOC 3350 Feminism and Sociological Theory
  • SOC 3360 Theories in Social Psychology
  • SOC 3390 Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • SOC 3380 Power, Politics, and the Welfare State
  • SOC 3700 Sociology of Law

4000 Level Theory Courses

The two Honours theory seminars hone students’ ability to engage closely with challenging theoretical texts, and orient them to the range of theoretical projects that inform contemporary sociological research. Students who go on to graduate study will have been given a road map and a set of tools that equip them to make and defend their own theoretical choices. Students who go on to other pursuits will have been given the means to think deeply about the social world, and to sense the other possibilities that lie beyond the social world as it currently is.

SOC 4460 Advanced Sociological Theory I  


SOC 4560 Advanced Sociological Theory II 

Graduate Theory Courses

While theorizing is a key component of all of our graduate course offerings, the department offers a number of specialized courses in which students can hone and advance their knowledge of sociological theory.

SOC 7190 Seminar in Selected Topics in Sociological Theory  


SOC 7320 Seminar in Political Sociology


SOC 7430 Seminar in Classical Sociological Theory  


SOC 7440 Seminar in Contemporary Sociological Theory

Special Areas of Strength within the Theory Core

 Area  Faculty
 Classical Theory Charles Axelrod, Mara Fridell
 Criminological Theory Elizabeth Comack, Russell Smandych, Andrew Woolford
 Critical Cultural Theory Sonia Bookman, Mara Fridell, Christopher Fries, Andrew Woolford
 Feminist Theory Elizabeth Comack, Mara Fridell, Susan Prentice
 Political Economy/State Theory Mara Fridell, Mark Hudson, Gregg Olsen, Susan Prentice
 Social Psychology Daniel Albas, Lance Roberts