sociology as a hard science major

Why don’t we offer a “hard science” sociology track? If you teach at a university with a lot of decent social science departments, it’s an easy major to implement. Except for math soc, all the courses are there already. My version:

  • Intro soc
  • Research methods
  • Social theory
  • Basic stats (hypothesis testing) + applied regression analysis
  • Microeconomics
  • Demography
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Mathematical Sociology/computational models
  • Intro game theory
  • Breadth: a few courses in qualitative topics; three courses of topics in sociology (like race, gender, education, etc.); a capstone course

The background that a student would need is about 1 year of calculus and some computer literacy. The only course that soc depts don’t already offer is math soc. But I think that could be offered, or made an elective. At a competitive R1 school, I’d imagine that you could get 3-4 majors per year. A minor could probably bag you 5-8 students per year. I bet a few hard science types would be happy to tack it on as a double major. And the cost would be zero.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 1, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in education, fabio, sociology

19 Responses

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  1. Would it really be necessary to offer this as a separate major? What about the possibility of just changing the way we approach the undergraduate major in general – teaching it as a science rather than in a topics oriented way (as it seems to be taught in most places now).



    February 1, 2012 at 12:47 am

  2. That’s a curious amount of ideology for a hard science.


  3. Perhaps one of the major options at Brown does it for you?



    February 1, 2012 at 1:50 am

  4. Surprising how little sociology there is in “hard sociology” as you envision it.



    February 1, 2012 at 2:46 am

  5. This basically describes my graduate studies. As a result I now have a substantial methodological toolkit but know very little about sociology. While this has prepared me for private sector jobs that require a diverse skill set, it has done very little in helping me identify core sociological questions — something that comes with deep, sustained engagement with a literature rather than a methodological dilettantism.


    Anonymous Grad

    February 1, 2012 at 3:18 am

  6. Hear, hear. I always say that sociologists have it harder because we have to be both above (social science) average theorists and above average methodologists.

    Focusing on either to the detriment of the other makes you either a research assistant for someone else or an ivory tower dreamer. Or, as I like to say it, a biologist or a philosopher.



    February 1, 2012 at 6:20 am

  7. why not just sociology/economics double majors?? admittedly, does require a lot of course work, but it worked out well more me!


    interdisciplinary grad student

    February 1, 2012 at 6:34 am

  8. I have no protests to this proposal. I think that it would be a good development because we would grab up some economics and psychology students (psychology, I noticed, has heavy quantitative requirements).

    This would also help further legitimize the discipline and subject in the eyes of those outside of academia (such as industry) – which, face it, is important even though it shouldn’t be…

    I personally think that the migration of network analysis and formal theory types into business schools is a good thing.



    February 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

  9. That looks like an awesome programme to me. Sociology needs more applied math and it continually fails its students by not opening them up to mathematical methods/modelling, it’s no wonder mathematical sociology is better done in economics and computer science departments rather than sociology departments.



    February 1, 2012 at 10:42 am

  10. That sounds like a great idea and helpful for when students ask what they can do with a bachelors in sociology. When will you be getting this started in Indiana?



    February 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  11. Game theory is theory dressed up in math. I would hardly call it “hard science”. Same goes for math soc, and I don’t see how microecon is any “harder” than a good-quality evidence-based substantive soc course.

    The “hard” side of the social sciences, in my view, is empirical methods. I’d leave game theory, math soc and microecon as electives, and offer more in the way of a survey research seminar, advanced stats, or a seminar on evidence-based decision-making.



    February 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm

  12. The B.S. in Sociology option at Western Washington University seems like a similar offering. Extra math, some Demography, some topical sociology classes and a thesis requirement. If I am correct, this option has been around for about 30 years.

    Click to access BSSoc_000.pdf



    February 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

  13. This plan sounds a lot like the Concentration in Analysis and Research that is offered to Sociology majors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:



    February 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm

  14. A bizarre proposal IMHO: what pieces of sociology would you, a priori, omit from “hard” (ignoring the gendered character of the term, since paying attention to meaning might be “soft”, doubly so in a psychoanalytic mode) scientific sociology? And on what basis would you determine what modalities of study are sufficiently rigorous? I hereby banish thee to read the thread on John Levi Martin’s new book and in particular the delightful link to JLM’s website posted by Omar.



    February 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  15. I’m all for differentiation, though I’m not sure I’d call this curriculum “hard” science. You should add more stats beyond the intro to your list. You can’t get deep enough in one class.


    Michael Bishop

    February 2, 2012 at 3:17 am

  16. From the replys of others it sounds like they have had socialogy studies before. I can’t say that I really have much experience but I like your idea and your curriculum. It sound sensible to me. Thanks.



    February 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm

  17. Interesting idea. I’d amend it by making game theory an elective and then bookending the whole major with introductory and capstone courses focused on how to do and consume social scientific research, both basic and applied. The first would focus on being a critical reader of social scientific research (not just how to call bullshit on ridiculous polls, but how to think about what would be better in the sense of both fairness and cleverness, i.e., persuasion that doesn’t seem biased). The second would focus more on constructing social research, with the option for a senior thesis.

    That sort of training would be good prep for PhDs, but also for working in all kinds of analytical jobs from non-profit policy analysis to (gasp!) management consulting.

    For the really hard core, I’d add a couple of CS-oriented courses, too.



    February 3, 2012 at 4:53 pm

  18. “Joes who wrote prose,
    now write algebra;
    who knows?
    it could be sociology…
    … they’re everywhere
    talking sigma and chi-square
    like mathematics Ph.Ds. …
    … with one little matrix,
    they really can do great tricks,
    all in the name of sociology…”

    Sociology is a science. It is only not physics. “Social physics” was attempted by Spencer and Comte; and neither the individualist nor the collectivist succeeded in reducing humans to billiard balls. Last week here we were introduced to the sociology of music. Would a class in statistical methods help you understand how musicians create niche markets via social media?

    If you begin with the fact that social interactions correlate with the release of neurotransmitters, you could build an entire medical school curriculum around “the neurochemistry of society” … and never understand how people live together…


    Michael Marotta

    February 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  19. Michigan State also has a similar degree for those of you who might be interested:



    April 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm

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