skip to content

Department of Sociology


Key Information

We recommend all returning students begin by reading their respective handbooks (Part IIA or Part IIB), which provide a useful overview of each year of the programme.


Specific course material, such as reading lists and lecture hand-outs, can be found on the moodle pages for each paper. Information on coursework, assessments and exams can be found on the Part II Moodle. Changes to our teaching provision during the pandemic are detailed in our Undergraduate Teaching FAQs.


Please consult our page on study resources for more information about accessing readings and course materials during the pandemic, as well as the new zero-contact library services.

Track Options

In the second and third year (Part II), students choose to specialise in a single or joint track within the HSPS Tripos. Single tracks allow students to dig into one subject and choose from a wide range of papers in that discipline. Joint tracks allow students to pursue multiple interests and continue to study at multiple departments. Please follow the link here ( for more information.

Part II Paper Guides (SOC, CRIM)

Use the accordion sections below to find out more about each paper, and download the corresponding paper guide.

SOC2: Social Theory

SOC 2 introduces students to a range of well-defined topics, from the Frankfurt School to the most recent work on risk, identity, difference, sexuality and feminist theory. Students should acquire a firm grasp of key theoretical approaches enabling them to read the work of contemporary social theorists in some depth. The period covered runs from 1920 to the present day, but the emphasis is on more recent (post-1960) developments. The traditions and orientations are situated in their social and intellectual context, and the writings of key thinkers are examined textually in detail. The strengths and limitations of different perspectives are discussed and, where appropriate, their relevance to social research explored. Among the perspectives and authors covered are the following: pragmatism, Mead and symbolic interactionism; Goffman; existentialism, structuralism, post-structuralism; Bourdieu; Latour; Foucault; theories of sexuality; Arendt; the Frankfurt School and critical theory; Habermas; Bauman; the development of Marxist thought in the twentieth century; the cultural turn; the post-human; feminist theory; decolonial, postcolonial and subaltern studies.

SOC2 Paper Guide

SOC3: Global Social Problems

SOC 3 introduces and explores a selection of global social problems and dynamics of resistance from a sociological perspective: including environmental and social justice, social movements and contentious politics, and control and resistance in digital societies.

The paper provides students with a critical understanding of key sociological concepts, approaches and analyses to social problems such as inequality, neoliberalism, development, nationalism, globalisation, social movements, protest, transnationalism, democracy, discourse, political economy, control and pluralism. SOC 3 also introduces the sociological notion and methodological tool of intersectionality – bringing gender, race and class to the fore.

SOC3 Paper Guide

SOC4: Concepts and Arguments in Sociology

SOC 4 gives students the opportunity to pursue their interests in Sociology in further depth, and to think carefully about the nature of sociological explanation and analysis. With the help and guidance of a supervisor, students have the opportunity to engage in independent reading and research and to work on topics that they may wish to study further in their third year (Part IIB), either by choosing a relevant IIB paper (SOC 6-13) or by writing a dissertation. Unlike other exam-based papers, SOC 4 is assessed by two essays of 5,000 words each.

SOC4 Paper Guide

SOC5/CRIM2: Statistics and Methods

SOC 5 is organised into three modules. The first covers statistical methods: descriptive statistics; bivariate correlation; multivariate linear regression, and factor analysis. Students will read published work employing each of the methods; learn how to implement the method in STATA with “real” data, and how to test whether results are statistically valid.

The second module covers sampling and survey design: different ways in which a sample may be selected; the importance of careful sample selection; the implications of samples based on different designs; structured surveys and questionnaire design; sampling and non-sampling error; challenges of using secondary data; issues of comparability; where to find survey data; weighting.

The third module covers topics in qualitative research methods: techniques in interviewing, the principles of ethnography, and visual methods.

SOC5/CRIM2 Paper Guide

SOC6: Advanced Social Theory

SOC6 offers students the opportunity to pursue their interests in contemporary social theory at an advanced level. The aim of the course is to encourage students to use social theory in order to think creatively, constructively and critically about the ways in which the social and political world is changing today. The course takes for granted an intermediate level of knowledge of classical and contemporary social theory; students are expected to develop and extend their knowledge of key thinkers by reading their work in greater depth during this course. However, the course itself is organized around problems and issues, not around thinkers and texts. The emphasis is on encouraging students to practise social theory by thinking theoretically about particular problems and issues. The course seeks to bring social theory alive by getting students to draw on the resources of social theory in order to understand the world of the 21st century and how it is changing.

SOC6 Paper Guide

SOC7: Media, Culture and Society

SOC7 focuses on the sociological study of media and of cultural and symbolic forms, ranging from youth subcultures to media power and communications media, including television, the press and the internet. The precise topics and scope of the paper vary each year, but may include the political economy of media and culture; the study of media and cultural institutions; online privacy and surveillance; journalism and news; audience studies and the role of ethnography, identity and representation in relation to culture and media; theories of the public sphere and of cultural citizenship; the changing nature of political communications; theory and analysis of digital media and the internet and their implications for social and political life.

SOC 7 Paper Guide

SOC8: Revolution, Empire & Exile

This interdisciplinary module offers a critical examination of the interplay between empire, revolution, and exile in shaping contemporary politics. Grounded in sociological, historical, and post-colonial perspectives, the course explores how processes of imperialism, revolutionary change, and displacement intersect to shape power relations, identities, and resistance movements in a globalised world. The course invites students to critically interrogate dominant narratives of power, resistance, and belonging, while exploring the possibilities for transformative social change in an increasingly interconnected and contested world. Through interdisciplinary inquiry and critical reflection, students emerge with a nuanced understanding of the complex political dynamics shaping our globalised reality.  This interdisciplinary module offers a critical examination of the interplay between empire, revolution, and exile in shaping contemporary politics. Grounded in sociological, historical, and post-colonial perspectives, the course explores how processes of imperialism, revolutionary change, and displacement intersect to shape power relations, identities, and resistance movements in a globalised world. The course invites students to critically interrogate dominant narratives of power, resistance, and belonging, while exploring the possibilities for transformative social change in an increasingly interconnected and contested world. Through interdisciplinary inquiry and critical reflection, students emerge with a nuanced understanding of the complex political dynamics shaping our globalised reality.  

SOC9: Global Capitalism

SOC9 seeks to develop an understanding both of capitalism in general - its fundamental structure and functioning - and of its national varieties. Last, the global extension of capitalism receives consideration. The course of lectures covers three main areas. The first examines general theories of the structure of capitalism in both the classical and modern literature; its historical development and fundamental institutions, such as the firm, the market etc. Second, some of the major capitalist economies are examined in detail, particularly the USA and Japan. Third, two important related issues in the development and change of capitalist economies are examined: the question of globalization and 'varieties of capitalism'; and the transition to capitalism in post-communist societies.

SOC9 Paper Guide

SOC10: Gender

SOC10 introduces key theorists, concepts and developments in the sociology of gender and contemporary feminist theory. Lectures outline the feminist analysis of sex, gender, the sexual division of labour, intersectionality, and the gendered economies of production and reproduction. The paper includes lectures on masculinities, new reproductive technologies, affect and embodiment, international feminism, black feminist thought, and trans/queer theory. The paper is offered in a lecture/seminar format and a key text (or texts) are required reading which students are expected to prepare in advance.

SOC10 Paper Guide

SOC11: Race, Racism and Ethnicity

SOC11 explores the emergence of modern notions of race and ethnicity, contemporary forms of racism, processes of racialisation, and the social and political forces that have shaped them. Key questions will include: How are racial ideas conceptualized and justified through a variety of biological, social and cultural discourses? How did race and ethnicity come to be defined and embedded in the context of colonial and post-colonial rule? What are the, often complex, relations between ideas of race, the production of difference and identity, and the pervasiveness of social exclusion? Why does race remain such a powerful determinant of individual and collective identities? What is the specificity of ethnicity in contemporary society? Why and how does race and ethnicity matter?

SOC11 Paper Guide

SOC12: Empire, Colonialism and Imperialism

SOC12 is especially concerned with three topics. Firstly, the paper encourages us to think about the processes of empire, colonialism and imperialism from a sociological viewpoint. In doing so, we will consider Marxist and the modernity/coloniality approaches to the world system. Secondly, the paper seeks to investigate how empire, colonialism, and imperialism structure knowledge production – both in the past and the present. In doing so, we will consider debates over the ‘decolonial option’ in sociology and the social sciences, considering how we can work against the ‘imperial episteme’. Lastly, this paper outlines so-called ‘hidden figures’ of sociology, highlighting the critical sociological work and traditions being done at the borders of the modern, colonial world system.

SOC12 Paper Guide

SOC13: Health, Medicine and Society

SOC13 provides students with a critical survey of principal themes and debates in contemporary medical sociology. It explores the major social causes of health and illness in modern societies with special reference to such factors as social class, gender, ethnicity, and age; provides students with a sociological grasp of the issues and problems associated with chronic illness; investigates a variety of key topics in the sociology of mental health; and, finally, develops a sociological analysis of the major organizational, professional, and technological components of medical institutions and medical practice in contemporary society. The paper also explores new methods of health care delivery with an eye to understanding their roles in either fostering or minimising social inequalities pertaining to health and illness. In addition to these substantive topics, the paper also examines cutting edge theoretical approaches to the study of health and illness in society, including: social constructionism, feminist theory, the sociology of the body, the sociology of science, and phenomenology. In short, the paper explores a wide range of both substantive and theoretical issues pertaining to the nature and distribution of health and illness in modern societies.

SOC13 Paper Guide

SOC15/CRIM4: Criminology, Sentencing and the Penal System

SOC15 aims to give students an informed and critical understanding of key issues in Law, Criminal Justice and Penal Policy in England and Wales (with reference to other countries where relevant). It does so in five ways. Firstly, by helping student to read the evidence for patterns of crime and for pathways into and out of offending in the context of i) fads, fashions and political ideas in criminal justice, ii) our knowledge of individual, family and situational risk factors, and iii) offender rehabilitation and desistance from crime. Secondly, by looking at the principles of punishment and at empirical evidence for the effectiveness of different crime reduction strategies. Thirdly, by considering the legal framework of sentencing and the theoretical and practical dilemmas facing judges and magistrates. Fourthly by examining some of the challenges faced by the criminal justice and penal system in dealing with specific groups of offenders such as adolescents, women, and those who are regarded as ‘dangerous’. Finally, there is consideration of community penalties, prisons and parole, and broader questions of gender, equality and fairness in contemporary criminal justice.

SOC15 Paper Guide

CRIM1: Foundation in criminology and criminal justice

CRIM1 provides an introduction to the field of criminology, its debates and challenges, its current research preoccupations and future directions. It aims to enable students to develop an informed and critical appreciation of theories of crime and responses to crime in local and international contexts and a broad understanding of the research issues in the study of crime and criminal justice. CRIM1 addresses these general topics with reference to specific case studies for example, gangs, drugs, terrorism, young people, women. The course is deliberately cross-cultural in focus, covering criminology in different international contexts. It will focus on the acquisition of key concepts, theories and debates, interpretation and critique of these concepts and use of these reflective insights to, solve problems (e.g. how do we reduce knife crime?) and innovate through thought experiments (e.g. what would a society without punishment look like?).

CRIM1 Paper Guide

CRIM3: Two long essays on a criminology topic

CRIM3 consists of two 5000-word essays on criminological topics. The Institute of Criminology will set the topics from which the student can choose. Supervisors will depend on topics chosen and will be organised centrally. The topics presented will reflect a wide range of criminological and criminal justice interests, for example: changes in types of crime over time, motives for committing crime, biological, neurological and psychological factors relating to the commission of crime, sociological factors relating to the commission of crime, desistance or what facilitates pathways out of crime, and gender differences in the commission of crime. Essay topics presented will also reflect criminal justice issues: decision-making by the police, out of court options, race issues in the delivery of criminal justice, CPS decision-making, sentencing, prison regimes and their limitations, gender differences in the delivery of criminal justice, parole and early release, media portrayals of crime and criminal justice. There will also be opportunity to write in a comparative way, drawing on what is known about conceptions of criminal justice in other countries.

CRIM3 Paper Guide

CRIM5: Social Order, Violence and Organised Forms of Criminality

CRIM5 offers an analytical exploration of social order, violence and organised forms of criminality. Particular emphasis will be placed on the mechanisms underpinning such phenomena. The course adopts a comparative approach to tease out similarities – and differences – between phenomena observed in different locales across the world and/or at different points in time. The course begins in Michaelmas Term by looking at violence in a series of seminars devoted to the study of long-term trends in violence, global patterns of violence in contemporary societies, the relationship between social inequality and violence, and violence as an economic activity. The course then discusses issues related to order and governance supplied, respectively, by States and illegal actors (e.g., organised crime groups). In Lent Term, the course focuses on specific forms of organised crime: drugs production and trafficking; human trafficking; migrant smuggling; cybercrime; gangs and Mafias. The course is multidisciplinary and draws on concepts from sociology, law, criminology, history, industrial economics, political economy and political theory.

CRIM5 Paper Guide

Sociology Dissertation

Students may offer a dissertation of between 6,000 and 10,000 words in place of a paper; they choose a topic and approach a supervisor of their choice. For many students, the opportunity to study a topic of their choosing in depth is the most rewarding part of the Tripos. Students are advised to start considering a topic and supervisor for their dissertation before the end of their second year; Directors of Studies can help with these decisions. Many students do fieldwork or read for their dissertations over the summer vacation before the start of the third year. Titles should be submitted as soon as possible, but not later than the second week of Michaelmas term, and must be approved by the Head of the Sociology department. Before undertaking fieldwork, students will need to submit a research ethics and risk assessment form, available from the Part II Moodle. In addition to individual supervision, workshops will be provided to assist students with the collection and analysis of data. The dissertation is submitted in the first week of Easter term.

Dissertation Guide 2022-23