Graduate Course Descriptions

Sociology Graduate Course Descriptions

MA Courses imageThese courses are required by the MA degree:

SOC 609 Statistics I
This course is an entry-level graduate statistics course aimed at preparing students to understand the basics of statistical analyses. Initially, we will complete an introduction and tutorial to Stata, the statistical analysis software that will be used throughout the semester. Next, we will spend time learning how to prepare, transform and manage your data for statistical analyses. The course content also covers how to properly conduct descriptive statistics and test hypotheses using the appropriate statistical tests, such as chi-square, analysis of variance (ANOVA), and t-tests.

The remainder of the course will be spent on exploring relationships between variables via linear and multiple regression analyses. Though previous experience with Stata is not required, students are expected to have completed an undergraduate-level introductory statistics course. By the end of the semester, students should be able to a) manage and analyze data within Stata, b) conduct and accurately interpret univariate and bivariate statistical analyses, c) conduct and interpret ordinary least squares (OLS) and multiple regression analyses, and d) be able to craft a research question and analyze, interpret and visually present the results.  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Latrica Best at

SOC 610 Statistics II
Even researchers who never conduct quantitative research need to be literate in quantitative techniques in order to understand and evaluate others’ work. One goal of this course is for students to develop this quantitative literacy. However, a second and equally important goal is to use multivariate techniques as a vehicle for helping students make “the empirical turn.” Namely, students will learn to incorporate empirical data analysis into your graduate work, and, in the process, becoming more familiar with the structure of scientific writing, the importance of data analysis in this writing, and the process of getting a paper published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

This course provides a review of multivariate analytic techniques and a brief introduction to modeling procedures in the social sciences. Students will be instructed in the use of STATA procedures and are expected to employ these in their seminar work.  Upon completion of this course, students will be able to correctly identify the general class of statistical model appropriate to several types of dependent variables. Students will be able to write STATA syntax to execute ordinary least squares, binary logistic, multinomial logistic, ordered logistic, Poisson, and negative binomial regression models. Students will know the key assumptions of each type of regression and know how to test for whether these assumptions have been violated (and what, if anything, can be done to overcome these violations). Finally, students who complete this course will know how to communicate the results of multivariate regression models to a scientific audience both orally and through written work.

SOC 611 Statistics III
This course is intended to help students analyze two or more dependent variables simultaneously; however, as a survey course, it cannot treat the universe of all multivariate procedures.  Therefore, topics were selected based on those multivariate techniques which sociology graduate students are most likely to encounter and use and which are more appropriate for larger samples.  Presentation of material will have an applied focus in which students will analyze data with Stata software and present findings in tabular, graphical, and textual formats. As appropriate, students will be required to critique how other researchers have carried out analyses and presented their findings in journal articles. This course will also emphasize the sometimes overlooked art of interpreting statistics, or “telling the story” of the data. 

The course will begin by defining multivariate statistics and assessing the landscape of possible applications. In what should largely constitute a review for you, we summarize multiple regression, significance testing, the logic of bootstrapping, ANOVA/ANCOVA, and data preparation checks to ensure that data/variables are compatible with your planned analyses. The first substantive topic is cluster analysis, which explores how cases may be classified empirically into groups using multiple criteria, and then the course segues into exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, with the latter being especially useful for our in-depth treatment of structural equation modeling (SEM). SEM permits users to estimate statistics for latent variables and perform causal model exploration and testing, and the course will treat path analysis, particularly as a special case of SEM.  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Bob Carini at

SOC 618 Qualitative Research Methods
This course is designed to train students in several qualitative research methods, sampling, and data analysis techniques.  Over the course of the semester, students will have an opportunity to pilot a research study from start to finish, present their work to the class, receive feedback from the professor and classmates, and learn through an active process of constructing new knowledge. By the end of the course, students will have engaged in the following: conducted participant observational research or a content analysis, learned to take jottings and turn them into field notes, conducted several in-depth interviews, and learned how to code and analyze your data to identify emergent patterns, concepts, and theoretical ideas.  

Additionally, they will have learned sampling methods and when and why to use these and the various data gathering methods you will learn.  In sum, students will understand the basic data gathering and data analysis techniques of qualitative methods for the development of grounded theory, using a “standpoint” or “emic” perspective; and be capable of designing and carrying out a qualitative study of their own, using these methods as they are scientifically appropriate.   (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Karen Christopher at ).

SOC 622 Survey Research and Design
This course will cover comprehensive survey planning, including ethical issues paramount to survey-based research; pros and cons of various modes of administration; instrument design (operationalizing concepts and constructs into measures, question design considerations, response choices, optimizing layout, etc.); pretesting (such as focus groups and cognitive interviews); sampling (including error estimation and power analysis); and administration procedures (e.g., interviewer training, follow-ups, strategies to boost response rates, third party survey platforms/tools).

While students will not have time over the duration of the course to administer a survey (let alone submit and clear an IRB protocol for a research project), they will have gained the skills necessary to design and administer their own survey.  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Bob Carini at

SOC 628 Contemporary Theory
This course is designed to introduce students to key bodies of contemporary sociological theory to provide a foundation upon which they can build their theoretical understandings of the social world.   By the end of the course, students should be able to identify, define, explain, apply and provide original examples of key contemporary sociological concepts and theories, and compare and contrast theories and combine concepts from different theories into a synthetic theoretical framework.   (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Pat Gagné at )

SOC 691 Special Topics (Social Problems in Louisville)
This course is designed to encourage students to apply theories and concepts to understand social problems in a local context. Students will be able to define what constitutes a social problem, demonstrate the ability to connect data on Louisville and the surrounding area to structural explanations for each social problem, and explain how two or more social problems are connected.

During the course, students will engage in in-depth investigations of selected social problems relevant to the Louisville metro area and/or to the Kentucky/Southern Indiana region. For each selected social problem, they will 1) read several articles/book chapters covering theories/concepts that are critical for understanding the social problem; 2) be introduced to qualitative and/or quantitative empirical information describing the social problem; 3) be introduced to local government agencies and non-profit organizations that are attempting to address the social problem, and 4) discuss the differential impacts of the social problem from an intersectionality framework. Each module will be covered over a two-week period, with the first week dedicated to theory/concepts and the second week dedicated to data/solutions. (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Dave Roelfs at )

PhD Courses imageThese courses are required for the PhD in applied sociology:

SOC 725 Organizational Theory

Formal and complex organizations form the basis for our everyday lives, and as a result there are many important debates and theories in the social sciences that depend in one way or another on organizations. For example, micro-level analyses about the choices people make when founding a new organization must take account of how existing organizations (and institutions) influence the menu of choices from which they choose. Or, to take a macro example, the work that explores risk and catastrophes derives from and depends upon an understanding of the organizations which create and deal with these issues.

In this course, students will survey the intellectual foundations of organizational theory as well as delve into some of the current arguments in the field. While it will not cover all the issues relevant to understanding organizations, the course will focus on the structural characteristics of organizations and industries and their consequences for employees, other organizations, and society at large. A fuller understanding of the complex world in which organizations live requires an understanding of the structure and impacts of the economic system on organizations (the core focus of economic sociology), as well as an examination of the commonalities in work/occupational experiences across organizations (the core focus of the sociology of work).  The course has a strong applied focus, meaning that students will seek to explore how well the oftentimes abstract theories work in diverse real-world settings, specifically by repeatedly asking how well ideas that were primarily generated from studying factories apply to other types of organizations (e.g., governments, nonprofits, social movements).

SOC 730 Fundamental Assumptions of Sociology
Should the social sciences strive to emulate natural science methods? Do explanations of social phenomena require something essentially different from explanations in the natural sciences? This course rests on the idea that knowledge and society are inextricable entwined. The goal is to cultivate intellectual tools to that help identify and interrogate the assumptions that underlie sociological thought. That is, the goal is to problematize the question of knowledge itself. What is a fact, and what, if anything, distinguishing a “sociological” one from a “scientific” one? What do sociologists seek to study or explain? Moreover, how are social phenomena captured, contested, and/or reconstituted through such theories and investigations? The texts for this course will help guide class discussions, and students will consider and question the types of problems that count as legitimate sociological inquires. Thus, the course will pay close attention to which, and whose, voice(s) are heard and respected, and which are overlooked and devalued in the making and potential use of sociological knowledges.

SOC 735 Classical Theory
This course focuses on some of the classical sociological theories that have provided the framework for sociological work and will examine the perspectives of influential theorists whose ideas have shaped and are still shaping the discipline of sociology.  The course is designed to motivate students to systematically read and comprehend primary texts written by influential social thinkers and explore the social world of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the ramifications of these explanations for today’s social world.  Ultimately, students will be expected to identify each theory regarding its concepts, logic, analytical assumptions, and implications and develop a comparative understanding of classical theoretical frameworks.  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Gul Marshall at

SOC 740 Social Policy
This course examines the main areas of social policy from an interdisciplinary perspective with emphasis on a variety of sociological approaches to policy-making and evaluation. In addition to the traditional survey of U.S. health, education, and welfare policy, the course will weave questions of sustainability throughout the course. Over the semester, students will gain a critical understanding of how to study and evaluate social policy, learning how to apply key theoretical concepts and methodological approaches to questions related to social policy, as well as how present their work in a public forum. They will also gain experience in facilitating in-depth critical discussions of difficult social problems and produce a research paper of near publishable quality by the end of the semester.

Students taking this course are expected to have a basic understanding of social science research methods and theory and will be encouraged to bring other approaches to the seminar. (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Lauren Heberle at

SOC 750 Program Evaluation
This course covers the many aspects of program evaluation, from identifying questions to devising and implementing appropriate evaluation procedures. The course covers program evaluation as a discipline and how social scientists use their traditional training to evaluate programs and organizations effectively and efficiently. Program evaluation is not devoid of theoretical underpinnings, and this course will provide a backdrop for students to learn how theoretical perspectives are applied (or not) in the evaluation process. Students will also be able to assess the pitfalls that may occur with “real life” situations, specifically as it relates to social, political, financial, and cultural constraints. The course will also equip students with a greater understanding of applied research as a whole and equip them with the necessary skills to pursue careers in evaluation research.  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Latrica Best at

SOC 760 Social Inequality and Stratification
This course examines the sociology of social stratification and inequality in the U.S. Social stratification along class, race, citizenship or legality, and gender lines manifest through inequality within and between social groups in terms of economic, cultural, and social resources, power, and domination. Scholars and policy makers have long been interested in the causes, consequences, and solutions to inequality. Yet, the social complexities that underlie persistent inequality are challenging to understand and address, particularly in the context of economic, political, and social changes. As such, students will tackle several fundamental questions: What are social inequality and stratification? How do they arise? Why do they persist over time? What are their effects on individual life opportunities and chances? How have groups, organizations, and programs organized to ameliorate inequality? Can (and how should) societies work to eliminate social inequalities, and if so, which types?  (For more information or to gain permission to enroll in the course, contact Dr. Melanie Gast at