To provide students with an appreciation of the intellectual and cultural foundations of Western thought, and an opportunity to engage in debates across the humanities.
To provide a wide-ranging and flexible philosophy curriculum, embracing both analytical (or Anglo-American) and Continental (Modern European) philosophical thought.
To provide students with a knowledge of the main theoretical traditions of sociology, and an understanding of the main sociological methods.
To develop students' awareness of the interrelations between philosophical reflection and sociological enquiry, and, more generally, of the relevance of philosophy and sociology to other forms of enquiry (e.g., political, cultural, aesthetic), and to issues in public and moral life.
To develop students' capacity for independent thought, critical enquiry and reflection, argument and analysis, so as to enhance both their future personal and professional lives.
To provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for further study and research.
The outcomes listed below represent the minimum that might be expected of a graduate of the Departments of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Essex.
It is the intention of the Departments that the vast majority of graduates will achieve significantly more.
Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods
On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:
A: Knowledge and understanding
A1: Knowledge of philosophical texts from a variety of traditions (both analytical and continental) and a variety of contexts.
A2: Knowledge of the intellectual foundations of sociology, and of key sociological concepts and theories.
A3: Knowledge of significant figures in the history of philosophy, and of some central theories, arguments and issues connected with them.
A4: Understanding of the relationship between individuals, groups and social institutions, and of social context, culture, social diversity and social change.
A5: Knowledge of techniques of philosophical reasoning and different conceptions of philosophical method.
A6: Knowledge of the relationship between theory, concepts and substantive issues in sociology, and of the principles of research design and the main approaches to data collection.
A7: Knowledge of the epistemological, ethical and political dimensions of sociological research.
A8: Knowledge of major issues currently being debated by philosophers and/or sociologists, including issues at the interface between philosophical and sociological enquiry.
Outcomes A1-8 are achieved through teaching in lecture and in class/workshop/seminar format.
Lectures present material - ideas, data and arguments - in a structured manner, mapping intellectual fields and the contours of debates.
The material is further explored in classes, which focus on specific issues and arguments, or textual or practical examples.
The curriculum is designed to involve clear progression between years 1, 2 and 3, with students taking a sequence of required compulsory modules in sociology, complemented by social science options in the first year, and a sequence of philosophy modules which are also designed to ensure progression from year to year.
In both disciplines students are expected to read books and journal articles in order to prepare for classroom discussion, and also as preparation for writing essays.
In the first year students have to produce a glossary of sociological concepts, and a sociological journal on a topic of their choice for SC111.
All outcomes are assessed through coursework and through unseen written examinations.
Coursework in sociology includes essays, a sociological journal, and a glossary of sociological terms. In philosophy, it includes essays, essay plans, essay drafts, abstracts, peer reviews of draft student essays, reading summaries, reading analyses, in-class reading quizzes, logic exercises, take-home exams, individual and group oral presentations, and a final-year 5,000-word dissertation. Coursework is prepared during the academic year for a specified module, returned with a grade and written or oral feedback for the student.
Coursework is returned with a mark and written or oral comments.
Unseen exams consist of essay-type questions, but the exam for SC201 also requires commentary on an extract from a sociological classic, and the exam for PY114 includes logic exercises.
Coursework tests the ability to research a topic using, for example, library and internet resources, expound specified texts and enter into detailed argumentation with them.
Unseen exams test the ability to rehearse and assess arguments in relation to specific questions posed within a limited time frame.
Philosophy modules include examinations in the first year only.
B: Intellectual and cognitive skills
B1: Ability to follow complex philosophical arguments and present one's own evaluation of them.
B2: Ability to understand, summarise and critically assess sociological work.
B3: Ability to understand and use specialist philosophical terminology.
B4: Ability to compare competing sociological theories and explanations, and to reason critically and coherently in assessing the merits of rival arguments.
B5: Ability to formulate cogent sociological questions, and to assemble, evaluate and interpret evidence.
B6: Ability to identify underlying issues in philosophical texts, debates and arguments, and to highlight deficiencies such as unquestioned assumptions, superficial analogies and unsubstantiated claims.
B7: Ability to summarise complex and demanding philosophical and sociological texts, and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the views they propose.
B8: Ability to assemble, evaluate and interpret sociological evidence.
Skill B1-8 are acquired and developed through lectures and class teaching.
Students are expected to read background material for lectures and classes, and to participate in discussion.
For some sociology classes students must also collect and evaluate empirical data, and tutors provide feedback on class presentations.
Researching and writing essays also offers important practice in the development of these skills.
Outcomes B1-8 are assessed through the coursework and unseen written examinations which students produce for this degree scheme.
Not all sociology assignments require the evaluation and interpretation of empirical evidence, though many do.
Written and oral feedback is also offered to students to assist them in developing these skills.
C: Practical skills
C1: Ability to write an essay on a philosophical or sociological topic, or on a topic which draws on both disciplines, expressing oneself clearly.
C2: Ability to retrieve and synthesise relevant information, and assemble data, from a range of sources, using books, journal articles, library and internet resources.
C3: Ability to summarise, report and evaluate arguments, texts and findings.
C4: Ability to use accepted conventions for presenting references and bibliographies in academic writing.
C5: Ability to demonstrate reflexive awareness in interpreting philosophical and/or sociological material.
Skills C1-5 are developed through preparation for classes and exams, and the preparation of coursework, in conjunction with guidance given in teaching, comments on coursework, and advice provided in Departmental Handbooks.
In the first year sociology assignments cover tasks such as producing a bibliography on a sociological topic, producing a glossary, describing and evaluating a sociological text, and producing a sociological journal.
Assessment is by coursework and unseen examinations (as described above under A: Knowledge and Understanding).
C2 is specifically assessed in a first-year sociology coursework assignment.
Essay questions test all skills, while exam questions test skills C1, C3 and C5.
D: Key skills
D1: Ability to write clearly, and to present ideas and evidence to others in a lucid and precise manner.
D2: Ability to use information technology to collect materials and research and present written work.
D3: Not applicable.
D4: Ability to identify the problem to be solved, articulate critically the assumptions connected with or underlying the problem, to compare and contrast the often contradictory solutions to the problem, and to provide argument and evidence in defence of one's solution to the problem.
D5: Not applicable.
D6: Ability to plan work and manage time, to work to a deadline, and to reflect on one's own work, responding constructively to comment on oral and written communications from teachers and from one's peers.
Skills D1-6 are developed through the established teaching and learning methods for the course.
Specific assignments require students to give oral presentations, and to conduct bibliographic and web searches.
Students are encouraged to discuss essay plans with staff in advance and are given clear deadlines to meet for essays.
Feedback is always provided on coursework, and students are encouraged to reflect on and improve their work.
The format of classes encourages successful interaction in groups.
D1 is assessed throughout the course, through continuously assessed coursework and examinations.
D2 skills are a component in the evaluation of most assessed modules, which require information searches and the word-processing of coursework, but first year assignments such as the sociological journal put a particular focus on them.
D4 is assessed in all assignments (coursework and examination scripts).
Since the curriculum is structured in a progressive manner D6 is tested as students advance from year to year.