Doctor of Philosophy

Course Descriptions

Core Courses for Ph.D. degree:

SYA 7939 Interdisciplinary Professional Seminar (PROSEM)

As a required first course for all Ph.D. students, this course is designed to offer skill-building necessary for new researchers, particularly in the areas of data literacy, strategies in writing for publication, and effective reviewing of other scholars' research. It will also introduce students to the topics of the structure of the academy and interdisciplinary research. While engaging the scholarly literature, students will examine various epistemologies, methodologies, and theories. The final paper for this course is typically an interdisciplinary literature review in the students' primary research areas as an early preparation for a dissertation proposal.

SYA 7939 Advanced Sociological Theory and Practice I/II

Alternative approaches to exploring continuing and recent issues and controversies in Sociological theory. Implications of different theoretical positions for the conduct and interpretation of empirical research. The particular theoretical issues and controversies examined will be determined, in part, by student interests and linked to the development of their dissertation proposals. Prerequisite: SYA 6126 (Sociological Theory) or its equivalent.

SYA 7515 Advanced Research Methods and Study Design in Sociology

A focus on developing practical skills to design and evaluate academic research in the social sciences. Issues of reliability, validity, generalizability, fit between epistemological and methodological frameworks, significance and importance of questions and findings. Prerequisites: SYA 6305 (Methods of Research) and SYA 6405 (Statistics) or their equivalents.

SYA 7939 Capstone Interdisciplinary Seminar (Taken as a final course)

The overall purpose of this course is to assist advanced Ph.D. students in sociology and other social science disciplines in designing their dissertation research and describing it in a coherent and detailed dissertation proposal. Throughout the semester, besides receiving feedback from the instructor, students are asked to provide constructive comments on each other’s work in progress, and they are urged to solicit additional feedback on their research plans and written work from their advisors and dissertation committee members. We will also think and talk about how to develop and communicate one’s larger scholarly identity and general research agenda through statements and CVs. The course ends with a session on finding and applying for dissertation-related funding opportunities. While you will write and defend only one dissertation proposal, consider that writing research proposals of all kinds, and communicating your scholarly identity and agenda to peers and other colleagues, are critical professional skills for your entire academic career.

SYA 7980 Dissertation Proposal Development I/II

Elective Courses for M.A./Ph.D (offered at a maximum once every four semesters)

SYA 6315 Qualitative Research Methods

Designed to introduce students to qualitative research methods, such as participant observation and intensive interviewing that require the researcher to get close to the social situation of interest.

The description of this course for the fall, 2019, semester states:

This course familiarizes graduate students with theoretical and practical issues in qualitative social research.

Qualitative research has become firmly established in many scholarly disciplines, thus the main goal of the course is to provide training on a variety of qualitative research methods, by working together, hands on and through methodological readings, to develop the necessary skills to conduct research. The course will begin with a brief discussion of epistemologies and theoretical paradigms that legitimize and inform qualitative research and with an introduction to qualitative research design. However, the bulk of the course is devoted to learning a variety of qualitative data collection techniques—such as observation, standard and innovative ways of interviewing, focus groups, visual methods, as well as so-called alternative methods. We will also devote time to qualitative data analysis, writing and presentation of data in social sciences, as well as the (often neglected) issues of researcher positionality.

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

Note: For Sociology PhD Students, this course counts as a specialty methods course.  

SYA 6316 Ethnography

Examines the theoretical and practical issues in ethnographic research and various styles of ethnography. Provides hands-on training in ethnographic data collection and qualitative data analysis.

The description of this course for the spring, 2016, semester states:

This seminar is designed to provide hands-on training in ethnographic research methods and qualitative data analysis culminating in the production of an imminently publishable ethnography. Topics examined include designing ethnographic research, understanding fieldwork ethics, selecting field settings, entering the field, adopting and deriving fieldwork roles, developing rapport and managing relationships in the field, observing naturalistically, ethnographic interviewing, writing ethnographic field notes, coding and analyzing ethnographic data, constructing grounded theory, evaluating ethnographic research, and speaking, writing, and publishing ethnographies. In addition to acquiring ethnographic skills via engaging in fieldwork and by participating in a series of in-class exercises, the seminar meetings will offer a peer learning community in which participants will share “tales from the field” and garner suggestions and support from one another.

SYA 6909 Independent Study

Independent Study

SYA 6912 Directed Research

Directed Research

SYA 6933 Special Topics in Sociology

Topics vary depending on student and faculty interests. Topics in recent semesters have included: Social Psychology; Race and Immigration; Religion, Culture & Society; Religion and Social Change; Narrative Identity; Women’s Status & Global Conflict; Sociology of Health and Illness. These elective courses for M.A./Ph.D students are offered at a maximum once every four semesters.

Courses offered in the spring, 2020, semester include:

Environmental Sociology, SYA 6933 901
Instructor: Jamie Sommer, jamiesommer@usf.edu  
Day and Time: Wednesday, 5:00 - 7:45 p.m.

This seminar will serve as an overview of this specialty area to find connections to students' research interests. We will read main theories in environmental sociology, environmental justice, world society theory, ecologically unequal exchange theory, metabolic rift theory, the treadmill of production, and environmental governance among others. We will read texts such as Karliner’s The Corporate Planet, Foster, Clark, and York’s The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth, and Bryant and Bailey’s Third World Political Ecology, among others. The class structure will consist of a lecture on the main points of each theory and topic covered each week, followed by a seminar style discussion where we will critically examine those topics and theories, asking if these perspectives are relevant or accurate. 

Aside from weekly reading and class participation, you will be graded on a 15- to 25-page final paper demonstrating your ability to connect your own research interests to the field of environmental sociology.

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

Gender, Sexuality, and Bodies, SYA 6933 902
Instructor: Sara Crawley, scrawley@usf.edu
Day and Time: Thursday, 5:00 – 7:45 p.m.

How are gender and/or sexuality produced by social order? How is the social order written on bodies? What is the difference between feminist theory and gender theory? This course is designed as a graduate overview of the sociological examination of gender, sexualities, and bodies and will examine a variety of theoretical and empirical literatures that provide such analyses, including structural approaches, interactionist and ethnomethodological approaches, literatures on Gender and The Body, Black Feminist Thought, and the relationship between feminist and queer theories and gender theory. Throughout, we also examine how gender is characterized by race, class and sexuality (and how race, class and sexuality are gendered).

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

Sociology of Education, SYA 6933
Instructor: Maralee Mayberry, mayberry@usf.edu 
Day and Time: Thursday, 2:00-4:45pm

The primary purpose of this seminar is to examine the relationship between U.S. education and U.S. society using analytic frameworks from social theory.  Three major themes run through the course:  1) education and economic/cultural reproduction; 2) education and resistance/negotiation; 3) educational transformation.  Social class, race, gender, and other inequalities will be explored within the context of these themes.  The objectives of this seminar include:  to develop and demonstrate an understanding of the school as a social institution that sustains economic/cultural reproduction; to develop and demonstrate an understanding of the relations between schooling and social inequalities; to explore and develop an understanding of various social movements oriented toward educational and social transformation.  During the semester, this course will emphasize the ways in which schools reproduce, reinforce, and challenge prevailing social, economic, and political relationships.

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

Courses offered in the fall, 2019, semester included:

Religion and Social Change, SYA 6933 901
Instructor: Jim Cavendish, jcavendi@usf.edu

Religion has not only been influenced by transformations in society but it has been a key source of some of those changes.  In fact, it could be argued that religion is one of the most powerful forces in the human history of global change.  This course begins by examining scholarly definitions of religion.  Then, drawing on social scientific perspectives and methodologies, it explores questions such as:  In what ways has religion been transformed by the conditions of modernity, by immigration, and by globalization?  What role has religion played in conventional politics, civil resistance, and social movements to promote – or prevent -- changes in cultural beliefs, values, and practices, or in existing or potential laws, policies, and norms?  What role has religion played in racial and ethnic relations, in immigrant adaptation, in the provision of social services, and in the shaping of cultural values about gender and sexuality, the distribution of goods and services, and conceptions of social justice?  We will read and critique the most recently published social scientific studies that have examined these questions.

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

Social Psychology, SYA 6933 902
Instructor: Sara Crawley, scrawley@usf.edu

This seminar offers a survey of the literatures variously known as social psychology, sociology of the self, or microsociology. It builds from sociological theoretical traditions and often expressly critiques traditional psychology. These traditions include pragmatism, symbolic interactionism, structural socialization theory, phenomenology, ethnomethodology, sociology of emotions, narrative sociology, among others, and historical developments, such as postmodernism, queer theory and sociology of the body. In sum, the review of these literatures will address issues such as the relationship and tensions between theories of self and subjectivities, social psychological impacts of phenomena such as gender, race, class, sexualities, and narratives about bodies.  

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology!

SYD 6605 City and Community

Provides training in the field of urban and community sociology. Focuses on the field’s early theoretical foundations, “classic” research, and contemporary debates. Concentrates on the U.S. although some cross-cultural comparisons will be offered.

The description of this course for the fall, 2015, semester states:

The main goal of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to the exciting field of urban and community sociology while providing advanced training in critical thinking, independent research, academic writing, and conference-style presentation. The core ideas of the course are: (1) place and space matter a great deal in social life, by influencing interactions, identities, relationships, institutions, social structures, and culture in central (yet often unrecognized) ways, and (2) urban streets, neighborhoods, and regions are key locations for these social processes. The course predominantly focuses on the area’s most recent and important issues, debates, and studies, yet we will also read some old and modern classics in urban sociology. Course readings and discussions concentrate on urban issues and problems within the United States. Selected topics include public space, neighborhood social life, neighborhood effects, inner cities, gentrification, residential segregation and mobility, belonging and identity, and others. The course is open to all graduate students in the social sciences who have an interest in urban culture, urban social problems, urban planning, and/or urban theory. “City and Community” is a core course for the USF graduate certificate in Community Development.

SYD 6707 Race and Ethnicity

Introduces students to the historical development of race, the social construction of racial and ethnic identities, race-class-gender interrelationships, and various issues of immigration. Students will explore numerous theories -- both cultural and structural -- used to explain racial and ethnic inequality today.

The description of this course for the fall, 2019, semester states:

We often mischaracterize race and ethnicity as solely individual traits. Sociological approaches to race and ethnicity examine them as structural factors that influence individual opportunities. The primary goal of this course is to enrich our sociological imagination with respect to race and ethnic relations in order to understand how our individual experiences are shaped by race and ethnicity. We will critically examine classic and contemporary research on race and ethnicity, primarily in the U.S.

This course has plenty of room and welcomes students from outside of Sociology! 

The description of this course for the spring, 2017, semester states:

This course examines race and ethnicity in the United States providing an overview of the social construction of race and exploring major theories developed to explain the emergence and maintenance of racism and racial systems. The course is organized thematically in order to address major substantive issues related to race & ethnicity including but not limited to race theory, racial identity formation, immigration, racial segregation, income/wealth disparity, incarceration, educational inequality, and family life. Though the course will focus heavily on the United States, there will be ample opportunities for students to incorporate analysis that reflect global perspectives, especially those from Latin America. When appropriate the use of film and digital media will be used to complement core texts. By highlighting these major works, students will be prepared to develop a strong research proposal or project that is firmly rooted in race scholarship.  

SYG 6936 Seminar in Teaching Sociology

Provides a key link for future teaching sociologists, assisting them to make the switch from consumers to educators of the sociological perspective. Places equal emphasis on theoretical and practical issues surrounding teaching Sociology.

The description of this course for the fall, 2019, semester states:

What does quality teaching look like?  How can you exploit your own personal strengths for good teaching?  How is teaching sociology a complex combination of the crafts of scholarship, theater, and self-reflection?  Over the course of the semester we will explore the craft and vocation of teaching sociology, from the challenging pedagogical issues of teaching the mass class, to making social life real in the classroom, to problematic course issues of plagiarism and classroom management.  You will begin the life-long process of reflecting, developing and practicing the craft of teaching sociology.

Most graduate programs in the social sciences prepare students to be good researchers.  Few focus on preparing graduates for their future as teachers.  This course is designed to provide you with an academic arena in which to begin to develop your own teaching identity by fostering a deeper understanding of the complexities, wonder and problems of teaching at the college/university level.  We will explore some of the philosophical and practical aspects of teaching, and we will work to help you to develop your own teaching portfolio as you enter the job market.  Our personal wish is for you to develop an approach to teaching that goes beyond looking at it as a technical act, and to look at your own teaching as a fluid process that needs continual examination and reflection.

Note: This course is mandatory for second-year funded sociology M.A. students and all first year sociology Ph.D. students. Unfunded and part-time M.A. students are not required to take this course but it will count as an elective.

SYO 6255 Seminar in Sociology of Education

Application of sociological theory to the social institution of education. Primary attention directed toward the social organization of educational systems.

The description of this course for the spring, 2018, semester states:

The primary purpose of this seminar is to examine the relationship between U.S. education and U.S. society using analytic frameworks from social theory. Three major themes run through the course:  1) education and economic/cultural reproduction; 2) education and resistance/negotiation; 3) educational transformation. Social class, race, gender, and other inequalities will be explored within the context of these themes. The objectives of this seminar include: to develop and demonstrate an understanding of the school as a social institution that sustains economic/cultural reproduction; to develop and demonstrate an understanding of the relations between schooling and social inequalities; to explore and develop an understanding of various social movements oriented toward educational and social transformation. During the semester, this course will emphasize the ways in which schools reproduce, reinforce, and challenge prevailing social, economic, and political relationships. During the course, students will engage with the theoretical and empirical sociology of education literature in two related ways that should be applicable to their other coursework and sociological research: (1) Students will develop the skills to write concise “reviews” of the articles used throughout the course. While this may seem tedious at times, it will ultimately benefit you when you develop “literature reviews” for your research proposal for this course and for other sociology research projects; (2) Students will apply (link) the theoretical and methodological frameworks used in the course to develop a research proposal addressing a contemporary educational issue.

SYO 7435 Sociology of Disability in Urban Society

This course critically evaluates current controversies about the utility of a variety of theoretical perspectives and research methods in understanding the lived experience of disability in 21st century urban society.

The description of this course for the spring, 2020, semester states:

In this seminar we will explore the social experience of living with bodily differences, and disability as an often neglected axis of inequality, discrimination, and intersectionality. We will examine the ways in which people with bodily differences construct personal identities and create and sustain communities; the impact of stigma on the experience of disability; and the ways in which disability is socially constructed by the cultural and structural demands of global capitalism. We will also examine ways in which the disability experience can be used as a lens through which to reexamine taken for granted ideas - ranging from notions of what constitutes a “good life” to the meaning of “citizenship” in a changing world. The final product for the course will be a major project that is expected to be of use to students beyond the end of the semester. Projects may include: polished drafts of conference papers, polished drafts of articles for future submission to peer reviewed journals, complete IRB protocols with supporting materials; polished drafts of grant proposals; a portion of a thesis, dissertation, or proposal; or another significant product. Students with shared interests may choose to work together on a final project.

SYP 6008 Social Problems, Identity & Community

An examination of social problems using social constructionism theoretical perspectives. Topics focus on how humans create meaning and how this meaning influences reactions to conditions defined as social problems.

SYP 6016 Emotions in Everyday Life

Explores the role of emotions in the everyday lives of individuals, within the micro-social contexts of identities, interactions, and social relationships.

SYP 6357 Comparative Social Movements

Provides an overview of the various theoretical perspectives used to explain the emergence, growth, strategies and success of social movements in contemporary America and in other countries.

The description of this course for the spring, 2019, semester states:

The aim of this seminar is to familiarize you with the theories, concepts, and empirical research pertaining to social movements, comparatively across cultures, ideologies, issues, perspectives, and methodologies, and to stimulate questions, discussion, hypotheses, and research in the area. The seminar is divided into three sections. During the first three weeks we will examine and evaluate six major perspectives. We will review each of these alternative conceptual frameworks, tease out their domain assumptions, and critically assess their analytic utility and explanatory power. The bulk of the term will be devoted to substantive conceptual issues and empirical findings. We begin this section by examining macro level factors that facilitate and constrain social movement emergence, mobilization, diffusion, and cycles. Next, we investigate the meso level--the organizational manifestations and dimensions of social movements as well as the relationships among social movement organizations (SMOs). We then turn to an analysis of the microstructural and social psychological processes associated with grievance interpretation, recruitment, conversion, identity construction, commitment, and participation. The seminar concludes with an exploration of the conceptual and empirical linkages among the micro, meso, and macro levels as well as comparative examination of the outcomes of social movements.

SYP 6425 Sociology of Consumer Culture

This course critically examines the key theories and analyses of American consumerism with special attention to inequalities of race, class, and gender.

The description of this course for the fall, 2015, semester states:

In the U.S. today, and increasingly throughout the world, individual likes, dislikes, fears, dreams, aesthetics, and morals are intimately tied to the engines of the consumer economy. Our selves are continually enlisted as consumers in order to meet the insatiable demands of the marketplace. Now, as we face the climate change crisis, a global disaster spawned by consumption patterns, those with a sociological imagination must ask how we should reinvent social structures, cultures, and citizens to fit the constraints of an altered planet and prevent further damage to the climate. Some (like Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org) seem to believe that the market is the only social institution powerful enough to reverse the carbon trend, while others (like John Bellamy Foster, sociologist at the University of Oregon) see the market as inherently incapable of working against global warming. Many radicals, like Kalle Lasn, see consumerism as the mother of all of our environmental problems, including climate change. Sociology is essential both for understanding the causes of unbridled consumerism and for pointing toward viable solutions. Toward this goal, the drive to consume needs to be unpacked in all of its social, psychological, and economic dimensions. We must also study potential solutions—for example, we should study both the resourceful poor as well as more affluent subcultures which are beginning to piece together a lifestyle that moves away from the goals of escalating wealth and competitive consumption. This course will examine the sociological dimensions of consumer culture through an interdisciplinary lense. We will tap into recent literature, reading books such as Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate (2014), Allison Pugh’s Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children, and Consumer Culture (2009), and Sarah Banet-Weiser’s Authentic TM (2012). Our task will be to apply sociological perspectives to all of this material in a way that takes us to a richer understanding and suggests fruitful solutions for the problems facing consumer citizens. We will sometimes view recent films or film segments that investigate the topics under discussion.