School of Social and Political Science



Our Sociology degrees

Through training and supporting you to carry out your own research, we place a strong emphasis on practical aspects, rather than just reading about sociology.

We also emphasise research-led teaching: our lecturers are all active researchers who bring to their teaching the most contemporary ideas and knowledge about their topics of interest.

Years 1 and 2

Sociology 1 consists of two half-courses:

  • Sociology 1A (taught in Semester 1)
  • Sociology 1B (taught in Semester 2)

As a Sociology student, you must take both courses.

Year 1 and Year 2 (pre-Honours) Programme Handbook 2020-21


Sociology 1A: The Sociological Imagination: Individuals and Society
Course Organiser

Dr Tod Van Gunten
Room 6.10
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 4637
Office Hours (during semester): Tuesdays, 11am - 1pm (or by appointment)  

Course Administrator

Abby Gleave
Room 1.16
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 651 1337

What will I study?

This course is designed to introduce you to some of the key ideas of the discipline of sociology by examining the relationship between the individual and society.

You will explore how wider social processes shape individual lives and how changes that occur around us influence our sense of self.

This course therefore stresses the importance of sociological perspectives oriented around understanding the role of concepts such as social order and social change.

You will also investigate how these perspectives aid our understanding of issues such as digital culture and nationalism and their impact upon social relations.

Sociology 1A Handbook 2020-21

Sociology 1A: The Sociological Imagination: Individuals and Society (DRPS page)

Sociology 1B: The Sociological Imagination: Private Troubles, Public Problems
Course Organiser

Dr Nathan Coombs
Room 6.10
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 8259
Office Hours (during semester): Wednesdays, 3pm - 5pm (or by appointment)

Course Administrator

Abby Gleave
Room 1.16
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 651 1337

Sociology 1B: The Sociological Imagination: Private Troubles, Public Problems (DRPS page)

Sociology 1B Handbook 2020-21

What will I study?

This course is designed to explore sociological thinking with regard to a number of issues of contemporary concern in modern society.

It examines basic sociological assumptions explaining the different forces that shape our lives and revealing the complex relationships between the individual and society, between private issues and public problems. 

Topics include:

  • the role of power in society
  • self and identity
  • the sociology of the body
  • the relationship between finance and society
  • emerging forms of inequality
Entry conditions

No prior knowledge of Sociology is required. You may take Sociology 1A or 1B as self standing courses.

All sociology students must take both courses.

Sociology 2A: Thinking Sociologically
Course Organiser

Hugo Gorringe
Room 1.02
22 George Square
Tel: 0131 650 3940
Office Hours (during semester):  Wednesdays, 9am - 11am (or by appointment)

Course Secretary

Ewen Miller
Room 1.16
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 3925

Sociology 2A: Thinking Sociologically (DRPS page)

Sociology 2A Handbook 2020-21

What will I study?

This course looks to introduce you to some of the key theoretical approaches in the discipline of sociology.

It is broadly focused around questions of social change and the interplay between structure and agency in the contemporary world.

It considers the significance of issues of agency, social stratification and social change in contemporary social life, and raises searching questions about how we should understand the world around us. 

Most themes are based on UK material, but there is also a strong emphasis on processes of globalisation meaning that material from elsewhere in Europe, Asia and North America is also used to illustrate key debates.

The course builds on some of what you have learnt in Sociology 1A and 1B, acts as a preparation for Sociology Honours, and serves as a course complete in itself for those who will not be taking any more Sociology undergraduate courses in Edinburgh.

Please note that this is only a half-course. To make a full course equivalent you will need to take another half-course. Those intending to proceed to Sociology Honours must take Sociology 2B: Researching Social Life in Semester 2.

If in doubt, please check your degree curriculum.

Entry Conditions

Students MUST have passed Sociology 1A OR Sociology 1B.

Student Workload

Total Hours: 200

Broken down as follows:

  • Lecture Hours: 22
  • Seminar/Tutorial Hours: 11
  • Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours: 4
  • Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours: 163
Sociology 2B: Researching Social Life
Course Organiser

Sophia Woodman
Room 3.09
18 Buccleuch Place
Tel: 0131 651 4745
Office Hours (semesters):  Fridays, 2.30am - 12.40pm (or by appointment)

Course Secretary

Ewen Miller
Room 1.16
Chrystal MacMillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 3925

Sociology 2B Handbook 2020-21
What will I study?
In this course we introduce the various ways that sociologists do the research that lies behind most sociological ideas. In other words, we look critically at the various ways sociological evidence can be produced.

We do this in the context of in-depth study of some key areas of sociological interest such as health and illness, nationalism and national identities, and globalization.
The course will deepen your understanding of these topics while at the same time using them to exemplify how sociologists do research and the key concepts and debates that relate to this research process.
As well as helping you to prepare for doing your own research at Honours level, the course will also help you evaluate evidence you encounter in non-academic sources such as politics and the media.
Entry Conditions

Students MUST have passed Sociology 1A OR Sociology 1B

Student Workload
  • one essay
  • a tutorial participation component
  • a degree examination in December

In order to pass Sociology 2 you must achieve an overall mark of at least 40%. You must also achieve a mark of at least 40% in the exam.

In order to proceed to Sociology Honours, a mark of at least 50% overall must be achieved.

You should also refer to the School's Handbook for courses in Years 1 and 2 for further guidance.

Year 1 and Year 2 (pre-Honours) Programme Handbook 2020-21

Erasmus exchanges in Copenhagen and Bremen

If you are a joint or single honours Sociology student in Year 2, you may apply to spend Year 3 at the University of Copenhagen or Jacobs University in Bremen under the Erasmus+ exchange scheme.

This is an ideal opportunity to study abroad at a leading university which is host to many international students.

Many courses at Copenhagen are offered in English, and all the courses at Jacobs University are taught in English.

More information on Student Exchanges

University of Copenhagen website

Jacobs University website

If you would like further information on studying abroad, please contact Professor Nick Prior (

Erasmus activities are carried out with the support of the European Commission within the framework of the Erasmus+ Programme.

Honours years

Studying sociology at honours level

You have a wide degree of choice in our Honours programme in Years 3 and 4.

You will take three 20 credit core courses:

  • Social Theory
  • Designing and Doing Social Research
  • Doing Survey Research

You will also take a 40 credit honours research project.

You are then free to choose seven optional 20 credit courses, normally three in Junior Honours (Year 3) and four in Senior Honours (Year 4).

Sociology provides a large selection of courses covering diverse topics including:

  • criminology
  • demography
  • development in non-western societies
  • the environment
  • financial markets
  • genetics
  • the internet
  • intimate relationships
  • intoxication
  • medicine
  • popular music
  • nationalism
  • power
  • religion, science and technology
  • social movements
  • the sociology of Scotland
  • youth culture

Submitting work electronically

Coursework will be submitted online using our submission system – ELMA. You will not be required to submit a paper copy.

Marked coursework, grades and feedback will be returned online. You will not receive a paper copy of your marked course work or feedback.

For information, help and advice on submitting coursework and accessing feedback, please visit the ELMA wiki.

The Subject Benchmark Statement for Sociology (PDF) defines the academic standards that can be expected and describes the nature of the subject.

Further information and documentation

  • a description of the honours project
  • a downloadable version of the Sociology Honours Handbook(s)
  • a list of honours courses on offer between Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020
  • individual course handbooks for 2019-20 honours courses
  • an explanation of how your final degree classification (1st, 2.1 etc.) is decided

The honours project

Sociology is as much a 'doing' subject as it is a reading subject. As an honours student, you will design and carry out a research project on a sociological topic of your choice.

You will find this a particularly rewarding part of the course, and the research experience you acquire is often helpful to you later in seeking employment.

Recent projects have covered topics as diverse as:

  • parenting among adults with learning difficulties
  • subcultural stereotypes in popular music
  • gendered power in intimate relationships
  • religious rites of passage
  • gender roles in primary schools
  • female sexual pleasure
  • recreational drug use
  • national identity and multiculturalism
  • an ethnography of gambling
  • community in a US summer camp
  • conspicuous consumption
  • transnationalism among diplomats' children
  • the self and tattooing
  • urban lifestyles in Berlin
  • gay identity in sociology texts

Project Handbooks

Ethics audits forms

Honours Courses

Programme and Course Handbooks

Semester 1
Semester 2
  • Doing Survey Research 2018-19
  • Gender, Marginality and Social Change 2018-19
  • Sociology of the Environment and Risk 2018-19
  • Finance and Society 2018-19
  • Sociology of Intoxication 2018-19
  • Topics in Social Theory 2018-19
  • The Sociology of Sex Work 2018-19
  • China's Contemporary Transformations 2018-19
  •  Intimate Relationships 2018-19
  • The Project Presentation 2018-19
  • The Social Life of Food 2018-19
  • Social & Political Movements: Theory and Practice 2018-19
  • Migration: Social Origins and Social Cosequences 2018-19
  •  Armed Force and Society 2018-19
  • Energy Policy and Sustainability 2018-19
  • Sport, Media and Society
  • Controversies in Medicine, Technology and the Environment 2018-19

How is your final degree decided?

Honours degrees will be classified according to the mean mark, except where the mark falls on an 8 or a 9, for example 58 or 59, which will be regarded as 'borderline'.

In such borderline cases, if 50% or more of the marks are in the class above, your degree will fall into that higher class.

The mean mark will be based on final overall grades - derived from all assessed work in each course - for all courses taken across Years 3 and 4.

If you spend Year 3 year abroad, you will have your degree calculated solely on the basis of Year 4 marks.

The mean takes account of different course weightings, so the grade you receive for your honours project will be counted twice, as this is a 40 credit course.

The same will apply to any other 40 credit courses you take where one grade is given for the entire 40 credits.

The overall mean of all course grades is not rounded up or down. So, for example, if your final mean grade is 57.9 then you will be awarded a 2:2. If however your mean grade is borderline before rounding, for example 58.00%-59.99%, then the resolution described above is applied.

Essentially, this means that if at least half of your course grades fall into the category above the borderline, then you will be awarded the higher class of degree.

Again, 40 credit courses will be counted double. For example, if your mean mark is 59 but you have achieved a grade 60 or above in at least six 20 credit courses, you would be awarded a 2:1.

Note that if the mean does not fall into the borderline category then the overall profile of your marks is not considered.

You should note that all marks gained throughout Year 4 are subject to confirmation and amendment at the final Board of Examiners at which your final degree will be determined.

The examination board may also take into consideration any adverse personal circumstances affecting your Year 4 studies when determining your final degree.

Programme specifications

Programme specifications are summary statements about our degree programmes, regularly revised and approved by our Board of Studies.

They provide very useful overviews of the fundamental objectives and structures of degree programmes. They also provide key information about:

  • basic educational aims
  • anticipated learning outcomes
  • core skills students are expected to acquire through their studies
  • the structure and progression of programmes over the four years

Current versions of the Degree Programme Specifications (DPS) can be found alongside the relevant programme title in DRPS. Click on the DPS icon alongside the relevant programme title.

Student category
Programme Information