SO5003 - Contemporary Social Theory

What will I learn on this module?

On this module you will come to understand the relevance of social theory and to evaluate a range of theories which seek to make sense of contemporary society and human lived experience. Key debates in sociological theory are examined as it seeks to grapple with the central features of contemporary society. How can social theory help us to understand contemporary inequalities, identities, culture and change ? Do we need new theories for a new age? When addressing these questions, there is a focus upon particular contemporary social theorists, whose work is at the cutting edge of contemporary sociology, criminology and cultural studies. We are not considering and evaluating theory for its own sake – if we can understand and analyse some of the key features, issues and problems of contemporary society and culture, we can more successfully intervene to influence social and cultural change.

How will I learn on this module?

You will be taught through a one hour weekly lecture and a separate, fortnightly, one hour, small group seminar for all students, supported by individual tutorials. You will be expected to engage in extensive, weekly independent and private study. In particular, essential readings must be read prior to the appropriate seminar. This will not only enable participatory discussion within seminars but it will also aid you greatly in their preparation for the assessment requirements of this module. The lectures will provide broad overviews of key concepts, theories, social theorists and debates, and will ensure the overall coherence of the module. Lectures will provide a general framework for independent reading and study. Seminars will be used to enable the exploration in greater depth of the concepts, theories, social theorists and debates introduced within lectures, and to develop students’ analytical and practical skills. We use range of teaching and learning methods in seminars including small group work and case study debates. Seminar discussions will help you work towards a critical evaluation and analysis of essential readings which will, in turn, directly prepare them for the assessment requirements of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Tutorial time will be available to all students (on a group or individual basis) during staff ‘office hours’ or upon separate appointment (arranged by e-mail, telephone or in person) with the Module Tutor

You will have access to the e-learning portal with a dedicated internet site to support this module (currently via 'Blackboard'). The site will include electronic copies of module and lecture materials, further reading materials, important module announcements and tutor advice/guidance.

You will be expected to engage in private and self-directed study. The lecture/seminar programme, module guide, internet site and tutor prescription will provide a clear framework for this study.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Critically explain and evaluate key contemporary sociological theories, in relation to the changing nature of contemporary society and social life
2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the distinctive character of Sociology as a synthesising discipline which emphasises the significance of social context (relations of power, inequality and identity) for understanding aspects of contemporary society and social life

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1. Assess the suitability of different sources for sociological analysis of the social world
2. Skills necessary for the workplace, including critical thinking and problem solving

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
1. Show critical awareness of different perspectives and approaches to understanding the global social world, and think independently and reflectively about them

How will I be assessed?

The module will be summatively assessed by one 2000 word Critical Review of a piece of contemporary social theory and a 2000 word Written Essay .

Both assessments are designed to test students’ ability to demonstrate a critical understanding of some key contemporary social theories, as well as the ability to evaluate these theories in relation to the changing nature of contemporary society and social life. Both assessments will also test students’ ability to demonstrate a critical understanding of the distinctive character of Sociology as a discipline which emphasises the significance of social context for understanding aspects of contemporary society and social life, as well as transferable skills, such as written communication skills; analytical skills; ability to understand and de-construct complex theories and concepts; ability to construct and present an argument. Each assignment will be assessed according to specific module assessment criteria which will be provided to students at the beginning of the module.

Students will receive feedback on their seminar activities (formative – which will be directly related to the preparation of the assignments) and extensive written feedback on their summative assessments.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code L300

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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