Introductory sociology is low-level instruction in the social sciences usually taught early in college as part of general education requirements or as an early component of a sociology major. The exact presentation of such instruction may vary dramatically based on the nature of the school and of the sociology program. Introductory sociology may be a single class or a sequence of classes. Some introductory sociology programs are based in a textbook and present the basic techniques and topics used and examined by researchers in sociology. Others begin with an examination of some of the foundational works of great sociologists.
The fundamental issues examined in any introductory sociology course are generally representative of the broad problems addressed by the field as a whole. Culture and the development of large-scale social structures such as governments and civilizations are highly important. Smaller-scale issues, such as social interactions within families or between small groups of friends, are also common areas of study. The development, organization, and social role of religion are almost always examined in introductory sociology. Other topics, such as politics, social psychology, age and gender differences, and social disorders may also be studied in an introductory psychology course.
Many introductory sociology programs focus on an examination of the main topics of sociology and on the techniques used to study those topics. This form of sociology instruction generally involves a combination of conceptual learning and problem solving. Important concepts in sociology range from certain topics in biology and evolution to large-scale behavioral studies of large groups of people. Problem solving tends to primarily involve statistics as much of the quantitative work of sociology is based on the mathematical analysis of the behaviors of large groups of people. This form of sociology education allows students to decide if they are interested in and suited for the type of work common in professional sociological research.
Another common approach to introductory sociology is based in the study of some of the great works of sociology. Rather than a structured textbook study of the techniques and topics of sociology, students learn by analyzing the foundational works of great sociologists. This method, rather than seeking to give a broad and comprehensive view, usually requires students to delve deeply into a smaller subset of topics. It prepares students to read and understand complex sociological research papers which often provide the foundation for later study of sociology. Modern methods and problem-solving techniques can be learned in later courses.