Describing and explaining or interpreting and evaluating society?
a study of the discourse of twenty undergraduate sociology essays

  • Howard James Lukeman

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    This thesis explores the differences between more and less successful text in twenty first year sociology essays. The subject the essays are from is Introductory Sociology (SOC 101), a compulsory ucoren subject for students of a number of courses at Charles Sturt University. While the twenty essays are the focus, a number of sociology texts relevant to the discipline of sociology and to some of the topics the students wrote about are used as points of reference that help relate the essays to the discourse of sociology. The two markers of the essays in the sample (one of whom was the subject co-ordinator) discussed theirmarking criteria with the writer.

    Two distinctive features of the discourse of sociology are its teleological focus (ie moving to a logical conclusion) and its strong theoretical/ideological concerns. In the humanities and social sciences, teleology is associated with the genre (general "text type") of exposition that persuasively analyses information. However, the writer's experience indicated that students needed explicit guidance to construct ideology and theory in sociology and subjects like it (egpolitical science and organisational analysis) and that this construction of ideology involved work at the "micro" levels of parts of genres and the language of the sources of evidence.

    This interest in the relationship between macro and micro realisations of discourse shaped an analysis that explicates patterns in the essays from the 'inside" (parts of genres and their discourse semantics and lexico-grammar) "out" (genres and ideology).

    The findings support the following generalisations. Firstly, in thecredit and above essays, the ideology of social criticism that studentswere expected to express is scaffolded by persuasive analyticalexposition that interprets and evaluates society. The language of themore successful essays realises this interpretation and evaluationthrough interaction of linguistic resources in the following ways:textual resources (aspects of text which structure the information)organise ideational and interpersonal meanings to frame cohesive andpersuasive theses (positions on the topics being written about);ideational resources (the people, places, things and circumstancesbeing referred to and their logical relationships) abstract evidenceinto propositions that interpret and evaluate society and also ideatejudgements (make judgements look like "natural" outcomes ofsociological evidence); interpersonal meaning (attitudes and writerreaderrelationships) is realised by a variety of lexico-grammaticalfeatures and through the ideation of value judgements about socialissues.
    Date of AwardNov 1994
    Original languageEnglish

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