As I was looking through some back issues of Teaching Sociology (the ASA journal dedicated to instruction and pedagogy), I was struck by an article published last summer about the use of ‘non-traditional texts’ for undergraduate sociology classes. The piece was especially interesting to me as I was drawn to the discipline through an intro course organized around novels and short stories.

The article, by Ursula Castellano, Joseph Deangelis, and Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, entitled ‘Cultivating a Sociological Perspective using Nontraditional Texts’ was published in Teaching Sociology, Vol. 36, 2008 (July: 240-253).

The authors argue that “novels, mysteries and nonfiction books can provide undergraduate students with an accessible and exciting place to explore sociological concepts. Using storytelling as a pedagogical tool, we teach students key theoretical ideas by analyzing the books in their specific socio-cultural contexts.”

Castellano and co-authors provide concrete strategies for using these types of readings in undergraduate sociology courses to reach a number of student learning goals, including “increasing engagement, enhancing conceptual understanding and improving analytic ability.”

The article even provides sample assignments and exam questions!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Contexts Crawler, this blog provides summaries of sociological research in the news as it hits the presses (or the web). The site houses daily posts of news articles from national and international news sources and summarizes the key findings of social science research and highlights the relevant discussion by the media. The Contexts Crawler can be a valuable resource for instructors of sociology to bring current events into lectures and in-class activities. You can find up-to-date news stories on the topics you cover in the classroom, using newspaper articles as a way to help your students understand different sociological concepts with current and innovative research…

How to use the Crawler to find articles for your classes…

All of the posts in site are fully searchable, using the ‘Search’ function on the left-hand side of the site (about halfway down). Using this function, you can look for news stories on particular topics like race, gender, sexuality, youth, and work – among many others.

Another handy way to navigate the Crawler is to use the tag cloud on the left-hand side of the page. (See this for an explanation of a ‘tag cloud.’) This part of the site displays the number of posts on a particular topic by the size of the text. For example, the tag ‘culture’ is used more frequently than the tag ‘youth.’ Although stories are available for both of these topics.

Visit the Contexts Crawler at

For beginners: What is a blog?

Teaching an undergraduate or graduate level course in culture? Or even a seminar on the sociology of knowledge? Take a look at this reading by Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 

This article (an Annual Review piece) provides an excellent summary of “how kinds of social organization make whole orderings of knowledge possible, rather than focusing on the different social locations and interests of individuals or groups.” This is a particularly interesting reading in the larger scope of sociological work on knowledge…

Full citation:
Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 1994. “The New Sociology of Knowledge.” Annual Review of Sociology 20:305-29.