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Sociology in Perspective

SOCIOLOGY IN PERSPECTIVE. By Mark Kirby et al pound;19.99. Tutor's Resource File. By Tanya Hope et al pound;39.99. Assessment and Qualifications Alliance and Oxford and Cambridge RSA versions. Heinemann.

SOCIOLOGY: Themes and Perspectives. By Mike Haralambos and Martin Holborn. pound;22.99. Activity Pack. By Frances Smith pound;49.99. Collins.

ADVANCED SOCIOLOGY THROUGH DIAGRAMS. By Tony Lawson, Marsha Jones and Ruth Moores. Oxford University Press pound;10.99.

There have been times when the big books in A-level sociology seemed to be competing against each other purely on the basis of weight. Or, put another way, number of pages. Over the years they have got bigger and bigger.

Way back in the Seventies Stephen Cotgrove's Science of Society was the key text and weighed in at about 300 pages. Anything that size published today would be considered positively undernourished. No, you have to go big today, so Sociology in Perspective has approximately 900 pages, while Sociology: Themes and Perspectives has about 1,100 pages. Try getting one of these into the ridiculously small rucksacks youngsters wear today.

But it doesn't stop there. The new trend is for the big books to have a companion publication. Hence the tutor's resource file to be used with the Heinemann and the activity pack to be used with the Collins. There certainly is plenty around to spend student and departmental money on.

Mark Kirby's team of highly experienced writers and examiners has produced two excellent central texts - one for each of the major specifications in ASA2 sociology. The books will be familiar to teachers and students as they have been developed from the popular version of Sociology in Perspective, which caters for the "outgoing" syllabuses. The same detail and academic integrity is there in the new books. The first section offers students an excellent introduction to syllabus skills, sociological skills and study skills. Chapter two introduces the subject followed by a series of chapters tailored to the specifications.

The text is often demanding, certainly for AS students, but it does real credit to the discipline. References and issues addressed are up-to-date and topical. Opportunities for key skill demonstration are indicated within a range of thoughtful and effective activities. These are lively, attractive, challenging and highly effective textbooks. <> Haralambos and Holborn's market-leader has also been revised and now has chapters on mass media and culture and identity. It certainly looks appealing, with interesting graphics and photographs ( in two colours). Much of the text, of course, deals with more traditional studies, but the book has a real "updated" feel to it. Newer topics such as New Labour policies, masculinity and education, and social exclusion are covered in an assured style.

The detail and scholarly depth are exceptional, but a number of teachers might feel that this is an A2 book rather than one which can be used for both AS and A2. Again this text certainly does not dumb down the subject. It presents it as highly taxing and a potentially rewarding activity.

Frances Smith's activity pack, to be used with the Haralambos and Holborn book, is packed withvaried photos and extracts, and with questions which mirror the structure and content of the "big book". Answers to the questions are supplied and teachers will find the pack invaluable for class and homework assignments.

Tanya Hope et al's tutor resource file, to be used alongside the Kirby book, is very much tied to the new specifications and also to planning a whole teaching programme. Issues such as key skills coverage, coursework suggestions, resources and teaching methods are included, as are some useful lesson plans and discussion and revision activities.

Advanced Sociology through diagrams is a very different animal. For AS and A2, it attempts to use diagrams to develop students' conceptual awareness and study skills. Particular attention is paid to the idea that students should see the importance of linking concepts both within and across substantive areas. This is a really good revision aid, but it could also be used throughout A-level courses. Many of the diagrams are very detailed and students will need to be guided through them, but this book represents a valid way of dealing with the big debates in sociology.

All these texts reveal a tremendous level of commitment to both the subject we teach and to our students. With the help of these resources (no matter how heavy they are) we will be more able to help our students develop a true sociological imagination.

Mike Moores teaches at Harrow College and is a principal examiner in A-level sociology for one of the major exam boards

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