The Department of Sociology is composed of 32 faculty members, 60 TAs, and more than 500 undergraduate majors. As a field, sociology is defined not by particular topics or locations of study, but by its ways of asking and answering questions about the relationship between people and their social environment. The department began its engagement in the WEC process in 2013 with the goal of creating a more cohesive writing program to develop students' analytic writing abilities across the wide range of class topics, levels of abstraction, and types of data that they encounter in the major. The departmental goal is for students to excel in the classroom and to build these skills into their own writing project for senior thesis papers and into their future lives.
In 2016, based on data yielded by focus group discussions with students, Sociology's WEC RA and Liaison began to conduct short in-class writing workshops in lower-division courses. The purpose of these sessions was to model brief instantiations of context-relevant writing instruction that targeted writing abilities Sociology faculty consider fundamental across subfields and sociological genres (e.g., write a sociologically meaningful thesis, identify sociologically meaningful patterns in data, and engage sociological argumentation). In addition, the WEC RA developed blog postings focused on field-specific writing instructions for The Society Pages (TSP), an open-access social science project headquartered in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota and supported by individual donors and publishing partner W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. During Spring 2017, the Liaison and RA refined and developed a set of student-facing slides with accompanying instructor discussion documents.
In its third-edition Writing Plan, approved in December 2017, Sociology has identified three key areas of focus: (1) promoting and further developing its Instructional Resource Center; (2) expanding its thematic teaching lunches every semester, which have done a great deal to foster and consolidate department community around teaching writing; and (3) continuing the annual teaching demonstrations to faculty and teaching assistants.