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Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie (DGS) bietet Studieninteressierten ein Informationsportal unter www.studium.org/soziologie an, auf dem sämtliche Studiengänge mit soziologischen Inhalten vertreten sind, die an deutschen Hochschulen angeboten werden.

Die Studiengänge der Universität Siegen finden Sie unter: http://www.studium.org/soziologie/suche/?q=Siegen.

Programm Forscher-Alumni

Course Requirements

Regular Attendance

It is expected that classes are attended regularly, as this is the only way that their learning goals can be met.

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Compulsory Reading

In class, it is expected that the compulsory reading material is both read and reviewed. The teaching staff work based on the idea that knowledge of the compulsory reading material can be assumed in the exams (the final exams at the end of a particular unit). This mean that those participating in a particular course are expected to have read and to a certain extent worked independently on the reading material for each session of the unit in question. It goes without saying that preparing for individual units in thorough fashion is compulsory both for teaching staff and all those participating in them.   

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Requirements for Presentations and Essays

Presentations and essays are a key part of studying. In all courses, papers can form a first step towards the final thesis; in the MA courses, papers may contain genuine research. The corresponding requirements for presentations and essays are therefore high. To do justice to them, it is usually necessary to spend several weeks working on the chosen theme and engaging with it in thorough fashion. Discussing the theme with teaching staff is advance is indispensable.

These requirements include in particular:

  • Approaching a theme independently
  • Independently formulating an essay question that arises from this theme
  • Structuring the theme in independent fashion
  • Conceptual precision and methodical and methodological reflection
  • Looking independently for the most recent data and texts available (carrying out thorough research) 
  • Drawing on the relevant data and texts as well as any important secondary sources in particular
  • Summarising the most important findings as a series of assertions 
  • Length and form of essays
  • BA and MA Programs:
  • Course paper: short essay (ungraded, around 6-8 pages)
  • Examination paper: essay (graded, around 12-16 pages) or an expanded written version of a presentation (graded, around 8-12 pages)
  • Each fulfilling the necessary formal requirements (structure, correct citation, grammar and spelling)
  • Form of the presentation: a concise verbal presentation, spoken as freely as possible. The use of handouts or media for visualisation purposes can be helpful to provide additional explanation depending on the theme.
  • It goes without saying that these requirements for presentations and essays in the BA courses and the first few semesters of these courses depend to a greater degree on the guidance given by the respective teaching staff.
  • Please don’t be afraid to ask the teaching staff for help if you have questions or need some pointers! 
  • Coping texts by others or downloading essays or parts of essays from the internet without putting them in inverted commas and indicating their source is regarded as attempted plagiarism. Attempted plagiarism is no small matter and can even result in legal steps being taken, which can range from a unit needing to be repeated all the way to expulsion from the university depending on the severity of the offense. Therefore don’t use Google but rather think for yourself!

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Detailed Information about Presentations and Essays

Presentations

The goal of an academic presentation is to make those listening to it receptive to and curious about its theme and to convey certain issues. In the case of presentations within seminars, this means that you, as the expert on a particular theme, are responsible for  

  • Presenting a chosen theme to your fellow students in clear precise fashion
  • Developing your own thoughts on this theme
  • And providing some starting points for a subsequent discussion

A presentation is not fulfilling its purpose if it attempts to impress teaching staff by way of some sort of lofty style, i.e., when it contains more academic gibberish than anything else. If you are unable express your thoughts in your own works and just read out loud from essays or books more or less openly or if the presentation is delivered in indifferent fashion, even the most well-meaning listener on the world will be looking at their smartphone within 15 minutes or so. Bear in mind that anyone giving a presentation has to be committed to what they are saying. If you give the impression that what you’re presenting is trivial or not really suited to those listening who are seeking to learn from you, you can be sure that they will find your presentation boring and lacking in interest.

Literature

Giving a presentation entails finding, examining and evaluating literature on your theme in independent fashion. Sometimes those giving a presentation are expected to draw on specific compulsory reading materials. If this is the case, you should also look at the additional literature mentioned for information about your theme. In addition, it’s useful and often also required for you to find and make use of additional texts (books, academic articles or informative newspaper articles) or data independently – which are as recent as possible.  

It often makes sense to refer to Internet databases for literature or statistics, such as the WiSo III database, Sociological Abstracts or JSTOR for social science texts; the most recent data is to be found on the website of the Office for Federal Statistics along with current analyses. This doesn’t, however, take the place of making a trip to the library.

At research seminars and seminars intended as preparation for the final thesis, the independent exploration of a particular theme contained in the presentations given can mean that the person giving the presentation may even know more about certain areas of the theme than the respective member of the teaching staff.

General Information about Giving Presentations

  • For both presentations and essays: a week or even a few days of work is never going to be enough! Merely engaging with the relevant literature requires a lot of time already and requires considerable effort (particularly in the case of essays). Only a genius or someone with vast professional experience in giving presentations is able to throw together a good presentation in just a few days – and even then only if they work through the night or draw on their pre-existing repertoire of presentations. In this context, you certainly can’t put together “presentations” in the same standard way you did back at school. The whole reason why university presentations are so beneficial for learning is that they are work-intensive. 
  • Structure your theme clearly, as otherwise your audience won’t be able to find their way through the forest of new information. Structuring the theme after having read several texts is an important individual achievement on the part of the person giving the presentation. Take enough time to do this well, as the success of a presentation depends on the quality of its structure.
  • Tell your audience the theme of the presentation right at the start and what you’re going to be talking about. If the presentation is about making some sort of hypothesis that you would like to argue for, it goes without saying that this hypothesis needs to be stated at the outset and the steps mentioned that you plan to use to portray and prove this hypothesis. An introduction of this kind functions as a sort of mental framework both for the person giving the presentation as well as those listening to it. At the end of the presentation, repeat the steps you took and the result you arrived at in a few concise sentences.
    A presentation can also be regarded as being a structure consisting of three elements, where the starting point, mental framework and final destination need to be formulated:
  • Starting Point: What is the presentation about? What are the central problems relating to the theme? Can you find a pithy discussion starter or way of getting your audience hooked?
  • Mental Framework: What are the authors’ argumentations and what are your own? What are the central arguments that you or these authors use to reinforce your ideas and theoretical considerations?   
  • Destination: What is the result? What are the central messages conveyed by the text and your own mental process?
  • Clarify the central concepts you use so that it’s clear what you’re actually referring to. This applies in particular to any foundational social science concepts supposed to be conveyed by your presentation. It might be worth comparing your understanding or definition of the concept with other conceptual ideas. Consider where the advantages and disadvantages of your understanding of the concept may lie. Make those listening aware of your thought to this end.
  • As previously mentioned, a brief summary should be given at the end of your presentation, which once again portrays its key statements and the thoughts you’ve formulate on the theme in condensed fashion and in such a way that those listening are motivated to discuss them with you.

Presentation

  • Remember that everyone is nervous when giving a presentation (even apparent professionals with many years of experience in giving presentations).
  • The length of the presentation should always be agreed in advance with the respective member of the teaching staff.
  • Try to deliver the presentation as freely as possible – presentations that are just read out can be pretty sleep-inducing.
  • One idea here is to pre-formulate the beginning and end of the presentation and work with bullet points in between. A pre-formulated beginning will help you get over those critical first minutes. 
  • Some people giving presentations proceed by writing out the presentation in advance, clearly marking its central concepts and then using them as key words – if you then get stuck in the text, you can quickly find your place in the argumentation.
  • Avoid one-track and simplistic formulations. Instead of saying, for example, “the base categories of a relevant organization theory are…”, it’s better to say, “Now we would like to clarify some of the concepts important for an organization theory”.
  • No one sentence should last for more than 10 seconds, otherwise listeners will get distracted.
  • Start off by trying to express complicated facts as simply as possible and in just a few sentences. You can always flesh things out later. Remember what experienced speakers and journalists say here: “It’s easy to express something easy in a complicated way – but it’s difficult to express something difficult in a simple way”.
  • In some cases, it can make sense to provide a visualisation what you’re saying. PowerPoint presentations can therefore be useful here – but only to a certain extent. Don’t just fire a barrage of slides at the audience!
    And don’t just read out the text of the PowerPoint presentation.

    When explaining your PowerPoint presentation, make sure you are always facing the audience and addressing them directly and don’t turn around to look at the image projected on the wall.

    All in all, remember the following: anyone giving a presentation who manages to engage the audience with their ideas, observations and the lively nature of the presentation itself is still far ahead of any technological aids!

Handout

It can often make sense to produce a handout and give copies of it to all of those participating in the seminar. It should contain:

  • A portrayal of the key problems and developments in highly condensed form
  • Important materials and diagrams/charts
  • Where applicable, several discussion points, i.e., your own ideas on the theme (that potentially go further than the presentation itself) which may serve to get a discussion going;
  • A bibliography.

Yet here too, it’s worth considering whether a handout actually takes attention away from the person giving the presentation or whether it helps them to hold listeners’ attention and make what they’re saying even clearer. With this in mind, for example, make sense to only pass around copies of the handout to the audience during or at the end of the presentation.

 

Course Paper, Written Version of the Presentation, Essay  

In order to complete a unit and gain the corresponding credit points, a short written paper (non-graded), a written version of the presentation (graded), or a longer essay independent of the presentation may be required (graded).

As far as clarity is concerned, the same rules apply to writing as they do to a presentation. Think above all about creating a convincing structure!  

Each of these three variants is supposed to be of the following length (see the examination regulations):

  • 6-8 pages for short written papers (non-graded)
  • 8-12 pages for written versions of presentations (graded)
  • 12-16 papers for longer essays (graded)
  • BA courses: at least 8-10 standard pages (30 lines containing 60 characters each) that fulfil the necessary formal requirements (structure; correct citation form; spelling and grammar)
  • MA courses: at least 12-15 standard pages (30 lines of 60 characters each) that fulfil the necessary formal requirements (structure; correct citation form; spelling and grammar)  

These various types of written work must follow the rules of the German language, meaning that correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation should not just be regarded as mere decoration. Incorrect spelling or a sheer lack of knowledge of it can result in a lower grade.  

Students whose mother tongue isn’t German can expect a degree of flexibility here – at the start of their studies in particular.
The formal requirements for academic work – such as correct citation, the details of the individual sources and bibliographical information, including a full bibliography – must also be adhered to. For example, explaining a particular idea using someone else’s words without making clear that it’s a quote is cheating (see above on plagiarism). Anyone not familiar with these requirements can work through the relevant literature on academic working methods. Some German books that can be recommended are the following; the books by Howard S. Becker (“Writing for social scientists”) and Umberto Eco (“How to write a thesis”) are also available in English:  

  • Frank, Norbert, und Joachim Stary (Ed.), 2006: Die Technik wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens. Eine praktische Anleitung. 13. Aufl. Paderborn et al.: Schöningh.
  • Niederhauser, Jürg, 2006: Duden. Die schriftliche Arbeit - kurz gefasst. Eine Anleitung zum Schreiben von Arbeiten in Schule und Studium; Literatursuche, Materialsammlung und Manuskriptgestaltung mit vielen Beispielen. 4. Aufl. Mannheim et al.: Dudenverlag.
  • Becker, Howard S., 2000: Die Kunst des professionellen Schreibens. Ein Leitfaden für die Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften. Frankfurt a.M.: Campus.
  • Eco, Umberto, 2007: Wie man eine wissenschaftliche Abschlussarbeit schreibt. 12. Aufl. d. dt. Ausg. Heidelberg: C. F. Müller.
  • Stykow, Petra et al., 2010: Politikwissenschaftliche Arbeitstechniken. 2. Auflage. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink.

What’s vital for writing an essay is that what you have read and want to describe is expressed in your own words! This always requires precise, undeniably difficult work being carried out in terms of mentally grasping the content of the relevant literature and summarizing it accordingly. Creating excerpts, which always form the basis of presentations and essay, is a lengthy and laborious task. Yet merely writing out page after page from texts you have read will hardly satisfy what is expected from an essay, neither will a random combination of extracts from different texts.

Excerpts

An excerpt summarises the fundamental aspects of a text, primarily how its argumentation is structured: its theme, the questions it poses, its hypotheses, its theoretical and methodological approach, the course of its argumentation and the findings it makes. An excerpt should be short and concise and enable the person who’s written it recall the academic text it refers to without having to read it again. An excerpt is not just a series of verbatim quotes, although key statements made in the text in particular can indeed be cited directly, with their place in the text to be marked accordingly. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to set out excerpts in columns, for example, so that the bibliographical information, various direct and indirect quotes, together with your own thoughts and remarks can be linked together and displayed in a clear way.

Example: Excerpt from Castells, Manuel; Kößler, Reinhart (2002): Die Macht der Identität. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Page Subject Content Remarks
  Reasons for religious fundamentalism
Castells refers specifically to Christian fundamentalism here, which currently emerges from two main sources: globalisation on the one hand, and the crisis in patriarchy on the other, the latter of which is possibly more significant.  (See page 30 here in particular). Castells mentions the concept of patriarchal authority here, see Chapter 4 on the same subject; the term can potentially be linked to Gidden’s (1995) concept of "new authorities”.

Minutes

The minutes of a discussion provide a summarized record of its proceedings and results. These include the date, the starting time and end time of the discussion, and those people present. Whoever was responsible for taking the minutes should also be mentioned as such. Please ask the respective member of teaching staff whether the minutes should contain only the main points discussed or whether they should outline the various arguments given in more detail.

Position Paper

A position paper often forms the basis for an oral examination. It should therefore contain the following information: name, course of study, the matriculation number of the student and the semester they are currently in. It’s also recommendable to list several central articles/books at the end in the paper which form the basis for the positions it contains. A position paper usually comprises several positions or hypotheses on a given theme that are supposed to build on one another. Here an example:  

  • •    Nowadays, international organizations play a decisive role in solving problems in international relations (position to introduce the theme) 
  • •    International organizations can influence how states act and make a contribution towards states reaching agreement when negotiating solution strategies. (explanatory position)  
  • •    International organizations can also represent their own interests in the process (secondary position)

Search Machines and Databases

If you want to start to get familiar with a new thematic area, it is helpful to start by looking in subject-specific databases. The University of Siegen provides you with access to different databases such as www.wiso-net.de or the Social Science Citation Index.

Working Independently

This refers to the idea that you possess the academic working skills to enable you to make an informed selection from the literature on offer. This doesn’t mean searching for relevant literature but also include specific reading techniques. Based on the question you’ve chosen to explore, you must decide which articles/books are of particular relevance and which texts and their respective bibliographic information just need to be noted down so you can return to them later. Although working with specialist literature is not always easy, it is vital that you learn to engage with complex and difficult texts, including ones in English. It can be helpful here to write out excerpts or to set up or take part in collective study groups. Furthermore, you should also be working on social science themes from a perspective developed independently or based on a question you’ve developed on your own. This implies that you shouldn’t just paraphrase academic texts on the theme in question, but rather observe, discuss, and/or apply different arguments, theories, and aspects of different authors’ work from a specific perspective that you yourself have developed.

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