How to ace: Mains Paper: Sociology   Leave a comment

Cropped from an icon of Saint Charalampus, Gre...

Cropped from an icon of Saint Charalampus, Greek – Central School, early 17th century Χαραλάμπος is variously transliterated as Charalampus, Charalampos, Charalambos, Haralampus, Haralampos or Haralambos. Source (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sociology Paper – 1 by Kshitij Tyagi (AIR 148/2011) as published by_Mrunal
Kshitij Tyagi got 293/600 in Sociology papers in 2011’s UPSC (Mains) exam. I’m merely copy pasting his study plan here:

For initiation into the subject, NCERTs and Haralambos are good enough. I also watched a few videos of IGNOU uploaded on the net for some of the topics.

I began with the old edition of Haralambos. It is a fantastic book for understanding the subject and its scope. I did not read the book from cover to cover and confined myself strictly to the syllabus. This initiated me into the realm of sociology. I then moved on to IGNOU’s BA notes which are an extremely useful compilation of sociological knowledge.
I also scanned through a few chapters of Giddens to get a hang of the subject. Before Prelims, I had made some notes for the first 3 chapters of paper 1 and had read some of the thinkers. I had by then acclimatized myself with the subject and also understood that the old edition of Haralambos was necessary but insufficient.

After prelims, I started filling the gaps and expanding my notes….I began referring to the new updated version of Haralambos, internet, etc. (The topic-wise sources are given below). Though my notes were pretty extensive, I remained alive to the problems associated with inclusion of every topic in the notes. Therefore, at certain places, I left “flags” – page nos. or references in my notes so that the topics best read whole from the book could be referred in a logical and sequential manner during revision – (For example, Talcott Parson’s pattern variables – to be read from new Haralambos,
The end result was that by the end of my preparation, I had a bunch of notes that could be revised in a single day – It consisted of my notes of around 200 pages, old and new Haralambos (for referred pages), and a couple of booklets of IGNOU BA (out of many).
I must have revised this bunch 4-5 times. I must also emphasize the importance of keeping a copy of previous 10 years’ questions handy, along with the syllabus. I made sure that there wasn’t a question asked in previous 10 years that I couldn’t answer.

Sociology Paper I: Topicwise Booklist
Sociology – The Discipline:——-IGNOU BA, old NCERT, old Haralambos, internet
Sociology as Science:——old & new Haralambos
Research Methods and Analysis:—–New Haralambos, dictionary of sociology by WP Scott / oxford dictionary of sociology
Sociological Thinkers:——–Old & New Haralambos, some comparative analyses and remaining topics from IGNOU BA (only what is not covered by Haralambos)
Stratification and Mobility: Old Haralambos, IGNOU BA
Works and Economic Life: IGNOU BA, Giddens, internet.
Politics and Society: Old Haralambos, Giddens, IGNOU BA
Religion and Society: Old Haralambos, IGNOU BA, internet
Systems of Kinship: IGNOU BA, dictionaries, (minor portions from Giddens and Haralambos)
Social Change in Modern Society: IGNOU BA, previous years’ questions, internet
Mrunal Edit:

To download IGNOU notes on Sociology (PDF format): click me
To purchase the printed (hardcopy) of IGNOU notes on Sociology (Hindi and English): click me
What’s the Difference between Old and New Haralambos?
The old Haralambos was a smaller version (Haralambos and Heald I suppose orange cover, published by oxford). The new version is a 1000 page tome (Haralambos and Holborn if I remember correctly) – I had its photocopy bought from Jawahar Book Depot.
The new version has many contemporary case studies and extra topics which are of relevance to the exam. But some topics are best read from the old version since you do not have much time by your side if you want to finish it off in two odd months.
How much time does it take to finish the Sociology Syllabus?
Limit yourself to the sources I’ve mentioned, and revise them repeatedly/make notes. It is possible to do it in less than 4 months. All the best.

The key (to any successful strategy) is to pick and chose as per one’s own convenience, keeping in mind the individual capabilities and constraints. The bottomline is that the syllabus has to be kept in mind and no stone is to be left unturned while covering it.

[Mr.Kshitij Tyagi did not mention a specific strategy for Paper II but pointed that he had followed the one given by Tanvi Sundriyal]

Sociology Paper II by Tanvi Sundriyal (AIR 6/ CSE 2009)
Before reading any notes or chaalu copy paste books I should be thorough with the original books (mentioned later)
Thinkers and Theories(say Theories of social change,of power etc.) should be done in great detail with elaborate notes,rest of the topics can be done via a single book(you could pull out/photocopy relevant chapters and put them alongwith your notes so that everything is in one place when you revise) or mere pointers can do (say for topics like Child Labour).
Warning: No notes should be made before a third reading of the chapter/book/source material especially for those who were, till they decided to plunge into cse preparation completely alien to the subject and its nuances.
These notes/pointers were to be made in the format of:
First Page-The Syllabus with the newly added topics (info for the newbeeies, the syllabus changed from 2008 Mains) highlighted (you can expect increased importance to be allotted to the newer topics in the exam)and sources referred to for the various sub-topics written alongwith a mention of whether you have written notes on it or not.

This will help you in cross referring the source books when you feel that there is something missing in your notes when you revise after a long time,or to ask doubts/search for new material ‘cos you would know what you don’t know …very important since this would guide you in selecting which questions to answer in the final exam hour ( no one is allowed to ask…is there a choice in the question paper or even worse…how will it guide one in question selection!)

Second Page-All old questions including the 1980’s ones(according to syllabus of course!)…if you notice some of the really old questions pertain to the newly added topics…bringing the changes made to a full circle!

Also, its important to know which sub topic can be interlinked with which other sub topic , which sub-topic requires more elaborate reading and note-making and which topics you cant afford to miss(some questions have been repeatedly asked indirectly or directly…)

All of this can only be gathered by a thorough analysis of the questions asked (preferably on your own) in the previous years so pay attention to the second page too !

Third Page- Now your note making starts…the elaborate notes and even pointers should follow this format :

a.Theory/Concept-Who said,What was said and in Which context was it said
b.Criticism-Every theoretician/perspective has a critique which points out the lacunae in the same and at the same time takes it forward…one should be very clear with this aspect.

Paper I and II : Emphasis ?
In paper 1: Emphasise on case studies usa,uk(‘cos many studies are available from there!) or any other foreign country if you have a relevant case study …but , at the same time do not forget to connect it to Indian examples.
In paper 2 : Emphasis should be placed on Indian Sociologists and application to Indian context, though here too works of important sociologists(from paper 1) can be applied .
Hence, studying , note making and then answer writing (in the same chronological order for very obvious reasons!) should be done keeping in mind that paper 1 and paper 2 are not exclusive of each other but are in fact interlinked and at times even draw sustenance from each other.

The notes would be made preferably in the same format as the answer sheets given in the upsc mains exam ie A4 blank sheets with space left at both sides(instead of wasting time making margins with scale and pencil just fold the paper on both sides to give the impression of a margin) and punched to be put into well organised folders.
This organisation of notes may sound like a very very childlike suggestion but it has great bearing on your revision…remember you are not writing notes to publish them for the benefit of mankind (which is not a bad idea but not your primary goal!) but to apply them in the examination, so please revise revise revise(this is not a typo error bad joke…still)
I would share resources like advice/coaching material/your own notes with another serious student…its a personal belief that petty competitiveness pulls you down as well.
Internet resources (some books have a few pages put out for reading online) and library(D School,Arts Faculty-Delhi University) resources (through a student) would be used appropriately.
Note :If you get hold of an amazing book for a very small sub-topic and don’t have time to go through it just read the Introduction+Preface…it usually encapsulates the whole argument
This was the “how to read” bit… now lets come down now to the “what to read” part :
The “How to start” dilemna plagues most of the cse aspirants esp those who did not have a humanities background….The solution is simple-

How to start Sociology Preparation?
Start with NCERT XI and XII (old and new editions both)

Then for :

Paper 1- Refer (in accordance with the syllabus…if time permits you could read the whole book as well…if nothing else it may help you in the essay or later on in the interview stage):
Anthony Giddens-Sociology(I believe the 5th edition is available in India in a paperback format…expensive book but its usefulness justifies its expense)

MacIonis-Sociology(brought to India by Pearsons publications)

These books give a basic understanding and at the same time an analysis of more contemporary topics.

Now you could go onto the basic book for Thinkers which is:

Francis Abraham and John Henry Morgan-Sociological Thought

You should also elaborate upon Thinkers by referring to Ritzer selectively(a must)

Some of my friends picked up tit-bits from Lewis Coser and some referred to Raymond Aron too(optional)

For Paper 2- Start with IGNOU BA course material and stick to it! Take care to mention the case studies considered in the IGNOU booklets in your examination.
You should also read:

M.N.Srinivas-Social Change in India
Yogendra Singh-Modernisation of Indian Tradition
Handbook of Indian Sociology-edited by Veena Das (selective reading of the book )
J.C.Verma (a NBT publication on Tribals) for the portion on problems faced by tribals…
I found books like Madan and Mazumdar- Social Anthropology and Horton and Hunt relevant for prelims only

Though one could pick up meaning of terms like culture etc from the Horton and Hunt book to understand its usage and maybe, apply it in the Essay paper (if it so demands)

Now the question arises

how to supplement this basic material ?
In paper 2 the theory portion should be connected to/updated by egs drawn from real life /recent case studies covered in magazines like Yojana and Economic and Political Weekly . You could become an online member of these magazines and avail the benefit of browsing through their archives.
I was too lazy to do this and consequently suffered(thankfully not too badly!) in paper 2.
In paper 1 there is an excellent reference book by the name of Haralombos and Halborn,its detailed,comprehensive and contemporary….unfortunately, reading it is a time consuming exercise so do it only as a last resort and/or to add value to selective topics(to avoid meandering away from relevant topics always keep the syllabus by your side)
These are the books/resources which I found relevant ..if I later on recall more(not that you would want me to, once you see the content of some of these books!) I would add on to this post…
Hopefully all of you would come to enjoy Sociology as much as I did (and also get good marks…very imp! )


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