Phd/Research course: SOS8506 Applied Sociological Theory

PhD/Research Course: Theory in Action: Theoretical strategies and theorising in social research (SOS8506) - May 2016 


Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU – Trondheim, invites applications for a PhD/Research Course in theoretical strategies and theorizing in sociology/social research to be held in Trondheim 23 - 27 May, 2016. 

Course leaders: Professors Peter Sohlberg and Håkon Leiulfsrud

External examiner: Professor Göran Ahrne, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University

This course is based on the NFR-project Sociological Theory and Practice Revisited. Material from the project will be sent to the course participants.

Lecturers  (in alphabetical order): 

  • Mette Andersson, Professor at Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo University (MA)
  • Aaron Cicourel, Professor, University of San Fransico, USA (AC)
  • Anne Britt Flemmen, Professor at Department of Sociology, The Artic University of Norway (UiT) (ABF)
  • Roar Hagen, Professor at Department of Sociology, The Artic University of Norway (UiT) (RH)
  • Håkon Leiulfsrud, Professor at Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU (HL)
  • Peter Sohlberg, Professor at Faculty of Social Sciences and Technology Management & Department of Sociology and Political Scence, NTNU (PS)

Course codes and titles: SOS8506 – Applied Sociological Theory (Theory in Action: Theoretical strategies and theorising in social research)

Course dates: 23rd May to the 27th of May 2016. 

Course credits: 10 pts (ECTS)

Deadline for application: 8. April, 2016

Acceptance to the course: 13. April

Course material sent to the students: 13. April

Post course seminar: 8. June

Deadline for submitting papers: 15. August

Application form


For more information please contact: Senior Executive Officer Einar Gimse Syrstad, Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU. Phone: +47 73592566, e-mail: 


The narrative of theory in sociology/social research tends to retell the tale of major theorists or theories in a static way; treating theories as fixed worldviews and static icons. The aim of the course is an alternative approach where we explore the dynamic and generative potential of the sociological heritage and exemplify how theoretical and conceptual constructions may be actively used in different types of research.

This course includes as major topics:

  • Theoretical strategies and their knowledge generating applications in sociology/social science.

  • Conceptual formation as a matter of “constructing the object” in sociology/social science.

  • Theorizing in the intersection between context of justification and context of discovery in sociology/social science.

The course will elaborate on concrete examples of theoretical and conceptual construction-work. The course will furthermore provide an opportunity to problematize and elaborate on theoretical and conceptual issues related to the participant’s own research.

The final paper/assignment will consist of two parts:

  1. A discussion on theoretical/methodological themes presented/discussed during the course

  2. At the end of the term the student shall hand in a term paper where he/she demonstrates the ability to discuss a theme where matters of theory and concept-construction are related to own research.

All papers will be evaluated by an external examiner.

Timetable (lecturing/seminar rooms at the Dragvoll campus will be announced later)

Monday 23. May

10.00-11.30: Introduction (PS & HL)

11.30-12.30: Lunch

12.30-16.00: Student presentations of their own projects, use of theory and key-concepts

18.00: Pizza at a restaurant in Trondheim city center


Tuesday 24 May

09.00-12.00: Theorising (Lemmert; Swedberg 2015 & his essay) HL

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-16.00: How to construct the conceptual framework for the empirical analysis (Hagen´s essay) RH


Wednesday 25 May

09.00-12.00: Sociological Theory – a critique (Mouzelis) PS

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-16.00: Sensitizing Concepts (Swedberg´s & Blumer´s essay) ABF


Thursday 26 May

10.00-12.00: Theorising – based on case studies (Andersson´s essay; Platt´s essay & Timmerman & Tavory´s essay). MA

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-16.00:Constructing the objects of social science (Bourdieu´s Craft) PS

18.00: Social gathering


Friday 27 may

10.00-12.00: Reconstructing social structure

12.00-13.00: Lunch

13.00-16.00: Concluding seminar (PS & HL)


Wednesday 8 June

10.00-16.00: Post course seminar


Reading list

Books (will be available at Academica, Dragvoll from April onwards)

  • Bourdieu, P., Chamboredon, J.C. & Passeron, J.C. (1991 or later): The craft of sociology:  Epistemological preliminaries. Berlin, De Greuyter.
  • Lemmert, C. (2005, or later): Social Things: An introduction to the sociological life. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield Publ.
  • Mouzelis, N. (1995, 1998 or later): Sociological Theory: What went wrong. Diagnosis and remedies. London, Routledge.
  • Swedberg, R. (2015):  The art of social theory. Princeton University Press.

Essays (will be distributed via e-mail to each of the course participants)

  • Essays in Sohlberg & Leiulfsrud, Eds. (forthcoming): Theories in action: Theoretical constructionism. Brill Publishers, Leiden.
  • Andersson, M. (2016): “Theorising through comparative case studies”
  • Hagen, R. (2016): “Abduction: Assessing fruitfulness and the construction of scientific concepts”
  • Swedberg, R. (2016): “On the heuristic role of concepts in theorizing”

Articles/essays possible to download from the web, or to get hold of from the course leaders

  • Abbott, A (2008): “The Causal Devolution” in Sociological Methods & Research 1998, vol. no 2 (November 2008), pp. 148-181.
  • Blumer, H. (1954): ”What is Wrong with Social Theory?”, American Sociological Review, vol. 19, no 1 (Feb. 1954), pp. 3-10.
  • Platt, J. (1992): "Case study" in American Methodological Thought, Current Sociology 40, pp. 17-48.
  • Swedberg, R. (2012):  “Theorizing in sociology and social science: turning to the context of discovery”. Theory and Society, vol. 41, no 1, pp. 1-40.
  • Timmerman, S. & Tavory, I. (2012): Construction in Qualitative Research: From Grounded Theory to Abductive Analysis”. Sociological Theory. vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 167-185.

Additional references of potential interest

  • Abbott, A. (2008): Methods of discovery. Heuristics for the social sciences. New York; Norton and Company
  • Bourdieu, P. (2001): Science of science and reflexivity. Cambridge, Polity.
  • Mills, C. W. (1958, or later): The sociological imagination (particularly the appendix on craft in this volume)
  • Swedberg, R. (2014, Ed.): Theorizing in social science: The context of discovery. Stanford University Press.


PhD/Research Course: Theory in Action: Theoretical strategies and theorising in social research (SOS8506) - May 2016 


Place and date: NTNU Trondheim 23-27th May 2016

Course credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Deadline for application: 8. April, 2016

Application form