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Sociological Theories


SOC 315: Sociological Theories

Spring 2017


The goal of any literature review is synthesis, not simply summary. To summarize something is simply to restate in your own words the main ideas from a single source without making connections to other sources or presenting broader conclusions. To synthesize means to combine two or more elements to create something new and more complex. In the context of a literature review, this means that you should present the main ideas of the source that serves as the “foundation” for your literature review, but then draw your own connections between this source and other sources. To do this you will need to understand the main ideas of each source, but you should not stop there. Instead, you need to go one step further to explain how the ideas from all of these sources interplay with one another. Do the newer sources expand our understanding of the ideas of the “foundational” source Do they challenge the conclusions of this source How do the newer sources compare/contrast with one another


For example, if I was writing a literature review focused on the concept of “McDonaldization,” I would begin this literature review by defining the term and the main ideas put forth by George Ritzer, the sociologist who created the concept. Thus, I would cite his book, The McDonaldization of Society, in which he defines McDonaldization as “the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world” (2013:1). Next, I would briefly define the five dimensions of McDonaldization presented by Ritzer (efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and the irrationality of rationality). This would probably take up about two paragraphs, and would establish the “foundation” for my literature review.


In the next section, I might turn to some works that have applied McDonaldization to topics other than those explored by Ritzer. For example, John Drane wrote a book called The McDonaldization of the Church, while Dennis Hayes and Robin Wynyard co-edited a volume entitled The McDonaldization of Higher Education. Rather than simply summarizing each in turn, I might discuss how Drane highlights the valuation of efficiency in modern churches, while a chapter by Ngure wa Mwochofi in Hayes and Wynyard’s book maligns the emphasis on efficiency over effectiveness in teaching practices at large universities.


Following this synthesis, I might provide some contrast by tying in an edited volume by Barry Smart entitled Resisting McDonaldization. More specifically, I might use a chapter by Keith Tester in which the author asserts that ethical vegetarianism is an individual-level form of moral resistance to McDonaldization. After briefly hitting the main points, I would discuss how this chapter challenges Ritzer’s original argument and how it contrasts with other works (such as those by Drane and Mwochofi) that indicate the continued expansion of McDonaldization in American society.


To conclude this synthesis with my own contribution, I might suggest that McDonaldization appears difficult to counteract at the institutional level (as with churches and colleges/universities), but it may be possible to resist the pressure of McDonaldization at the individual level (as with ethical vegetarians).

NAME _________________________________________



SOC 315: Sociological Theories

Spring 2017


Format: 4 full pages, double-spaced, 12-pt. Times New Roman font, one-inch margins all around, no contractions, proper spelling and grammar, ASA style citations and references (reference page not included in page count)


Requirements: One reading from the topical section covered in class, in addition to two outside sources from books published by an academic press or peer-reviewed sociological journals. I have included some guidelines below, but please ask me if you are unsure if a source qualifies.


Grading Rubric:





TOTAL:        /35

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