Many of you asked about my approach for my optional subject of sociology. So, I am writing this post.
Most of us are generally familiar with the topics which are part of syllabus (except the thinkers part), so this subject is relatively familiar to every aspirant with this optional. However, due to very this fact, some people become complacent and take many topics taken for granted. You should try to read thoroughly, but should never overlook the core concepts (for example, while studying caste - you should not overlook the very basic definition and perspectives on caste. You should ask yourself - What is caste? How it has changed historically? What is the theoretical framework lying beneath it? Is that framework accepted as it is by various social thinkers? If not, how and why?)
Then, the question comes - What to read? To this question, I would suggest following material -
- New NCERTs on sociology - According to me, new NCERTs are much well designed than the older ones. They have less factual errors and have a better flow. They also take a lot of examples from the day to day life which can be put in the answers. Try to read them again and again during various phases of your optional preparation. (Old NCERTs were more suitable for the older syllabus and hence may not be as useful, but if you have a hell lot of time, you may read them as well).
- Sociology: (Haralambos and Heald) (the one with reddish cover and not so thick) - For the beginners it is a good book as you get familiar with the core concepts and some landmark studies in the field of sociology. It is a bit outdated in terms of the data it uses as it has not been revised since long. But the case studies it has used are classical ones and are still referred by the social scientists and students alike. Try to match the topics of syllabus and read selectively. Its writing style is extremely lucid and most of the concepts are explained very well.
- Sociology (Anthony Giddens) - While Haralambos gives you a conceptual framework, Giddens Sociology is more about the contemporary perspectives in sociology. It gives a fresh and novel perspectives through novel examples and illustrations. It helps you in developing a unique sociological perspective.
- Sociology: Themes and Perspectives (Haralambos an Holborn) (Blue Cover) - This is a very useful and comprehensive book for paper 1. But it is about heavier one with more than 1000 pages. However, it is a very updated one and covers almost all aspects of syllabus. Following topics: Basic Theoritical Perspectives, Aging, Research Methods, Stratification and Inequality, Gender, Poverty and Exclusion, Religion, Family, Power and Politics, Education etc are covered very well. If you have patience too read, it is an extremely useful book. If you are not reading Giddens, you may read this one. Either will do.
- Sociology Dictionary (Penguin) - Dictionaries are helpful because, they provide the fundamental definitions of the topics of syllabus. They also carry reference to the works of important social thinkers and their works also. This dictionary is relatively simple in its language than the Oxford one. You should read the dictionary thoroughly from first to last page and note down those terms and topics which are either part of syllabus (directly or indirectly) or have appeared in previous years' exams. Some case studies may also be found here.
- IGNOU Notes (only graduation level, not post graduation) - They carry more or less the whole syllabus. They are especially useful for the Paper Two as one generally doesn't find the topics anywhere else and that too compiled in one source.
- Other supplementary sources - Apart from these, for specific topics, you may refer to some other books as well. For example, for Mead (you may refer the Sociology book by Ritzer), for Indian thinkers, you may refer a book by B K Nagala and so on, but this book has its own issues.
Finally, as I always say, the exam is not only about reading books, but also about managing what you have read. Try to consolidate what you have read at a single place as it is easier to revise that during exam. Making your own notes also serves as a kind of writing practice and boosts your confidence as well.
From the day one, you should keep in mind that since the subject is about society and its relationship with individuals, so, you should be very keen observer of it. Whether there is some news article (say on marital trends, caste, family, demography, tribes, polity, socio-economic indicators of development and so on), some development in your neighborhood or even a personal observation, you should try to think over these and note down a thing or two. Such illustrations about society and its working will come handy in form of examples while attempting the questions in the mains paper and will definitely fetch you some extra marks.
If you have any suggestions or queries regarding sociology optional, please comment beneath this post.
Best of luck!