Sociology (SOCI) 365

Sociology of Deviance (Revision 5)

SOCI 365 Course Cover

View previous revision

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None. SOCI 287 or SOCI 288 are strongly recommended.

Precluded Course: None

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Sociology Studies home page

SOCI 365 has a Challenge for Credit option.

check availability


This course focuses on one of the most popular and topical areas of sociology: the study of what has often been defined as “abnormal” or “deviant” behaviour. Partly because of sensationalized media coverage of dramatic cases of “abnormal” social behaviour, university courses in the “sociology of deviance” have continued to attract the highest enrollments in most departments of sociology. However, what has been classified as “deviant” behaviour has varied widely across different societies and cultures, and has also changed over time in our own society. Thus, vagrancy and homelessness were once defined as deviant states punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in workhouses or other correctional institutions. Today, homelessness is more likely to be seen as an unfortunate state remediable through social welfare or other anti-poverty programs. Similarly, whereas homosexuality was once criminally sanctioned as a “deviant” behaviour, today members of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community have successfully challenged their former “deviant” social labels, and—at least in Canada—have won their right to be treated as full and equal members of society. At the same time, as many formerly stigmatized behaviours (such as vagrancy, homosexuality, abortion, motherhood outside marriage, etc.) have lost their deviant labels, other previously accepted behaviours are now seen as deviant and may even be criminalized. Examples of recently criminalized “deviant” behaviours include stalking, hate speech, cyber bullying, and domestic violence. However, the study of social “deviance” includes not only criminal behaviour, but all forms of behaviour that violate social rules and conventions, irrespective of whether these behaviours are criminally sanctioned.

The first two units introduce key concepts, ideas, and principles that represent an essential grammar, language, and a set of working principles at the heart of the sociology of deviance.

  • Unit 1 considers how deviance might be defined and explores how this sociological definition is likely to be different than a view of deviance held by non-sociologists.
  • Unit 2 introduces some principles for making comparisons and briefly describes the methodology and logic used in sociology to determine the truth of ideas.

Units 3, 4, 5 and 6 introduce broad approaches or paradigms to understanding the world.

  • Unit 3 considers how deviance was explained from a moralistic and religious point of view justified by authority and feeling.
  • Unit 4 describes how reason, rationality, and law shifted the understanding of rule-breaking away from pure moral considerations and ultimately toward laws and criminal codes.
  • Unit 5 discusses how biological ideas came to dominate and how scientific principles influenced the study of deviance.
  • Unit 6 describes the emergence of a systematic sociology, sociology based on an adaption of biological and evolutionary theory.

Finally, the sociological perspective emerges in the final six units of the course.

  • Unit 7 presents ideas and theories about deviance that evolved at the University of Chicago in the 1920s.
  • Units 8 and 9 are the central parts of the course from a sociological perspective; they introduce two specific theories that have remained at the core of the sociology of deviance ever since they first appeared.
  • Units 10 and 11 introduce modern variations and versions of sociological theory.
  • Unit 12 is a reflection on what the sociology of deviance means and what it might have contributed to our understanding.


  • Unit 1: Beginning—The Sociology of Deviant Behaviour
  • Unit 2: Science, Truth, and Uncertainty
  • Unit 3: Demonology and Theological Conceptions of Deviance
  • Unit 4: Rationality, Reason, and Deviance
  • Unit 5: Biology and Exclusion
  • Unit 6: Themes and Concepts
  • Unit 7: Social Disorganization and Cities
  • Unit 8: Social Structure and Anomie
  • Unit 9: Differential Association and Cultural Theories
  • Unit 10: Sub-cultural Theory, Social Control Theory, and Social Reaction Theories
  • Unit 11: Back to the Basics—Postmodern and Post-cultural Theories
  • Unit 12: The Future of the Sociology of Deviance


Your final grade in SOCI 365 is based on the grades you achieve on two assignments, a midterm quiz, and the final examination. To receive credit for this course, you must achieve a minimum of 60 percent on the final examination and a minimum composite course grade of 60 percent. The chart below summarizes the course activities and the credit weight associated with each.

Course Activity Weighting Due Date
Assignment 1: Research Proposal 20% Before Assignment 2, and anytime after the midterm quiz and before the final examination.
Assignment 2: Research Paper 30% After Assignment 1, and anytime after the midterm quiz and before the final examination.
Midterm Quiz 10% After Unit 6
Final Examination 40% Following the completion of all other course work and assignments.
Total 100%  

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials

All materials will be available to students online.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the SOCI 365 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least C- (60 percent) on the challenge examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, October 8, 2020.

View previous revision