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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Sociology

SOCI44430: Sociology of Health and Illness

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Health is a lens to the social: understanding health, illness and medicine provides social scientists a unique window into how people, throughout the world, care for themselves and others, as well as wider social processes, from social inequalities, politics, and culture to economics, power relations and the sociology of daily life. This module aims thus to A) provide students with the sociological conceptual and methodological tools and skills to research health, illness and medicine in contemporary society, and B) enable students to draw on medical sociology to understand society and global life, more generally, including key social transformations and process presently taking place.


  • Being ill: biological and sociological models
  • Biomedical knowledge and technology
  • Digital health, datafication of health
  • The transformation of medical profession
  • The transformation of contemporary health care
  • Health inequalities and the social determinants of health
  • Controversies over defining and classifying mental disorders
  • Social theories of the mind and mental disorders
  • Social origins of mental disorders
  • Health and healthcare at the global level

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • use illness, health and medicine as a lens to understand sociological problems.
  • understand the nature of the sociological perspective on Health Illness and Medicine.
  • employ the conceptual programme of the Medical Sociology in understanding the nature of health and illness, the role of knowledge and technologies in health systems in contemporary societies, and the changing nature of health policy.
  • relate the sociological account of health and illness in contemporary societies to issues of public policy formation and implementation in such societies.
  • situate debates about health, illness and medicine within broad debates about wider social, political and economic processes.
  • articulate an argument about health systems and which employs the findings of empirical studies in the Sociology of Health and Medicine.
  • evaluate sociological arguments and evidence in health contexts.
  • employ the conceptual apparatus of Sociology in relation to health issues.
  • undertake and present health related research in a scholarly fashion.
  • apply theoretical and methodological knowledge to an appropriate sociological question in the field of health.
  • employ theoretical and methodological expertise as appropriate in health related area.
  • convey, both orally and in writing, the meaning of abstract methodological concepts with health relevance in ways which are meaningful to peers.
  • understand the relevance of, and relate their health related knowledge to contemporary issues in society.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • evaluate sociological arguments and evidence.
  • use abstract sociological concepts with confidence.
  • undertake and present sociological work in a scholarly manner.
  • apply theoretical and /or empirical knowledge to an appropriate sociological question.
  • convey in writing the meaning of abstract theoretical concepts in ways that are understandable to others.
Key Skills:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • formulate research question or problem and independently organise and implement a task-based approach to address it.
  • demonstrate capacity to collect, organise, summarise and present a variety of types of data.
  • demonstrate numeracy skills i.e. ability to read and interpret complex tables, graphs and charts.
  • demonstrate qualitative research skills: the ability to extract information and analyse documents, interviews or other forms of qualitative data.
  • demonstrate competence in the use of IT resources, including databases, and data analysis software.
  • demonstrate a capacity to improve own learning and performance through independent learning and peer feedback.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: focusing on a specific topic every two weeks, introduce designated topic areas in a systematic manner.
  • Seminars: enable students to explore and evaluate medical sociology concepts and methodologies arising from lectures and from independent reading. Students are also required to present complex scholarly work both orally and in written form, in ways that are clear and understandable to others, thus enhancing not only subject knowledge but also key communication skills.
  • Formative assessment: student will have the option of producing two essay plans linking to each of the summaive essays which feedback can then be used to inform the summative coursework.
  • Summative assessment: There will be two summative assignments. One due half way through the module; and the other at the end. The first will be a case study in which students are expected to collect and analyse the details of a particular case in relation to the social aspects of health or illness. The case could be a group of patients, a particular illness or disease, a group of medical practitioners, a medical institution, an influential event, a health policy, or a particular way of coping with illness in a particular cultural context. It aims to assess students’ ability to understand and analyse a specific situation in health and illness from the sociological perspective. The second summative assessment requires students to conduct a research study that would draw on the latest literature to investigate one of the topics covered in this module and integrate relevant theoretical arguments and empirical evidence.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 weekly 1 20
Seminars 20 weekly 1 20
Preparation and Reading 260
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 (Case Study) 3,000 Words 100%
Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 (Research Paper) 3,000 Words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Producing a plan of writing (up to 500 words) for each essay and gain feedbacks from the teaching staff (Optional).

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University