How to Prepare Sociology Optional for UPSC Mains: Target IAS 2018 and Beyond

Many people, especially peers, may suggest you to refer multiple books to understand the syllabus. You should try to limit the sources while studying but make sure you do that extensively.

The trick is that you study some basic stuff. The primary material should be the NCERT textbook. (Or some fundamental books like Harlemboss for paper 1 and Y.Singh and R.Ahuja books for paper 2).

In addition, you buy the ‘Secondary’ material for reference. But, the secondary material should be used only to refer some difficult issues and for adding value to primary. Adding value to primary means extracting some thinker’s views, case studies etc.

Once you have read the Primary material, you should search and add value from secondary material. You can simply look for any new information, cases and books and add it to your primary material notes.

You should not read all the books deeply. Rather, one should read few with depth and then simply all new things from multiple sources. Like this, your answers shall be comprehensive, fresh and with diverse knowledge.



Writing style is pivotal in getting good score and writing nice answers. For sociology, the key is to keep the language simple and bountiful. By bountiful, it means that you should use extensively views of thinkers, case studies, book’s names etc.

Unlike a subject like Pub Administration, where you can express your views liberally, in sociology you should use the views and opinions of thinkers and sociologists, to a large extent. This makes the answers credible and scoring.

But, there is one catch here. You should not add case studies for the sake of adding only. They should be relevant to the answer and should help it like good songs of a great Bollywood movie. Like the songs that take the story forward, your answer should flow naturally with the help of these references etc.


Reading List for Sociology (Mains):

  • Shri. Upendra Gaur’s class notes
  • Sociology-Tom Bottomore
  • Sociology-Michael Haralambos
  • Classical Sociological Theory-George Ritzer
  • Tribal India-Nadeem Hasnain
  • Modernization of Indian Tradition-Yogendra Singh
  • Changing India-Robert Stern




An important suggestion:

Refer to IGNOU notes for the new topics introduced in Paper II Thinkers are the backbone of sociology, so understanding is very important rather than only specific terms. In fact, after studying individual thinker try comparing it with the views of other thinkers.




1) Haralambos (V edition, In my opinion, the most important book for conceptual clarity not only for paper I, but also for paper II).

2) UIES (Upendra Gaur Sir’s notes): Entire paper I notes.

3) Sociological Theory by George Ritzer and Douglas J. Goodman (VI edition) (for chapter 4 only, to be read only if you have finished the above two).



Please note that there are standard text books available for Paper I but the study material for Paper-II is not found easily. Hence it becomes mandatory to refer to multiple sources.

 You can rely on Sindhuri Madam’s notes (UPSC 2008 AIR 43) which you can get through the xerox shops in Rajendra Nagar (She has very meticulously collected material from various sources and prepared her own analyses as well)

 UIES class notes (Upendra Gaur’s class notes for Paper II)

 Newspapers (The Hindu and The Indian Express, select articles)

 Yojana (the monthly magazine)

 IGNOU MA Material (MSO Series, selective pages, details I have mentioned below)

 Contemporary Sociology by M Francis Abraham (Oxford Publications): Chapters 11, 14,15 and 17)

 Society in India by Ram Ahuja (Selective pages from Chapters 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 16)

 Handbook of Indian Sociology by Veena Das (very selective, only those topics which are not covered in the above)


Selective Reading:

 Indological Perspective by Ghurye (Lesson 8)

 Structural Functional Perspective by M N Srinivas (Lesson 10)

 Marxian Perspective by A R Desai (Lesson 14)

 Modernization of Indian tradition by Yogendra Singh (page 85 to 160, page 208 to 213)



 Caste its 20th Century Avatar by M N Panini

 The Political Economy of Caste by M N Panini (pp 28 to 63)

 Tribal India by Nadeem Husnain (selective pages)

 India’s Population Policy by Bhende and Kanitkar (selectivepages)

 Principle of Polulation Studies by Bhende and Kanitkar (Appendix C)

 Indian tribals and search for an indigenous identity by Walter Fernandes

 Slum problem in India: Magnitude, Genesis and Possible Solution by B K Chakraborty

 Sixty Years of Development induced Displacement in India by Walter Fernandes



IGNOU booklets:

 MSO 001 Book 1: Block 2, 3 and 4

 MSO 001 Book 2: Block 5, 6, 7 and 8

 MSO 003 Book 1: block 1 (all the 4 units), block 2 (unit 5), block 3 (unit 9 and 10)

 MSO 003 Book 2: block 6 (all the 4 units), block 7 (unit 24, 25), block 8 (unit 27 and 28)

 MSO 004 Book 1: Entire booklet

 MSO 004 Book 2: Block 5 (Unit 17, 19 and 20), block 6, 7 and 8

 MSOE 004 Book 2: Blocks 5, 6 and 7

 MPSE 007


Especially for paper II, stick very strictly to the syllabus and prepare your own pointers/ notes (from the above material coupled with newspaper articles) so that you can revise the syllabus just before the examination.


Besides, some online sources:

1) Rajiv Ranjan Singh’s blog on Sociology (AIR 191, CSE 2009):

2) Tanvi Sundriyal’s (AIR 6, CSE 2009) blog:

3) Anay Dwivedi’s (AIR 5, CSE 2009) blog:


Developing a conceptual framework for answer writing:

For the starting, a sincere request to all who are serious about this time Mains –

Ensure that you spend adequate time with the Hindu and/ or Indian Express (IE). This is extremely important not only for GS, but also for Sociology and Pub Ad. I think Hindu is exceptionally good for Sociology and IE for Public Administration (especially the op ed page).



1) Before reading any major article (say the Centre article of ‘the Hindu’) think of the way you would have framed your thoughts if any topic related to it would have come in either Sociology Paper II, Pub Ad Paper II or for that matter Essay. Take a sheet of paper and draft a conceptual framework related to the article which means try and think of relevant points which you would have written if the same topic comes in the exam. While practicing, it should not take more than 5 minutes. (Of course, your answer in the actual examination will depend on various factors: marks allotted to the Question, time you have in your hand to answer it, exact demand of the question etc).


2) After making this conceptual framework, think of what information (facts and opinion) that you know of and try and scribble your thoughts very briefly in logically arranged paragraphs. There is no need to write entire sentences, but just important points/ pointers which should take not more than 10 to 15 minutes.


3) Then, compare the article with your sheet and yourself evaluate your performance. You will come to appreciate the thought flow, data, contemporary examples etc quoted in the actual article.


4) Preserve your sheets of paper and edit suitably, basis any new information that you come across (while reading any standard text, internet article, newspaper/ magazine article or while discussing with teachers/ friends).


Not only will you have a firm grasp on the newspaper, but also on the optional papers. Having said this, please understand that the importance of concepts/ standard texts is very much there. The above strategy is to embellish your answer with contemporary events and opinions.


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