Introduction to Sociology
Instructions for Writing Research Paper
Sociology is a subject with many facets and subtopics, most of which we will not have time to cover in class. You will note, for example, that there are entire chapters and parts of chapters that are not listed on the syllabus. In addition, we may cover superficially topics that you have a special interest in and would like to know more about.
You are asked this term to choose a sociology topic in which you are especially interested and research it, for the purpose of finding out as much about it as you can. That means you should not research a topic about which you already know a great deal. Instead, you should write on a topic about which you know little or nothing and increase your knowledge as much as you can.
If you think you’re not interested in any particular topic, then pick a topic at random. You may be surprised at how much interest you develop in the course of your research. In fact, learning about topics you know nothing about and perhaps have never cared about is at the heart getting an education.
When you’ve completed your research, you will write an academic paper in which you share and reflect on your findings. For many of you, this will be your first academic paper. This is your opportunity to learn how to write a college paper, a skill you will need in many classes throughout your four years as an undergraduate. If you learn to research and write papers now, your road through college will be infinitely easier and your grades will be higher.
Possible Topics: You do not have to use any of the topics below—they are just suggestions. But if you want to use a different topic, you must email it to me for approval, and I will give you a set of questions to answer to guide your research.
⦁ The issue of police violence against unarmed black males has been a growing and increasingly visible problem in American society. Choose any of the young black males killed by police officers in the line of duty during 2015 and research the following:
⦁ The individual’s background
⦁ How this individual came to be in the situation in which he was struck down
⦁ What justification the police gave for killing him
⦁ What the consequences were for the police officer(s) responsible for the killing
⦁ How the local community responded
⦁ At least one piece of additional information that you think is relevant to the story
When you’ve completed the above, write a brief reflection (about two well-developed paragraphs) on how you think this story relates to sociological issues. Make references to at least two course concepts in related textbook chapters.
Finally, write a brief statement of how the case does or does not impact you personally as a member of society, and explain your response.
⦁ Although it is certainly true that people who commit suicide do so for various psychological reasons (e.g., clinical depression), sociologist Emile Durkheim did extensive research on suicide as a sociological phenomenon. Explain Durkheim’s findings in detail. Then research patterns of suicide (e.g., where and among what sociological groups it is most likely to occur) in the United States or any other country and relate Durkheim’s findings to suicide as a sociological phenomenon in that country.
At the end of your paper, discuss at least one idea you have to decrease the problem of suicide as a sociological issue in the country you’ve researched and explain how your solution might be implemented in that society.
⦁ The “Black Lives Matter” movement can be studied from the perspective of any one of the three sociological theories we looked at this term: structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. Provide a detailed discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement from each of those perspectives. Then discuss the movement from the perspective of its success or lack of success to this point, and predict what impact, if any, you think it will have on the lives of black people in the United States. Explain your response.
⦁ Twelve states and three territories choose their political candidates by means of a caucus rather than a primary election. Explain what a caucus is as opposed to a primary, and use Iowa as an example of how the Democrat and Republican caucuses are structured. Go into detail. Then discuss what you think are the strengths and weaknesses of a caucus in choosing presidential candidates, and explain your reasoning. Which would you personally prefer to do—caucus or vote in a primary? Why?
⦁ Research the second feminist movement (1960s to 1980s), known as The Women’s Liberation Movement.
⦁ How did the movement get started? Why did it happen when it did?
⦁ What were its goals?
⦁ What means were used to achieve those goals?
⦁ To what degree were they successful? If goals were achieved, were they achieved equally for all women, regardless of color and socio-economic class? Explain your response.
⦁ Analyze the status of women today, in terms of the original goals of this movement. Ultimately, how successful was the Women’s Liberation Movement?
⦁ How does the Women’s Liberation Movement affect you personally today? (Note that both females and males can respond to this question.)
⦁ Explain the concept “civil religion,” also known as “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
⦁ Define the term and explain how it differs from “established religion.”
⦁ Trace its general history.
⦁ Explain how it manifests itself today in the United States and give specific examples.
⦁ What are some of the issues/debates surrounding the concept?
⦁ Discuss what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of referring to “the Judeo-Christian tradition” in public forums such as public schools and political debates.
⦁ Do you feel that the concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition conflicts or is compatible with the separation of church and state? Explain.
⦁ Discuss religion in this country from a structural functionalist perspective.
⦁ What are its main roles in any society? (Find at least three roles.)
⦁ How successful do you think religion is in fulfilling these roles in this country? Give specific examples.
⦁ The former Soviet Union was the first country to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion. What were the consequences of this ideology? Give specific examples.
⦁ What do you think would happen to social structure in the United States if we were, like the Soviet Union, to eliminate religion?
⦁ The American system of public school education is in decline. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 48th in math and science education; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks us near the bottom of industrialized countries for math and puts us in the middle for science and reading. In short, our public schools no longer pass muster. Explain this decline by relating it to the decreasing size of the middle class and our increasing focus on technology. Realistically, what do you think can be done to reverse this decline in our educational system? How should we go about doing it?
⦁ The American nuclear family is changing. Discuss the traditional American nuclear family in terms of its original purpose and function, starting in the early 1900s. Then discuss the changes it has undergone, describing the history of and reason for each change. What is the status and function of “the family” in today’s society? Given the information you have, what do you think is the future of the American nuclear family? How do you feel about that future?
⦁ American culture has gone from widespread rejection of homosexuality in the 1950s (when it was considered both a mental illness and a crime) to increasing acceptance. Today more than 50 percent of the population accepts both homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Trace the history of the American attitude toward gays, starting in the 1950s and including the present. How can the rapid changes in attitude be explained? What do you think the impact is on society?
⦁ According to sociologist George Ritzer, society is being McDonaldized.
⦁ What does he mean when he refers to “the McDonaldization of society”?
⦁ When did this process begin? What is its history?
⦁ What are its consequences—its effects on society, both positive and negative?
⦁ How do you think it will impact society in the future?
⦁ In the end, do you think McDonaldization is a phenomenon society should shun or embrace? Why?
Instructions for Research
⦁ You may use our online library or any academic online library, or any large walk-in library such as the Boston Library. Look for recently-published books and journal articles, preferably peer-reviewed.
⦁ You may use the Internet, but you must restrict your sources to sites that end in .edu, .gov, or .org. Above all, you must use sources that are accurate, up-to-date, and unbiased. If you feel a .com website qualifies under those criteria, check with me to get permission to use it.
⦁ You must use at least five (5) academic sources. YouTube talks are acceptable, as long as the speaker is a recognized expert on the topic. If you are not sure, check with me or our writing assistant to get approval.
⦁ Avoid taking the majority of your information from a single source and only briefly mentioning your other sources. If necessary, find more sources.
⦁ Wikis are NOT acceptable research sources, although the list of original sources they include at the bottom of each article generally are. You must always use only original sources for research papers.
⦁ Your textbook is not a resource, for the reason given in number 5 above. Textbook authors are simply reporting research that others have done. Go to the original source.
⦁ You may not site your previous academic papers, even if you got A’s on them, because you are not an expert on the subject matter.
⦁ Interviews with topic experts are acceptable and recommended where possible.
Instructions for Style
⦁ APA style required (include a title page but not an abstract)
⦁ A non-generic title that makes your topic clear is required.
⦁ Microsoft Word is required. If you don’t have it, type your final paper on a computer that does.
⦁ Seven to 10 pages, not including title page or Works Cited (papers shorter than seven pages will be graded down, and papers five pages or less will not be graded) “Padding” (irrelevant information) and repetitiveness will not count as part of your page count.
⦁ Double-spaced throughout. Do not use triple or quadruple spaces. Remove the “add space before paragraph” and “add space after paragraph” options from your settings.
⦁ Standard 12-pt font throughout—Times New Roman, Calibri, etc. No fancy or “handwriting” fonts.
⦁ One-inch margin on all sides.
⦁ Pages numbered according to APA regulations
⦁ Pictures and graphs (credited) should be included where helpful to making your point. If you use these, make sure that your written text still amounts to at least seven pages.
⦁ Start with a thesis statement in your introductory paragraph, and make sure that every paragraph in your paper supports that thesis.
⦁ Use appropriate paragraph structure, with a topic sentence and detailed supporting material. Make sure each topic sentence supports the thesis statement. If it doesn’t you can eliminate the entire paragraph.
⦁ Include a reasonable conclusion that pulls your paper together for the reader. It can be a brief summary of your thesis and supporting points, although that is the least interesting kind of conclusion. More interesting options are a call to action, your personal reactions to what you’ve learned, or a projection of your findings into the future.
Final Note: Students often struggle with the issue of length in papers. There are four ways to get up to the required length:
⦁ Make sure you have responded to all the questions asked in the topic description.
⦁ Give detailed responses rather than general ones; they are more interesting and more informative, and they yield a longer paper.
⦁ Provide specific examples of each point; examples help the reader understand your point, they make your paper more interesting, and they yield a longer paper.
⦁ Add some new but relevant information that you think should have been addressed in the topic description.
⦁ The number one reason for “short” papers is failure to write in detail.
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