Cultural and Ethnic Studies
Soc 3: Social Problems Research Paper
A major portion of this course is the cumulative paper assignment. Ultimately, the paper will analyze a social problem of your choosing and evaluate an organized response to that problem. The assignment represents one of the major goals of the course: critical evaluation of a social issue with an evidence-based approach. This is also a skill employers value in all fields!
Great papers clearly articulate their focus, thoroughly document relevant evidence, and address all points below. The final paper should be eight to ten double-spaced pages. There should also be a comprehensive reference list, which does not count toward the page limit.
1. Topic and Reference List (due Thursday, April 12)
First, select the ‘problem’ you’d like to analyze, and an existing policy or organized response designed to resolve it. The response could be an existing law, a corporate/university policy, a media campaign or social movement. You should not select a proposed policy/law that does not yet exist or propose your own solution.
To pick a topic that will work well for the paper’s requirements, it may be helpful to work backwards. For example, a very new social issue like “online bullying” may be very interesting and important. It may be so new, however, that there is little research-based evidence on a relevant policy or organized response to stop it. Meanwhile, media campaigns may help increase public awareness of an issue but can be difficult to evaluate with research. This exercise is designed to help you figure that out early.
Next, compile a list of at least 9 potentially useful references. Please use the ASA citation format, described at the end of the document. Also, briefly describe each with three or four sentences about how it’s relevant to your topic. The references should contain at least three references from each of the three categories: news articles, research reports, and academic studies. Proper categorization of the references is an important part of the grade for this assignment. Please see the example reference list on Canvas, and suggested sources at the end of this document
Do not feel committed to using these references in the eventual paper! As you write, you may find some of them are no longer relevant. You will also very likely need additional references. This exercise is just a starting point.
Soc 3 Research Paper
2. Research Paper, Part 1 (due Thursday, April 26)
Building on the previous part of the assignment, write a four to five-page research paper (not including the reference list) analyzing the social problem you chose. The paper should address these central questions:
• What is the social problem? Who claims it is a problem, and why?
• How well does existing empirical evidence support these claims?
• What does the evidence tell us about who is affected by the issue? What are the issue’s causes and/or consequences?
If these questions seem to line up with the general structure of course lectures, you’re on the right track. Remember, the goal is not to make your own argument that the issue you selected is a social problem. The paper should identify and evaluate prominent claims about the issue being a problem.
In general, the clearest papers focus on a narrow set of points with strong evidence. Papers that try to include as much information as possible can easily seem disorganized. Begin with an introductory paragraph and include a thesis statement. The Writing for Sociology guide on Canvas and the Student Academic Success Center are great resources for help organizing your papers.
3. Revised Research Paper, Part 1 (due Thursday, May 17)
A significant portion of the grade for the research paper is based on improvement. Writing must be learned and practiced; it is not an innate skill. Grading for the first research paper will include detailed recommendations for improvements. You’ll have the opportunity to revise the first paper to incorporate these recommendations and resubmit for another (hopefully higher) grade. This is the same process academic researchers go through to publish peer-reviewed journal articles.
4. Research Paper, Part 2 (due Tuesday, June 5)
The second paper adds directly to the first. The two combined parts should read like a single, uninterrupted paper. The total paper (part one + part two) should be eight to ten double-spaced pages long, not including the reference list. The second part of your paper should address the following questions:
What is the response to this problem?
What changes does the response require? Who is enacting this response, and what is their reasoning behind it? What is its goal? You may discuss multiple responses that are significantly related in some way, but your paper will likely be stronger if it focuses on only one.
Soc 3 Research Paper
What are the effects of this response?
Most of the second paper should describe the impact of the response and evaluate how well it does or does not address the social problem. Does the response improve the negative consequences of the social problem? What limitations are there? Does it make other social problems worse? This evaluation should be based on strong and clear evidence.
All parts of the paper should include references, cited clearly in the text. Be sure that your sources are relevant to the point at hand and make these connections clear. Much of your potential reference material will not contain the exact points you might wish to make. The use of these sources will require an extra logical step to be relevant to the paper topics. You should clearly explain these logical steps in your paper. No Wikipedia, please.
Your paper should use the citation format of the American Sociological Association (consult handouts here and here). This includes both in-text citations, and a reference list for all cited works at the end of the essay. For example, an in-text citation should look like, “Restrictive covenants institutionalized segregation by preventing many Black families from buying or renting homes in predominantly White neighborhoods (Pattillo 2007).” If you are quoting from the source, insert a colon behind the year and include the page number after it (Pattillo 2007:34). The reference list would then contain:
Pattillo, Mary. 2007. Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
In-text references to lecture material should contain the date of the lecture (Finnigan, Lecture 10/10/2015). The lecture material does not need to be included in the reference list.
All portions of the assignment should be double spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font, and with one-inch margins on all sides. Please submit a pdf copy to Canvas by the start of class on the due date. Word documents can easily be saved/exported as pdf files. Free software online, like Google Docs, is also able to convert documents to pdf easily. Requests for extensions must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Late assignments will be penalized 10% each day late.
Before submitting your paper, please check the following:
● All the main questions above are answered in your paper.
● The main parts of your paper are all supported with references.
● You have a clear and complete reference list.
● Your paper has used spell/grammar check.
Soc 3 Research Paper
● Your name is at the top of the paper.
Guidelines for Evaluation.
An “A” is reserved for truly excellent papers. The paper addresses all key questions in the prompt in an original and insightful way. The paper’s claims are well supported with appropriate, varied, and properly cited evidence. The paper is also well written, and the proper length.
Relative to an “A” paper, any of the following apply:
The paper’s argument is either somewhat unclear or is less original (but still addresses all of the key questions in the prompt). The paper’s claims are not completely supported with appropriate evidence, the range of evidence is somewhat limited, or the evidence is not properly cited. The overall clarity or grammar/spelling needs some improvement.
Relative to an “A” paper, some combination of the above, or any of the following apply:
The paper’s argument is unclear and/or very unoriginal. The argument does not address all the key questions in the prompt. The paper’s evidence is limited or inappropriate. The overall writing quality needs significant improvement.
The paper needs significant improvement in multiple/most dimensions.
The paper fails to meet almost all criteria.