Paper topics should emerge from and relate explicitly to the course readings, lectures and discussions. A good paper will incorporate relevant library research beyond the course texts on the theorist or theorists being discussed. Possible topics might involve taking a particular aspect of a particular theorist and delving more deeply into that aspect. You might also compare and contrast two or more theorists on that issue. Another possibility is to take a particular event or issue which is important in our contemporary society and to use it to illustrate some aspect of classical theory we are covering in this course. In a very broad sense, the papers should be relevant to one or more of the following sets of overarching theoretical problems that we’ve using as fulcrums for discussing classical sociological theory. 1. approaches to analyzing processes of social change
2. the relationship between the individual and society (structure vs agency)
3. the relationship between human knowledge, ideas and values on the one hand, and their social and historical context on the other (the problem of idealist vs materialist approaches)
4. the problem of whether social science is best conceived of in positivist or interpretivist methodological termsAlmost any contemporary sociological topic can be made relevant to these social theory issues; talk with me or our TA if you want to talk about how to make a topic of interest to you fit into this assignment.If you have an idea for a paper which doesn’t seem to fit into the above guidelines, it is likely to still be OK. See us however, to talk about your idea and we’ll work out how to make it work.Please note: The papers need to rest on library-based scholarly research beyond the course texts, drawing on published scholarly books, articles and reports. Electronic sources such as academic databases and on-line versions of academic journals are appropriate. Use news magazines like Time or Newsweekonly sparingly, if at all, as they are not academic publications. Other internet-based information such as that from web pages maintained by political interest groups, etc., should be used with care, ensuring that the information is sufficiently rigorous. Do not use encyclopedias, including Wikipedia.
1. 10-12 pages long, maximum. Quantity does not equal quality (or a higher grade) with this assignment, but it will be difficult to do the paper in adequate depth in less than ten pages.
2. Papers should be typed, doublespaced, have a title page, and page numbers.
3. The first paragraph or two of a good paper generally will lay out the plan of the paper. This first part should say what you are going to do in the paper, the kinds of sources you are relying on (a complete bibliography of the sources cited should appear at the end of the paper), and a short summary of your argument. By “argument” I mean your approach to answering the questions posed by the topic you have chosen. A good paper will do more than merely describe a theorist or theorists’ perspectives. It will also be a critical analysis which develops a particular theoretical perspective of its own.4. The middle section of the paper should contain your argument and a discussion of the relevant theoretical works assigned for reading, those discussed in class, and those you have incorporated from library research. You may want to develop some examples or illustrations from a contemporary social problem or issue to support your argument as well.