Research Paper

Assignment Goal

The goal of the assignment is to strengthen scientific thinking and writing. The

objective is for each student to write an objective, logical, fact-based paper using

evidence from high quality scientific research sources.


In general terms, your paper can examine selected consequences of social

inequality. Throughout your textbook, the author presents examples of how social

class impacts the lives of people. Some obvious examples are health, including

mental and physical illness, or parent’s social class and children’s educational

attainment. Each of the chapters on the major social classes examines the behaviors

and consequences of that class. Your paper could explore on of these issues in

greater detail. We are also seeing that race and gender are deeply interrelated with

social inequality. You could dig deeper into one of the problems or issues identified in

the book, or you could pursue some other thesis that links social inequality and race

or gender. The paper could be based on the work of Karl Marx and would use mostly

Marx’s writings.

The Major Social Factors

• Social class

• Gender

• Race/ethnicity

• Age

Your Paper Must Have A Thesis!

Your research paper must have a thesis. At the beginning of the paper, you must

state your research thesis. It can be part of a short introductory paragraph or it can

stand alone.

The following explanations include materials that are courtesy of Empire State

College, Online Writing Center.

Research Topic

When you start working on your paper, you begin by selecting a topic. A topic is

what the essay or research paper is about. It provides a focus for your writing.

Choose an appropriate topic or issue for your research, one that actually can be

researched. Many topics can be found in your textbook. Example: “Attention Deficit

Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)”

Research Question

The next step in developing a thesis is to formulate a research question. Start by

listing all of the questions that you’d like answered yourself. (This assumes you are

curious about the topic!) Choose the best question, one that is neither too broad nor

too narrow. In the early stages of your research, you can use a search engine to

learn about the question and explore what high quality sources are available.

Sometimes the number of sources you find will help you discover whether your


research question is too broad, too narrow. Example: “Why have ADHD diagnoses

risen so rapidly in recent years?”

Research Thesis

A research thesis is your proposed answer to your research question, which you

finalize only after completing the research. (It’s okay to modify and revise the

working thesis as you research more about the topic or issue.) Thesis example: “The

rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants coincided with a twodecade

campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and

promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents.” (Factually correct example

courtesy the New York Times)

I will be glad to help you as you work your way toward your thesis, especially with

topic selection and research question development.


“The disparity between the richest and poorest in Country A and Country B is due

primarily to differences in Cause X.”

“The next hegemonic power will be Country H because of the emergence of the key

conditions that produce such world powers.”

“The rise of the American economy was the result of ideological elements A, B, and


“Upper-class education clearly illustrates the power of social reproduction.”

Your Analysis

You may approach your thesis as a question that needs to be answered or as a

statement that needs evidence to support it. Either way, your task is to compile

factual evidence that supports or refutes your thesis or helps you answer your

question. You should include statistics showing the importance or lack of importance

of other social factors or other diseases, as the case may be. Scientific papers are

honest about evidence, presenting facts that both support and refute the thesis or


You should think critically about your thesis and ask yourself, Why does this happen

or not happen? What causes this difference or lack of difference? Include answers to

these critical thinking questions in your paper.

Required Elements for the Paper

• Your paper should be 5 pages in length, single-spaced, using a 10-12 point font,

with one-inch margins. If you prefer to double-space your pages, just double the

length requirement.

• Your name

• The name/number of the course

• Date

• Title of the paper

• The body of the paper must incorporate a set of headings that shows the logical

organization of the paper.


• Citations in the body of the paper for all sources of information using the American

Psychological Association style. This is the style used by your textbook. No footnotes.

I will accept MLA style, as well.

• A list at the end of the paper of all references cited. Not a bibliography of all the

sources you used to write the paper.

• Please number your pages.

• Do not save your document as an HTML, HTM, .pdf, or .wps file.

• When you save your document, title it with your last name, course number, and

assignment number. Example, YourlastnameBSOC123ResearchPaper.

• Submit your paper in the Assignments area of Blackboard.

Use An Outline And Headings

An outline shows the logical organization of your paper with a set of headings. These

headings are like those used in bold print in the main sections of the chapters of our

textbook and the journal articles you will use.

Grading Rubric for the Paper

Your paper will be graded on both the extent to which it draws upon concepts

developed in the course and the extent to which it does so with clear writing and

appropriate documentation. The paper will be graded using the following five criteria

and 0-4 point system.

Grading Rubric for the Research Paper

Category Exceeds Standard Meets


Does Not Meet



Exceeds (4) Meets (2) Does Not Meet (0)

Clearly and concisely

states the paper’s focus

in a single, engaging,

thought- provoking


States the paper’s

focus in a single


Missing, incomplete

and/or unfocused

statement of focus.

Use of Support and


Exceeds (6) Meets (3) Does Not Meet (0)

The paper effectively

uses high quality factual

and expert evidence

that supports the thesis

and main ideas.

The paper does

not adequately

use high quality

factual and expert

evidence that

supports the

thesis and main


The paper fails to use high

quality factual and expert

evidence that supports the

thesis and main ideas.



Development of


Exceeds (6) Meets (3) Does Not Meet (0)

Writer demonstrates

logical sequencing of

sociological ly

relevant ideas through


paragraphs; transitions

are used to enhance

organization. Headings

and subheadings used


Ideas have little


relevance and


organization is

not clear or fully


No evidence of

structure or

organization. No

sociological relevance

nor use of social

factors. No headings

or subheadings.


Exceeds (2) Meets (1) Does Not Meet (0)

The conclusion is


summarizes key

points and restates

the thesis.

The conclusion

does not


summar ize

the key

points or

restate the


Missing, incomplete

and/or unfocused.


Grading Rubric for the Research Paper

Category Exceeds Standard Meets


Does Not Meet



Exceeds (2) Does Not Meet (0)

The paper includes at

least 5 high quality

sources and uses

proper in-text source

citations in the body

of the paper.

The paper includes fewer

than 5 high quality sources

and does not use proper

in-text source citations in

the body of the paper.

Adapted from Center for Teaching Excellence at Cornell University. Used with permission.

Your Thinking, Please

The main ingredient of your paper should be factual information and statistics from

high quality sources. Your opinions about the topic or those of anyone else without

substantial scientific evidence are not relevant and should not be included in the

paper. You may use as evidence the statements of qualified experts, but you must

make sure those sources are reliable. Your recommendations should be supported

with evidence.

I want you to apply skeptical, critical thinking to everything you read. You should

make your sources work hard to convince you that they have the best evidence and

the best reasoning, as I will expect you to work hard to convince me.

High Quality Web-based Sources

Each sociology sub-discipline has relevant journals to which you should give priority.

The USCB online journal database offers access to full-text copies of most of these


Peer Reviewed Journals

Here are some of the better-known academic journals in sociology.

American Journal of Sociology

American Sociological Review

Social Forces

Journal of Health and Social Behavior

Social Science and Medicine

American Journal of Public Health

American Journal of Epidemiology

At least one of your cited references must come from a journal in the USCB online

library database, which can be accessed from the sociology LibGides:

Click the Find Articles tab. My experience is that “Academic Search Premier” or

JSTOR are good starting points for a sociological web search. Make sure you also

search “Academic ASAP, Extended” and “Social Sciences Full-Text”. Always search

for full-text articles. If you need additional help with on-ground or online research,

please use the USCB library staff or let me know.

Web Resources for Countries

CIA World Factbook


A website that provides a basic set of information about each country of the world.

The US State Department website has information about each major region and

country of the world, as well.

Member States of the United Nations

Country web sites and information (click UNdata logo after country name.)

International Statistical Agencies

The US Census Bureau listing of country-specific websites (most in English)

BBC News

Click on one of the six major regions of the world, then page down to the list of

country profiles. The Media tab for each country is particularly useful for finding

English language websites where available.

Beware Poor Quality Sources

To me, one of the main differences between a high school-level research paper and a

college-level paper is that college-level papers do not use encyclopedias as direct

sources. If your topic is something you don’t know much about, an online

encyclopedia can help you learn enough to get started. But do not use sources such

as,,, or as cited references in

your research paper. I will return as Incomplete any research paper that uses these

kinds of sources.

Questionable Sources: Foundations, Advocacy Organizations, and Non-Profits

Many advocacy organizations for problems and policies provide source information

and statistics. You must “vet” this kind of source to make sure that the evidence you

gather from it is reliable. (Vet means “To examine carefully; to subject to thorough

appraisal; to evaluate” (

Some sources that you will find are not governmental or academic but still can be

trusted to provide reliable data and information. An example is the Population

Reference Bureau ( The way to tell if a source like this is reliable is to

click the link for information about the organization. In the case of PRB, a quick scan

of the senior staff members show that they are experienced demographers with

backgrounds in highly respected organizations. An example of an advocacy

organization is the Center for Immigration Studies (, which appears to

have a strong political agenda of reducing immigration into the US. This is not an

unbiased, objective source. If you must use material from questionable sources, be

very cautious when making generalizations based on their information.

Questionable Sources: All News Media

Some news media are less guilty of hype than others, but all of them want to attract

attention and they have learned that conflict and controversy sell. Even the New

York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the BBC, which tend

to be more fact-based in their news coverage, still must be read skeptically. Most

media outlets exaggerate, present incomplete information, and even misrepresent


the facts in order to create or exaggerate conflict and controversy. You should

always attempt to verify information used by the media. If you can’t verify by going

to the original source, you must be very cautious about making generalizations

based on this information.

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