The research paper should identify and explain your research problem, review past research on the subject, analyze the key issues and debates on the topic, and generate recommendations to help solve that social problem. It is usually 8 to 10 pages long and must have at least six credible sources. The research project requires researching a social problem that interests you. I recommend focusing on the core issues covered in class, like poverty or disproportionate incarceration, but you can study other social problems if you like. The research paper is a secondary research project. For a secondary research project, you review research already collected by other researchers, such as academic articles, Census data, and Pew Research public opinion data. Primary research is when you collect data yourself and analyze and report on it.
Specific points to be addressed in your paper:
• Use your sociological imagination: what deeper questions are important to ask and get answered?
• What social theories help you understand this social problem?
• What data or quantitative or qualitative research methods would best help understand this social problem?
• What larger social forces, like culture, social institutions, globalization or technology, affect the social problem you are studying?
• What social change is taking place on this social problem?
Literature review recommendations – How to summarize an academic article.
• Only use academic articles or materials found in this course. Use Social Sciences Citation Index, JSTOR, ProQuest, etc.
• Snowball lit search – if you find an article the directly deals with your research question, check the references used in that article and other articles that cite the article.
• The CSM library can help you find articles, but see them early in the writing process.
Here is an outline for the final research paper, to help as a guide when writing up your final paper. Included are the evaluation criteria to be used for grading the paper, and the approximate length of each section.
Secondary Research Paper Format
- General issue to be studied and justification for why it is important.
- Statement of your research question. Exactly what is the question you want to answer.
- Statement of your thesis or main argument.
- Statement of your conclusions, in 1-2 sentences.
Main issues or debates Application of course concepts
- Summarize the main issues or debates for the social problem.
- What are the implications or deeper questions? Use your sociological imagination.
- Identification of social theories that help you understand this social problem.
- Identification of data or research methods that would best help understand this social problem.
- Identification of larger social forces that affect this social problem.
- Identification of what social change is taking place on this social problem.