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SOC 350: Theories Guiding Sociology (Spring 2020)

Dr. Jackie Burnside

Why the news?

  • For the most up-to-date coverage of an issue; journal articles aren't written until 6 months or more after an event

  • To better understand the perspective of your friends, neighbors, and co-workers; non-academics get their information from newspapers and news on television, not scholarly articles

  • To kick off your own scholarship; academic writing is a conversation

  • To learn about recent academic discoveries; articles often mention "a recent study found that...", which you can track down

The Assignment

SOC 350: Theories Guiding Sociology - Dr. J. Burnside

First Essay (10%): Theories Guiding In-Depth Understandings of the News

For this comparison and contrast style essay, students are free to choose the news topic of your interest. One purpose of this first essay is to practice your applying sociological theories, drawing from three theoretical perspectives (Functionalism, Conflict and Symbolic Interactionism), by researching social facts to explore a contemporary news topic.

In your writing, you will describe and explain key theoretical points as you have come to understand them. Also address shortcomings that you perceive, as you apply concepts to examples to illustrate that the theoretical ideas are relevant. Some of your examples may challenge the theorists’ claims by providing examples of social phenomena that do not fit the expectations, or assumptions, laid out in the theories. If so, give your opinion about the strengths and/or shortcomings evident in each theory you apply.

Being successful on this first essay will depend on your narrowing the topic, planning the paper by thinking and discussing ideas at each step of the research and writing process. In addition to your instructor and classmates, you have our Sociology Department Reference librarian, Mrs. Amanda Peach, and the Center for Transformative Learning (CTL) Staff for assistance and feedback.


Length: 1950- 2250 word count (excluding works cited list), typed in Arial style with font size 12, single or 1.5 line spacing with proper citations (in-text and works cited list), no cover page needed.




1/15th: Narrowing a topic, developing a thesis & outline, brainstorming potential theories

1/17th: Library Workshop: Meet in Hutchins, ground floor, room #___. By class’ end, show work to check topic, working thesis with preliminary outline, and working bibliography (3-4 sources, including our text – make notes on your Library Strategy Form

1/24h Peer Review (PR) in Triads: Students arrange with class peers– attach PR forms (2) to your essay.

1/29th: Final paper due at class time; attach PR & Library Strategy form with Final Essay

1/31st: Oral Presentation on essay topic and findings (five to seven minutes, 3-5 slides if desired, or handouts).

3 Perspectives

Sociological Theoretical Perspectives

Functionalism: A theoretical perspective based on the notion that social events can best be explained in terms of the functions they perform – that is, the contributions they make to the continuity of a society.

Conflict:  A theory which argues that deviance is deliberately chosen and often political in nature.

Symbolic Interactionism:  A theoretical approach in sociology developed by George Herbert Mead, which emphasizes the roles of symbols and language as core elements of all human interaction.

Works Cited:

Giddens, Anthony. Essentials of Sociology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008. Print.

News Sources