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SOC 350: Theories Guiding Sociology (spring 2023)

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

Dr. J. Burnside                        First Essay (15%):  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 librarians, Mrs. Amanda Peach, Mr. Angel Rivera, and the Center for Transformative Learning (CTL) Staff for assistance and feedback.

Length: 750- 900 word count (excluding works cited list), with context statement, with APA documentation style, typed in Arial style with font size 12, 1.5 line spacing with proper citations (in-text and works cited list), no cover page needed.


Feb 8-11th:  Narrowing a topic, developing a thesis & outline, brainstorming potential theories

Feb 15th:  Library Workshop: Meet in Hutchins, Reference Area .  By class’ end, show work to check topic, working thesis with preliminary outline, and working bibliography (3-4 sources, including our text)

 Outside of class:  Peer Review (PR) – evidence of Peer Review Feedback is submitted w/essay

Feb 22nd:  Essay due at class time

Feb 22nd:  Oral Presentation on essay topic and findings (three to five minutes, 1-3 slides if desired, or handouts to class).


Grading Rubric:

SOC 350:  Theories Guiding Sociology                                                         Name _______________________

Dr. Burnside                           First Essay (@15%)                            Date ___________________

Feedback:  Theories Guiding in Depth Understandings of the News

Feedback Scale:  Very Good (A+,A, A-); Good (B+, B, B-); Fair, mostly satisfactory (C+, C, C-);

Unsatisfactory (D+, D, D-), Failing (F)

____________  Good title and interesting introduction

___________    Good descriptive details about News topic

__________     Explanations demonstrate good understanding of theories

­­­­­­­­­­­­__________    Applications of concepts are well defined and illustrated with relevant examples.

__________   Provides strong comparison and contrast of key points, inclusive of your thinking (your opinion)

__________    Good Grammar, word count met, typed, single or 1.5 line-spaced, with appropriate citations

for a minimum of four relevant sources, including course text.

_________  Peer Review feedback and Library Strategy evidence submitted.

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

Information Life-cycle Infographic

Media Bias Chart