Writing is one of the most difficult and most rewarding of all scholarly activities. Few of us, students or professors, find it easy to do. The pain of writing comes largely as a result of bad writing habits. No one can write a good paper in one draft on the night before the paper is due. The following steps will not guarantee a good paper, but they will eliminate the most common problems encountered in bad papers.
1. Select a topic early. Start thinking about topics as soon as the paper is assigned. When choosing a topic, think critically. Remember that writing a good sociology paper starts with asking a good sociological question.
2. Give yourself adequate time to do the research. You will need time to think through the things you read or to explore the data you analyze. Also, things will go wrong and you will need time to recover. The one book or article which will help make your paper the best one you’ve ever done will be unavailable in the library and you have to wait for it to be recalled or to be found through interlibrary loan. Or perhaps the computer will crash and destroy a whole afternoon’s work. These things happen to all writers. Allow enough time to finish your paper even if such things happen.
3. Work from an outline. Making an outline breaks the task down into smaller bits which do not seem as daunting. This allows you to keep an image of the whole in mind even while you work on the parts. You can show the outline to your professor and get advice while you are writing a paper rather than after you turn it in for a final grade.
4. Stick to the point. Each paper should contain one key idea, which you can state in a sentence or paragraph. The paper will provide the argument and evidence to support that point. Papers should be compact with a strong thesis and a clear line of argument. Avoid digressions and padding.
5. Make more than one draft. First drafts are plagued with confusion, bad writing, omissions, and other errors. So are second drafts, but not to the same extent. Get someone else to read it. Even your roommate who has never had a sociology course may be able to point out unclear parts or mistakes you have missed. The best papers have been rewritten, in part or in whole, several times. Few first draft papers will receive high grades.
6. Proofread the final copy, correcting any typographical errors. A sloppily written, uncorrected paper sends a message that the writer does not care about his or her work. If the writer does not care about the paper, why should the reader?
Such rules may seem demanding and constricting, but they provide the liberation of self discipline. By choosing a topic, doing the research, and writing the paper you take control over a vital part of your own education. What you learn in the process, if you do it conscientiously, is far greater than what shows up in the paper or what is reflected in the grade.
POP CULTURE RESEARCH PAPER
1) Pick a cultural field of your choice from any relevant areas of interest. (art, music, film, sports, architecture, photography, fashion, etc.) Ideally, you should be passionate about this field, either loving it or hating it. You should be able to explain the history, significance, and relevance of this topic to the reader in a way that draws the reader into this paper topic.
2) Use at least one cultural theorist we have read in class, or another cultural theorist relevant to this class to articulate a cultural theory that applies to this field of your choice. Remember that a “theorist” can be anyone that has a critical perspective on the subject at hand. (For example: Michael Jordan is a theorist of the game of basketball).
3) You must demonstrate your own engagement with both the theorist and the subject at hand. Thus you must become a cultural theorist yourself and insert your perspective into an already existing conversation between different perspectives. As you lay out your arguments, you should speak to, alongside and against existing critics in the field. Organize your thoughts to produce your own theory, perspective, revelation, opinion, body of knowledge, etc. using whatever evidence at your disposal. You should explain how your perspective is different from the theorists you have chosen to explore.
4) 10 -12 pages, double spaced.
5) Citation, yes. You may choose how you cite your work.
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