Writing Final Papers in Sociology 130
Medicine and Society, Fall, 2009


Updated August 16, 2009

Your work on a debate topic has two parts, your participation in the class debate and the paper you submit representing your research on the debate. That paper is due at 5 pm on the Friday of the last week of classes (December 11). I prefer receiving both an electronic version and a hard copy. If you cannot give me a copy directly you may put it in Milofsky's mailbox in the office of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology or put it in one the plastic trays on the wall outside my office (Coleman 204). However, always keep a copy since papers sometimes get lost.

This is a research paper and I expect it to be about five pages long. It should argue a point of view, following the format we used in the short papers we have done all semester. I hope that when your team began work you created a division of labor so that each member collected data on a different sub-topic related to your overall debate question. Your paper should reflect the research you did on a sub-area. You need to show how your sub-topic fits into the overall discussion but I expect that your paper will primarily be an in depth review of your area.

It is not required that students research different sub-areas but if you do not subdivide the topics there is significant danger that students will end up duplicating each others work. That is plagiarism and if papers are plagiarized (if two students hand in substantially the same work) I may make a complaint of academic dishonesty to the academic review board. The best ways to avoid this are for team members to research different topics and to compare papers. If you have all the same references, that implies to me that you did not do separate work and that a charge of plagiarism is possible.

Your final paper must be different from the narrative you present as your part of the debate. I expect that your paper will support the position your group is taking in the debate. That means I expect that you will define a question, acknowledge that an opposing side exists, and argue the correctness of your point of view. In contrast to the debate, which will present all of the information one might use to defend the position of your group, your paper ought to deal with one aspect or one sub argument developed by your group. Thus, I expect that you will have an opening that, in one or two paragraphs, will lay out the argument and tell how your part fits. Then I expect that most of the remainder of your paper will present the information on your particular topic. You may then have a finishing paragraph or two that shows once again how your topic fits into the larger issues of the debate.

As a research paper, I expect that the claims and assertions you make will be backed up with citations to the literature. Although many research articles can be accessed on line and a web URL is the appropriate form of reference, a paper that only contains web links where the quality of the sites you reference will cause problems. Look at the library's guide to evaluating web sites so that you can avoid weak references that will hurt your paper and your grade.

If you present information, citations will tell where the information comes from and ought to demonstrate that the information is correct and authoritative. If you present the arguments given by authorities, giving a citation justifies your use of that argument. If you present complex conceptual material or quotations, citing the place where that material first appeared both gives credit for the work and may allow you to more clearly present the material than you could if you just used your words. All of these are reasons we use citations.

When citing material, I prefer that you use the American Psychological Association (or APA) format. You will find guidelines for citation formats on the library website.  If you cannot find that format, use an academic citation format and use it in a consistent way throughout your paper.

I expect that your paper will have references (probably around ten) and that most of your references will be from scholarly journals, government reports, and other documents produced by professional researchers and policy makers.

I expect that print references or on-line journal references will out-weigh web references in your bibliography. I should be able to check your web references so make sure that they are correctly given. I expect that relatively few of your references will come from popular news sources (newspapers, popular magazines like Time Magazine). There are, however, some mass distribution magazines that could be a source of scholarly references (magazines like The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, or Commentary.)

You are required to provide a short "annotation" for each reference. This should be a sentence or two telling what is in that citation. It would also tell why the web site is an authoritative source of information. Look at the library's guide for creating annotations.