University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sequencing Smaller Assignments to Support a Semester-Long Research Paper in Sociology

Mytoan Nguyen, Sociology 210

Course Website:                 http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~cgoldber
Lecture:                                  Tues & Thurs 2:25-3:15 pm        
Section 302:                         Mon & Wed       8:50-9:40 am      6121 Social Science
Section 308:                         Wed & Fri         9:55-10:45 am    5231 Social Science

Purpose of Section

Sociology 210: Survey of Sociology will introduce you to what it means to employ a “sociological imagination” as a tool to think about the world around you. The class is a 4-credit course that fulfills the University’s Comm-B requirement. By the end of the semester, you are expected to develop advanced skills in a) critical reading, logical thinking, and the use of evidence; b) the use of appropriate conventions in writing and speaking in a social scientific academic style; and c) the productive use of core library resources specific to Sociology.

Learning how to write and speak at a college level are skills that are applicable to any area of study or career. Regardless of writing experience or level, your writing will get a lot of attention in this course. Sections with me as your TA are meant to provide you with a venue to discuss concepts and themes taught in an introductory course in Sociology. Students in the class are expected to engage with the information in lecture and from the readings to develop their reasoned viewpoints and to present and defend their thoughts in a critical way. Students are expected to keep up-to-date with the lecture and section syllabus, hand in assignments on time, and to ask questions if instructions are not clear.

Discussion sections meet twice a week. Attendance is required. Your work in discussion section makes up the majority of your final grade in this class. You will not pass this class without satisfactory work and participation in discussion section. Topics for discussion sections, as outlined in the calendar, include:

  • Workshops on Writing: Topics will include how to formulate a research question, finding and using sources, making a sociological argument, and using evidence to support your argument. No matter what your level of experience with sociological research and writing, these exercises should be useful to you.
  • Discussions: Throughout the semester we will have section discussions and activities that will integrate the readings, lecture material and contemporary events of sociological interest. Come to class prepared to discuss the readings.

Paper Guidelines: These guidelines apply for EVERY WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT. Points will be deducted for papers that do not conform to this writing style.

  • Always double-space
  • Always use 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Top and bottom margins should be 1”
  • Left and right margins should be 1.25”
  • Always use page numbers
  • Always staple your papers
  • You may print on the front and back of the page
  • For citation style to document your sources, refer to the American Sociological Association (ASA) style guide, Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), or Associate Press (AP) style guides for how to list author, title, publisher, date, and other details about the source you are using.

Late papers will be docked a letter grade per day. See me ahead of time if you think you are going to have difficulty meeting a deadline.

Absences/lateness. Attendance at lecture and section is required. Lectures provide you with the background needed to participate in discussions. Participation in section is a major part of your final grade in the class. Out of respect for your classmates and me, please make it to class on time. If you are late to class by more than 15 minutes, you will not receive credit for participation. Absence at more than three classes will result in deduction of points from the attendance portion of your final grade. I will be taking attendance at every discussion section.

Discussion Conduct. Please note that this is a discussion section. This is not a second lecture session. Discussing and engaging with class material is an essential aspect of learning. Your fellow students are an important resource in the learning process. During our survey of the discipline of sociology, we will be delving into many controversial issues. This is an exciting opportunity to learn from each other and to broaden our perspectives. In order to achieve a comfortable discussion environment for all, I ask you to abide by the following rules:

  • Treat everyone in your section, including your TA, with respect. Name-calling, excessive interrupting, and domination of discussion are not appropriate and will be addressed by the TA if they become problems. They will also have a negative impact on your discussion grade.
  • Sections are a “correctness-free” space. This means that everyone in the section is free to express opinions and ask questions without fear of censure from other section members. You can disagree with an opinion without insulting the opinion holder. I feel very strongly that you should express your opinions, as long as they are well founded, even if you think that none of your classmates will agree. Class will be very boring and unrewarding if we all agree with each other.

Keep a copy of all your work. You will be asked to hand in previous drafts with the latest ones, so I can assess your progress. When you turn in the final paper, I will ask you to include all the previous graded work for the term paper (including annotated bibliography and outline) as well.

Assignments and Grading

Research Project (40%): You will have a 10-12 page research paper due at the end of the semester. Your final research project will entail the following components, which are due throughout the semester in discussion section. Please pay careful attention to due dates for these various components of your research project.

  1. Paper proposal listing two to three research questions to receive feedback and approval by your TA
  2. Library Research Assignment (Approved/Try Again): You will conduct preliminary research on the topic you may be interested in using the UW library system.
  3. Annotated Bibliography and Paper Proposal Revise (Approved/Try Again): You will write a brief proposal, stating your research problem and your strategy for attacking that problem and providing at least four sources you intend to use in your paper.
  4. First Version of Research Paper (10%): A polished first draft will be submitted for my review and for peer review. This is a serious first version, a complete attempt at writing the entire research paper. Please bring three copies of this to class. I will review your papers, and you will receive feedback from two peers.
  5. Peer Review Comments (10%): You will be responsible for providing written feedback for two student papers. I will provide guidelines.
  6. Second Version of Research Paper (20%): Taking into account my comments and your peers’ comments from the first version of your research paper, you will revise the paper. I will provide written comments on this draft and encourage you to meet with me about it.

750-word Writing Assignments (30%): You will be required to write four writing assignments of 750 words each. In each of those assignments you will be required to write a critical response to the reading selections for the week. These papers should not summarize the readings, but should engage the material—what do you find most interesting, or least convincing, and why? You should react to some aspect of the material, agree or disagree with the author’s argument, compare and contrast authors’ perspectives, or critique the author based on empirical evidence. This does not mean simply saying that you like or dislike a particular reading, but why you do or do not find the reading convincing, valuable, or important. During the course of the semester, excellent and well thought-out examples from students in our section will be circulated to the class and critiqued (anonymously if this is preferred).

Class Participation (10%): Participate in discussion section! The best way to make the course more interesting is by being an active speaker and listener. I do understand that there are some people who don’t like to speak in class. Being present, alert, and interested will count in participation grading to some extent, but it is not sufficient. By sharing your thoughts and ideas, you can help each other think critically and engage the material. If your ability to speak in class will be limited, please come talk to me during office hours early in the semester.

Oral Presentation (5%): There are two oral presentations. 1) You will be assigned to lead a five-minute discussion about a reading by giving your critical thoughts on the readings (again, not an overall summary). During this discussion, you should be asking questions to your classmates that would help them situate the work in the field of sociology and in relation to some of the readings previously covered in the class. 2) You will present a brief oral presentation about your research project to the class. More details will come later on in the semester.

Exam (15%): The exam will consist entirely of multiple choice questions designed by the professor. If you have a conflict with the final exam, please tell me as soon as possible.

Grading

Everything you hand in, whether it’s worth one percent or 80 percent of your grade, will be given a letter grade of A, AB, B, BC, D, and F.

HOW I GRADE WRITTEN WORK*

  • An Excellent (A) paper—is, in order of importance, intellectually challenging and complex, logically argued, cogently developed, clearly and compellingly written and free of basic errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage.
  • A Very Good (AB) paper—will do one of the less important things less well.
  • A Good (B) paper—has reasonably strong arguments and complex ideas, but may be flawed in other areas.
  • A Satisfactory (BC) paper—has flaws in significant areas, including weaker arguments and unchallenging ideas, or it may have minor flaws in many areas.
  • A Lacking (C) paper—has numerous flaws in significant areas.
  • A Not Very Good (D) paper—has major problems in all areas.
  • An Unacceptable (F) paper—has to be really bad, incomplete, incomprehensible, plagiarized, etc.

Keep in mind, this is a general, unscientific outline, meant to give you the basic expectations. In my book, your ideas are more important than your mechanics, but I do expect your papers to be polished and technically sound.

*This rubric refers to formal written work and not necessarily short response papers done in or out of class.