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How to Write a Sociological Essay: Explained with Examples

This article will discuss “How to Write a Sociological Essay” with insider pro tips and give you a map that is tried and tested. An essay writing is done in three phases: a) preparing for the essay, b) writing the essay, and c) editing the essay. We will take it step-by-step so that nothing is left behind because the devil, as well as good grades and presentation, lies in the details.

Sociology essay writing examples

Writing is a skill that we learn throughout the courses of our lives. Learning how to write is a process that we begin as soon as we turn 4, and the learning process never stops. But the question is, “is all writing the same?”. The answer is NO. Do you remember your initial lessons of English when you were in school, and how the teacher taught various formats of writing such as formal, informal, essay, letter, and much more? Therefore, writing is never that simple. Different occasions demand different styles and commands over the writing style. Thus, the art of writing improves with time and experience. 

Those who belong to the world of academia know that writing is something that they cannot escape. No writing is the same when it comes to different disciplines of academia. Similarly, the discipline of sociology demands a particular style of formal academic writing. If you’re a new student of sociology, it can be an overwhelming subject, and writing assignments don’t make the course easier. Having some tips handy can surely help you write and articulate your thoughts better. 

[Let us take a running example throughout the article so that every point becomes crystal clear. Let us assume that the topic we have with us is to “Explore Culinary Discourse among the Indian Diasporic Communities” .]

Phase I: Preparing for the Essay  

Step 1: make an outline.

So you have to write a sociological essay, which means that you already either received or have a topic in mind. The first thing for you to do is PLAN how you will attempt to write this essay. To plan, the best way is to make an outline. The topic you have, certainly string some thread in your mind. They can be instances you heard or read, some assumptions you hold, something you studied in the past, or based on your own experience, etc. Make a rough outline where you note down all the themes you would like to talk about in your essay. The easiest way to make an outline is to make bullet points. List all the thoughts and examples that you have in find and create a flow for your essay. Remember that this is only a rough outline so you can always make changes and reshuffle your points. 

[Explanation through example, assumed topic: “Explore Culinary Discourse among the Indian Diasporic Communities” . Your outline will look something like this:

  • Importance of food
  • Definition of Diaspora 
  • Relationship between food and culture
  • Relationship between food and nation
  • Relationship between food and media 
  • Relationship between food and nostalgia 
  • How food travels with people 
  • Is food practices different for different sections of society, such as caste, class, gender ]

Step 2: Start Reading 

Once you have prepared an outline for your essay, the next step is to start your RESEARCH . You cannot write a sociological essay out of thin air. The essay needs to be thoroughly researched and based on facts. Sociology is the subject of social science that is based on facts and evidence. Therefore, start reading as soon as you have your outline determined. The more you read, the more factual data you will collect. But the question which now emerges is “what to read” . You cannot do a basic Google search to write an academic essay. Your research has to be narrow and concept-based. For writing a sociological essay, make sure that the sources from where you read are academically acclaimed and accepted.  

Some of the websites that you can use for academic research are: 

  • Google Scholar
  • Shodhganga 

[Explanation through example, assumed topic: “Explore Culinary Discourse among the Indian Diasporic Communities” . 

For best search, search for your articles by typing “Food+Diaspora”, “Food+Nostalgia”, adding a plus sign (+) improves the search result.]

Step 3: Make Notes 

This is a step that a lot of people miss when they are preparing to write their essays. It is important to read, but how you read is also a very vital part. When you are reading from multiple sources then all that you read becomes a big jumble of information in your mind. It is not possible to remember who said what at all times. Therefore, what you need to do while reading is to maintain an ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY . Whenever you’re reading for writing an academic essay then have a notebook handy, or if you prefer electronic notes then prepare a Word Document, Google Docs, Notes, or any tool of your choice to make notes. 

As you begin reading, note down the title of the article, its author, and the year of publication. As you read, keep writing down all the significant points that you find. You can either copy whole sentences or make shorthand notes, whatever suits you best. Once you’ve read the article and made your notes, write a summary of what you just read in 8 to 10 lines. Also, write keywords, these are the words that are most used in the article and reflect its essence. Having keywords and a summary makes it easier for you to revisit the article. A sociological essay needs a good amount of research, which means that you have to read plenty, thus maintaining an annotated bibliography helps you in the greater picture.  

Annotate and divide your notes based on the outline you made. Having organized notes will help you directly apply the concepts where they are needed rather than you going and searching for them again.] 

Phase II: Write a Sociological Essay

A basic essay includes a title, an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. A sociological essay is not that different as far as the body of contents goes, but it does include some additional categories. When you write a sociological essay, it should have the following contents and chronology: 

  • Subtitle (optional)
  • Introduction

Conclusion 

  • References/ Bibliography 

Now let us get into the details which go into the writing of a sociological essay.  

Step 4: Writing a Title, Subtitle, Abstract, and Keywords 

The title of any document is the first thing that a reader comes across. Therefore, the title should be provocative, specific, and the most well-thought part of any essay. Your title should reflect what your essay will discuss further. There has to be a sync between the title and the rest of your content. The title should be the biggest font size you use in your essay. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: A title preferably should not exceed 5 to 7 words.  

This is an optional component of any essay. If you think that your title cannot justify the rest of the contents of your essay, then you opt for a subtitle. The subtitle is the secondary part of the title which is used to further elucidate the title. A subtitle should be smaller in font than the Title but bigger than the rest of the essay body.  

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: Make the font color of your subtitle Gray instead of Black for it to stand out. 

The abstract is a 6 to 10 line description of what you will talk about in your essay. An abstract is a very substantial component of a sociological essay. Most of the essays written in academia exceed the word limit of 2000 words. Therefore, a writer, i.e., you, provides the reader with a short abstract at the beginning of your essay so that they can know what you are going to discuss. From the point of view of the reader, a good abstract can save time and help determine if the piece is worth reading or not. Thus, make sure to make your abstract as reflective to your essay as possible using the least amount of words.  

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: If you are not sure about your abstract at first, it is always great to write the abstract in the end after you are done with your essay. 

Your abstract should highlight all the points that you will further discuss. Therefore your abstract should mention how diasporic communities are formed and how they are not homogeneous communities. There are differences within this large population. In your essay, you will talk in detail about all the various aspects that affect food and diasporic relationships. ]

Keywords are an extension of your abstract. Whereas in your abstract you will use a paragraph to tell the reader what to expect ahead, by stating keywords, you point out the essence of your essay by using only individual words. These words are mostly concepts of social sciences. At first, glance, looking at your keywords, the reader should get informed about all the concepts and themes you will explain in detail later. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: Bold your Keywords so that they get highlighted.

Your keywords could be: Food, Diaspora, Migration, and so on. Build on these as you continue to write your essay.]   

sociology essay format

Step 5: Writing the Introduction, Main Body, and Conclusion 

Introduction 

Your introduction should talk about the subject on which you are writing at the broadest level. In an introduction, you make your readers aware of what you are going to argue later in the essay. An introduction can discuss a little about the history of the topic, how it was understood till now, and a framework of what you are going to talk about ahead. You can think of your introduction as an extended form of the abstract. Since it is the first portion of your essay, it should paint a picture where the readers know exactly what’s ahead of them. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: An apt introduction can be covered in 2 to 3 paragraphs (Look at the introduction on this article if you need proof). 

Since your focus is on “food” and “diaspora”, your introductory paragraph can dwell into a little history of the relationship between the two and the importance of food in community building.] 

This is the most extensive part of any essay. It is also the one that takes up the most number of words. All the research and note-making which you did was for this part. The main body of your essay is where you put all the knowledge you gathered into words. When you are writing the body, your aim should be to make it flow, which means that all paragraphs should have a connection between them. When read in its entirety, the paragraphs should sing together rather than float all around. 

The main body is mostly around 4 to 6 paragraphs long. A sociological essay is filled with debates, theories, theorists, and examples. When writing the main body it is best to target making one or two paragraphs about the same revolving theme. When you shift to the other theme, it is best to connect it with the theme you discussed in the paragraph right above it to form a connection between the two. If you are dividing your essay into various sub-themes then the best way to correlate them is starting each new subtheme by reflecting on the last main arguments presented in the theme before it. To make a sociological essay even more enriching, include examples that exemplify the theoretical concepts better. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: Though there is no word limit to the length of the paragraphs, if you keep one paragraph between 100 to 200 words, it makes the essay look more organized. 

The main body can here be divided into the categories which you formed during the first step of making the rough outline. Therefore, your essay could have 3 to 4 sub-sections discussing different themes such as: Food and Media, Caste and Class influence food practices, Politics of Food, Gendered Lens, etc.] 

This is the section where you end your essay. But ending the essay does not mean that you lose your flair in conclusion. A conclusion is an essential part of any essay because it sums up everything you just wrote. Your conclusion should be similar to a summary of your essay. You can include shortened versions of the various arguments you have referred to above in the main body, or it can raise questions for further research, and it can also provide solutions if your topic seeks one. Hence, a conclusion is a part where you get the last chance to tell your reader what you are saying through your article. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: As the introduction, the conclusion is smaller compared to the main body. Keep your conclusion within the range of 1 to 2 paragraphs. 

Your conclusion should again reiterate all the main arguments provided by you throughout the essay. Therefore it should bind together everything you have written starting from your introduction to all the debates and examples you have cited.]

Step 6: Citation and Referencing 

This is the most academic part of your sociological essay. Any academic essay should be free of plagiarism. But how can one avoid plagiarism when their essay is based on research which was originally done by others. The solution for this is to give credit to the original author for their work. In the world of academia, this is done through the processes of Citation and Referencing (sometimes also called Bibliography). Citation is done within/in-between the text, where you directly or indirectly quote the original text. Whereas, Referencing or Bibliography is done at the end of an essay where you give resources of the books or articles which you have quoted in your essay at various points. Both these processes are done so that the reader can search beyond your essay to get a better grasp of the topic. 

There are many different styles of citations and you can determine which you want to follow. Some of the most common styles of citation and referencing are MLA, APA, and Chicago style. If you are working on Google Docs or Word then the application makes your work easier because they help you curate your citations. There are also various online tools that can make citing references far easier, faster, and adhering to citation guidelines, such as an APA generator. This can save you a lot of time when it comes to referencing, and makes the task far more manageable. 

How to add citations in Google Doc: Tools → Citation

How to add citations in Word Document: References → Insert Citations 

But for those who want to cite manually, this is the basic format to follow:

  • Author’s Name with Surname mentioned first, then initials 
  • Article’s Title in single or double quotes
  • Journal Title in Italics 
  • Volume, issue number 
  • Year of Publication

Example: Syrkin, A. 1984. “Notes on the Buddha’s Threats in the Dīgha Nikāya ”, Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies , vol. 7(1), pp.147-58.

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: Always make sure that your Bibliography/References are alphabetically ordered based on the first alphabet of the surname of the author and NOT numbered or bulleted. 

Phase III: Editing 

Step 7: edit/review your essay.

The truth of academic writing is that it can never be written in one go. You need to write, rewrite, and revisit your material more than once. Once you have written the first draft of your essay, do not revise it immediately. Leave it for some time, at least for four hours. Then revisit your essay and edit it based on 3 criteria. The first criteria you need to recheck for is any grammatical and/or spelling mistakes. The second criteria are to check the arguments you have posed and if the examples you have cited correlate or not. The final criteria are to read the essay as a reader and read it objectively. 

Pro Tip by Sociology Group: The more you edit the better results you get. But we think that your 3rd draft is the magic draft. Draft 1: rough essay, Draft 2: edited essay, Draft 3: final essay.

how to plan sociology essay

Hello! Eiti is a budding sociologist whose passion lies in reading, researching, and writing. She thrives on coffee, to-do lists, deadlines, and organization. Eiti's primary interest areas encompass food, gender, and academia.

How to Write a Sociology Essay

HOW TO WRITE A SOCIOLOGY ESSAY

Table of Contents

Introduction to Sociology Essay Writing

What is a sociology essay.

A sociology essay is an academic piece that explores various aspects of society and social behavior. It examines patterns, causes, and effects of social interactions among individuals and groups. The purpose of such an essay is to provide a detailed analysis and interpretation of social phenomena, guided by theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence.

Importance of Sociological Inquiry and Critical Thinking

Sociological inquiry is vital as it fosters an understanding of the complexities of society and the various factors that shape human behavior. Critical thinking, on the other hand, is essential in sociology essay writing as it enables the evaluation of arguments, identification of biases, and development of coherent, evidence-based conclusions.

Understanding the Essay Question

Interpreting essay prompts.

To effectively respond to a sociology essay prompt:

  • Read Carefully : Look for action words such as ‘discuss,’ ‘compare,’ or ‘analyze’ to understand what is expected.
  • Highlight Keywords : Identify key themes, concepts, and sociological terms that are central to the question.

Identifying Key Themes and Concepts

  • Break Down the Question : Dissect the question into smaller components to ensure all aspects are addressed.
  • Relate to Sociological Theories : Connect the themes with relevant sociological theories and concepts.

Research and Preparation

Conducting sociological research.

  • Start Broad : Gain a general understanding of the topic through reputable sources like academic journals and books.
  • Narrow Focus : Hone in on specific studies or data that directly relate to your essay’s thesis.

Sourcing and Evaluating Literature

  • Use Academic Databases : Access scholarly articles through databases such as JSTOR, Google Scholar, and Sociological Abstracts.
  • Evaluate Sources : Check for the credibility, relevance, and timeliness of the literature.

Relevant Sociological Theories

  • Theory Identification : Determine which sociological theories and theorists are pertinent to your essay topic.
  • Application : Understand how these theories can be applied to the social issue or phenomenon you are examining.

Planning the Essay

Importance of essay structure.

Structuring an essay is crucial because it helps organize thoughts, supports the logical flow of ideas, and guides the reader through the arguments presented. A well-structured essay enhances clarity and readability, ensuring that each point made builds upon the last and contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Basic Essay Structure

Introduction : This is where you introduce your topic, provide background information, and present your thesis statement. It sets the stage for your argument.

Thesis Statement : A concise summary of the main point or claim of the essay, usually located at the end of the introduction.

Body Paragraphs : Each paragraph should cover a single point that supports your thesis. Start with a topic sentence, followed by analysis, evidence, and then a concluding sentence that ties the point back to the thesis.

Conclusion : Summarize the key arguments made in the essay and restate the thesis in the context of the evidence presented. Finish with thoughts on the implications, limitations, or suggestions for future research.

Writing the Essay

Crafting a strong thesis statement.

  • Specificity : Your thesis should clearly state your position and the aspects of the topic you will explore.
  • Scope : Make sure it’s neither too broad nor too narrow to be adequately covered within the essay’s length.
  • Assertiveness : Present your thesis confidently and as a statement that you will back up with evidence.

Writing Effective Body Paragraphs

  • Topic Sentences : Begin with a clear statement of the paragraph’s main idea.
  • Coherence : Use transition words and phrases to maintain flow and show the relationship between paragraphs.
  • Evidence Integration : Include data, quotations, or theories from sources that support your argument, always linking them back to your thesis.

Integrating Evidence

  • Relevance : Ensure all evidence directly relates to and supports the paragraph’s topic sentence and the overall thesis.
  • Credibility : Choose evidence from reputable, scholarly sources.
  • Analysis : Don’t just present evidence; interpret it and explain its significance to your argument.

Maintaining Objectivity and Critical Perspective

  • Balanced Analysis : Consider multiple viewpoints and avoid biased language.
  • Critical Evaluation : Question the methodologies, findings, and biases in the literature you cite.
  • Reflective Conclusion : Assess the strengths and limitations of your argument.

Referencing and Citation Style

Importance of citations.

Citations are essential in academic writing as they give credit to the original authors of ideas and information, allow readers to verify sources, and prevent plagiarism.

Common Citation Styles in Sociology

  • APA (American Psychological Association) : Commonly used in the social sciences for both in-text citations and reference lists.
  • ASA (American Sociological Association) : Specifically designed for sociology papers, this style features a parenthetical author-date format within the text and a detailed reference list at the end.

Each citation style has specific rules for formatting titles, author names, publication dates, and page numbers, so it’s important to consult the relevant style guide to ensure accuracy in your references.

Editing and Proofreading

Strategies for reviewing and refining the essay.

  • Take a Break : After writing, step away from your essay before reviewing it. Fresh eyes can catch errors and inconsistencies more effectively.
  • Read Aloud : Hearing your words can help identify awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, and other issues that might be missed when reading silently.
  • Peer Review : Have a classmate or friend review your essay. They may catch errors you have overlooked and provide valuable feedback.
  • Multiple Rounds : Edit for different aspects in each round—for example, content in one, grammar and syntax in another, and citations in the last.

Checklist of Common Errors to Avoid

  • Spelling and Grammar : Misused words, typos, subject-verb agreement errors, and incorrect verb tenses.
  • Punctuation : Overuse or incorrect use of commas, semicolons, and apostrophes.
  • Structure : Lack of clear thesis, poorly structured paragraphs, or missing transitions.
  • Clarity : Vague statements, unnecessary jargon, or overly complex sentences.
  • Consistency : Fluctuations in tone, style, or tense.
  • Citations : Inaccurate references or inconsistent citation style.

Summarizing Arguments

  • Restate Thesis : Begin by restating your thesis in a new way, reflecting on the evidence presented.
  • Highlight Key Points : Briefly recap the main arguments made in your body paragraphs, synthesizing them to show how they support your thesis.
  • No New Information : Ensure that you do not introduce new ideas or evidence in the conclusion.

Presenting Final Thoughts

  • Implications : Discuss the broader implications of your findings or argument.
  • Limitations : Acknowledge any limitations in your research or analysis and suggest areas for future study.
  • Final Statement : End with a strong, closing statement that reinforces the significance of your topic and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

By carefully editing and proofreading your essay, you can enhance its clarity and coherence, ensuring that it effectively communicates your analysis and insights on the sociological topic. The conclusion serves as the final opportunity to underscore the importance of your findings and to reiterate how they contribute to our understanding of social phenomena.

Appendix A: Example Essay Outlines

An essay outline serves as a roadmap for the writer, indicating the structure of the essay and the sequence of arguments. An appendix containing example outlines could include:

Thematic Essay Outline :

  • Background Information
  • Thesis Statement
  • Summary of Themes
  • Restatement of Thesis
  • Final Thoughts

Comparative Essay Outline :

  • Overview of Subjects Being Compared
  • Aspect 1 Comparison
  • Evidence from Subject A
  • Evidence from Subject B
  • Comparative Analysis
  • Summary of Comparative Points

These outlines would be followed by brief explanations of each section and tips on what information to include.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout introduces you to the wonderful world of writing sociology. Before you can write a clear and coherent sociology paper, you need a firm understanding of the assumptions and expectations of the discipline. You need to know your audience, the way they view the world and how they order and evaluate information. So, without further ado, let’s figure out just what sociology is, and how one goes about writing it.

What is sociology, and what do sociologists write about?

Unlike many of the other subjects here at UNC, such as history or English, sociology is a new subject for many students. Therefore, it may be helpful to give a quick introduction to what sociologists do. Sociologists are interested in all sorts of topics. For example, some sociologists focus on the family, addressing issues such as marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and domestic abuse, the ways these things are defined in different cultures and times, and their effect on both individuals and institutions. Others examine larger social organizations such as businesses and governments, looking at their structure and hierarchies. Still others focus on social movements and political protest, such as the American civil rights movement. Finally, sociologists may look at divisions and inequality within society, examining phenomena such as race, gender, and class, and their effect on people’s choices and opportunities. As you can see, sociologists study just about everything. Thus, it is not the subject matter that makes a paper sociological, but rather the perspective used in writing it.

So, just what is a sociological perspective? At its most basic, sociology is an attempt to understand and explain the way that individuals and groups interact within a society. How exactly does one approach this goal? C. Wright Mills, in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959), writes that “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” Why? Well, as Karl Marx observes at the beginning of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), humans “make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Thus, a good sociological argument needs to balance both individual agency and structural constraints. That is certainly a tall order, but it is the basis of all effective sociological writing. Keep it in mind as you think about your own writing.

Key assumptions and characteristics of sociological writing

What are the most important things to keep in mind as you write in sociology? Pay special attention to the following issues.

The first thing to remember in writing a sociological argument is to be as clear as possible in stating your thesis. Of course, that is true in all papers, but there are a couple of pitfalls common to sociology that you should be aware of and avoid at all cost. As previously defined, sociology is the study of the interaction between individuals and larger social forces. Different traditions within sociology tend to favor one side of the equation over the other, with some focusing on the agency of individual actors and others on structural factors. The danger is that you may go too far in either of these directions and thus lose the complexity of sociological thinking. Although this mistake can manifest itself in any number of ways, three types of flawed arguments are particularly common: 

  • The “ individual argument ” generally takes this form: “The individual is free to make choices, and any outcomes can be explained exclusively through the study of their ideas and decisions.” While it is of course true that we all make our own choices, we must also keep in mind that, to paraphrase Marx, we make these choices under circumstances given to us by the structures of society. Therefore, it is important to investigate what conditions made these choices possible in the first place, as well as what allows some individuals to successfully act on their choices while others cannot.
  • The “ human nature argument ” seeks to explain social behavior through a quasi-biological argument about humans, and often takes a form such as: “Humans are by nature X, therefore it is not surprising that Y.” While sociologists disagree over whether a universal human nature even exists, they all agree that it is not an acceptable basis of explanation. Instead, sociology demands that you question why we call some behavior natural, and to look into the social factors which have constructed this “natural” state.
  • The “ society argument ” often arises in response to critiques of the above styles of argumentation, and tends to appear in a form such as: “Society made me do it.” Students often think that this is a good sociological argument, since it uses society as the basis for explanation. However, the problem is that the use of the broad concept “society” masks the real workings of the situation, making it next to impossible to build a strong case. This is an example of reification, which is when we turn processes into things. Society is really a process, made up of ongoing interactions at multiple levels of size and complexity, and to turn it into a monolithic thing is to lose all that complexity. People make decisions and choices. Some groups and individuals benefit, while others do not. Identifying these intermediate levels is the basis of sociological analysis.

Although each of these three arguments seems quite different, they all share one common feature: they assume exactly what they need to be explaining. They are excellent starting points, but lousy conclusions.

Once you have developed a working argument, you will next need to find evidence to support your claim. What counts as evidence in a sociology paper? First and foremost, sociology is an empirical discipline. Empiricism in sociology means basing your conclusions on evidence that is documented and collected with as much rigor as possible. This evidence usually draws upon observed patterns and information from collected cases and experiences, not just from isolated, anecdotal reports. Just because your second cousin was able to climb the ladder from poverty to the executive boardroom does not prove that the American class system is open. You will need more systematic evidence to make your claim convincing. Above all else, remember that your opinion alone is not sufficient support for a sociological argument. Even if you are making a theoretical argument, you must be able to point to documented instances of social phenomena that fit your argument. Logic is necessary for making the argument, but is not sufficient support by itself.

Sociological evidence falls into two main groups: 

  • Quantitative data are based on surveys, censuses, and statistics. These provide large numbers of data points, which is particularly useful for studying large-scale social processes, such as income inequality, population changes, changes in social attitudes, etc.
  • Qualitative data, on the other hand, comes from participant observation, in-depth interviews, data and texts, as well as from the researcher’s own impressions and reactions. Qualitative research gives insight into the way people actively construct and find meaning in their world.

Quantitative data produces a measurement of subjects’ characteristics and behavior, while qualitative research generates information on their meanings and practices. Thus, the methods you choose will reflect the type of evidence most appropriate to the questions you ask. If you wanted to look at the importance of race in an organization, a quantitative study might use information on the percentage of different races in the organization, what positions they hold, as well as survey results on people’s attitudes on race. This would measure the distribution of race and racial beliefs in the organization. A qualitative study would go about this differently, perhaps hanging around the office studying people’s interactions, or doing in-depth interviews with some of the subjects. The qualitative researcher would see how people act out their beliefs, and how these beliefs interact with the beliefs of others as well as the constraints of the organization.

Some sociologists favor qualitative over quantitative data, or vice versa, and it is perfectly reasonable to rely on only one method in your own work. However, since each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, combining methods can be a particularly effective way to bolster your argument. But these distinctions are not just important if you have to collect your own data for your paper. You also need to be aware of them even when you are relying on secondary sources for your research. In order to critically evaluate the research and data you are reading, you should have a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the different methods.

Units of analysis

Given that social life is so complex, you need to have a point of entry into studying this world. In sociological jargon, you need a unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is exactly that: it is the unit that you have chosen to analyze in your study. Again, this is only a question of emphasis and focus, and not of precedence and importance. You will find a variety of units of analysis in sociological writing, ranging from the individual up to groups or organizations. You should choose yours based on the interests and theoretical assumptions driving your research. The unit of analysis will determine much of what will qualify as relevant evidence in your work. Thus you must not only clearly identify that unit, but also consistently use it throughout your paper.

Let’s look at an example to see just how changing the units of analysis will change the face of research. What if you wanted to study globalization? That’s a big topic, so you will need to focus your attention. Where would you start?

You might focus on individual human actors, studying the way that people are affected by the globalizing world. This approach could possibly include a study of Asian sweatshop workers’ experiences, or perhaps how consumers’ decisions shape the overall system.

Or you might choose to focus on social structures or organizations. This approach might involve looking at the decisions being made at the national or international level, such as the free-trade agreements that change the relationships between governments and corporations. Or you might look into the organizational structures of corporations and measure how they are changing under globalization. Another structural approach would be to focus on the social networks linking subjects together. That could lead you to look at how migrants rely on social contacts to make their way to other countries, as well as to help them find work upon their arrival.

Finally, you might want to focus on cultural objects or social artifacts as your unit of analysis. One fine example would be to look at the production of those tennis shoes the kids seem to like so much. You could look at either the material production of the shoe (tracing it from its sweatshop origins to its arrival on the showroom floor of malls across America) or its cultural production (attempting to understand how advertising and celebrities have turned such shoes into necessities and cultural icons).

Whichever unit of analysis you choose, be careful not to commit the dreaded ecological fallacy. An ecological fallacy is when you assume that something that you learned about the group level of analysis also applies to the individuals that make up that group. So, to continue the globalization example, if you were to compare its effects on the poorest 20% and the richest 20% of countries, you would need to be careful not to apply your results to the poorest and richest individuals.

These are just general examples of how sociological study of a single topic can vary. Because you can approach a subject from several different perspectives, it is important to decide early how you plan to focus your analysis and then stick with that perspective throughout your paper. Avoid mixing units of analysis without strong justification. Different units of analysis generally demand different kinds of evidence for building your argument. You can reconcile the varying levels of analysis, but doing so may require a complex, sophisticated theory, no small feat within the confines of a short paper. Check with your instructor if you are concerned about this happening in your paper.

Typical writing assignments in sociology

So how does all of this apply to an actual writing assignment? Undergraduate writing assignments in sociology may take a number of forms, but they typically involve reviewing sociological literature on a subject; applying or testing a particular concept, theory, or perspective; or producing a small-scale research report, which usually involves a synthesis of both the literature review and application.

The critical review

The review involves investigating the research that has been done on a particular topic and then summarizing and evaluating what you have found. The important task in this kind of assignment is to organize your material clearly and synthesize it for your reader. A good review does not just summarize the literature, but looks for patterns and connections in the literature and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of what others have written on your topic. You want to help your reader see how the information you have gathered fits together, what information can be most trusted (and why), what implications you can derive from it, and what further research may need to be done to fill in gaps. Doing so requires considerable thought and organization on your part, as well as thinking of yourself as an expert on the topic. You need to assume that, even though you are new to the material, you can judge the merits of the arguments you have read and offer an informed opinion of which evidence is strongest and why.

Application or testing of a theory or concept

The application assignment asks you to apply a concept or theoretical perspective to a specific example. In other words, it tests your practical understanding of theories and ideas by asking you to explain how well they apply to actual social phenomena. In order to successfully apply a theory to a new case, you must include the following steps:

  • First you need to have a very clear understanding of the theory itself: not only what the theorist argues, but also why they argue that point, and how they justify it. That is, you have to understand how the world works according to this theory and how one thing leads to another.
  • Next you should choose an appropriate case study. This is a crucial step, one that can make or break your paper. If you choose a case that is too similar to the one used in constructing the theory in the first place, then your paper will be uninteresting as an application, since it will not give you the opportunity to show off your theoretical brilliance. On the other hand, do not choose a case that is so far out in left field that the applicability is only superficial and trivial. In some ways theory application is like making an analogy. The last thing you want is a weak analogy, or one that is so obvious that it does not give any added insight. Instead, you will want to choose a happy medium, one that is not obvious but that allows you to give a developed analysis of the case using the theory you chose.
  • This leads to the last point, which is the analysis. A strong analysis will go beyond the surface and explore the processes at work, both in the theory and in the case you have chosen. Just like making an analogy, you are arguing that these two things (the theory and the example) are similar. Be specific and detailed in telling the reader how they are similar. In the course of looking for similarities, however, you are likely to find points at which the theory does not seem to be a good fit. Do not sweep this discovery under the rug, since the differences can be just as important as the similarities, supplying insight into both the applicability of the theory and the uniqueness of the case you are using.

You may also be asked to test a theory. Whereas the application paper assumes that the theory you are using is true, the testing paper does not makes this assumption, but rather asks you to try out the theory to determine whether it works. Here you need to think about what initial conditions inform the theory and what sort of hypothesis or prediction the theory would make based on those conditions. This is another way of saying that you need to determine which cases the theory could be applied to (see above) and what sort of evidence would be needed to either confirm or disconfirm the theory’s hypothesis. In many ways, this is similar to the application paper, with added emphasis on the veracity of the theory being used.

The research paper

Finally, we reach the mighty research paper. Although the thought of doing a research paper can be intimidating, it is actually little more than the combination of many of the parts of the papers we have already discussed. You will begin with a critical review of the literature and use this review as a basis for forming your research question. The question will often take the form of an application (“These ideas will help us to explain Z.”) or of hypothesis testing (“If these ideas are correct, we should find X when we investigate Y.”). The skills you have already used in writing the other types of papers will help you immensely as you write your research papers.

And so we reach the end of this all-too-brief glimpse into the world of sociological writing. Sociologists can be an idiosyncratic bunch, so paper guidelines and expectations will no doubt vary from class to class, from instructor to instructor. However, these basic guidelines will help you get started.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Cuba, Lee. 2002. A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science , 4th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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how to plan sociology essay

Three top tips for writing sociology essays

how to plan sociology essay

The Craft of Writing in Sociology

  • By Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott
  • September 19 th 2017

As the academic semester gets underway, we talked to three senior colleagues in Sociology at the University of Manchester to come up with their ‘pet peeves’ when marking student’s essays. Here are some of their comments, and some of our top tips to help you to improve your work.

First, lecturers said they were frustrated with the way that students write their opening paragraphs:

“A main peeve of mine in student writing is poor introductions. Three common errors regularly stand out: throat clearing sentences (e.g. ‘globalisation is an important topic’, ‘Marx was an important writer’); dictionary definitions for core sociological concepts; and introductions that merely restate the question. What I really want to see from an introduction is a brief account of how the student is approaching the question at hand, what key questions the essay will address, and what answer the student will come to at the end of the essay.” – Senior Lecturer in Sociology

This was a point on which our three colleagues agreed: students often waste the introduction. Here is top tip number one to help you improve your essays:

1. Give the reader a guide to your argument. Much as you would give someone directions in how to get to where they’re going, tell your reader what steps you will take, what the key turning points will be, why it is important to take this route and, ultimately, where you will end up. In other words, tell your reader exactly what you will conclude and why, right at the beginning.

Another point on which our colleagues agreed was that sociological essays can be imprecise, and are sometimes written in a style which is meant to sound intellectual, but which is more confusing than it is enlightening. As one senior lecturer put it:

“A pet peeve of mine is imprecise language, for example peppering an essay with terms like ‘however’, ‘therefore’, and ‘consequently’, but without attending to the logical relationship between sentences that those words are supposed to signal. If the logical connector is wrong then the argument fails. This kind of error is often motivated, I think, by students wanting their essays to ‘sound academic’, when often they would have been more convincing by using simpler language more precisely.” – Senior Lecturer in Sociology

It is worth planning the time needed to rework your essays because a good argument can be let down by poor presentation. Here is top tip number two:

2. Your written work should prioritise clarity and concision over entertainment and erudition when making an argument. Students often write in a style which they think makes their points sound important, but get lost in the meaning of what they are saying by doing so. It might be that you have quite a command of English and want to show off your knowledge of polysyllabic or unusual words, or it might be that you wish to imitate the sociological writers whom you admire. Whatever additional reasons you have for writing, there is none more important in a sociological essay than making your argument clear. Words such as ‘however’ and ‘moreover’ should be used to indicate how your ideas are linked together, not to start a sentence with a good word. Be sure that when you edit your work, you edit for the argument, prioritising the word choices which best help to make your point. Such decisions will reflect maturity and consideration in your written work, and it is these which will truly impress a reader.

A final element which our three colleagues all listed in their top pet peeves was poor structure:

“I am often frustrated by the poor structuring of an essay. In other words, with the order in which ideas are presented, either at the level of the whole essay or at paragraph level. Essays that ping-pong from one idea to another, and then back to the original idea, indicate that the student has not really thought their argument through. A trickier thing to get right is the structuring of paragraphs, and some students seem keen to cram in as many (often unconnected) points into one paragraph as possible.” – Senior Lecturer in Sociology

The key point to learn when it comes to structuring your work is to make your writing serve your argument. You should present the main turns of your argument clearly, so as to reach a natural conclusion. Here is top tip number three for improving your essays:

3. Redraft your work for your argument, before you edit and proof-read it. Students often write to tight deadlines and do not plan enough time for a good second draft of their work. Instead, they write a first draft and then edit it as they proof-read it. When writing the first draft of an essay you will still be working out what the argument is. This is because writing helps you to think, so as you write your full first draft you will be meandering around a little, finding the best route as you go. Instead of merely editing this and checking the grammar, you should seriously re-draft the essay in light of the argument you now know you wish to make. This will help you to write a good introduction, since you can now say clearly from the outset what you will go on to argue, and a good conclusion, for you will now be able to say exactly what you have argued and why. Re-drafting for the argument means taking out material, adding in material and ensuring that each paragraph has a main point to contribute. It is an essential step in producing a good essay, which must be undertaken prior to editing for sense and proof-reading for typographical mistakes.

These tips point you towards the most important part of learning to write good sociological essays: bringing everything you do into the service of producing an argument which responds to the question and provides a satisfying answer.

Featured image credit: meeting by Eric Bailey. CC0 Public Domain via Pexels .

Andrew Balmer is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester and member of the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives. He is co-author of a new book, The Craft of Writing in Sociology: Developing the Argument in Undergraduate Essays and Dissertations , published by Manchester University Press. Andrew can be found on Twitter @AndyBalmer .

Anne Murcott is Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham and Honorary Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London. She is author of numerous books and edited collections, including The Craft of Writing in Sociology .

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Writing Guide

Writing sociological topics.

“Sociology is the scientific study of human social life. Sociologists seek to describe social patterns and to develop theories for explanation and prediction of social processes of all sizes. Sociology applies objective and systematic methods of investigation to identify patterns and forms of social life and to understand the processes of development and change in human societies.”

Sociology can be described as the scientific study of society.

Sociologists follow the scientific method in research and translate that research into language that is applicable to diverse audiences.

Even if you don’t plan on becoming a sociologist, learning to communicate in the writing and oral styles that are specific to sociology can be useful in many professions. Even though sociological writing is presenting research about the social world, which we all live in and experience that does not mean that the sociological style of writing will come naturally.

Whether you’re writing a “low-stakes” summary of assigned readings, or a “high-stakes” research proposal, there are stylistic rules specific to sociology that need to be followed. This writing guide aims to help students in sociology courses understand these guidelines and improve their sociological writing.

Departmental Expectations

  • Enable students to understand the interactions among individuals, groups, and social institutions in society.
  • Develop student competence in understanding, critically assessing, and applying major sociological concepts.
  • Introduce students to the various theoretical perspectives of sociology.
  • Develop student understanding of research methods appropriate to sociological inquiry.
  • Develop student competence in posing research questions, evaluating evidence, and developing logical arguments.

Disciplinary Genres

Writing in sociology can be either argumentative or analytical. Too often, students in sociology try to find the “right” answer, rather than taking a stance on the literature.

There are various writing genres within sociology. These genres include, but are not limited to: social issue analyses, article critiques, literature reviews, quantitative research designs, quantitative research papers, qualitative research designs, and qualitative research papers. Common types of writing in sociology classes at UNC Charlotte include summaries of readings, topic essays, literature reviews, methodological designs, and research proposals.

For these writing assignments, you will be asked to analyze and critique previous research or make an argument for proposed research, or both. While the exact style of writing will vary by assignment, and by professor, the writing norms of sociology will always apply.

Writing and Speaking Norms in Sociology

The learning objectives for sociology courses can be reached through communicating in a way that is appropriate to the field of Sociology. As a student in Sociology, you will regularly engage in various types of writing.

As is the case in other academic disciplines, sociologists have developed a style of writing that is most appropriate. The American Sociological Association style guide presents the fundamentals of sociological writing.

Following these guidelines, writing in sociology should be:

  • Clear in expression, with respect to ideas and structure
  • Concise and coherent, avoiding wordy phrases
  • Absent of language reflecting bias or stereotypes
  • Using an active voice
  • Use verb tense that is consistent within a section
  • Proper citations, using American Sociological Association (ASA) guidelines

Examples of Common Assignments

The sociology department, as well as all departments at UNC Charlotte, incorporates low-stakes, medium-stakes, and high-stakes writing into the curriculum. It is not uncommon for sociology courses to assign written work from all of these levels.

Low-stakes assignments serve as a means for input: exploration, discovery, hypothesizing, problem-solving, and so on. Think of these assignments as “writing to learn”. Below are some examples of low-stakes assignments commonly used in sociology courses.

  • Brief in-class writing assignments on course topics.
  • Summaries of assigned readings.
  • Creating a hypothesis.
  • Brief, or list-like, writings about a topic.

Medium Stakes

Medium-stakes assignments focus on certain thinking processes within the discipline. These assignments are still primarily informal but require more guidelines for format, structure, and style that are appropriate to sociology . These assignments are typically done in one sitting and do not require extensive revision. Below are some examples of medium-stakes assignments commonly used in sociology courses.

  • Response papers on lecture or other course materials that incorporate sociological perspectives.
  • Wiki contributions, blog posts, discussion board posts.
  • Reflection papers on personal experiences.
  • Analyses of current issues or events.

High Stakes

High-stakes assignments are easily recognizable. These assignments incorporate analysis, argumentation, or both to a broad range of concepts or readings. High-stakes writing assignments are subject to several revisions and follow more closely the style guidelines of sociology. Below are some common high-stakes writing assignments in sociology:

  • Research proposal or research report.
  • Written report on qualitative or quantitative research done by the student.
  • Final papers that integrate the entirety of course topics.

Here’s an example of a high-stakes research proposal with instructor comments.

Writing Outcomes

Listed at the bottom of this page in the attachments section is an example of a survey research paper done by a UNC Charlotte student as well as the rubric the instructor utilized for grading purposes.

Below are several tools and tips to help you communicate effectively in sociology.

General Advice for Non-Majors will help students not familiar with writing in sociology.

ASA Style Guide will provide examples of the writing and speaking norms in sociology, as well as show how to properly cite resources.

This Reading Guide will help students learn how to approach sociological literature.

The Writing Resource Center at UNC Charlotte provides writing services to students.

Citation Guide will help you make sure that all of your resources are properly cited.

List of ASA (American Sociological Association) Writing Style Guides

The University Center for Academic Excellence (UCAE) provides academic support for UNC Charlotte students.

The Dr. Abel Scribe citation tool is another useful guide for learning about the ASA’s formatting rules as well as its citation guidelines.

Endnote – Citation software program available to UNC Charlotte students.

Marquette University’s Writing Guide for Social Science Majors

University of California, Berkeley’s Writing Guide for Sociology Majors

These sections adapted from:

American Sociological Association. 2010. American Sociological Association Style Guide. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association.

Bean, John C. 2001. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Darmouth Institute for Writing and Rhetoric “General Advice for Non-Majors” accessed 2013.

Harris, Angelique and Alia R. Tyner-Mullings. 2013. Writing for Emerging Sociologists. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications

Johnson, William A. et al. 2004. The Sociology Student Writer’s Manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall

UNC Charlotte Department of Sociology “Home” section accessed 2013.

Sociology Essay

How to Write a Sociology Essay: A Simple Guide

how to plan sociology essay

The process of writing a sociology essay is like piecing together a puzzle of society, where each theory, study, and analysis forms a vital piece. It's about understanding how people interact, why societies work the way they do, and expressing these ideas in a thoughtful and organized manner. This article will guide you through the steps of how to write sociology essay A level, from brainstorming ideas to polishing your final draft, making the process less daunting and more manageable. And for those of you who lack time or motivation to work on this assignment, our sociology essay writing service will cater to all your needs.

What Is Sociology Essay?

A sociology essay is essentially an exploration and analysis of societal structures, behaviors, and dynamics using the tools and concepts provided by the field of sociology. This academic genre involves applying sociological theories, empirical research, and critical thinking to examine and interpret various aspects of human society. Unlike essays in other disciplines, the action items of how to write a sociology paper often emphasize understanding the intricate relationships between individuals and the broader social context, delving into questions of culture, institutions, power dynamics, inequality, and social change. The objective is not just to present facts but to offer insights into the underlying patterns and forces that shape human behavior and the functioning of societies.

When writing an essay on sociology, individuals typically use primary and secondary sources, drawing upon established sociological theories and applying them to real-world situations or case studies. The essay might explore topics ranging from the impact of social institutions like education or family on individuals to broader issues such as globalization, social stratification, or the dynamics of social movements. If you ask our experts to write essays for money , they will contribute to a deeper understanding of the social world and provoke critical discussions about the sociology complexities inherent in human societies through thoughtful analysis and interpretation.

Tips for Writing a Sociology Essay

Starting to write a sociology essay? No worries! This section is packed with practical tips to help you nail it. We'll walk you through everything from building a solid thesis to weaving in real-world examples – making sure your essay not only makes sense but also stands out. Ready to turn those sociological insights into a compelling piece of writing? Let's dive in!

Clearly Define Your Thesis

  • Begin your essay on sociology with a well-defined thesis statement succinctly presenting the main argument or perspective you intend to explore in your paper.
  • This will provide focus and direction for your sociology writing.

Thoroughly Understand the Sociological Concepts

  • Demonstrate a strong grasp of sociological concepts and theories relevant to your topic.
  • This involves not only defining key terms but also showcasing an understanding of their application within the broader social context.

Research Widely and Critically

  • Conduct thorough sociology research using various reputable sources, such as academic journals, books, and empirical studies.
  • Evaluate sources critically and select those that contribute robust evidence and insights to support your argument.

Create a Solid Outline

  • Develop a clear and organized outline before diving into the actual writing.
  • This roadmap will help structure your essay, ensuring a logical progression of ideas and a coherent presentation of your arguments.

Use Concrete Examples

  • Support your arguments with concrete examples and relevant evidence.
  • Whether drawing from real-world sociology cases, empirical studies, or historical events, providing specific examples strengthens your analysis and makes your essay more compelling.

Engage with Counterarguments

  • Acknowledge and engage with counterarguments.
  • This not only demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the topic but also strengthens your own argument by addressing potential criticisms.

Write a Cohesive Conclusion

  • Summarize your main points and re-write your thesis in the conclusion.
  • Avoid introducing new sociology information, but reflect on the broader implications of your findings and potentially suggest avenues for future research.

Edit and Revise

  • Set aside time for editing and revising your essay.
  • Check for clarity, coherence, and consistency in your arguments.
  • Ensure your writing is concise and free of grammatical errors.

Cite Sources Properly

  • Learn how to format a sociology paper in APA, MLA, or Chicago.
  • Write accurate and consistent citations throughout your essay.
  • Proper referencing adds credibility to your work.

how to plan sociology essay

Which Sociology Essay Topics to Choose (With Examples)?

Choosing the right sociology topics for essays is crucial for creating an engaging and insightful piece of writing. Firstly, consider your interests and passions within sociology. Selecting a topic that resonates with you will not only make the research process more enjoyable but also likely result in a more compelling essay. Whether examining gender roles, exploring racial dynamics, or delving into the complexities of social institutions, find a theme that sparks your curiosity.

Secondly, to learn how to write a good sociology essay, you should assess the current sociological landscape. Choose topics that are relevant and timely, as this ensures your essay contributes to ongoing discussions in the field. Issues such as globalization, technology's impact on society, or the evolving nature of social movements can provide a contemporary context for exploration. By addressing current societal challenges, your essay can offer fresh perspectives and insights, making it more engaging for you and your sociology readers.

Lastly, consider the scope and feasibility of the sociology essay question. Ensure it is neither too broad nor too narrow for the length of your essay. Strike a writing balance, allowing in-depth analysis while staying focused on a specific aspect of the chosen topic. This sociology writing approach ensures you can thoroughly explore the subject matter within the confines of your assignment, providing a well-rounded and comprehensive examination of the sociological issues at hand. Here’s a list of 30 social science essay topics to boost your creativity:

how to choose a sociology essay topic

  • The impact of social media on interpersonal relationships.
  • Gender inequality in the workplace.
  • Effects of education on social mobility.
  • Influence of family structure on child development.
  • The sociology of online dating.
  • Examining racial profiling in law enforcement.
  • Social consequences of income inequality.
  • Role of religion in shaping societal norms.
  • The rise of single-parent households.
  • Impact of technology on social interaction.
  • Juvenile delinquency and its societal causes.
  • Stereotypes in the media and their effects.
  • The sociology of fashion and cultural identity.
  • Exploring youth subcultures.
  • The stigma surrounding mental health.
  • Societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Social effects of environmental pollution.
  • The dynamics of cross-cultural communication.
  • Influence of social class on educational opportunities.
  • Examining the prison industrial complex.
  • Social implications of immigration policies.
  • Sociology of deviant behavior.
  • The impact of globalization on local cultures.
  • The social construction of beauty standards.
  • Societal views on aging and the elderly.
  • The role of social institutions in society.
  • Exploring microaggressions in everyday life.
  • The sociology of conspiracy theories.
  • Social effects of gentrification.
  • Societal perceptions of disability.

When you find a topic you like, you can either study it yourself or let our professional essay writers do the job for you, getting faster and more dependable results.

Sociology Essay Structure

In a sociology essay, write your thoughts in a clear and organized way so that readers can easily follow along. We start by diving into the topic, exploring different aspects and ideas, and using examples and evidence to support our points. Each part of the essay connects smoothly, like pieces of a puzzle, forming a complete picture of our argument. Finally, we wrap it up by summarizing what we've discussed and highlighting the broader significance of our sociology findings. This structure helps us convey complex sociological concepts in a way that's easy to understand and engaging to read. If any of the concepts are too difficult to comprehend, simply ask us, ‘ write my essays ,’ and our writers will take your task from here.

sociology essay outline

Introduction to Sociology Essay

A well-structured essay on sociology typically adheres to a standard format, beginning with an introduction that outlines the context, significance, and purpose of the essay. As you study how to write an introduction to a sociology essay, it should feature a clear and concise thesis statement. This central sociology sentence presents the main argument or perspective that will be explored in the essay. This section serves as a roadmap for the reader, providing an overview of the key themes to be addressed.

Body in Sociology Essay

Following the introduction, the essay's body is organized into paragraphs, each devoted to a specific aspect of the topic. These paragraphs should be structured logically, with a clear topic sentence introducing the main idea, followed by supporting evidence, examples, and sociology analysis. It's crucial to maintain coherence and flow between paragraphs, ensuring a seamless transition from one idea to the next. The essay's body allows for a comprehensive exploration of sociological concepts, theories, and empirical evidence, reinforcing the central thesis through a well-organized and cohesive argument. Here are 5 comprehensive tips on how to write body in sociology essay:

  • Structure paragraphs logically with a main idea and smooth transitions.
  • Support your points with relevant evidence, whether from research or examples.
  • Go beyond description; critically evaluate evidence and discuss implications.
  • Stick to the main point of each paragraph; avoid unnecessary tangents.
  • For clarity, maintain a consistent writing tone and style throughout your essay.

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Conclusion of Sociology Essay

Concluding the essay is the final section, where the writer summarizes the key points, restates the thesis in a nuanced manner, and reflects on the broader implications of the analysis. This section should avoid introducing new information but instead offer a thoughtful synthesis of the essay's main ideas. A strong sociology essay conclusion leaves a lasting impression, leaving the reader with a sense of closure and a deeper understanding of the sociological perspectives explored in the essay. How to write a conclusion for sociology essay? Maintain a clear and organized structure that ensures that the paper effectively communicates complex sociological ideas while engaging the reader from start to finish.

Editing and Proofreading

Knowing how to write sociology papers constitutes 70% of a great job done. The remaining 30% belongs to effective editing and proofreading. Start by reviewing the overall structure and coherence of your arguments, ensuring each paragraph contributes to the essay's main thesis. Next, scrutinize the clarity and consistency of your language, eliminating unnecessary jargon and ensuring a straightforward communication of ideas. Finally, meticulously check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, ensuring a polished and error-free presentation of your sociological analysis. Note that when you buy essay online , you won’t have to edit or proofread anything, as the service includes these activities on our behalf.

Sociology Essay Example

We’ve written several sociology essays examples for your convenience and inspiration. Remember that they are for reference purposes only! Don’t copy and paste them into your document for submission. If you like our sociology research papers examples, order one that will be written for you from scratch or write on your own to avoid plagiarism and damage to your academic integrity.

The Digital Canvas: Unraveling Youth Identity in the Age of Social Media

Social media platforms have become an integral part of contemporary youth culture, serving as both a mirror and a canvas for self-expression. This essay explores the multifaceted impact of social media on the formation and presentation of youth identity, examining how these digital spaces shape perceptions, relationships, and self-awareness.

Social media platforms, from Instagram to TikTok, have revolutionized the way young individuals construct and project their identities in today's interconnected world. As the virtual realm intertwines with real-life experiences, it poses critical questions about the authenticity and complexity of youth identity formation.

One significant aspect is the performative nature of identity on social media. The curated profiles and carefully selected content act as a digital stage where youth engage in a constant performance, showcasing aspects of their lives that align with societal expectations or online trends. This performative aspect influences self-esteem, as individuals navigate the fine line between authentic expression and the desire for social validation.

Social media's role in facilitating social comparison among youth is noteworthy. The constant exposure to peers' achievements, lifestyles, and experiences can lead to both inspiration and feelings of inadequacy. This comparative aspect influences the construction of youth identity as individuals navigate their unique identities in the context of a digitally connected and often competitive environment.

Social media platforms redefine the landscape of friendship and belonging among youth. Online connections and communities provide opportunities for global interaction, yet they also introduce challenges related to cyberbullying and the pressure to conform. Understanding the impact of these virtual relationships on youth identity is crucial for comprehending the evolving nature of social connections in contemporary society.

In conclusion, the digital era has fundamentally altered the terrain of youth identity. Social media, as a tool for both self-expression and social comparison, plays a central role in shaping how young individuals perceive themselves and relate to others. As society grapples with these transformations, it becomes imperative to navigate the nuanced intersections between online and offline identities, fostering an environment that supports authentic self-discovery and interpersonal connections.

The Dynamics of Economic Inequality and Social Mobility

In contemporary society, economic inequality stands as a pervasive challenge that not only reflects societal disparities but also significantly influences the prospects of social mobility. This essay delves into the intricate relationship between economic inequality and social mobility, examining how disparities in wealth and opportunities shape the life trajectories of individuals across different social strata.

Economic inequality has emerged as a defining feature of our times, with profound implications for the ability of individuals to move upward on the social ladder. This essay seeks to unravel the complex dynamics between economic inequality and social mobility, shedding light on the factors that either facilitate or hinder the pursuit of the proverbial American Dream.

One key aspect is the connection between income disparities and access to quality education. Children born into economically disadvantaged families often face limited educational resources, hindering their ability to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for upward mobility. This perpetuates a cycle where economic disadvantage becomes an enduring barrier to social advancement.

Economic inequality manifests prominently in occupational segregation and wage disparities. Certain professions and industries offer more significant opportunities for economic advancement, while others remain marginalized and undervalued. The unequal distribution of resources and opportunities within the job market directly influences the potential for social mobility among different segments of the population.

The transmission of economic status across generations contributes significantly to the perpetuation of inequality. Economic advantages or disadvantages experienced by parents often shape the opportunities available to their children, creating a cycle that is challenging to break. Understanding this intergenerational dimension is crucial for comprehending the long-term effects of economic inequality on social mobility.

In conclusion, the intricate interplay between economic inequality and social mobility underscores the need for comprehensive societal measures. Addressing disparities in education, occupation, and intergenerational opportunities is essential for fostering a more equitable society, where individuals can pursue their aspirations irrespective of their economic background. As we navigate these challenges, the pursuit of a more inclusive and socially mobile society remains a critical goal for shaping the future of our communities.

A good essay on sociology is all about being organized, using evidence wisely, and thinking critically. The tips for aspiring writers provided here are like a toolkit to help you express your ideas effectively and make a meaningful contribution to the world of sociology. Keep in mind the importance of a clear thesis, backing up your points with good evidence, and thinking deeply about your topic. Also, don't forget to do thorough research and stick to the rules of academic writing. With these tips, your sociology essays can not only be academically solid but also interesting and thought-provoking. Alternatively, you can pay for essay on our website and move to other more important tasks for the day. In any case, happy writing!

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How to Write an Essay on Sociology

Last Updated: June 4, 2023 Approved

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 11 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 80% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 112,880 times.

Sociology is a new topic for many students, and writing a paper for a sociology class can be daunting. It is important to remember that sociology is an empirical discipline, which means all sociological writings (including your paper) need a thorough grounding in research and rigorous documentation. You will be asked to interpret these facts that you gather during your research phase. You might be asked to write a paper on cultural topics such as gender stereotypes, marriage, or race. Sociology is different from other social sciences because it relies heavily on both statistics and more interpretive analysis than say, English Literature. It is also a subject that relies heavily on the written word. Chances are, if you are a student in a sociology course, you will need to write several papers. If you learn the proper way to write a sociology essay, the rest of your semester should go smoothly. There are several steps to take to make sure you do a great job and earn the grade you want.

Preparing to Write

Step 1 Review the assignment.

  • Remember that a good sociology paper starts with an important sociological question. Your first step in writing a good essay is to figure out which question you are going to answer.

Step 2 Ask questions.

  • If you are unable to attend office hours, you can ask your professor questions via e-mail. Write this e-mail as if it is business. Be professional, courteous, and clear.

Step 3 Research your topic.

  • One type of sociological data is quantitative. These statistics are based on sources such as surveys and censuses. These are generally numbers. An example of quantitative data could be: 9,326 people lived in Urbantown in 1972.
  • The other type of data you need is qualitative. This research is less concrete, and is based on sources such as interviews and the researcher's own impressions. An example of qualitative data is: "The number of people living in Urbantown in 1972 likely was much lower because the major industry in town had closed and there were also severe racial tensions".

Step 4 Read efficiently.

  • Highlight important information. Not only will this make it easier to find that specific information later, but the act of highlighting itself will help embed the information into your brain.
  • Don't be afraid to skim over parts of books or articles that either do not relate to your paper topic or are not helpful.

Step 5 Take good notes.

  • Remember that sociology is largely about concepts. For example, you might need to explain the relationship between class and power in contemporary society. Therefore, your notes will be different from your chemistry notes, since you are memorizing ideas, not formulas or methods. In your notes, make sure that you have been thorough enough that you will understand the concept when you review your notes.

Step 6 Organize your materials.

  • Experiment with the noise level in your writing space. Some people work well with music playing, while others work best in total silence. Figure out the right atmosphere for you.

Writing Your Essay

Step 1 Formulate your thesis.

  • You can use several methods to come up with a thesis statement. For example, you can start by asking a series of questions. Once you find a good one, turn it into a declarative statement.
  • Another method is to use "free association". Write down all of the terms that come to mind when you think of your topic. An idea for a thesis might jump out at you.
  • Your thesis must have two key parts: first, it must be debatable. This means that your argument is not a basic statement of facts, but that it is open for critical debate. Second, your thesis must be tightly focused enough that it can be clearly supported with evidence. [6] X Research source
  • For example, perhaps you have been assigned an essay about gender. Your thesis statement could be something like this: "Gender is essentially a social construct, particularly during the early to mid-twentieth century. There are actually much fewer biological differences between men and women than previously thought; the divide between the sexes has actually been created by society."

Step 2 Make an outline.

  • When writing your outline, make sure that all of the parts of your essay support your thesis. If the information is not directly related to your thesis, you don't need it.
  • For example, if you have been assigned an essay about racial segregation in Chicago, you do not need to spend time discussing sexism in the same city.
  • If you are writing a brief essay about race, your outline could indicate that you will discuss the historical precedents, the quantitative date, the scholarly interpretations, and trends for the future.
  • Don't worry if your outline takes a while. Once you have a sturdy outline, the rest of the writing progress will be much more efficient.

Step 3 Write your introduction and conclusion.

  • Try using a specific example in your introduction. In the example essay of racial segregation in Chicago, you might include a story about a young child who was not allowed to attend the school nearest her house.
  • It is useful to write the conclusion before you write the body of your essay. This will help you to stay on track and make sure that your essay clearly relates to the conclusion you are making.

Step 4 Work on your body paragraphs.

  • For example, if you are writing an essay about ageism in America, one of the topic sentences for a body paragraph might be, "Ageism is a prejudice that makes it difficult for older citizens to get hired for certain jobs, even if they are the most qualified."

Step 5 Cite your sources.

  • An ASA citation could look like this: "The results gathered by Davis (1982: 78) demonstrate that... [9] X Research source
  • Make sure to check with your professor to ensure that you are supposed to use ASA style. Then familiarize yourself with the rules of this documentation system.

Polishing Your Paper

Step 1 Use spell check.

  • Use spell check, but do not overly rely on it. Remember, you know what your paper is supposed to say--your computer is not familiar with the points you are making.

Step 2 Edit carefully.

Community Q&A

Tom De Backer

  • Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to work on this assignment. Researching and writing a paper is a process, and you will likely need to spend several days on the project. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • There is always room for improvement. Make sure to read your professor's comments and use that feedback in future essays. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://www.geneseo.edu/sociology/sociology_papers
  • ↑ http://las.depaul.edu/academics/sociology/student-resources/Documents/how-to-talk-to-professors.pdf
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/sociology/
  • ↑ http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/reading.html
  • ↑ http://writerswin.com/three-ways-to-organize-your-ultimate-home-writing-space-plus-infographic/
  • ↑ https://sociology.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/documents/student_services/writing_guide/Writing%20for%20Sociology%20Guide%20Second%20Edition.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/583/02/
  • ↑ http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/16/is-proper-spelling-still-important_n_1676408.html
  • ↑ http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-revise-edit-and-proofread-your-writing/
  • ↑ http://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/colleges-and-Schools/College-of-Arts-and-Sciences/Majors-Programs/Political-Science/writing-guidelines.asp

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How to plan an essay: Essay Planning

  • What's in this guide
  • Essay Planning
  • Additional resources

How to plan an essay

Essay planning is an important step in academic essay writing.

Proper planning helps you write your essay faster, and focus more on the exact question.  As you draft and write your essay, record any changes on the plan as well as in the essay itself, so they develop side by side.

One way to start planning an essay is with a ‘box plan’.

First, decide how many stages you want in your argument – how many important points do you want to make? Then, divide a box into an introduction + one paragraph for each stage + a conclusion.

Next, figure out how many words per paragraph you'll need.

Usually, the introduction and conclusion are each about 10% of the word count. This leaves about 80% of the word count for the body - for your real argument. Find how many words that is, and divide it by the number of body paragraphs you want. That tells you about how many words each paragraph can have.

Remember, each body paragraph discusses one main point, so make sure each paragraph's long enough to discuss the point properly (flexible, but usually at least 150 words).

For example, say the assignment is

Fill in the table as follows:

Next, record each paragraph's main argument, as either a heading or  topic sentence (a sentence to start that paragraph, to immediately make its point clear).

Finally, use dot points to list useful information or ideas from your research notes for each paragraph. Remember to include references so you can connect each point to your reading.

The other useful document for essay planning is the marking rubric .

This indicates what the lecturer is looking for, and helps you make sure all the necessary elements are there.

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The Department recommends that students write a total of four to six essays per paper over the course of Michalemas and Lent terms.

This equates to two or three essays per paper, per term. Since students take four papers, and terms are eight weeks long, two essays per paper would work out at one essay per week (if distributed evenly). Regardless of how many essays students choose to write, they will still receive six supervisions per paper over the course of both terms. This means three supervisions per paper, per term.

For two of these supervisions, the Sociology Department has a policy that allows students to prepare in another way besides an essay for the supervision, such as with a blog post , or a presentation on a reading or related current event. This should be agreed ahead of time with the supervisor in question.

Essays are expected to be around 1,500 to 2,000 words, which may sound like a lot to new students, but it is crucial practice for honing the skill of making a detailed, coherent and concise argument. The upper word limit is also important, as writing to wordcount (and deadline) are key academic skills, and this takes into consideration the marking workload of your supervisors.

Essay writing is one of the main means of study as well as a form of preparation for the exams , in which students are expected to draw on lecture material, supervision work, and independent reading. Over the course of the HSPS programme, students will be increasingly encouraged to supplement supervisors’ suggested readings with the sources they have encountered using their growing research skills.

Essay Writing FAQs

The sections below provide some answers to help students approach their essays. Students are encouraged to reach out to their peers, supervisors and/or Directors of Studies if they are having trouble with essay writing.

When you write an essay, you’ll need to find the suggested reading list provided in the paper guide. A reading list will usually contain a mixture of online resources like journal articles and Ebooks, and physical books which can be requested from the libraries; in 2020-21, however, given the coronavirus pandemic, we have adjusted our reading lists so that all texts are available electronically. Most of the readings you need for sociology are available via the Seeley library (Sociology, Land Economy), and you can find out how to access them on our Study Resources [link] page.

There are multiple copies of most of the books in the Seeley library so you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting hold of a text. Often you can request a book even if it has been taken out, in which case the student who has the book on loan will be expected to return the book in three days. If they’re not available at the Seeley library, the iDiscover website can show you all the locations where a book can be found in other university libraries.

Many College libraries also have undergraduate reading list collections, and it’s always worth emailing either the SPS or your college library if you’re struggling to access a text. Finally, if you can’t access a book or find an Ebook version online, Google Books often has parts of books - such as selected chapters - available to read for free. Your lecturer may also give tips for finding certain texts.

You will find you get much faster at reading and condensing arguments as you progress through your degree. Rather than trying to read everything, focus on the readings that the lecturer has marked as particularly important, and then use the additional recommended readings to gain a broader understanding and add more nuance to your essays.

What matters is that you’ve got a grasp of the key concepts and theories as portrayed in the available literature on a topic. When you’re first starting out, it may be better to focus on a few readings and give yourself more time to think and write. Another way of tackling reading lists is to split the workload with other people doing the same topic. Sharing notes and ideas not only helps consolidate your learning, it also makes life much, much easier.

If you’re assigned an entire book without chapter or page number suggestions, don’t feel you’re expected to read them cover to cover. Start with the introductory and concluding chapters to get a feel for the arguments. You can also check the contents page for sections or chapters that are especially relevant. Sometimes useful summaries, reviews, or commentaries on books are available online; for example, you can search for book reviews via Google Scholar.

Key to writing a good Sociology essay is a clear argument based on a careful and critical reading of the material relevant to the question. In the first instance, this will be the books and articles the paper organiser has indicated you should read in the paper guide. Pay careful attention to the language a particular author uses and attempt to situate the work in the social and intellectual context of the period in which it was written.

A good essay will provide an introduction that explains your interpretation of the question and how you intend to answer it, namely your essay’s structure and argument. As part of the process of building the argument, the body of the essay will outline, and critically evaluate, the different positions you’ve considered on the topic of the question (e.g. a question on class may discuss Marx, Weber and Durkheim’s differing understanding of the structural organisation of class and/or the subjective experience of class). This critical evaluation may include how well arguments are supported with empirical examples of events (including contemporary events not yet analysed in the literature), studies or statistical data.  Specifically, you can use the theory to help us understand an empirical case of your choice, and then use that empirical case to shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of that theory.

Here you can show further knowledge by referring to material beyond the reading list, as long as you demonstrate its relevance. The essay should conclude by summarising your argument and the justifications you have offered for it, as well as indicating the relevance of your argument in the broader theoretical and/or empirical context. Always try to justify your arguments by reference to concrete examples, studies, research or new work. Reference all your sources consistently and systematically. Finally give yourself time to re-read, edit and re-edit your essay. Often the process of re-reading and editing will improve an essay immensely. This process will, of course, be aided through discussions in supervisions and the further reflections they inspire for you.

When supervisors mark your essays (and indeed, your exams), they will be guided by the marking criteria, so it is best to familiarise yourself with these criteria. You can ask your supervisor for advice on how to interpret these criteria, which can be downloaded via WHERE [link].

The university and the faculty libraries have lots of guidance on essay-writing, which you can ask them about or find on their websites. Some colleges run workshops or have academics who provide support for essay-writing; your Director of Studies (DoS) should be able to point you in the right direction. This is especially useful for students who want to develop their academic writing skills, and can help build confidence for those who might feel a little out-of-practice.

Finally, it’s always good to share essays with friends taking the course to get a sense of their approaches. You can learn from your fellow students just as you can learn from university academics. Chatting through an issue that you’re finding confusing with a friend can have great results, because just by talking through your difficulties or thought processes, the path to the answers you need can become clearer.

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ReviseSociology

A level sociology revision – education, families, research methods, crime and deviance and more!

Category: Essay plans

Applying material from item b and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media portray women in a stereotypical way [20 marks].

An essay plan covering some of the knowledge and evaluation points you could use to answer this question for AQA A-level sociology paper two: the media option.

You might like to review this post on how women are represented in the media before going through the plan below.

The item refers to three main types of stereotypical representations

  • A limited range of roles (Symbolic annihilation)
  • Concern with appearance (The Beauty Myth)

Women needing a partner

Symbolic annihilation.

  • Symbolic Annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) =  under-representation/ narrow range of social roles, gender stereotypes – housework and motherhood
  • ‘Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux – Disney Films – Snow White.
  • Gauntlett – increase in the diversity of representations, reflects wider social changes.
  • films with ‘strong’ lead female characters – e.g. Alien, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.
  • However, lead female characters are slim and attractive
  • The Bechdel Test.
  • Global Media Monitoring group (2015) – women in news – the overall presence of women as sources was 28%. largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.

The Beauty Myth

  • media present unrealistic and unattainable images of women which encourages women to worry unnecessarily about their looks (Naomi Wolfe).
  • Tebbel (2000) body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.
  • Killborn – women presented as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.
  • Orbach – media associates slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity
  • Recent evidence challenges Beauty Myth…. Backlash to 2015 Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign
  • Since 2015 increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising: Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 , Sport England ‘ This Girl Can‘ campaign.
  • 2017 – Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising, banned ads 2019.
  • UN women’s Unstereotype Alliance‘.
  • Ferguson (1980) – content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980: cult of femininity: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.
  • Ferguson: teenage magazines aimed at girls offered broader range of female representations, but still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.
  • However, McRobbie – Cosmopolitan has featured positive representations of young women as seeking to control their own lives rather than being dependent on men.

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Evaluate the view that the extent of secularisation has been exaggerated (20)

Using material from the item answer the question below

  • Make sure you deal with different theories of secularisation, addressing both behaviour and belief.
  • Be sure to address the idea of change rather than decline.
  • Make sure to address globalisation.

Introduction

  • Secularisation usually measured by beliefs, behaviour and belonging
  • On all measurements, the UK certainly seems to be getting more secular
  • HOWEVER, there are limitations with the evidence, and possible counter trends, especially when we look at religion globally.

Statistical Evidence for secularisation

  • Beliefs – an increasing number of people in UK say they don’t believe in God, now up to >30%; younger people less likely to believe in God than older people; also Census belief figures.
  • Behaviour: <5% of the adult population attend church regularly, only 20% of marriages are church marriages and only 10% of children are baptised.
  • Belonging: 50% of adults now class themselves as having no religion, almost 75% of 18-24 year olds
  • There’s been about a 10% decline in active C of E membership in the last decade.

Counter Trends

  • Nearly half of all funerals still have a religious ceremony
  • All other religions besides Christianity have increased in recent years.

Disengagement

  • There used to be a close tie between church and state (Divine Right of Kings etc.)
  • However, today politicians keep they’re religion out of politics
  • Civil Rights law bans discrimination on the basis of religion
  • The C of E is critical of the government, but the government ignores it.

Counter trends

Cassonva argues that looked at globally a process of ‘de-privatization’ of religion is occurring. Some events suggest religion is important significantly: The Arab Spring for example, and the influence of the conservative new right  in U.S. politics.

Rationalization and Disenchantment

  • Max Weber argued development of science, technology and social bureaucracies undermined the role of religion in society.
  • Science meant knowledge claims could be assessed objectively and empirically, rather than religious truth claims which could not be tested (so it’s more open and democratic, thus more appealing)
  • Also the advances of science, when applied to technology and industry (the industrial revolution) improved society without the need for religion.
  • While rational organisation of society (schools/ hospitals/ political movements) led to further social improvements, again without religion.
  • All of this led to disenchantment, or the decrease of the role of mystery, magic and superstition in explaining social phenomena and in helping people determine what they should do.

Criticisms of the idea that rationalization undermines religion

  • Steve Bruce – although science and technology have challenged religious beliefs, people still turn to religion when technology fails.
  • The New Age Movement and continued influence of the Christian Right in the USA show that religion is still important to many.

Religious pluralism as evidence of secularization:

  • Bruce argues that the increasing diversity of religion results in secularization:
  • Because there is no one religion, religion no longer binds individuals to society like it used to.
  • Secondly, the state finds it more difficult to support religion.
  • This ties in with Durkheim’s functionalist theory that one religion acts as a collective conscience. However, when there is no longer one religion, it cannot perform this function!

Arguments against religious pluralism as evidence of secularization  

  • Pluralism may be the only way religion can ‘work’ as part of a postmodern society.
  • Many non-Christian religions are growing. Maybe ‘de-Christianisation is a more accurate concept than secularisation?
  • There is evidence that people still selectively use religion at times of crises.

Evidence against secularisation: postmodernism/ believing without belonging

  • Postmodernists suggest that the nature of religion is changing, rather than disappearing completely.
  • It might be that religion now plays a more significant role in some aspects of life: religious leaders are like ‘morality experts’ who can give guidance in an uncertain, risk society.
  • People also still selectively use religion during life crises.
  • Davie also argues that many still believe, but just don’t attend church.
  • This way of practicing religion is maybe a better fit with postmodern society.

Evidence against secularisation: a global perspective

  • Secularisation certainly appears to be happening in Europe.
  • HOWEVER, globally, religion is still a powerful force: The Arab Spring, and Fundamentalist conflicts for example.

Thoughts on a Conclusion

Given the problems with defining and measuring religion, it’s difficult to say whether it’s ‘decline’ has been exaggerated, but on balance of the evidence it seems fair to conclude that religion has declined in Europe, but it is far from ‘dead and buried’,

However, looked at globally, religion appears to be more significant than in Europe, so maybe sociologists should be more careful not to fall into a Eurocentric perspective when evaluating the extent of secularisation.

Beliefs in society revision bundle for sale

If you like this sort of thing then you might like my ‘ beliefs in society’ revision bundle .

how to plan sociology essay

The bundle contains the following:

  • Eight mind maps covering the sociological perspectives on beliefs in society.  In colour!
  • 52 Pages of revision notes covering the entire AQA ‘beliefs in society’ specification: from perspectives on religion, organisations, class, gender ethnicity and age and secularisation, globalisation and fundamentalism.
  • Three 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ practice exam  questions and model answers
  • Three 10 mark ‘analyse using the item’ 10 practice exam questions and answers
  • Three 30 mark essay questions and extended essay plans.

The content focuses on the AQA A-level sociology specification. All at a bargain price of just £4.99!

I’ve taught A-level sociology for 16 years and have been an AQA examiner for 10 of those, so I know what I’m talking about, and if you purchase from me you’re avoiding all those horrible corporations that own the major A-level text books and supporting a fully fledged free-range human being, NOT a global corporate publishing company.

Signposting

This post has been written to assist students studying the beliefs in society module within sociology A-level.

You might also like this page on exams, essays and short answer questions which has more examples of practice essays and other exam advice.

Please click here to return to the homepage – ReviseSociology.com

Evaluate the view that religious beliefs and organisations are barriers to social change (20)

The above question appears on the AQA’s 2016 Paper 2 Specimen Paper .

The Question and the Item (as on the paper)

Read Item B and answer the question that follows.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that religious  beliefs and organisations are barriers to social change (20)

Suggested essay plan

  • The question asks for beliefs and organization, so deal with both.
  • Remember you should look at this in global perspective (it’s on the spec).
  • Remember to use the item. NB all of the material in item is covered in the plan below, all you would need to do in an essay is reference it!
  • Stay mainly focused on the arguments in the first section below.

Arguments and evidence for the view that religion is a barrier to social change

Functionalism

Parsons argued religions maintains social order: it promotes value consensus as many legal systems are based on religious morals.

It also maintains stability in times of social change (when individuals die), and helps people make sense of changes within society, thus helping prevent anomie/ chaos and potentially more disruptive change.

  Religion prevents change through ideological control and false consciousness. It teaches that inequality and injustice are God’s will and thus there is no point trying to change it.

  Religion also prevents change by being the ‘opium of the masses’. It makes a virtue out of suffering, making people think they will be rewarded in the afterlife and that if they just put up with their misery now, they’ll get reward later,.

  Simone de Beauvoir – religion is used by men to justify their position of power, and to compensate women for their second-class status. It oppresses women in the same way Marx said it oppresses the proletariat.

The Church (typically a conservative force)

The church tends to be closely tied to existing political and economic power structures: the Church of England is closely tied to the state for example: the Queen is closely related and Bishops sit in the Lords. Also most members and attendees are middle class. It thus tends to resist radical social change.

World Accommodating and World Affirming NBMs

World Accommodating NRMs can help prevent change by helping members cope with their suffering in the day to day.

World Affirming Movements (such as TM) reinforce dominant values such as individualism and entrepeneurialism.

Arguments and evidence against the view that religion is a barrier to social change

Liberation Theology

Some Catholic priests in Latin America in the 70s took up the cause of landless peasants and criticized the inequalities in the region.

However, they were largely unsuccessful!

  The protestant ethic gave rise to the spirit of Capitalism (Calvinism and Entrepreneurialism etc.)

El Saadawi – It’s Patriarchy, not Islam that has oppressed women… but it is possible for women to fight back against it (as she herself does)

Carol P Christ – believes there are diverse ways to ‘knowing the Goddess’ and criticizes dualistic thinking and the idea that any religion can have  a monopoly on truth

Some World Rejecting NRMs

E.G. The Nation of Islam have aimed to bring about radical social change

The New Age Movement

Encourages individualism and pick and mixing of different religions, so encourages diversity and hybrid religions to emerge.

Secularization

Means religion has less power in society, and thus is less able to act as a barrier to social change.

Thoughts on a conclusion

Make sure you distinguish between beliefs and organisations and types of social change

Beliefs in Society is one of the options taught as part of A-level sociology, usually in the second year of study.

For further advice on exam questions you might like my page on Essays, exams and short answer questions .

Evaluate the view that changing gender roles are the most significant factor in explaining the increase in family diversity (20)

Below is a suggested essay plan for a possible essay which may come up on the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology: families and households section.

The plan follows the Point – Explain – Analyse – Evaluate structure, topped and tailed with an introduction and a conclusion:

GIFF VERSION

PNG VERSION:

Sociology essay plan family diversity

(Two versions as I’m testing ‘image quality’!)

If you feel like you need to review this topic further, then please see these two posts :

  • Explaining the increase in family diversity part 1
  • Explaining the increase in family diversity part 2

Peace, and happy revising!

Last Updated March 2018.

Evaluate the Strengths of Using Social Surveys in Social Research (20)

‘Evaluate the Strengths of Using Social Surveys in Social Research’ (20)

This is an essay plan for a possible essay for the AQA’s A Level Sociology paper 3 : Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. This essay plan uses the TPEN structure which covers the theoretical, practical, ethical and ‘nature of topic’ factors relevant to this research method.

You might like to review this post which introduces social surveys and this post on ‘ the advantages and disadvantages of social surveys ‘ first. 

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  • Theoretical Factors: Positivists/ Interpretivists – Positivists generally like social surveys because the data from Structured Social Surveys is easy to put into graphs and charts – it is easy to make comparisons, find trends and uncover the ‘laws’ of human action
  • Theoretical: Representativeness/ Sampling – It is generally easy to obtain large samples
  • Theoretical: Reliability – Surveys generally have good reliability because….
  • Theoretical: Validity – Validity should be good for simple topics and it is less likely that the researcher’s opinions will affect the research process as with more qualitative methods
  • Practical Factors: Social surveys are one of the cheapest methods for collecting data from a wide, geographically dispersed sample of the target population; they are generally one of the quickest ways of collecting data
  • Ethical Factors: There are few ethical issues with this method compared to more qualitative methods.
  • Nature of Topic: Social surveys are best used for simple, straightforward topics.
  • Conclusion: Social Surveys are good for gaining an ‘overview’ of social trends

Evaluate the Functionalist View of the Role of Education in Society (30) #LONG VERSION

Essay practice for A-level sociology!

An A-level sociology essay written for the AQA’s 7192 (1) specification, exam paper 1. This is the long, ‘overkill’ version of the essay, written using the PEAC system (Point – Explain – Analyse – Criticise)

An obvious starting point before reading this essay would be to read my post on the Functionalist Perspective on Education .

NB – At time of posting, it’s half an essay, more to follow!

Functionalism is a somewhat dated structural theory popular in 19 th century France (Durkheim) and mid-20 th century America (Parsons). Functionalist theorists adopted a ‘top-down’ approach to analysing the role which institutions, such as schools play in relation to other institutions, such as work, and generally believe that schools form an important part of a society’s structure. Functionalism is also a consensus theory: functionalists generally emphasise the positive functions which schools perform for individuals and society, arguing that schools tend to promote social harmony and social order, which they see as a good thing.

Below I will analyse and evaluate four specific ‘functions’ or roles which schools perform according to Functionalist theory, ultimately arguing that it obscures more than it enlightens our understanding of the role of education in society.

Education and Social Solidarity

POINT 1: According to Emile Durkheim (1890s), the founder of modern Functionalism, the first role of education was to create a sense of social solidarity which in turn promoted value consensus.

EXPLANATION : Social Solidarity is where the individual members of society feel themselves to be a part of a single ‘body’ or community and work together towards shared goals. According to Durkhiem schools achieved social solidarity through children learning subjects such as history and English which gave them a shared sense of national identity, which in turn promoted value consensus, or agreement on shared values at the societal level.

Analysis: Durkheim thought schools were one of the few institutions which could promote solidarity at a national level – he may have a point. It is difficult to imagine any other institution which governments could use to socialise individuals in to a sense of national identity.

Evaluation: To evaluate this point, there do seem to be examples of where schools attempt to promote a sense of social solidarity. Writing in the 1950s, Talcott Parsons pointed to how, in American schools, children pledge allegiance to the flag; while today British schools and colleges are obliged to promote ‘British Values’ (woohoo!)

However, it is debatable whether schools are successful in instilling a genuine sense of social solidarity into most, let alone all students. A minority of students are excluded from schools, and around 5% are persistent absentees – if students are not in mainstream education, then schools cannot promote a sense of belonging; while for those students who are at school, many are there ‘in body, but not necessarily in spirit. Finally there is the fact there is such a huge diversity of schools (faith schools, private schools, home education) that surely education is too fragmented and divided for it to promote true solidarity at the national level – to the extent that postmodernists suggested there is no such thing as a unified culture anymore.

Education teaches Skills for Work

POINT 2: A second function of education, again according to Durkhiem, is that schools teach individuals the specialist skills for work, which is crucial in a complex, modern industrial economy. (Schools thus have an important economic function).

Durkhiem argued that school was an efficient way of teaching individuals these diverse skills while at the same time teaching them to co-operate with each-other – schools thus instilled a sense of organic solidarity, or solidarity based on difference and interdependency, with school being one of the only institutions which could do both of these functions simultaneously within the context of a national economy.

The idea that schools have an economic function certainly seems to be true – basic literacy and numeracy are certainly important for any job today, and ever since the New Right, Vocational education has expanded, right up to the present day in the form of Modern Apprenticeships, and today. There is also a relationship between government expenditure on education and economic growth – more developed countries tend to have stronger economies.

However, it is debatable whether schools prepare children adequately for work – for example, there is a shortage of STEM graduates, and many doctors come to Britain from abroad, so maybe the education system today focuses on the wrong subjects, not the subjects the economy actually needs to grow effectively? There is also a Postmodern critique from Ken Robinson that suggests that ‘schools kill creativity’ – a system obsessed with standardised testing hardly prepares people to go into the creative industries or become entrepreneurs, both of which are growth areas in the current UK economy.

More to follow…!

Short version of this essay

  • Point – Simply state something Functionalists say about education
  • Explain – Explain what is meant by the ‘Function’ of education mentioned previously
  • Expand – this could mean giving examples, evidence, or explaining in more depth
  • Criticise – criticise with evidence against or limitations

(P1) Secondary Socialisation and Value consensus       

  • The teaching of norms and values after the family – leading to agreement around these norms and values
  • Formal Curriculum – Shared history/ Shared language/ Shared religion
  • Team sports – working together shared aim
  • Ethnocentric Curriculum
  • Sub cultures
  • More school types – more diversity, surely = less value consensus?

(P2) Teaching skills for work – economic function          

  • Diverse subjects,
  • Punctuality
  • Vocationalism and apprenticeships have expanded
  • Are apprenticeships useful?
  • Tea servers

(P3) Bridge between home and school  

  • School prepares us for the world outside the family – it acts like a society in miniature
  • Particularistic/ Universalistic Standards
  • Doesn’t apply to everyone – Home schooling

R(P4) Role Allocation  

  • Different qualifications sift people into appropriate jobs
  • Does this through exams – sifting and sorting
  • Meritocracy (since 1944)
  • Marxism – not meritocratic – myth of meritocracy,
  • Private schools
  • Feminism – gender stereotyping and subject choice

Evaluate using other perspectives –

  • Marxism – Agrees with Functionalists that school socialises us into shared values, but these values are the values benefit the ruling class (we get taught that inequality is natural and inevitable, we believe in the myth of meritocracy and so end up passively accepting society as it is.
  • Feminism – Functionalism ignores the gender divide in school
  • Interactionism – Argues Functionalism is too deterministic – it sees individuals as passive, but there is a lot more evidence that pupils are active and aren’t just moulded by the school system

Conclusion – You must point out that this perspective is too optimistic and overgeneralises!

This essay plan is based on these class notes on the Functionalist perspective on education .

For more essays, please see my main post on exam advice, short answer questions and essays .

Evaluate the Functionalist Perspective on the Role of Education in Society (30)

Assess the view that poor countries will always remain poor (20).

An essay plan including Modernisation and Dependency Theory, Neoliberalism and World System’s Theory, Bottom Billion and Neo-Modernisation theory, as well as contemporary trends such as war and conflict and environmental decline and case studies such as India, China, Afghanistan and Haiti.

The view in the question is most closely associated with Dependency Theory which argued that poor countries would remain poor due to their exploitation through colonialism and then neo-colonialism.

However, the historical record of the last 200 years of industrial development clearly shows that the above view is overstated: most poor countries, including many ex-colonies, have got wealthier, and have done so through a number of different strategies. However, it is also true that despite enormous increases in wealth globally, many countries remain trapped in poverty.

In order to address the question above I will do the following:

Firstly I will review the various theories of development which have pointed to a number of different causes of and related solutions to poverty in order to demonstrate the overwhelming historical evidence against the view in the question.

Secondly , I will discuss how emergent global problems such as the spread of war, conflict and terrorism, increasing consumption and environmental decline could mean that those countries which today are still poor today might well remain poor in the future.

Numerous theories of development have pointed to a number of causal factors related to poverty – according to these theories if certain things happen then poor countries are likely to remain poor…

  • Modernisation Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of their traditional values
  • Dependency Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of the legacy of colonialism and neocolonialism
  • World Systems Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of trade rules established by the WTO which works on behalf of rich countries and TNCs.
  • Neoliberalism – Poor countries remain poor because of too much Official
  • Development Aid and Corrupt governments
  • People Centered Development – The question of whether poor countries are economically poor is irrelevant – there are many different paths to development and many different ways of measuring development
  • Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion Theory – Poor countries remain poor because of Four traps – Poor governance, ethnic conflict, the resource curse and being landlocked with poor neighbours
  • Hans Rosling and Jeffry Sachs – Poor countries remain poor because of the poverty trap and lack of Official Development aid from the west

Conversely, if certain things happen, then poor countries will not necessarily remain poor. Countries will develop if….

  • (MT) Poor countries need to learn from the West, industrialise and progress through the five stages of growth
  • (DT) Poor countries need to break free from Western Capitalism and isolate themselves through socialist models of development
  • (WST) They position themselves as semi-periphery countries, manufacturing goods rather than exporting raw materials – e.g. The Philippines/India/ China
  • (NL) Poor countries need to open up their markets through deregulation, privatisation and low taxation – e.g. Chile
  • (PCD) There are diverse paths to development but all of them should respect the principles of equality, democracy and sustainability.
  • (BB) We need a Marshal Aid plan for the Bottom Billion, countries need to sort out poor governance and we need fairer trade rules
  • (Hans and Jeff) We still need massive aid injections, which need to be targeted initially on improving health, but also on women’s rights and education.

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will remain poor 

  • War and Conflict/ Terrorism
  • Higher rates of consumption as countries develop
  • Environmental challenges and the lack of global agreements on climate change Increase Military Expenditure
  • The increasing power of TNCs and lack of fair trade rules
  • The lack of commitment to giving official development aid by rich nations
  • Iraq/ Syria
  • Afghanistan

Case studies and global trends information which suggests poor countries will continue to develop

  • The lowering of birth rates
  • The increasing number of children in school
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The UN’s sustainable development goals
  • Continued Economic growth globally

Conclusion and Analytical Points – Using the evidence above BUILD a conclusion

From the above evidence it is clear that not all countries have remained poor….

The most applicable theory which helps us explain underdevelopment today is ____________________ and following this theory poor countries are most likely to develop if….

However, some of the challenges in the world today suggest that some underdeveloped countries might remain poor in the future. For example…

On balance I feel that that while all countries will probably not remain poor (delete as appropriate) (1) the majority of poor countries will remain poor and only a few will develop / (2)  most developing countries will develop but a few are likely to remain poor/  (3) add in an alternative closing sentence of your choice…

Global Development Revision Notes

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my  Global Development Revision Notes –

Global Development Notes Cover

  • Globalisation
  • Defining and measuring development
  • Theories of development (Modernisation Theory etc)
  • Aid, trade and development
  • The role of organisations in development (TNCs etc)
  • Industrialisation, urbanisation and development
  • Employment, education and health as aspects of development
  • Gender and development
  • War, conflict and development
  • Population growth and consumption
  • The environment and sustainable development

Assess the View that the Family has Become More Child Centred (20)

An essay plan for one possible question on the families and households exam paper (AQA, SCLY2).

The March of Progress view argues the family has become more child centred. Evidence for this is that there are more social policies protecting children. Parents also spend more time with and more money their children today.

Evidence against this view includes the rise of toxic childhood and Postman’s theory that childhood is disappearing.

Child Centred Essay Plan.png

The essay plan below has been written to help students revising for the families and households topic within A-level sociology.

The family is more child centred: arguments and evidence for

The view in the question is associated with the ‘ March of Progress view’ of childhood – that society and the family have both become more child centred.

  • Point 1 – Child welfare policies protect children in the family – Laws prevent them from working, children MUST go to school, children have rights, social services can intervene if necessary. Evaluation – It is possible to interpret these laws as preventing the family from being more child centred – e.g. compulsory schooling.
  • Point 2 – Adults have fewer children – This enables them to spend more time with each child. The amount time parents spend with children has increased in recent decades. Evaluation – This is not true for all families – Many parents, especially fathers work long hours and cannot see their children.
  • Point 3 – Parents spend more time with their children. Analysis – Sociologists such as Furedi suggest this is a negative side of the ‘child centred’ family – Helicopter parents, cotton wool kids who are dependent and anxious – resulting in Kidults.
  • Point 4 – Parents spend more money on their children. Evaluate using  inequalities/ Marxism.

Arguments and evidence against the view that the family is more child centred

  • Point 1 – Sue Palmer argues that the family isn’t child centred because of toxic childhood . This is where rapid social and technological changes have led to children being harmed – e.g. fast food/ computer games/ long hours worked by parents.
  • Point 2 – Neil Postman argues that childhood is disappearing .
  • Point 3 – Conflict theorists point out there is a ‘dark side’ of family life for some children.
  • Point 4 – Higher rates of divorce suggest the family is not child centred.
  • Point 5 – Changing roles for women suggests women are less focussed on their children. Evaluation – The New Right would suggest this is a negative development, but Feminists argue that this means positive role models for girls growing up with working mothers 

While parents and society like to think of the family as being more child centred, and where this is the case, it is not at all clear that this is a good thing. Moreover, there is considerable evidence that this is not the case – Changing women’s roles, new technologies, government polices all seem to work against child centredness. The view in the question is far from the last word on this topic.

A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my  AS Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle  which contains the following:

Families Revision Bundle Cover

  • 50 pages of revision notes covering all of the sub-topics within families and households
  • mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering perspectives on the family
  • short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers – 3 examples of the 10 mark, ‘outline and explain’ question.
  • 9 essays/ essay plans spanning all the topics within the families and households topic.

For more advice on exams and essay writing see my page on essay writing and exam advice !

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Evaluate the View that the Main Aim of the Family is to Meet the Needs of Capitalism (20)

Families marxism essay cover

Engels argues that the nuclear family emerged as a direct result of capitalism. Primitive communism is the name given to society before capitalism had emerged. There was no private property and no family as such. Instead Engels called groups or tribes “the promiscuous horde” with no restrictions on sexual relationships. The introduction of capitalism meant that the wealthy wanted to secure control of the means of production. This brought around the monogamous nuclear family, as rich men had to ensure the paternity of their children so that they could pass down their property to legitimate heirs. This argument has been criticised by feminists who argue that this further reinforces patriarchy with women simply bearing children to provide men with legitimate heirs.

Functionalists however would dispute this view of the emergence of the nuclear family arguing instead that it came about in response to the demand of post-industrial society. Parsons functional fit theory explains how the family has evolved in keeping with the needs of society at that time. In post-industrial society when families farmed the land, they were typically extended, however after the industrial revolution the nuclear family emerged, creating a mobile workforce who could easily relocate to wherever work was available in the factories. This view has been criticised by Laslett who has argued that church records demonstrate that the extended family was already in decline and the nuclear family more popular even before the revolution, therefore cannot be seen as a direct response.

Marxists argued that the family can be seen as an ideological apparatus, helping to enforce a set of beliefs and values which ultimately benefit capitalism. For example children are bought up with a parental figure that they are taught to obey. This teaches them discipline, which will benefit their bosses when they join the workforce, but also teaches them about hierarchy and that inequality is inevitable making them less likely to question their position as an exploited proletariat when they go out to work, again benefitting capitalism. Again feminists have criticised this argument, due to the fact that children are socialised into the idea that the people in charge or at the top of the hierarchy are usually men again demonstrating that children are being socialised into gender specific roles in a patriarchal society.

Functionalists argue that rather than being an ideological apparatus spreading the ideas and values of capitalism, families benefit society as a whole through the function of primary socialisation. Functionalists argue that the family socialises children into the acceptable norms and values of society and ensures that order is maintained and deviance reduced. Marxists would challenge this view arguing that society is made up of two opposing groups, with a conflict of interests, therefore they would not interpret the family as having a positive role, or society’s agreeing on a set of shared norms and values.

Finally, Marxists argue that the family acts as a unit of consumption. The proletariat are exploited for their labour making consumer goods in factories which are then sold to them at a higher price than they were paid to produce them. Marxists argue that the family generates profits by targeting advertising at children who then use their ‘pester power’ to get goods bought by their parents. We also have a culture of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s where we consume the latest consumer products, again benefiting capitalism by lining the pockets of the bourgeoisie. However the Marxist perspective only views there being two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Some commentators would argue that recently we have seen an emergence of an underclass who despite demonstrating a culture of unemployment, can still buy consumer goods without having to be exploited for their labour.

In conclusion the Marxist perspective has a number of compelling arguments as to how the family may serve the needs of capitalism; however it is unclear whether this argument is valid, especially in today’s diverse and rapidly changing society with a growing service sector and emergence of an underclass. Other perspectives such as feminism argue that the family does not serve the needs of capitalism, instead the needs of men, whereas functionalists focus on the positive functions of the family. Undeniably the family does hold benefits for its members by creating a supportive and loving environment for members, therefore to see it as purely benefiting capitalism would be short-sighted.

For a more accessible version of this plan, you might like to buy my AS Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle where you’ll find a completed template like the one above…

Families Revision Bundle Cover

  •  9 essays/ essay plans spanning all the topics within the families and households topic.

Related Posts

The Marxist Perspective on the Family

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Hundreds of Jan. 6 Prosecutions—Including Donald Trump’s—Are Suddenly in Peril at the Supreme Court

Will the Supreme Court jeopardize the prosecution of more than 350 defendants involved with Jan. 6, including Donald Trump, by gutting the federal statute that prohibits their unlawful conduct? Maybe so. Tuesday’s oral arguments in Fischer v. United States were rough sledding for the government, as the conservative justices lined up to thwap Joe Biden’s Department of Justice for allegedly overreaching in its pursuit of Jan. 6 convictions. Six members of the court took turns wringing their hands over the application of a criminal obstruction law to the rioters, fretting that they faced overly harsh penalties for participating in the violent attack. Unmentioned but lurking in the background was Trump himself, who can wriggle out of two major charges against him with a favorable decision in this case.

There are, no doubt, too many criminal laws whose vague wording gives prosecutors near-limitless leeway to threaten citizens with decades in prison. But this isn’t one of them. Congress wrote a perfectly legible law and the overwhelming majority of judges have had no trouble applying it. It would be all too telling if the Supreme Court decides to pretend the statute is somehow too sweeping or jumbled to use as a tool of accountability for Jan. 6.

Start with the obstruction law itself, known as Section 1552(c), which Congress enacted to close loopholes that Enron exploited to impede probes into its misconduct . The provision is remarkably straightforward—a far cry from the ambiguous, sloppy, or muddled laws that typically flummox the judiciary. It’s a mainstay of the Department of Justice’s “Capitol siege” prosecutions, deployed in about a quarter of all cases. Overall, 350 people face charges under this statute, Trump among them , and the DOJ has used it to secure the convictions of about 150 rioters . It targets anyone who “corruptly … obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” And it clarifies that an official proceeding includes “a proceeding before the Congress.”

The government argues that some rioters attempted to “obstruct” an “official proceeding” by halting the count of electoral votes through “corrupt” means. That includes Joseph Fischer, the defendant in the current case. Fischer, who served as a police officer before Jan. 6, allegedly texted that the protest “might get violent”; that “they should storm the capital and drag all the democrates [sic] into the street and have a mob trial”; and that protesters should “take democratic congress to the gallows,” because they “can’t vote if they can’t breathe..lol.” Video evidence shows Fischer assaulting multiple police officers on the afternoon of Jan. 6 after breaching the Capitol.

Would anyone seriously argue that this person did not attempt to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding? For a time, it seemed not: 14 of the 15 federal judges—all but Judge Carl Nichols in this case—considering the charge in various Jan. 6 cases agreed that it applied to violent rioters bent on stopping the electoral count. So did every judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit except one, Judge Gregory Katsas. Both Nichols and Katsas were appointed by Trump. Their crusade to kneecap the law caught SCOTUS’ attention, and the court decided to intervene despite overwhelming consensus among lower court judges. The Supreme Court’s decision will have major implications for Trump: Two of the four charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith in the former president’s Jan. 6 prosecution revolve around this offense. A ruling that eviscerates the obstruction law would arguably cut out the heart of the indictment.

At least three justices seem ready to do just that. Justice Clarence Thomas—back on the bench after yesterday’s unexplained absence —grilled Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar over the law’s application to Jan. 6. “There have been many violent protests that have interfered with proceedings. Has the government applied this provision to other protests in the past?” Thomas asked, as if to nail the Justice Department for inconsistency and reveal some improper motive for wielding the law against violent insurrectionists. Justice Neil Gorsuch trolled Prelogar by alluding to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s infamous fire alarm incident . “Would pulling a fire alarm before a vote qualify for 20 years in federal prison?” he asked. Justice Samuel Alito joined in to ask about “protests in the courtroom” when an audience member interrupts the justices and “delays the proceeding for five minutes.”

“For all the protests that have occurred in this court,” Alito noted pointedly, “the Justice Department has not charged any serious offenses, and I don’t think any one of those protestors has been sentenced to even one day in prison.” Why, he wondered, weren’t they charged under the obstruction statute?

Alito, audibly angry, continued: “Yesterday protestors blocked the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and disrupted traffic in San Francisco,” he told Prelogar. “What if something similar to that happened all around the Capitol so … all the bridges from Virginia were blocked, and members from Virginia who needed to appear at a hearing couldn’t get there or were delayed in getting there? Would that be a violation of this provision?”

To be clear, this is trolling: There is simply no comparison between a violent attack on the Capitol and protests that take the form of civil disobedience. And these justices expressed no similar concern about an ongoing red-state effort to persecute peaceful protesters who participate in Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Gorsuch and Alito’s hypotheticals ignore the reality that there are two layers of protection between minor protests and this rather major law. First, the Constitution affords prosecutorial discretion to the executive branch, allowing the Department of Justice to decide when an illegal “protest” is dangerous enough to warrant the use of a criminal law like the obstruction statute. Second, prosecutors must always prove the alleged offense to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, creating a democratic check on the abusive use of a stringent law to punish a silly crime.

Prelogar highlighted this latter point, explaining that juries have indeed acquitted Jan. 6 defendants of obstruction. If prosecutors ever apply this (or any other) criminal statute to a questionable set of facts, they may always be thwarted by a jury. That is how the system is meant to work.

This kind of behavior from Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito is no surprise at this point. And the liberal justices countered them as best they could. What’s troubling is that the other conservative justices jumped in to join the pile-on. Chief Justice John Roberts insistently pressed Prelogar to prove that the Justice Department has interpreted and enforced the obstruction law consistently in the past. This question ignored the fact that, as Prelogar reminded the court, there has never been any crime like the assault on the Capitol , so the agency had no prior opportunity to apply the law in any similar way.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that the Justice Department didn’t really need this statute because it has other laws at its disposal. “There are six other counts in the indictment here,” he told Prelogar. Why “aren’t those six counts good enough just from the Justice Department’s perspective given that they don’t have any of the hurdles?” Of course, the DOJ brought the obstruction charge specifically because it was more serious than the others; prosecutors felt an obligation to enforce Congress’ strong protections against intrusions on official proceedings, including those in the Capitol. Kavanaugh appears to think the DOJ should have settled for a smattering of lesser charges. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was not so obtuse; she earnestly worried that the statute was too broad and fished around for narrowing constructions. Yet she seemed unsatisfied with the many options Prelogar provided to keep the law limited to the most egregious interruptions of government business.

What all six justices seemed tempted to do was rip up Section 1552(c) because it happens to include another sentence that applies to the destruction of evidence and other official documents. Jan. 6 rioters didn’t destroy evidence, this argument goes, so they can’t be culpable under a law. That reading is untenable , something Prelogar impressively reinforced at every turn on Tuesday, but it may be attractive if a majority wants to defuse this statute before it’s used against Trump in a court of law.

Smith’s indictment of the former president for his participation in Jan. 6 doesn’t entirely hinge on obstruction. It does, however, weave obstruction into both the facts and the legal theory of the case, placing it at the center of a broader criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. If SCOTUS defuses the law now, Smith would have to scrap two of four charges and restructure the entire indictment, making it that much easier for Trump to demand further delay and, eventually, evade a conviction.

The justices know this. They should have been on their best behavior on Tuesday to avoid any glimmer of impropriety. It was already profoundly disturbing that Thomas sat on the case given his wife’s involvement with the attempt to overturn the election. The other justices’ faux concern about overcriminalization of protesters only added to the foul smell emanating from arguments. There’s no telling how Fischer will turn out; maybe the liberal justices will help their colleagues rediscover their better angels behind the scenes. From Tuesday’s vantage point, though, the argument was a bleak reminder of how easy it is for cloistered jurists to wish away the massive stakes of a case like this.

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NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism

David Folkenflik 2018 square

David Folkenflik

how to plan sociology essay

NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument. Uri Berliner hide caption

NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument.

NPR has formally punished Uri Berliner, the senior editor who publicly argued a week ago that the network had "lost America's trust" by approaching news stories with a rigidly progressive mindset.

Berliner's five-day suspension without pay, which began last Friday, has not been previously reported.

Yet the public radio network is grappling in other ways with the fallout from Berliner's essay for the online news site The Free Press . It angered many of his colleagues, led NPR leaders to announce monthly internal reviews of the network's coverage, and gave fresh ammunition to conservative and partisan Republican critics of NPR, including former President Donald Trump.

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo is among those now targeting NPR's new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the network. Among others, those posts include a 2020 tweet that called Trump racist and another that appeared to minimize rioting during social justice protests that year. Maher took the job at NPR last month — her first at a news organization .

In a statement Monday about the messages she had posted, Maher praised the integrity of NPR's journalists and underscored the independence of their reporting.

"In America everyone is entitled to free speech as a private citizen," she said. "What matters is NPR's work and my commitment as its CEO: public service, editorial independence, and the mission to serve all of the American public. NPR is independent, beholden to no party, and without commercial interests."

The network noted that "the CEO is not involved in editorial decisions."

In an interview with me later on Monday, Berliner said the social media posts demonstrated Maher was all but incapable of being the person best poised to direct the organization.

"We're looking for a leader right now who's going to be unifying and bring more people into the tent and have a broader perspective on, sort of, what America is all about," Berliner said. "And this seems to be the opposite of that."

how to plan sociology essay

Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month. Stephen Voss/Stephen Voss hide caption

Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month.

He said that he tried repeatedly to make his concerns over NPR's coverage known to news leaders and to Maher's predecessor as chief executive before publishing his essay.

Berliner has singled out coverage of several issues dominating the 2020s for criticism, including trans rights, the Israel-Hamas war and COVID. Berliner says he sees the same problems at other news organizations, but argues NPR, as a mission-driven institution, has a greater obligation to fairness.

"I love NPR and feel it's a national trust," Berliner says. "We have great journalists here. If they shed their opinions and did the great journalism they're capable of, this would be a much more interesting and fulfilling organization for our listeners."

A "final warning"

The circumstances surrounding the interview were singular.

Berliner provided me with a copy of the formal rebuke to review. NPR did not confirm or comment upon his suspension for this article.

In presenting Berliner's suspension Thursday afternoon, the organization told the editor he had failed to secure its approval for outside work for other news outlets, as is required of NPR journalists. It called the letter a "final warning," saying Berliner would be fired if he violated NPR's policy again. Berliner is a dues-paying member of NPR's newsroom union but says he is not appealing the punishment.

The Free Press is a site that has become a haven for journalists who believe that mainstream media outlets have become too liberal. In addition to his essay, Berliner appeared in an episode of its podcast Honestly with Bari Weiss.

A few hours after the essay appeared online, NPR chief business editor Pallavi Gogoi reminded Berliner of the requirement that he secure approval before appearing in outside press, according to a copy of the note provided by Berliner.

In its formal rebuke, NPR did not cite Berliner's appearance on Chris Cuomo's NewsNation program last Tuesday night, for which NPR gave him the green light. (NPR's chief communications officer told Berliner to focus on his own experience and not share proprietary information.) The NPR letter also did not cite his remarks to The New York Times , which ran its article mid-afternoon Thursday, shortly before the reprimand was sent. Berliner says he did not seek approval before talking with the Times .

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

Berliner says he did not get permission from NPR to speak with me for this story but that he was not worried about the consequences: "Talking to an NPR journalist and being fired for that would be extraordinary, I think."

Berliner is a member of NPR's business desk, as am I, and he has helped to edit many of my stories. He had no involvement in the preparation of this article and did not see it before it was posted publicly.

In rebuking Berliner, NPR said he had also publicly released proprietary information about audience demographics, which it considers confidential. He said those figures "were essentially marketing material. If they had been really good, they probably would have distributed them and sent them out to the world."

Feelings of anger and betrayal inside the newsroom

His essay and subsequent public remarks stirred deep anger and dismay within NPR. Colleagues contend Berliner cherry-picked examples to fit his arguments and challenge the accuracy of his accounts. They also note he did not seek comment from the journalists involved in the work he cited.

Morning Edition host Michel Martin told me some colleagues at the network share Berliner's concerns that coverage is frequently presented through an ideological or idealistic prism that can alienate listeners.

"The way to address that is through training and mentorship," says Martin, herself a veteran of nearly two decades at the network who has also reported for The Wall Street Journal and ABC News. "It's not by blowing the place up, by trashing your colleagues, in full view of people who don't really care about it anyway."

Several NPR journalists told me they are no longer willing to work with Berliner as they no longer have confidence that he will keep private their internal musings about stories as they work through coverage.

"Newsrooms run on trust," NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben tweeted last week, without mentioning Berliner by name. "If you violate everyone's trust by going to another outlet and sh--ing on your colleagues (while doing a bad job journalistically, for that matter), I don't know how you do your job now."

Berliner rejected that critique, saying nothing in his essay or subsequent remarks betrayed private observations or arguments about coverage.

Other newsrooms are also grappling with questions over news judgment and confidentiality. On Monday, New York Times Executive Editor Joseph Kahn announced to his staff that the newspaper's inquiry into who leaked internal dissent over a planned episode of its podcast The Daily to another news outlet proved inconclusive. The episode was to focus on a December report on the use of sexual assault as part of the Hamas attack on Israel in October. Audio staffers aired doubts over how well the reporting stood up to scrutiny.

"We work together with trust and collegiality everyday on everything we produce, and I have every expectation that this incident will prove to be a singular exception to an important rule," Kahn wrote to Times staffers.

At NPR, some of Berliner's colleagues have weighed in online against his claim that the network has focused on diversifying its workforce without a concomitant commitment to diversity of viewpoint. Recently retired Chief Executive John Lansing has referred to this pursuit of diversity within NPR's workforce as its " North Star ," a moral imperative and chief business strategy.

In his essay, Berliner tagged the strategy as a failure, citing the drop in NPR's broadcast audiences and its struggle to attract more Black and Latino listeners in particular.

"During most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding," Berliner writes. "In recent years, however, that has changed."

Berliner writes, "For NPR, which purports to consider all things, it's devastating both for its journalism and its business model."

NPR investigative reporter Chiara Eisner wrote in a comment for this story: "Minorities do not all think the same and do not report the same. Good reporters and editors should know that by now. It's embarrassing to me as a reporter at NPR that a senior editor here missed that point in 2024."

Some colleagues drafted a letter to Maher and NPR's chief news executive, Edith Chapin, seeking greater clarity on NPR's standards for its coverage and the behavior of its journalists — clearly pointed at Berliner.

A plan for "healthy discussion"

On Friday, CEO Maher stood up for the network's mission and the journalism, taking issue with Berliner's critique, though never mentioning him by name. Among her chief issues, she said Berliner's essay offered "a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are."

Berliner took great exception to that, saying she had denigrated him. He said that he supported diversifying NPR's workforce to look more like the U.S. population at large. She did not address that in a subsequent private exchange he shared with me for this story. (An NPR spokesperson declined further comment.)

Late Monday afternoon, Chapin announced to the newsroom that Executive Editor Eva Rodriguez would lead monthly meetings to review coverage.

"Among the questions we'll ask of ourselves each month: Did we capture the diversity of this country — racial, ethnic, religious, economic, political geographic, etc — in all of its complexity and in a way that helped listeners and readers recognize themselves and their communities?" Chapin wrote in the memo. "Did we offer coverage that helped them understand — even if just a bit better — those neighbors with whom they share little in common?"

Berliner said he welcomed the announcement but would withhold judgment until those meetings played out.

In a text for this story, Chapin said such sessions had been discussed since Lansing unified the news and programming divisions under her acting leadership last year.

"Now seemed [the] time to deliver if we were going to do it," Chapin said. "Healthy discussion is something we need more of."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Business Editor Emily Kopp and Managing Editor Gerry Holmes. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no NPR corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

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