Sociology: Social Problems

Sociology 1168: Social Problems

Spring 2021 (Online)

Instructor: Ilana D. Cousineau

Final Paper: Investigating Social Problems

“The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations

between the two within society. That is its task and its promise.”

C. Wright Mills (1959)

What is a social problem? How are social problems co-constructed? Which group of people is

most impacted by social inequality? What are the consequences of increasing social problems?

What role does agency and structure play in creating social problems? How do we solve social



1) Investigate one social problem in depth; pick one to focus on.

2) Explore how one problem become a social problem (Part 1).

3) Demonstrate who is most affected by this social problem (Part 2).

4) Reveal possible solutions by researching at least one group that works to solve this social

problem (Part 3).

5) Propose your own solutions to solve this social problem; both on the individual and structural

level. This is where you should connect personal to public troubles (i.e. Mills) (Part 4).

In the past, students have written about the following social problems:

1) Education; 2) Gay Marriage; 3) Health Disparities; 4) Homelessness; 5) Immigration; 6)

Juvenile Crime Justice; 7) Leadership and Gender; 8) Media and Girls; 9) Obesity; and 10)


You can refer to this Gallup Poll that surveyed people’s views towards some of the top social

problems in America to help you pick one for your paper.

Most Important Problem | Gallup Historical Trends

The topic you choose is up to you. A word of caution: it is best to pick a social problem that

allows you to demonstrate your understanding of course material and you can connect it to

something personal.


Your paper should have four parts:

1) Introduction: a short history of you social problem.

2) Describe AND explain how your social problem shapes women’s, minorities’ and lower class

people’s lives differently (if it does). You should describe how all gender, class, sexuality,

race/ethnicity, (dis)ability, etc. make a difference in who is most affected by this social problem.

Use peer-reviewed research to provide some statistics on your social problem, theorizing what

explains the patterns that you social problem creates.

3) Research in depth at least one social action group that works to solve your social problem.

Provide specifics about the group, how they come to be, their goals; how they work to solve the

social problem, why they are successful; what kind of work do they do on the micro, mesa and

macro levels, etc.

4) Propose your own critical solutions to the social problem by demonstrating your sociological


You should use peer-reviewed sociological literature throughout your paper to support

your claims, both in regards the social problem itself and in your argument about what

may or may not work in solving the social problem.

Your paper must do the following at the minimum:

1) Use at least 4-5 sociological concepts from class in the analysis of you social problem.

2) Refer to at least three different course readings class in the analysis of you social problem.

3) Include at least two outside the class peer-reviewed sociological sources in the analysis of

you social problem (in addition to the three required course readings). Please consult with a CSU

social science librarian if you are not clear on how to find peer-reviewed sources for your topic.

4) Discuss at least three assigned videos in length and how they highlight the complexity of your

social problem

5) Describe at least one group that works to solve your social problem. Provide as many details

as possible. This may be a local or a national social group.

6) Propose at least two individual and two structural solutions to solving your social problem.

Explain why you believe these solutions may work. What can you do yourself?

The goal of these papers is to demonstrate your understanding of how agency and structure

work together to shape human experience. Your paper must show me you know what

structure and agency means for solving your social problem.


1) Include your name, course name AND paper title

2) Use Times New Roman 12 points or less, 1 point margin

3) The paper should be 4-6 pages (double-spaced) in length, not including references. It can be

longer, if you need the extra space.

4) The paper should include both in-text references and a separate bibliography. You must use

ASA style citations for your references.

5) The papers must be well organized and clearly written. Please see a writing tutor if you have

any doubts. The more people that read your paper before you turn it in, the better it will be.


You are required to turn in a paper proposal before your paper is due. This will help you write a

better final draft. It will enable you to think about your paper early on and at that point, we can

address any visible issues. As this proposal is due while we are still covering course material, it

is entirely acceptable that your ideas might change by the time you turn in a draft or a final

version. The proposal is a part of your paper grade!

Your proposal should include:

1) A paragraph summary or an outline of your main points, including a sentence or two about

your social problem and a three or more sentences about how you are going to analyze it.

2) A list of at least 3 sociological concepts you may be using in the analysis of your social

problem. Be sure to say how these concepts relate to your social problem.

3) A social action group you plan to describe.

4) A list of possible references in a correct ASA format (see below).


Two parts will make-up your grade: 1) Proposal; 2) Final Paper. The proposal is worth 10 points;

and the final version is worth 40 points. Your complete paper is worth 50 points (see the

syllabus). A grading rubric will be available on CougarView separately.


When referencing or quoting from the course lectures, readings, films, research on your social

group –essentially any ideas that are not your own, please include in-text citations and a

reference list at the end of your paper.


When quoting or paraphrasing another work, you should use in-text citations following ASA

(American Sociological Association) style. In-text citations generally only use the author’s

name, year of publication, and page number (if applicable). Here are some examples:

Ex: Demantas 2020) defined socialization as…

Ex: Understanding media as a gendered institution (Ferris and Stein 2018), my analysis will

focus on….

Ex: As I reflect on this experience, it becomes clear to me how what I wear reflects gendered

norms of society (Wade 2019)

Whenever you are quoting, you MUST include a page number in parenthesis; for paraphrasing,

you only need to put the year.

This link will give you more information about in-text citing, following ASA style:

Reference List:

Sources for citations should appear in a reference list at the end of the paper. References should

include author’s name (if available), year of publication (if available), title, and source. This link

will give you more information about formatting a reference list, following ASA style:


You will submit your paper electronically only, using CougarView’s anti-plagiarism

TurnitIn submission process. To submit via Cougarview, go to our CougarView site, click on

Week 6 Module, and select the Final Paper Proposal, follow the submission prompts. Please

contact me immediately, if you encounter any submission problems. Under no circumstances

will I accept a late paper.


March 05: Paper proposal is due via CougarView

April 16: Final draft is due on Cougarview by 11:59 PM.


It is very important that you do not commit any kind of Academic Misconduct in the

writing of your paper; doing so will result in disciplinary action. To learn more about what

constitutes Academic Misconduct, as well as CSU’s Rules and Regulations regarding

Academic Misconduct, please read below. Plagiarism is a form of Academic Misconduct.

Student Responsibilities and Rights – Columbus State University