Assignment 2: Develop Research Question and Literature Review
Due Date: Friday, April 30 by 11:59p
This assignment is to write a 6-8 page library research paper on a suitable sociological topic drawing on a minimum of five
sociological articles from the library (see the list of acceptable sources at the end of the description of this assignment). You
are strongly encouraged to obtain approval from your TA on your research topic and ask for advice on narrowing your topic
into a research question.
What is Sociological Literature?
You are allowed to use books in addition to articles, but please notice that part of the requirement is that you also use a
minimum of seven articles from the library. Here you are limited to scholarly sociological articles. Examples of appropriate
sociological outlets are included at the end of this assignment description.
Writing the paper
What to do:
* Include an introduction to the paper that includes your research question. (Please be sure that your research question
is one that can be answered AND can be answered using surveys.
* For a well-organized paper, use an outline before you write to list the main topics/themes the paper will cover.
* Write a paper that is between 6 and 8 pages, and no more than 10 pages.
* Properly cite all sources and include a “reference” section at the end of the paper. (If you’re not sure how to format
your citations and references, you can check out the citation guide on Gauchospace.)
* Your paper should be double-spaced with 1-1.25 inch margins and a readable font.
* USE SPELL CHECK and then read your paper out loud to catch any typos or words that spell check did not identify.
Grammar and spelling matter. Good writing often distinguishes a truly good paper from one that is not so good.
* Give your paper a title. Notice the titles on the articles you read, try to be creative and use your sources as examples
of good titles. Sometimes it is easier to write the title when you are done with the paper.
* Staple your paper before class.
* Put your name and the date on your paper. There is no need for your perm number or any additional information.
What not to do:
* Do not write the paper as one article summary followed by the next article summary. This assignment is a literature
review, not an annotated bibliography.
* Do not plagiarize.
What is my research topic and question?
Finding a research topic and focusing in on a research question are two of the most difficult parts of writing a research paper
for any class. Remember that this is not the biggest decision you will ever make and focus on finding a topic that interests you
and that has been previously studied so that you are able to find sources for the paper somewhat easily. You may even begin
with a large research area and use the library search engines to help you narrow your focus.
Remember by the time you write your paper you should have a focused RESEARCH QUESTION: a question you would like
to answer through reading sociological literature on a topic. Examples of research questions include:
o How do abstinence only programs affect sexually transmitted infection rates among adolescents?
o How does military service influence post-service earnings among veterans?
o How do families cope with the diagnosis of mental illness?
Below are some helpful hints for coming up with a research question:
* Think about your favorite sociology elective course. Begin with that general area. For example, if Criminal Justice
was your favorite course, think about doing a paper in that general area. Or, if Sociology of Families was your favorite
course, think about doing a paper in that general area. Of course, that is still much too broad for a paper topic.
* Look at the syllabus from that course, if you still have it, and pick the topic of the week that was most interesting to
you. Did you most enjoying learning about juvenile delinquency? Property crimes? Socialization? Marriage? Divorce?
You have now narrowed your topic bit, but you still have pretty far to go (try looking up juvenile delinquency or
divorce and you will find thousands of articles and books).
* Now think about what dimensions of the topic are most interesting to you. Are there any unanswered questions you
have about this topic?
* One way to further refine your topic is to think about whether you are most interested in causes, processes, or
consequences. Even making this decision probably will not narrow the topic enough, but it will certainly help. For
example, if you are interested in consequences of divorce, focus on what you are thinking about. Are you thinking
about children, men, women, extended family? Are you thinking about emotional consequences or economic ones?
Or some other kind of consequence? Using the juvenile delinquency example, are you interested in understanding the
causes of juvenile delinquency? Long-term effects on educational or occupational success? Gender differences in
types of juvenile delinquency? Asking yourself questions is a great way to focus as you think.
* When you begin to settle in on a research question, you should consider whether this is a topic that can be researched
– in the 21st century and with survey methods.
* Finally, all this should have gotten you to a main topic that can often easily be turned into a research question. Using
my example above, I could come up with the following research question: “What are the economic consequences of
divorce for children?” Or, “What are the effects of academic success on juvenile delinquency?” This research question
is narrow enough that I should only have a few hundred articles to sift through rather than a few thousand, but broad
enough that there is plenty to fill up five pages.
* Good luck! Feel free to come to my office hours or your TA’s office hours for help with your topics and research
For your literature review, you should rely primarily on scholarly journal articles. The best way to find them is to use what is
known as an ‘article database.’ (My personal favorite is Web of Science which you can link to through the library’s webpage.)
The following are some examples of well-known sociology journals. It is not an exhaustive list but should be good examples of
the kind of literature you should be utilizing in your research papers. (Oh, and Wikipedia – not a source you should be using.
Webster’s dictionary shouldn’t be used either.) If you’re ever unsure, just drop one of us an email.
American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Criminology, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Journal of
Family Issues, Journal of Adolescence, Social Psychology Quarterly, Social Forces, Sociological Perspectives, Gender and
Society, Sex Roles, Gender Issues, Social Science Research, Sociological Focus, Sociological Forum, Sociological Quarterly,
Annual Review of Sociology, Social Problems, Sociology of Sport Journal, Youth and Society, Work and Occupations, Journal
of Health and Social Behavior, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Social Psychology Quarterly etc.
If you need an example of what an academic literature review looks like, please refer to the examples provided for Assignment
Here is the grading rubric that will be used to grade the assignment:
Coverage of Topic
Topic is adequately covered. Student has addressed all parts of the
Clarity of Ideas
Ideas within the paper are presented clearly; they are easily understood by the
reader. Paragraphs are organized in a logical and straightforward manner.
Quality of Research Question
Student has developed a quality research question. It is relevant, manageable,
clearly identifies concepts, simple, and interesting.
Use of Appropriate Literature
Student has utilized appropriate scholarly literature.
The paper has few (if any) grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.
Sentences are complete and paragraphs are of an appropriate length.
Materials are appropriately referenced and cited.
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