Millennials – that generation between the ages of 19-35 – are the subject of a lot of research and study these days. Why? Because they are the becoming the largest group in the workforce and as consumers. Researchers want to understand their values, their beliefs, how they approach work, and how they make life and purchasing decisions. These researchers are sociologists.
Sociology is one of the more interesting academic disciplines. And most everyone in college is expected to take at least and introductory course during their gen ed studies. And in that course, you will be asked to write a term paper – usually on a topic of your own choosing in one of the broad content areas of the field.
You may already know how to write a term paper, but it doesn’t hurt to review the process, and here it will be done in the context of sociology. Remember, a term paper long ago was a piece written at the end of a “term” that consolidated all that you had learned in a subject. Today, a term paper is synonymous with research paper, and it is typically assigned with an end-of-semester deadline.
What Sociology is and is Not
To craft a good paper in sociology, it is pretty important to understand what this field studies. A lot of people confuse it with psychology, anthropology, or even some forms of medicine. Sociology does not study individual people (psychology), the history of mankind (anthropology), or progress toward societal disease causes, prevention and cures (medicine). Instead, it studies groups of people and behaviors of groups of people within the context of their beliefs, values, etc. Understanding this will allow you to choose a good topic as well as figure out what type of research and resources you need to use.
Choosing Your Topic
You can find best topics for sociology papers by first looking at the broad, general fields of sociology. Then, pick a field of interest and do a little preliminary research on all of the specific topics of research within that field. Find one that really piques your interest, because you will be spending a lot of time with it, and you don’t want to be bored or unmotivated.
Here are several broad areas for sociological research:
- Socio-Economic Classes and Conflicts Among them
- Youth Culture, or Cultures
- Social Movements (Feminism, LGBT Communities, e.g.)
- Family Dynamics (nuclear families, single-parent households, parenting in various societal groups, etc.)
- Mass Media
- Religions and Spirituality
- Race and Ethnicity
Within each of these broad areas, you will find lots of more specific topics which will be great for a paper. For example, within the area of socio-economic classes, writing a term paper that compares and contrasts the values and behaviors of lower class whites and blacks would be interesting. Within the topic area of youth culture, comparing and contrasting values and behaviors of preps, jocks, stoners, nerds, etc. could be pretty interesting too.
Doing the Research – Two Kinds
Research can involve studying and reviewing the research that others have completed on your topic. This is the most common type, and usually the one that undergraduate instructors want their students to conduct. You will be seeking out research studies that are most relevant and current, taking notes, and carefully tracking where each piece of information has come from (so you have what you need for citations).
Graduate students may very well design their own research projects for term papers. Usually, these involve coming up with a research question or hypothesis, reviewing the literature on the question, and then designing instruments which can be used to gather data on a specific group. The paper then becomes one of reporting on that data and analyzing the significance of it, as it relates to the topic field. A review of the current literature is always included at the beginning of the paper.
Developing a Thesis Statement
No paper must ever be written without a thesis statement. Do not confuse a thesis statement with an opinion on an issue. In fact, most term papers are pretty factual in nature, and the thesis statement should address your general conclusion from your research. For example, “Most lower class whites and black have much more in common than either group usually realizes,” would be an example of a thesis statement.
It is best to develop your thesis statement after at least some preliminary research. If you are having difficulty coming up with one, try turning your topic into a question? When you can come up with at least a preliminary answer to that question, you will have the beginnings of a thesis statement.
Your thesis statement must always come in your introduction.
Organizing Your Research
Once your research is complete, you will need to organize that information/data into categories or sub-topics. These will form the basis for your term paper outline. Do not skip this important part of the paper writing process. Having a “skeleton” of some type from which you write your paper will keep you organized and moving from one point to the next in a logical step-by-step way.
While many use the traditional term paper outline, the one using Roman numerals, letters, etc., there are other graphic organizers you can use that work just as well. If you are comparing and contrasting, for example, a Venn diagram works well. The important thing is that you have some pictorial representation of your sub-topics and the order in which you are going to cover them.
Writing Your Rough Draft
It is a good idea to skip the introduction and begin on the body of your paper. Once it is complete, you may have a better overall view and an idea for making that introduction engage the reader.
Using your organizer, write the paper, begin careful to insert the source citations for the information and any quotes you are including. Once you have finished, go back and write your introduction.
Introductions should be compelling and motivate the reader to want to read your paper. Good introductions may begin with a shocking piece of data or an anecdote - something to grab interest right away. Your thesis statement should then be presented.
Editing for the Final Version
You may end up reading your paper a few times or more in the editing process, each time looking for a different element. First, of course, you want to make sure that the ideas and points flow logically one to another. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and supporting detail. There should be good transition sentences between paragraphs and transition paragraphs between sections.
Once you feel good about the flow, you will want to go back and proofread for grammar and compositional errors. These might include sentence fragments or run-ons, errors in verb tenses or agreement, spelling and punctuation.
While your paper is a scholarly piece, it should still be an easy read. Long and complex sentences will “lose” the reader. At the very least, vary sentence length, using short simple sentences when you want to emphasize a point.
If you are able to find someone else to read your paper, all the better. They will often find mistakes that you did not.
The Right Format Style
This goes without saying. Both your in-text and end-of-text citations must be in the style required by your instructor. And given the tools students now have to generate citations, there is really no excuse.
When You Struggle
Because term papers are usually due at the end of a semester, it is possible that you will face four or five all due at the same time. It is easy to come up upon these deadlines and realize that you just do not have enough time to do the best job possible on all of them. At these times, it may be wise to use custom term paper writing help, to relieve yourself of some of the burden and keep those grades up. It’s a common practice among students and certainly nothing to be ashamed about.