Affirmative Action

SOCIOL 714                                                                                                


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Seminar paper

a critical review of the literature


The goal of this seminar paper is to review, synthesize, and critically assess the literature on any topic within the subfields of political sociology and social movements. This is your chance to learn deeply about a topic of your own choosing within political sociology/social movements.


The paper is to be organized as a directed literature review, with themesthat group works together identified by subheadings, with plausible explanations for how the various articles and books fit undereach theme. I recommend 3-4 themes for the paper, but it is flexible. A critical reflection section should similarly be noted by a subheading. Please note that the use of the term “critical” here does not necessarily mean that your reflection must be a negative review of the field, though this is one option. Other options include a consideration of the usefulness of the review to various types of analysis or to social problems, extensions of ideas to new terrain, and so on. This paper format may be different from other papers you have completed, so please pay attention to these instructions.


To complete this paper successfully, you must find and identify key works in the field, read widely to understand a broad array of claims around a topic, synthesize this work to present major themes and areas of debate, and then read deeply within the selection of works you have chosen to present. In addition, you must critically analyze the body of work you present. You may recognize this exercise as a common practice in the social sciences; indeed this is the practice in which all empirical analyses put themselves in conversation with other works in the field, such as in the literature review section of an article or book.


There are five key steps to this assignment:


  1. Find – locate sociology books and journal articles that deal with both of these areas. These must be scholarly works of sociology. Each source should be by a different author. Textbooks and encyclopedias are not acceptable.
  2. Read – learn what sociology has to say about this intersection.
  3. Analyze – understand the key themes and questions that have been drawn by your readings.
  4. Synthesize – understand how these works fit together. Do they present different arguments? Do they build upon one another? Do they disagree with each other? Identify several themes present in the sociology literature, and use these themes to craft a picture of what sociology knows about this area. If you do not find any common threads, you need to read more articles and select a different mix of sources.
  5. Critical reflection – Consider the missing pieces that remain at the end of your research. What sorts of further study would be useful to know more? What is your overall evaluation of the sources you have analyzed?



The term paper should be between 8-10 numbered pages, using a standard, 12-point font and left-justified, 1-1.25″ margins. All paper should be double-spaced. Please edit your paper for length and proofread diligently. Papers should be error-free. ASA citation style is required.


A full first draft of this paper is due at the start of the last day of class. Bring three hard copies for the paper workshop in which groupmates will offer constructive feedback for revision. Failure to bring a full draft to class will result in a 10% reduction in the grade for this assignment. Final drafts are due via Avenue to Learn on the date specified on your syllabus.

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