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Contemporary Social Problem

In this assignment you will be asked to complete five tasks: 1) write a short paragraph (~ 100 words) that identifies a contemporary social problem you wish to analyze, and why you find this to be an important issue; 2) write a short paragraph (~100 words) that identifies a causal event you are interested in analyzing and explains its pertinence to the social problem you have chosen; 3) formulate a research question; 4) write a short paragraph (~100 words) that identifies the case you will be using and why you have chosen that case; and 5) identify five academic sources you will use for your research.

DESCRIPTION OF THE TASKS

1. Identify a contemporary social problem.

The first step of this assignment is to identify a contemporary social problem you are interested in accounting for. In our day and age there are many potential problems to choose from, including: poverty, rapidly growing inequality, dwindling environmental resources (water, top soil, seafood, forestry, etc.), ecosystem destruction, rampant consumerism, GMO technologies, persistent gender or ethnic discrimination/inequities, unremitting war, famines, the surveillance state, boom and bust economic cycles, authoritarian regimes, rapid cultural change in the Pacific islands, and much, much more.

It does not have to be a problem related to your country, as it can be something that is currently happening in other parts of the world. Nor does it have be something that is currently taking place, as it could be an event (it could be a negative development or a positive development) that occurred some time in the past hundred years, such as the Armenian Holocaust of 1914-1918, or the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, or women’s suffrage, etc..

You clearly have many options to choose from. Moreover, what is MOST important is that you pick something you are genuinely curious about… If you manage to do that, you’ll get a lot more out of the assignment, while also enjoying it much more… If you are interested in a topic but are unsure whether it will fit the assignment, please come discuss it with me or your tutor.

2. Identify a causal event.

We would like you to identify a “modernizing” event that contributed to bringing about the social problem you are interested in. Events to choose from include: the Rise of Capitalism, Industrialization, Colonialism, the Spread of Democracy, the French Revolution, the Rise of Nationalism, Romanticism, the Enlightenment period, Renaissance Humanism, the Protestant Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution.

Again, there is much to choose from and, due to the assignment’s space restrictions (1800 words) we ask you to select only one to focus on. Moreover, here too it should be an item that resonates with you in some way. If you are finding it hard to pick from multiple options, please come see me or your tutor in office hours and we’ll help you with the decision-making process.

3. Formulate your research question.

Essentially, this consists of formulating a sentence that includes the social problem and causal event you have chosen to study. For example, if the social problem you are focusing on is the “rapid cultural change taking place in the Pacific islands”, and your causal event is “colonialism,” your question might look something like: “How did colonialism contribute to the rapid cultural change that occurred in the Pacific Islands?”

Alternatively, if the issue is the spread of woman’s political freedom and the causal event is the Protestant Reformation, your research question could look something like: “How did the Protestant Reformation contribute to women’s suffrage in Western nations?”

Formulating a clear research question will help you focus your research, strengthen the organization of your essay, and, ultimately, produce more persuasive writing.

4. Discuss your chosen case

Once you have a research question, the next step will be to find a particular case with which to shed light on your question. For example, if you were interested in the spread of women’s suffrage (i.e. their right to vote), we would want to know the specific country you will be focusing on (i.e. New Zealand, or China, or the United Kingdom, etc.). Likewise, if you are interested in rapid cultural change in the Pacific Islands, we would want to know which specific case you will focus on (i.e. Tonga, or Samoa, or Fiji, etc.). If you are interested in dwindling water resources, again, we would want you to pick a particular country.

Picking a specific case will help you further narrow the scope of your assignment, thereby also increasing the manageability. In turn, all of this should make the learning experience more enjoyable. Beyond identifying your case, we expect you to write a short paragraph (~ 100 words) that articulates why you have chosen this particular case, and why this makes a good case with which to shed light on your research question.

5. Identify five “academic sources”

Please identify at least five academic sources you will use to learn more about your topic. Please note that “required” readings from the course can NOT count as one of your five sources. However, “recommended” academic articles, books, and documentaries are fair game.

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Category: Sample Questions