SOC 346: Methods of Social Research
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Elin Waring
Role of Writing
Sociology 346 is a writing-intensive course. Writing is infused throughout the course and occurs in some form every week, not only for the sake of teaching writing, but also as a powerful way to deepen understanding of the course content. The uses of writing within SOC 346 are based on the assumption that writing--and communication in general--are essential parts of the research process and of science, starting with writing down an idea and developing a hypothesis or question, through designing data collection instruments, to communicating the results of a study.
Sociological writing is also a central part of the careers and graduate education that students will enter when leaving Lehman. In SOC 346 students write in a variety of sociological genres and work to master them so that they are able to use them in the future. These genres include essays, data collection instruments, research reports and a research proposal. In particular, the research proposal will be a semester-long thinking and writing project that is developed week by week. To be successful in this course students need to engage with writing and revision of their writing.
In this course students gain facility with the following genres or types of writing used in the practice of sociology:
- Critical analyses of sociological literature.
- Summaries and discussions of data.
- Surveys, interview guides, and other polished data collection instruments (including instructions for use, etc.).
- Research and grant proposals.
Expectations of Students in a WIM Course:
In this course students will:
- Write to present results:
The notion that a scientist is an individual working alone in a lab never talking to anyone else is wrong; those individuals are not scientists if they are not contributing to knowledge by disseminating their results. Therefore, in this course students write about research results for various professional and lay audiences.
- Write to achieve learning objectives:
Students use writing to synthesize, evaluate and analyze. For example, they summarize and critique scholarly writing, both to develop knowledge of specific course materials and to ground their own hypotheses and research questions in existing research in the field.
- Write as part of designing research:
Writing a good survey or interview guide is like writing a good essay. It requires a clear topic, organization, good technical writing and revision, revision, revision. The same can be said for a qualitative interview or focus group guide. In designing research, students will, for example: write survey questions for a uni-dimensional concept that meets professional standards, or write a sampling design using correct sampling terminology.
- Write to build writing skills:
The focus of writing in SOC 346 is not on teaching spelling and grammar, but students benefit in this regard by writing a lot and especially by revising. This is why revision is built into the assignments and research proposal. Revision helps students improve the mechanics of written work, including grammar and spelling, as well as the content of the proposal. In addition, the phased structure of the proposal writing process will teach students how to organize a large writing project and finish it in a timely fashion.
Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course:
In this course faculty will:
- Provide multiple opportunities for informal and formal writing.
- Provide opportunities to explore a number of sociological genres through reading, studying, discussion and writing.
- Provide opportunities for revision.
- Provide feedback during the revision process.
- Provide a syllabus with writing goals and objectives.
- Provide guidance about mechanics and style.
- Establish and distribute clear criteria for student evaluation.
Criteria for Assessing Student Writing
Specific criteria for assessing student writing vary according to the nature of the assignment and the stage of the writing process. Low-stakes writing, work done during labs, and longer formal writing (ranging from a survey to a research proposal) clearly have differing expectations. However there are several expectations that apply across all work:
- Conformity to the specific instructions for the writing.
- Completion of the underlying task or knowledge of underlying content, whether data collection, data analysis or reading.
- Solid mechanics in terms of organization, grammar and spelling.
Individual assignments have specific assessment criteria. For example, the final version of the research proposal is expected to be written using the language and format required by many funding agencies.