Topic Focus Sociology makes us aware of the larger social and historical forces that can impact our individual lives. What we experience in different social settings with others may be traced back to larger events, established patterns of interaction, and changes in the social structure. We can exercise our “sociological imagination” in order to understand what type of impact these larger social processes have on our individual lives. The core assessment for this course is a major essay in which you will write about how you believe your individual identity and opportunities or life chances have been shaped by your group identity (racial, ethnic, gender, religious, or sexual preference) and the established patterns of majority-minority relations in this society. You will incorporate course materials, concepts, theories, and models from this course, sources of original peer reviewed research, and demographic data to describe, explain, and analyze the processes that have shaped your group and individual identity and current status. You will also critique and evaluate the conclusions reached by theorists and authors regarding how patterns and processes shape minority-majority relations by contrasting your personal experience and evaluating both against findings from the peer-reviewed research and demographic data you locate. While it is preferable to do this paper based on your racial/ethnic identity, you may elect to write your paper based on another aspect of your identity such as gender, religion, or sexual preference. The group identity you choose should be applicable to you personally. You may also choose to combine two or more of the dimensions of personal identity, perhaps noting which dimensions are more important in terms of your individual identity. For example, an African American female who is a lesbian may choose to write about how each of these various dimensions has impacted her personal identity and life chances in society, perhaps noting which she believes has had the most impact. This may make the paper a little more challenging. You are encouraged to consult your instructor for guidance. Resources for Content and Analysis In writing your paper, you will integrate selected course materials from your assigned readings, concepts, theory, typologies, and models from the course, demographic data, and at least five outside sources of original academic research from peer-reviewed journals or books. You must incorporate these sources of information and analysis into your paper. Five is the minimum number of peer-reviewed sources you need to meet expectations. You should have at least three of these from doing your journal entries. If you want to “exceed expectations,” you will need to include more than five. Only reputable, peer-reviewed academic sources will count toward the reference requirements of your paper. You can and should draw on what you have learned about locating, evaluating, and integrating such sources with course material from your weekly activities and assignments. Links to appropriate sources for statistical and demographic data are provided in your list of web resources. You may also include interviews with relatives and additional information from newspapers, magazines such as Newsweek, news organizations such as CNN, and other well-selected Internet sources to supplement your analysis, but these should only be used for illustration and background information. They should not be used to support or substantiate your analysis and evaluation of theory or course materials. You must use peer-reviewed academic sources (academic research journals or books that reflect original work) and demographic data for that. If you have questions about a source or how to use it in your paper, contact your instructor for guidance. Citation and Formatting Guidelines Length of Paper: Your paper should be approximately 2000 – 2500 words excluding title page and references. It should be double spaced, 12-point font (Times Roman or Courier) with 1-inch margins. Do not exceed 3000 words. APA Style Requirement: You are required to use the APA style format for this paper, as in all written work in this course. Your paper should include a title page, an abstract, and a list of references. While information on APA style format has been made available to you, you may also want to obtain a copy of the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual for additional guidance. Citation Requirement: You are required to cite all of the sources used in your paper by using citations within the text as well as providing a list of references. If you do not properly cite your reference sources, then you are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and may result in immediate and serious academic penalties. Given that, it is imperative that you follow the rules for citing your sources, especially those that pertain to in-text citations. If you quote directly, paraphrase, or summarize any information that comes from a reference source and do not note this appropriately in the text of your paper, you are guilty of plagiarism and will suffer the consequences. Citing your sources in a list at the end of your paper is necessary, but it is not sufficient to avoid charges of plagiarism. Any direct quotes, paraphrases, factual statements, or ideas used from your sources should be so noted in the text of your paper at the places where they appear and properly cited using parenthetical in-text citation in the APA format. Your work must be your own. Information about plagiarism and how to avoid it may be found on the Park Academic Support Center’s website at Core Assessment Instructions Basic Organization and Content Guidelines: Introduction Your paper should include an introduction that contains your thesis statement (a statement that indicates the overall point of focus for your paper) and a summary of the major points you intend to cover in your paper to support your thesis. This should be a statement regarding how you believe your sense of group identity or lack of sense of group identity has been shaped by both historical factors and your own personal experience. Part I Relative Importance of Group Identity to Personal Identity How does your group identity shape your personal identity? Many things influence our personal identity—ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, religion and even our physical capabilities. These are also things that form the basis of minority or majority status in society. Individuals share in a group identity, and the extent to which they do so varies according to the individual. You may want to use the following guidelines for writing this section, but only as a guide for the content of the paper. Do not just write out answers to individual questions: Define one or more aspects of group identity that are part of your individual identity and indicate whether or not you feel your group identity represents a minority or majority status and why. Differentiate your group identity from other group identities in terms of symbolic and/or cultural markers. What cultural or symbolic markers differentiate your group identity from that of other group identities? Explain the meaning group identity has for you and how it forms a part of your individual identity. To what extent is it significant for you? How do you feel you compare to other individuals within this group in terms of how you identify with it? If you do not feel a sense of group identity or affiliation, explain why you believe you do not. What theory or theories may explain why you feel no real sense of group affiliation? Indicate what factors in your personal experience have played a role in the extent to which you identify with this group. How have your experiences with other contrasting groups shaped your own identity? Indicate how you perceive your group identity as shaping your daily experience in this society and interaction with those of other groups. If you think it has little effect on you as an individual, explain why that is the case based on the theories we’ve covered. Consider the reasons people identify themselves by race, ethnicity, or some other basis for group belonging as well as the meanings of categories and terms people use to identify themselves and others. Consider how minority and majority groups are defined and the consequences of those definitions, including such things as prejudice, discrimination, negative self image, marginality, etc. What concepts, theories, and findings from research can you use to describe, explain, and support the points you make in this section? If you are part of the majority, you may not feel your race or ethnicity is a significant factor in your personal identity. If that is the case, you would want to explain why you believe it is not significant or why you feel that way, using what you have learned in the course and from your outside research to support your analysis. Part II Historical Context and Impact Link what you might know about your family history as well as your personal experiences with larger historical and social structural forces. Research and discuss the history of your group in American society and how its status may have changed over time, comparing/contrasting it with your individual family history to the extent that you can. There will be some information available in your text, but you may want to look for additional background information from outside sources. Research your family history to the extent that you are able and compare/contrast this history with the information you located on your identity group. Guidelines for writing this section: Indicate how your identity group became a part of this society. What is the history of this identity group as indicated by your course materials and outside research? Indicate how that history compares to your particular familial history. Are there similarities and differences? What are they? How would you explain them? What historical events have shaped your group’s and your family’s circumstances? Indicate how your identity group may have changed over time. What factors led to those changes? Is your group identity different than it was for your parents, their parents or earlier ancestors? Indicate whether or not life is different for you today than it was for your ancestors. You may want to interview older family members to find out what things were like for them as a member of this group and how they felt their group identity influenced their lives. If older relatives are not available, consider other older members of your identity group that you know. Interpret the underlying processes that shaped the status and experiences of your identity group and that of your ancestors, especially any strategies your group may have used to carve its niche (assimilate) in American society. Use course concepts and theory relevant to your group as well as findings from your outside research for your interpretation. Try to see the links between the experiences of the larger group and your personal life or to see areas where these may or may not match up. Explain how you feel your personal experience compares with your group as a whole and with what social theorists have said about the overall experience of your group in American society. Indicate similarities and differences and try to explain those using concepts and theories from the course. To what extent did your group have a cohesive identity? Does your group have a cohesive identity today? Why or why not? In writing this section, consider the ways in which majority and minority status is created and maintained and the consequences for both. Think about how you might use theories of ethnic stratification, theories of assimilation, and minority coping strategies (accommodation, separatism, radicalism) to explain and analyze your group’s experience and your own and your family’s experience. You will also want to critique and evaluate those theories against your own personal experiences and the findings from your outside research. Are there areas of agreement or disagreement? What do you feel are the strengths and the weaknesses of some of these models or theories and how would you justify your conclusions? Part III Impact on Life Chances and the Future In this section, you will write about how and to what extent you believe your group identity has affected your life chances (your opportunities to benefit from such things as a good education, job, home, and/or good health) and how you see the future in terms of opportunities for your group and yourself: Indicate how your group identity provides you with either advantages or disadvantages. Perhaps you believe it does both or neither. Compare your identity group to that of other groups in terms of life chances. Discuss the extent of acculturation and assimilation of your group and whether or not you perceive that as affecting your current status and life chances. Examine and evaluate your identity group’s strategy or strategies for advancing within the larger opportunity structure (those things you covered in Part II). Evaluate the relative success of these strategies and whether or not you feel they have played a role in your current life chances. Have you followed the same strategies or different ones? Are there strategies that you, as an individual of the group, believe would better serve your group? What are they, and why do you think they would be more effective? Discuss the future of your identity group in terms of the prospects for your group over the next two decades based on current trends and demographic data available. What larger historical forces do you see as shaping the future for your identity group and for yourself? What do you think the future holds for your identity group and for yourself, and what are the things that support your conclusions? In writing this section, continue to consider the impact larger historical forces and established patterns in the social institutions of society might have on your identity group and you personally. What types of things are currently happening in the areas of education, politics, the economy, the family, the criminal justice system, etc., that may impact the present opportunities and future opportunities of your identity group? How do you see these as applying to yourself as a member of this group? Conclusion In your conclusion, discuss what you feel your group/personal experience has to say about the nature of minority-majority relations in the US. Draw some conclusions about what you have learned overall from taking this course and writing this paper.


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