Students will write a 5-6 page (double spaced; 12 point Times New Roman font; 1-inch margins) research paper on religion and social change in current events. The central question you are tasked with answering is as follows: Based on your current event, is religion a force for social change, or is religion a force for maintaining the status quo? In other words, you are to use current events and sociological theories to assess whether religion is helping advance or impede social change. You are can frame your argument using the events of history, but you should focus primarily on the role of religion in at least one current event. For the purposes of this class, a current event must have occurred within the past 5 years. See the “Research Paper” module on BLACKBOARD for more information about this assignment, including a sample paper outline.

There is much you could write about for this assignment. To help spark your thinking, I encourage you to read or watch the news. See if you can find examples of religious leaders talking about current events. Look up, for example, how religion has been involved in Black Liver Matter protests. See if you can find articles about pastors speaking out on social issues. What are they saying? Do their words and actions promote or inhibit social change.

Assignment Requirements

  • Include your name, the date, and the class name (Sociology of Religion) at the beginning of the paper. I do not have a specific format in mind. You do notneed a separate title page, although you can certainly include one.
  • Include a paper title, Introduction with a thesis statement, a Conclusion, and a Bibliography or Works Cited.
  • Papers must be double-spaced, use 1-inch margins, include page numbers, and use Times New Roman or Arial font.
  • Papers should not manipulate character spacing in an attempt to alter the length.
  • Papers should be free of spelling or grammatical errors (deductions will be taken for such errors). 
  • Papers must be 5-6 double spaced pages, NOT including the bibliography/works cited, or the title page.
    • A and A- papers generally 6 pages, demonstrating effort going above and beyond the minimum.
  • All submissions must be Word or Pages documents. Do NOT upload pdf files.
  • Late papers will be docked a full letter grade (i.e., 10 percentage points).
  • Papers must conform to one of the citation styles on the Purdue University Writing Lab website. I do not care which of these styles you choose, but you will be graded on whether you apply the style of your choice consistently and correctly. If you are already or are interested in becoming a Sociology major, I recommend using ASA (American Sociological Association) style, but this is not a requirement.
  • You must reference (i.e. quote and/or cite) at least 5 books, book chapters, dissertations, theses, or journal articles (not journal book reviews) that we did NOT read in class. Below are a list of sources that are NOT academic in nature. You can still cite them, but they won’t count as one of the 4 required academic sources
    • Websites
    • Wikipedia (cite if you must, but this is not a good source to cite).
    • Magazines (e.g., Time, Newsweek)
    • Online news sources (e.g., Huffington Post,
    • Encyclopedias
    • Dictionaries
  • The class textbook & other class readings do NOT count as one of the 5 books/journal articles you are required to cite. You are, however, free to look at the bibliographies of the works we read in class to find new citations. You can cite class readings, but they don’t count as one of the 5. The idea here is for you to do original research.
  • All direct quotes must use quotation marks and include PAGE NUMBERS if available.
  • Cite ALL sources used.
    • HOW DO I CITE CLASS SLIDES/LECTURES? If the citation style of your choice does not specific how to cite class handouts/power point slides, I suggest you do something like the following. In text parenthetical references = (Mundey Social Class Lecture). Footnotes/Endnotes = Peter Mundey, Social Class Power Point. When citing an author/source I cite on one of the class handouts or power point slides, please cite the author, not me.

Assignment Tips for Success

  • Do not rely heavily on websites, newspapers, magazines, etc. for your research. Focus on books, dissertations, theses, and academic journals.
  • Simply doing google searches to find your searches is not enough, although you may find some acceptable sources using google scholar.
  • Cite articles from scholarly journals; they don’t have to be sociology journals.
    • How can I tell if an article is scholarly in nature? Such articles generally have issue and volume numbers.
  • Use major section headings and subheadings to organize your ideas. This is not required, but is a useful and typically results in a higher score on the organization component of the rubric.
  • Include a strong thesis statement at the end of your Introduction (typically the last sentence or the last two sentences of your introductory paragraph). A thesis statement outlines the argument of the paper in a short, concise manner. It might sound something like this: “Events X,Y, and Z illustrate religion’s disruptive potential in shaking up racial injustice and promoting greater equality.” Or, as Marx first argued, religion is like a drug that pacifies people, keeping them from taking action against racial injustice, as seen in events X, Y, and Z.” These statements do a good job of outlining exactly what your paper is about. The more specific the better, even if you think you’re giving away the punch line of the paper. You want the reader to know what your argument is from the outset. If you can’t fit your argument in 1 sentence, no problem. Two or three sentences is fine as well.
  • Proofread your work and/or have colleagues, classmates, or friends proofread your work.
  • Do not wait to the last minute to start your paper.
  • If you are struggling to find academic sources, I suggest you use JSTOR. I also recommend searching for keywords/terms on the websites of three of the major academic journals in the field of sociology: Social Problems, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces. After locating specific articles you want from the search results, download the actual articles from the SSU library website, which has access to each of these journals. 
  • Review the plagiarism checking software results on Blackboard before turning your paper in to ensure you are citing properly. 
  • Follow the paper outline below, or organize your paper in a similar manner.

Paper Outline

  1. Introduction: Summarize your topic & thesis.
    1. Your paper must have an argument and this argument must be encapsulated in a strong thesis statement.
    1. Tell the reader what this paper is about
    1. What is going on in 2022 regarding religion in current events?
    1. Optional: indicate what events from history you will use to provide context for the events of today.
  1. Section 1: Theories about social change and religion
    1. What do sociological theorists have to say about religion and social change? Examples of theorists you could cite might be Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Christian Smith, Aldon Morris. You can certainly cite others if you want.
  1. Section 3: Contemporary events on race and religion
    1. How do you see religion mattering in present day events?
    1. You don’t have to discuss everything happening today. Consider focusing on 1-2 events.
    1. Optional: Talk about events pre-2022 regarding religion and social change if it helps contextualize your current event.
  1. Conclusion
    1. Summarize the main takeaways and most important arguments of your paper.
    1. What do you conclude about religion based on the past and present?
    1. What does your paper say about religion and social change?

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