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SOC 311: Inequality (Professor Roche) [Spring 2021]

SOC 311 Research Project Guidelines

*Always consult Cougar Courses for full research assignment guidelines.


Throughout Dr. Roche's course, you will explore how the social world creates and maintains inequality. This paper will ask you to expand on a topic connected to our course and “give voice” to the realities of those struggling as a result of institutionalized inequality. You will accomplish this by interviewing someone that you know about their experiences with your topic.

Topic Exploration and Interview

Your first task is to choose a specific topic to explore. This should be something that is easily relatable to the course and what you are learning about social inequality. Once you have chosen a topic, you will qualitatively explore what it is like to be a person who experiences this sort of inequality. For example, if you are interested in issues related to immigration, you might think about someone that you know who has experience with this topic firsthand. Some students have interviewed their family members, for example, to learn about their immigration experiences.

You should conduct an interview with someone that you know about their experiences. Dr. Roche recommends that you conduct your interviews via Zoom, or FaceTime etc., unless you are interviewing someone that you live with or are safely connected to. Please DO NOT place yourself or anyone else at risk by doing a face to face interview with someone you are not comfortable with during this pandemic. Details of your interview should be typed and appended (meaning included after your reference page) to the paper. This means that you need to type up notes detailing what your interviewee shared. Try to generate at least 2 pages of notes.

Research Paper Format


Develop a creative and academic title for your research project. 


Please begin your paper by introducing the focus of your research. The first paragraph(s) should include a discussion of your topic’s broad sociological focus (Dr. Roche sometimes calls this the “big sociology”).

Thus, your discussion of the topic is not yet connected to your smaller project – this should orient the reader to larger structural frameworks. If your topic is about immigration, then you would discuss this topic sociologically to start, without mentioning your interviewee. Linking to the sociological literature is a good idea to keep you on track.

The second part of your introduction should include a more focused discussion of your research. This is where your sociological conversation shifts to a more narrow discussion of YOUR research and the personal accounts that you have gathered.

Literature Review

Dr. Roche and Librarian Lalitha will provide information about how to search the academic literature to find one sociological article that will help you to frame your topic sociologically. Articles must be sociological and peer reviewed. The literature will help you will find a theoretical perspective, or structure for analysis of your data. You do not need to do a complete review of your literature, only the parts that are relevant to your data. In other words, how does this article help you to understand your overall topic sociologically?


This section of your paper will orient the reader to how you gathered your data and who your interviewee is. Describe some of the demographics of your interviewee and any information that might be helpful in framing the topic. For example, if you are interviewing a relative about their border crossing experience, be sure to discuss the timing, what year it was that they crossed and who this person is. Give your interviewee’s a pseudonym and be careful about too much identifying information. Why did you decide to choose this person and describe the interview process. How did it go? Was it nerve wracking or comfortable, for example? Spend some time providing some context for how the interview went.

Findings & Analysis

This is where you “give voice” and share what you have learned from the person that you spoke to. You can include direct quotes, or you can paraphrase – as long as the data you include is written in an academic manner. You do not need to include all of the information that you gathered, rather you should try and hone in on what you found to be most interesting and relevant to the overall topic.

After you have told this person’s story, use the course material and your literature to offer an analysis of their experiences. Here you should use the sociological imagination (Module 1 lecture) to link personal biographies to structural conditions. For example, if you are telling a story about a dangerous border crossing, your literature and analysis should connect to race, immigration, and public policies that make crossing the border life threatening.

Dr. Roche is available to talk you through a direction for your analysis when necessary.



Your conclusion should reflect back on your findings as well as the broad sociological discussion from your introduction. In addition, discuss the importance of “giving voice” when doing research about inequality and oppression. In other words, discuss the importance of listening to folks in the margins.

Include a reference page with all sources cited using MLA, APA or ASA formatting (be consistent throughout).