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SOC 361: Qualitative Methods in Sociology (Professor Roche)

SOC 361 Research Project Guidelines

*Always consult Cougar Courses for full research assignment guidelines.


There are many ways to explore structural inequality and Dr. Roche is open to a variety of topics. In this time of COVID-19, doing face-to-face research becomes a bit challenging, so we will need to be creative at times. That said, you will be conducting interviews (Zoom, FaceTime etc. is fine) and gathering other types of data to inform your research. Be sure that when you chose a topic, you think of something that is feasible in a short time frame. This means you MUST know someone that you can interview. Choose a topic that is accessible to you.

This qualitative project is meant to be a small “slice of life” investigation where you collect interviews, observation data and/or content to understand a topic that connects to marginalization and oppression. Dr. Roche STRONGLY encourages you to think about your own life and how you might find ways to gather data that is safe and convenient. Are there people that you know who might have stories that connect to the paper theme? Do you have experiences of your own that you can use? The idea is to think about what is easily available to you. Once you have chosen a particular focus and it has been approved by Dr. Roche, be prepared to complete the data collection and analysis activities (and more) as they connect to your theme. There will be plenty of class support for this so don’t be daunted. After all data is collected, Dr. Roche will work with you to conduct a sociological analysis of YOUR data using an inductive process.



Research Paper Format


Develop a title for your research project that aligns with the guidelines in the EFS reading for M8. Professor Roche will cover appropriate qualitative titles in a lecture as well.


Please begin your paper by introducing the broad focus of your research. The first paragraph(s) should include a discussion of your topic’s broad sociological focus (Professor Roche sometimes call 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. Some topics will also require a discussion of policy, or a bit of history that helps to understand oppressive circumstances. Connecting the literature is very helpful in a sociological introduction.

The second paragraph(s) should include a “topical thesis” (EFS pg 230) or a more focused discussion of YOUR research. This should highlight the general themes and findings to clue the reader to where the sociological story is going. This is the roadmap of your research and a simple orientation to where your theoretical framework will go and what the findings will tell us.

Literature Review

We will work together to search the academic literature to find at least two sociological articles to help you frame for your findings. Both articles must be sociological and scholarly. The literature will help you will find your theoretical perspective, which you will reference and link to throughout the rest of your paper. When writing about the literature in this section of your paper, please discuss how the literature provides a context for your findings. In what ways do the articles that you found highlight or deepen an understanding of your own findings and research focus? For this part of your paper, you should hone in on aspects of your literature that connect to your paper, and that help you to develop your theoretical framework. You can use more than two articles or other sources in your analysis if you choose (as long as you also have two, sociological articles), and anything that you use should be reviewed in this section as well. 


This section of your paper will orient the reader to “place, people and situations to be examined” (EFS, page 233). Depending on your research project you should describe your research process, including the process of gaining access into particular sites or to various people and a description of a particular setting. There are many aspects to include in the methods, including a discussion of who you encountered and interviewed, some of the challenges in gaining access, and how you recruited interviewee’s etc. Your methods section should also include a description of how you gathered data (what methods did you use – be very specific!) and also a discussion of how you analyzed your data. The ethnographies that Professor Roche will assign to you throughout the semester are wonderful guides when writing your methods sections as there are many ways to do this. She will offer support towards the end of the semester on this section as well. Finally, include a detailed discussion of your research approach or methodology (from M1 Lecture). As you describe your methodologies be sure to justify the approach as it connects to your research focus. A reminder that this is not a discussion of the methods that you used, rather the approach, or paradigm you take to your research.

Findings (develop a heading that reflects your findings, but do not call this section “findings”)

This is where you will present your findings, based on the data that you have gathered. Begin by writing a paragraph or two that describes your theme and that orients the reader to the direction that your paper will go, including the theoretical framework (for some reason, some students tend to skip this part… don’t skip it!). This in an introduction to your findings where you remind the reader of where your sociological story is going.

Next, write at least four units of analysis to show your findings. The key to writing this section of the paper is the use of fieldnotes, interview data and/or content analysis in a focused, descriptive analysis. You must also include a sound sociological analysis and theoretical framing of your data throughout. This is the heart of your paper!

One unit of analysis should include:

  1. An introductory sentence that links to where the analysis will go (analytic point).
  2. Orienting information about the data (the excerpt, content etc.)
  3. The actual data, or excerpt (from interviews or fieldnotes or content)
  4. A detailed sociological analysis of the data that links to the literature.

Each unit of analysis should connect to an overall theme that is generated from your data and research focus. In other words, what did you learn from the data? To write this aspect of your paper you should consistently consult chapter 7 of EFS. Each unit of analysis should also include a theoretical framework derived from the literature. Reminder, you need four separate units of analysis.


Your conclusion should reflect back on your overall theme/findings and should connect to your introduction, but should not repeat too closely. In your conclusion, please revisit your theme and sociological findings. Include a discussion of why your research is important and how it connects to promoting social justice? Why is it important to use qualitative methods to learn about your topic? Finally, offer a few insights and recommendations for creating positive change as it connects to your research focus.


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