Assignment 1- Essay
The learning objective of this assignment is to enhance your understanding and application of C. Wright Mills’ concept of the “sociological imagination.” It is similar to the exercise in our first two classes where we applied this concept to various issues in the media. In this assignment, you will illustrate the relevance of the sociological imagination by applying it to a media article or image (chosen by you), which reflects an individual issue or situation. Using the sociological imagination you will illustrate how this personal experience/issue can be translated into a public issue. Please choose a media article/image, which is dated within in the last 12 months. You will be required to submit your media article/image with your final essay as an appendix (after the references).
You may choose any article or image from the media for your assignment. If you choose a media article, please be sure to pick a short article from a mainstream media outlet.
Your essay should be 4-6 pages in length, double-spaced and printed in Times New Roman font size 12 with one inch margins on all sides of each page. The overall page count does not include the cover page, reference page, or appendix.
Your cover page should include your name, your student number, the title of the course, your professor’s name and the title of your essay. The title of your essay should convey the subject matter in 15 words . Your title should capture what the essay is about and is an opportunity for you to be creative.
This is a formal academic essay and you must use paragraphs. The first line of every paragraph is indented half an inch. You should organize the essay in a logical sequence and make sure that each paragraph is related to the section heading. Headings are important because they tell the reader how your information is organised. You can also use sub-headings; but try to limit your main headings to no more than four, especially if your essay is at the shorter end of the page requirement (4 pages). Although you are not required to use the exact headings provided below (you can create your own headings); make sure that each of the following sections can be found within your assignment.
Please proof read your work carefully to avoid some of the common mistakes in essays. These include inappropriate capitalization, incorrect use of semi-colons, use of slangs and contractions and not proof-reading. Please use the spelling and grammar check and proof-read several times.
Introduction (approx. 1 page)
The introduction should do exactly that – it introduces your topic and contextualizes it within the broader literature as appropriate. My advice is to be specific about the topic you are addressing. Try to avoid starting with general statements such as “everyone knows” or “it is widely known” which are rooted in assumptions and often cannot be supported by research. The best strategy is to open the paragraph with a few sentences that hook your reader. To engage your reader, you can use “a startling statistic, an unusual fact…a paradoxical statement, a quotation, a bit of dialogue, a question, an analogy, a joke or an anecdote (Hacker, 2004:14).
Next you should define the concept of the sociological imagination (remember to link it to your opening with a sentence or two). Please use an academic definition of the concept. In the field of sociology, it is customary to use definitions from sociology texts or scholarly papers as opposed to dictionary definitions (e.g. Webster or Oxford). Follow up with an explanation of the concept in your own words.
The following paragraph should start with a transitional sentence that tells the reader how the sociological imagination is relevant to your media article/image. In other words, you will use the sociological imagination to analyse a media article/image which you have selected. You can then move to a briefdescription of the situation that is represented in your media article/image. You will provide more details later in your essay. For example, the image may be of a woman who was breastfeeding a baby at the same time that two men were styling her make-up and hair. This would be the place to explain that it is a picture of an actress named Alyssa Milano who was breastfeeding her baby on-set while she was having her make-up and hair attended to prior to the start of filming. You would also tell the reader that it was the actress who posted the picture to the public via social media. You might also discuss generally some of the responses and reactions to the post or you might save this for later.
An introduction contains a thesis statement which is usually located towards its end. This is the overall argument that you will make in the essay. It is what you are trying to convince the reader of. In this case, you are trying to convince your reader that using the sociological imagination in your analysis of the media article/image reveals that the personal trouble depicted is in truth a public issue. This paragraph should end with an outline detailing what you will discuss to support this overall argument and the order in which it will be discussed. These sentences set the stage for the rest of your essay, add to the organization and clarity of the essay, and help the reader to anticipate what is coming. Most importantly, it provides a useful framework to the essay.
Body of the essay (3- 5 pages in total, see breakdown below)
Personal Trouble/Issue (1– 2 pages)
Re-introduce the issue from your article/image. Now provide more information about the issue in the picture and tell us what you know about it and the situation. Think of this section as an overview of the issue and people involved. Since you do not personally know these individuals, you will have to rely on the information that you can get from the media and other sources. You should acknowledge the shortcomings of this approach and tell the reader about any information that you were unable to obtain which might have been useful. Consider how the people in this individual’s life (such as family, friends, and teachers) may have shaped them personally (values, manners, attitudes). Attempt to analyse the role of culture, race, religion, gender and class in their lives. Has this individual experienced any life-changing events or moments? How might this have influenced them?
For example, in Alyssa Milano’s case you might have discussed how her personal decision to breastfeed a baby in public might actually have been influenced by her life experiences. Who or what might have shaped her beliefs about breastfeeding in public? You will have to make some assumptions in this section, so make sure to procced with caution and use reliable sources.
Public Issue (2-3 pages)
Now convert this situation into a public issue. What is the historical context of this situation? Consider the overall impact of other social contexts such as race, class, and gender. What social context did this occur in and how might the experience have been different in another social context? Who was affected? How many people are affected annually by this issue? If you can, provide any relevant statistics on the issue. Is there any impact on society as a result of this issue? What is the relevance of this issue today and in the future? Explain how one sociological perspective would examine this issue. Provide a brief overview of the perspective and then explain how the perspective would examine the issue.
For example, in Milano’s case you might discuss the historical and current trends of breastfeeding in general. You might present some relevant statistics on how it has changed and why. You might consider the role played by the media in the sexualisation of women’s bodies. How might this affect both women’s decision to breastfeed in public and people’s reactions to women who are doing it? You might present some statistics or research illustrating some of the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. From a feminist perspective, you might discuss the pressure that many women face in trying to balance a career and motherhood. What do we learn about gender roles as children? You might also discuss why Milano may be in a position of privilege because of her social class. You could also apply a conflict perspective to this scenario. Many working class women do not have the opportunity to breastfeed at work and find formula feeding costly. An interactionist might examine the symbolic communication in media representations as well as the impacts of social media use on society.
Most of your marks for critical analysis will come from this section. You will be graded on how well you address the questions above, the depth of your analysis and the type of material/sources that you use to support your arguments. You should acknowledge differing views and ensure that you discuss them “critically.” Remember that critical analysis is not necessarily negative. A critical discussion means that you consider the other sides of the arguments and perspectives that you present. Critical thinking requires that you acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of your overall argument and address them.
To help you attain this goal, you will be required to use a minimum of three academic sources not including the textbook. You should use scholarly or peer-reviewed journals and/or statistics from reliable sources such as Statistics Canada. The sources that you use to describe your individual and their personal situation will only count towards this requirement if they are scholarly sources. All of your sources must be integrated smoothly into the body of your essay with in-text citations. The research that you use should illustrate thought and creativity. This is your opportunity to make your essay both unique and convincing. Please note: wikipedia.com is not an academic source and should not be cited in a formal academic essay.
Conclusion (approx. ½ page)
You should discuss how the sociological imagination was useful in helping you to understand the issue better. What have you learned? Are there any assumptions or biases that changed as you engaged in this analysis? Are there any suggestions or recommendations regarding this situation/issue that could be explored in future sociological discussions or research?
You will be graded on the accuracy of your in-text citations and reference page. All material referenced in-text (in your essay) must appear in alphabetical order in your “References” page which will be attached at the end of your essay. Please use APA style.
If you are having trouble finding academic sources for your assignment, the librarians are extremely helpful at assisting you in your research. There are many options available to you so please approach me if you need assistance.
Your appendix will contain your media article/image. You must attach these to the end of your essay, after the reference page. If no media article/image is attached to the hard copy of your essay then it will not be graded.