Research Paper Instructions
SOCY B360 – Sociology of Medicine and Health
The purpose of the research paper is to give each student the opportunity to demonstrate
that they can investigate the effects of social factors on health. The goal of the assignment
is to strengthen scientific thinking and writing. The objective is for each student to write
an objective, logical, fact-based paper using evidence from high quality scientific
Investigate the effects of one social factor on one specific disease — example,
gender and lung cancer. Thesis: gender is a significant causal factor in lung
cancer morbidity and mortality. (This is not a factual example.)
Investigate the relationship between one specific disease and multiple social factors
— example, stroke and the three social factors with the greatest impact on stroke
mortality or morbidity or both. Thesis: age, race, and gender have the greatest
social impact on mortality due to stroke. (This is not a factual example.)
Investigate the relationship between one social factor and three different diseases that
are related with the chosen social factor — example, three main causes of death for
women. Thesis: lung cancer, heart disease, and influenza are three leading causes
of death among women. (This is not a factual example.)
Investigate one social factor and one or more health occupations— example,
gender differences among nurses and physicians. Thesis: Changes in the
proportion of men and women who are nurses and physicians are more reflective
of changes in gender roles than in health professions. (This is not a factual
Investigate social differences in health or illness behavior— example, gender and
age differences in health services utilization. Thesis: during childhood and after age
50, differences in health services utilization for men and women are similar, but
during the middle years women use health services much more than men. (This is
not a factual example.)
Investigate something more adventurous. Must be approved in advance.
The Major Social Factors
Social class—the most common set of categories or attributes for social
class are: upper class, upper-middle, lower-middle, working class, and
lower class (see Chapter 3);
Gender (see Chapter 4);
Race/ethnicity (see Chapter 4); a very good example of racial categories is
shown in Table 4-5, page 85 in Cockerham.
Age (see Chapter 4).
Your Paper Must Have A Thesis!
Your research paper must have a thesis. At the beginning of the paper, you must state
your research thesis. It can be part of a short introductory paragraph or it can stand alone.
The following explanations include materials that are courtesy of Empire State College,
Online Writing Center.
When you start working on your paper, you begin by selecting a topic. A topic is what
the essay or research paper is about. It provides a focus for your writing. Choose an
appropriate topic or issue for your research, one that actually can be researched. Many
topics can be found in your textbook. Example: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
The next step in developing a thesis is to formulate a research question. Start by listing all
of the questions that you’d like answered yourself. (This assumes you are curious about
the topic!) Choose the best question, one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. In the
early stages of your research, you can use a search engine to learn about the question and
explore what high quality sources are available. Sometimes the number of sources you
find will help you discover whether your research question is too broad, too narrow.
Example: “Why have ADHD diagnoses risen so rapidly in recent years?”
A research thesis is your proposed answer to your research question, which you
finalize only after completing the research. (It’s okay to modify and revise the
working thesis as you research more about the topic or issue.) Thesis example:
“The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses coincided with more available knowledge about
the disease among physicians, other healthcare professionals, teachers, and
I will be glad to help you as you work your way toward your thesis, especially with topic
selection and research question development.
You may approach your thesis as a question that needs to be answered or as a statement
that needs evidence to support it. Either way, your task is to compile factual evidence that
supports or refutes your thesis or helps you answer your question. You should include
statistics showing the importance or lack of importance of other social factors or other
diseases, as the case may be. Scientific papers are honest about evidence, presenting facts
that both support and refute the thesis or hypothesis.
You should think critically about your thesis and ask yourself, Why does this happen or
not happen? What causes this difference or lack of difference? Include answers to these
critical thinking questions in your paper.
Remember, we are looking for social causes, not biological ones. I don’t want a research
paper on the microbiology or genetics of cancer.
Grading Rubric for the Paper
Your paper will be graded on both the extent to which it draws upon concepts developed
in the course and the extent to which it does so with clear writing and appropriate
documentation. The paper will be graded using the criteria and point system shown in the
Required Elements for the Paper
• Your paper should be about 5 pages in length, single-spaced, using a 10-12 point font,
with one-inch margins. If you prefer to double-space your pages, just double the
• Your name
• The name/number of the course
• Title of the paper
• The body of the paper that incorporates a set of headings that shows the logical
organization of the paper.
• Citations in the body of the paper for all sources of information using the American
Psychological Association style. This is the style used by your textbook. No
footnotes. I will accept MLA style, as well.
• A list at the end of the paper of all references cited. Not a bibliography of all the
sources you used to write the paper.
• Please number your pages.
• Do not save your document as an HTML, HTM, or .wps file.
• When you save your document, title it with your last name, course number, and
assignment number. Example, YourlastnameSOCYB123ResearchPaper.
• Submit your paper in the Assignments area of Blackboard.
Writing the Paper
We assume that the required English courses you have taken have given you solid
preparation for the writing assignments in this course. Since I am not an English
instructor and this is not an English course, I won’t try to teach you how to write.
However, if I find that your writing skills are too weak to complete the assignments, I
will refer you to USCB on-campus resources for help
Most students need to sharpen their writing
skills and there are many web-based resources to support your self-help. One of the best
is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/ where you
will find assistance with English grammar, with writing skills, such as developing an
outline, and with APA Formatting and Style.
Use An Outline And Headings
An outline shows the logical organization of your paper with a set of headings. These
headings are like those used in bold print in the main sections of the chapters of our
textbook and the journal articles you will use.
What Goes in the Paper
The main ingredient of your paper should be factual information and statistics from high
quality sources. Your opinions about the topic or those of anyone else without substantial
scientific evidence are not relevant and should not be included in the paper. You may use
as evidence the statements of qualified experts, but you must make sure those sources are
I want you to apply skeptical, critical thinking to everything you read. You should make
the author(s) work hard to convince you that they have the best evidence and the best
reasoning, as I will make you work hard to convince me.
High Quality Web-based Sources
Medical sociology has relevant journals to which you should give priority. The USCB
online journal database offers access to full-text copies of many of these journals via the
online database indicated. See link to USCB database proxy below.
Peer Reviewed Journals
American Journal of Sociology — JSTOR
American Sociological Review — JSTOR
Social Forces — Academic Search Premier
Journal of Health and Social Behavior — JSTOR
Social Science and Medicine — ScienceDirect
American Journal of Public Health — Academic Search Premier
American Journal of Epidemiology — MEDLINE
At least one of your cited references must come from a journal in the USCB online
library database, which can be accessed here using your USCB login and password:
When you login you will see a long list of online databases. Always search for full-text
articles. If you need additional help with on-ground or online research, please use the
USCB library staff or let me know.
If you are looking for a particular journal, search for it on “Search Full Text Finder.”
Other High Quality Sources
In addition to articles from the USCB online journal database, the following list includes
examples of reputable governmental and other high quality sources. In some areas of
sociology, these sources will be more appropriate than academic journals.
CIA World Factbook — https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/index.html
— provides high quality detailed data on every country in the world,
allowing good country-to-country comparisons.
US Census Bureau — www.census.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – www.cdc.gov & https://data.cdc.gov/
US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/data_tools.htm or https://sortablestats.cdc.gov/#/
National Center for Health Statistics — www.cdc.gov/nchs or
State Health Data Index (The Kaiser Foundation)– www.statehealthfacts.org
America’s Health Rankings state profiles -https://www.americashealthrankings.org/
South Carolina Community Assessment Network –
South Carolina Health and Demographics Section — http://rfa.sc.gov/
SC Kids Count — https://scchildren.org/research/kids-count-south-carolina/
Poor Quality Sources
To me, one of the main differences between a high school-level research paper and a
college-level paper is that college-level papers do not have encyclopedias as direct
sources. If your topic is something you don’t know much about, an online encyclopedia
can help you learn enough to get started. But do not use sources such as Wikipedia.com,
Britainica.com, about.com, or Encarta.com as cited references in your research paper. I
will return as Incomplete any research paper that has these kinds of sources.
Questionable Sources: Foundations, Advocacy Organizations and Non-Profits
Many advocacy organizations provide source information and statistics. You must “vet”
this kind of source to make sure that the evidence you gather from it is reliable. (Vet
means “To examine carefully; to subject to thorough appraisal; to evaluate”
(dictionary.reference.com) Some sources that you will find are not governmental or
academic but still can be trusted to provide reliable data and information. Example are
the Population Reference Bureau (www.prb.org) and the National Coalition on Health
Care (www.nchc.org). The way to tell if a source like this is reliable is to click the link
for information about the organization. In the case of PRB, a quick scan of the senior
staff members show that they are experienced demographers with backgrounds in highly
respected organizations. An example of an advocacy organization is the Center for
Immigration Studies (www.cis.org), which appears to have a strong political agenda of
reducing immigration into the US. This is not a good example of a high quality, objective
source. If you must use material from questionable sources, be very cautious when
making generalizations from their information.
Questionable Sources: News Media
Some news media are less guilty of hype than others, but all of them want to attract
attention and they have learned that conflict and controversy sell. Even the New York
Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the BBC, which tend to be
more fact-based in their news coverage, still must be read skeptically. Most media outlets
exaggerate, present incomplete information, and even misrepresent. You should always
attempt to verify information from the media. If you can’t verify by going to the original
source, you must be very cautious about making generalizations from this information.