Social Change

GUIDELINES – Your term paper must be typed, double-spaced, twelve-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins all around, and at least 6 pages. Use and cite at least SIX reputable social science sources (see below for more on ‘reputable’). At least one of your sources must be a peer-reviewed publication from a social science journal or academic press; also you can utilize the recommended textbook as one of the six sources (and it can be considered peer-reviewed). For more peer-reviewed sources see Ebscohost databases, with ‘Academic Search Premier’ being most preferred, accessible through the online ASU library portal. To assure that you have located a peer-reviewed source, check the box marked ‘peer-reviewed’ on an ASU library database search and any articles left in the search are then guaranteed to be peer-reviewed.


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Pick a controversial topic related to the study of social change that the US media is covering today. Describe the topic and why it is controversial.

Try to pick a UNIQUE topic – for example – NOT abortion rights, gun rights, NFL Kneeling, euthanasia, capital punishment, media violence, legal drinking age (ugh), marijuana legalization (ugh ugh), the minimum wage, animal testing, vaccines, electoral college etc, etc, etc… these are not unique topics. If you are going to choose a topic that likely has been chosen by many other students (past and present), please go out of your way to provide unique perspectives on the cliché topic. Choosing something very current, innovative, and new is always a good bet. See below for more on choosing a unique topic.

Provide TWO opposing views regarding your controversial and current topic. Present each side as if your views line-up with the side being presented. The goal is to make it so I cannot tell which side you actually support. If you provide only one side of your chosen topic you will receive, at best, a 50 out of 100 on your term paper.

In between the end of your paper and the reference page include a ‘reveal section’, where you reveal your true opinions, the side of the debate you actually favor, and what you’ve learned through your research. Keep in mind, the main goal in this assignment is to argue both sides equally well. The reveal page should be no more than one-fifth, at most, of your total term paper length; it is less important than arguing both sides well.


Evidence can take a number of forms – facts and figures, library research, social experiences. However, the strongest forms of evidence are going to come from peer reviewed social science journals, found in University-level Ebsco library databases like Academic Search Premier. Less convincing is evidence marshaled from newspapers, news outfits, networks, magazines, and websites. When deciding on whether a source is reputable, follow typical conventions (and/or the media bias heuristic provided in Module 0). Major news outlets are considered more reputable than alternative media, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more correct, it means that less reputable resources require more and better evidence and argumentation if used as a source. Least convincing is personal social experiences (please do not include personal experiences in the body your term paper; personal experience is OK for the Reveal Section).


Make sure to provide citations for your evidence using the Chicago Manual of Style Format – Within the text cite like this: (Author, Date).

On Your Reference Page, your citations should look like this:

Author. Date. “Title of Article”, Title of Source. URL (if applicable). Publishing Company (if applicable).

APA style citation/referencing is also acceptable.

Quotations should never run for more than four sentences. The main point should be articulated in your own words with quotations merely providing support. Cite ideas as well. Cite any sources that have informed your work in any way. You can never go wrong by citing as much as possible while utilizing as many sources as possible.


If you have read the directions for the assignment carefully, you know that the paper contains 5 basic sections.


An ‘Introduction’ to your topic.
A ‘Pro Side’ regarding your topic that contains the best supportive arguments for a ‘positive’ view.
A ‘Con Side’ regarding your topic that contains the best arguments for a ‘negative’ view.
A ‘Reveal Page’ where you reveal the side you support and what you learned through your research.
A ‘Reference Page’.
NOTE – Reference Pages and Title Pages Do Not Count Towards Your Assigned Page Totals.


Please understand, the reasons I make choosing a unique topic a key part of this assignment are:

A unique topic makes it more likely that students will not encounter trouble with a high turintin match score – any match over approximately 30% is considered problematic, and on overdone topics, it is fairly easy to unintentionally hit a 30% match.
Unique topics make it less likely that a student has paid for an already written or written by someone else paper.
Being compelled to choose a unique topic almost always proves highly valuable to students. Unique topics that pique a student’s interest eventually provide the insights and academic pathways into career trajectories for students.
If the topic you are choosing has been debated for years and years and years and years… it is not an interesting/unique topic: Conventional views and debates on abortion rights, gun rights, capital punishment, assisted suicide, NFL Kneeling, media violence, marijuana legalization, the drinking age, the minimum wage, animal testing, vaccines, electoral college, etc etc etc fall into this not-unique category. Basically, if it’s on – DON’T CHOOSE IT. Be more original. The world is full of novel, unique, and exciting developments – new ones everyday – choose to research one of them. Especially in these times – feel free to pick a topic related to the pandemic or the protests, but be sure to keep in mind – this is not an opinion paper! Your paper must be well researched, evidence based, clearly sourced and cited from quality peer reviewed and professional sources.

That being said, I realize that unique can have several meanings – I am definitely not saying that you should be the only person ever who has thought about the topic. Basically, if it’s a relatively new and uniquely 21st century debate, born of the novel changes our world is rapidly going through… then that counts as unique to me. For example – genetic modification – good or bad – that is unique and interesting and current. In fact, the world of current and novel technological development provides endless interesting new and novel debates regarding social issues and consequences. If it is relatively new and currently on blast on your social networks – such a topic may strike me as new and unique (but it also may not, this is where your judgment comes in) – Forms of Protesting (peaceful, violent, blocking traffic, otherwise), Something Perhaps Conspiratorial (is it true or false), Voter Fraud (is it occurring, does it matter), An Aspect of Mass Surveillance (useful or dangerous), Militarization of Police Forces (necessary or dangerous) – topics such as these are new, complex, and relatively unique for a student paper. HOWEVER, realize some topics on blast on social media have already been addressed by many many many students before you in college papers. You can choose such topics, but if you do try to find a relatively unique angle – for example, if you are going to choose the common topic of Black Lives Matter, don’t just write a pro and con side as hundreds upon hundreds of students have turned in papers with that angle, find a more unique and complex way to approach Black Lives Matter. For example the BLM led calls to defund the police would make for an interesting two-sides term paper. How about an analysis of federal forces being deployed to cities to counter protesting… find those complex, intelligent, more current, and more nuanced debates. Put some real thought into your topic choice; give potentially played-out topics a unique and original spin to increase the uniqueness.

Also, realize that if there is an aspect of any Lectures that you found particularly interesting and novel, hadn’t heard much about, and wanted more info regarding… chances are that counts to me too as a unique topic (like cryptocurrency for example). Go more in depth, find different (albeit still reliable) sources than the ones I used in my discussion, taking different or deeper perspectives on the topic, making different and deeper arguments, and I would likely appreciate such a paper. So, if you are still searching for a topic, take another look at the Lectures you found most interesting with an eye toward going deeper. Also, feel free to explore my ASU dedicated YouTube Channel for Lecture Video Series not included in this class in order to get the creative thinking juices going.

If you are choosing a classically conventional topic, realize that doing so is risky for this assignment, you may lose points, and so you will necessarily need to debate a new perspective or angle on it – for example, you want to do a paper on gun rights… so overdone. But what about gun rights in the Ukraine – less so. What about gun rights in the developing world? What about whether people on the no-fly or terror watch list should get gun rights – less overdone. You find immigration interesting – ok, but give it a 2020 spin – Is Building a Wall Even Possible, Is Mass Deportation a Good or Realistic Idea in the 21st century, Have Deportations Been Higher Under Trump and should they be higher or lower, etc. Address something 21st century, something novel, something extremely current, something innovative and transformative, something complex, something technological, something especially germane to 2020, and bring in new perspectives; that is what I am looking for. Go unique!

BUT, always keep in mind that you MUST argue two opposing perspectives on your topic, each equally well. So do not pick a topic with which you will have difficulty doing so.

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