COVID-19 Sociology Paper

Students will complete a 6-page (1500-word) research paper that provides a critical examination of a sociological issue related to Covid-19.  The page and word-count does not include the title page or reference sheet. The overall aim of the paper is to call upon the field of sociology to engage in a systematic and objective examination of a key issue relating to Covid-19.   Students are expected to explore the issues and ideas that arise in relation to Covid-19 from a sociological perspective.  In their essays, students will need to ensure that they provide a sociological picture of the issues at play in Canada that includes a description of overarching sociological variables (e.g. individuals/groups affected, socioeconomic issues, racialization, gender, inequality, structural variables, stigma).

After providing an overview of the area related to Covid-19 that is being investigated, students are expected to undertake a more in depth sociological analysis of the topic. There are a number of sociological questions that students might use to guide their essay such as:

  • What is the sociological context; what are the relationships between Covid-19 and society in this instance?
  • What makes this a sociological issue?
  • How many people are affected?
  • Is there a specific sociological theory and related evidence that could be employed to shed light on the issues at play?
  • How is the effect of the wider sociological context on the issue related to the pandemic? What sociocultural issues are at play with regard to the Covid-19 (i.e. where is the sociology)?
  • Are there implicit or explicit understandings of the pandemic that affect individual or societal narratives and approaches to it?
  • What is the sociological context; what are the relationships between the pandemic and society in this instance? 
  • How are the public responses to this particular pandemic related issue? 
  • How are societal relationships organized around the pandemic-related issue that you’re examining in terms of institutions as systems of control? 
  • What are the collective ideas that influence our understanding of the pandemic, the people or systems that are affected by it (or the area under examination)? 
  • What specific sociological discourse and related research evidence is being employed to shed light on the issues?

Students do not have to answer all the questions listed above.  They are provided as examples of sociological issues that students might consider as part of their analysis in this paper.

Students need to draw on peer-reviewed sociological literature (theoretical and research) in their papers. Students will need to ensure that they draw on sociological materials that range beyond the course readings (*do use the textbook as a source or readings from the textbook as sources; please find some new ones).  Incorporating sociological work into student papers will:

  • help to elucidate the key facts related to the topic under examination (the what)
  • help to provide an explanation for the issues at play in your paper (the why)
  • bolster or strengthen key arguments in your paper
  • acknowledge authorship of ideas (if the idea is not your own)
  • link your ideas to wider academic discourse about your topic

Students should find sociological work that offers theoretical explanations for the pandemic related issue under examination (the why).  This portion of your paper provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate that sociology matters, that it is relevant and that it can be effective for addressing as well as understanding the relationship between the pandemic and society.

The number of references that a student needs depends on the argument that they present. In general, key points that a student introduces into their argument needs to be substantiated or bolstered by academic references.  These references may take the form of peer-reviewed journal articles or books as well as reports written by credible sources (e.g. a research report for government, Statistics Canada).  In the initial part of the essay, a student tends to establish the parameter of a sociological problem (e.g. what are we talking about, how many people are affected, what are the broad, societal, characteristics of the sociological issue).  This tends to require references and, again, depends on the sociological picture that is portrayed.  As the essay progresses, students need to provide some sociological analysis. This typically involves the introduction of some theoretical constructs and analysis (e.g. this where the paper explores the “why” associated with the topic).  This is where the student brings their ideas into contact with the wider academic discourse looking at their topic (e.g. they could, by way of illustration, apply an overarching theory or explore the work of academics examining the area).  This requires additional references and, again, depends on the ideas, constructs or analysis that the student introduces.  Finally, a student may offer some sort of investigation of possible solutions or interventions (as a public scholar) which may, also, in turn, introduce additional academic sources. 

So, then, students need to make sure that there are adequate references to support their arguments and connect them to wider academic discourse.  The adequate amount depends on the arguments that are introduced.  For example, if a student makes a statement like: “studies show that…” and doesn’t provide a reference, I might ask: “what studies, specifically?” and this would indicate a shortfall in the area of references.  They can certainly pass the paper and score in the B range by ensuring that there is a bare minimum of academic references to support their main argument but, as the paper becomes sophisticated, it will likely require more references.  Each paper, then, is different.  Students should not think about the “bare minimum” that is required in order to capture a particular grade but rather, should ask themselves: “how many references do I actually need to make the argument I’ve made compelling (to myself and the reader)?”  This is not to say that a paper requires 50 references.  There can be too many references and this is typically manifested as a paper that reads like a survey of a multitude of papers but doesn’t have a tight, focused, argument. 

Term papers are due on 23 February at 3:00pm and should be submitted (uploaded) via Canvas.  Assignments should not be emailed as they can be lost in junk filters.  Papers should be double-spaced and in a 12pt traditional font such as Arial or Times New Roman with one-inch margins. The pages of your paper should be numbered in the upper right-hand corner, and the final word count should appear at either the beginning or the end of your paper.

All papers and written submissions for this course should have a “References” section that includes all the sources that have been have cited in the paper. Please do not include other source materials that have not been directly referenced in the paper.  With regard to reference style for the paper, students should use the American Sociological Association (ASA) style.  The entire style guide is available for purchase on the ASA website. A quick overview guide is available free of charge. Please search the American Sociological Association’s “Quick Tips for ASA Style” document on the web. It is available free of charge (*all students should download this document for reference so that they can ensure that the references in their papers and written submissions are correct).  The entire style book is available in the UBC Koerner library.  There are many free ASA style guides (e.g. such as those provided by libraries and universities).  Find one and research it before asking questions about references.

Some referencing systems, such as the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) provide a choice between two different systems: notes (along with bibliography) and the author-date system. The social sciences, as a rule, tend to utilize the latter system: with the author and date in a short form within the text that is subsequently expanded within the reference section at the end of the paper.  As a result, students should rely on the author and date method as opposed to the notes approach. The author and date method seems to help the flow of the paper and make it a little easier to follow.