Public Sociology for Political Sociology: A Politics and Society Op-Ed Assignment


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In lieu of a research paper, this assignment requires political sociology students to compose an op-ed piece modeled after those in the most widely respected U.S. and international newspapers. After selecting a particular issue related to politics and public policy, each student compiles sociological research on their topic to make a compelling and publicly accessible argument about the issue, complete with policy recommendations. The assignment requires the sociological expertise of a research paper but demands that students present this expertise to an educated lay audience in an insightful, engaging, thought-provoking, and brief op-ed piece. Although designed for a political sociology course, this assignment can easily be adapted for use in multiple sociology courses across specialization areas.


Resource Type(s):
Hana Erin Brown, Wake Forest University 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Political Sociology 
Class Level:
Class Size:

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Students will learn how to synthesize sociological research and communicate their findings in a new but important format: an op-ed piece. In doing so, they will learn how to communicate research findings to non-academic audiences in an effective manner.
Assessment 1:
Students pursued their projects sequentially with opportunities for evaluation and feedback at the end of each stage. The stages included submission of a: topic proposal, annotated bibliography, draft assignment, and final assignment.
Goal 2:
Through this process, they will learn how to assess existing op-ed articles and media reporting for substance, writing style, and accuracy. They will also learn to write succinctly, adhering to the space limitations of mainstream newspapers.
Assessment 2:
Students generated the class grading rubric for the assignment (attached) after collectively reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of multiple op-ed pieces published in local, national, and internationally circulated newspapers.
Goal 3:
Finally, students will develop and hone their own sociological perspective on a self-selected topic of personal and political significance.
Assessment 3:
Students designed a grading rubric which measured (1) topic significance, (2) writing creativity, and (3) the use of sociological research to advance an argument, critique popular knowledge, and suggest social, political, or economic reforms.

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Grading Rubric.docx