Research Paper Proposal

Research Paper Proposal

Research Paper - Proposal

A 200 to 400 word proposal which outlines the topic or general subject area that their research paper will address.

The proposal should try to address Mills’ “sociological imagination” in some way, for instance, by making a connection between the student’s own biography and the public issue addressed by the social movement which is the subject of the research paper; or by highlighting the biography of one or more of the social movement participants involved in the social movement under study. It must also include a proposed argument and three questions that will guide the research.

Mills’ “sociological imagination” 

And use of search engines such as Google or Bing.

To help you devise your research proposal, let’s ask ourselves why we want to know about social movements and how we will answer the questions that arise in their study.

Why do you want to know about social movements? The answers to the question are as varied as the individuals who come to this course, and as varied those who have taken a scholarly interest in social movements, as shown by the wide-ranging debates in the literature. From fields as diverse as public administration, sociology, political science, history, adult education, criminology, and security studies, scholars have shown a growing interest in social movement studies. Each has their own reasons.

Criminologists might want to know the extent to which social movements are hideouts for “criminal elements.” Others question the relationship between the anti-corporate globalization impulses of fundamentalist movements and social movements. Still others might study white collar crime, or corporate crimes, as motivators of social movement action. The public administrator might have many reasons to study social movements: from concerns of public safety and social reform, to movement-state relations, policy-making, and the durability of governance structures.

An adult educationalist, likewise, might have a range of questions, including how to better design curriculum in many disciplines to reflect the importance of social movements; or how to make more effective the learning experiences which take place within social movements and between activists and other actors in society (including family, religious and work associates, police, policy-makers, corporate shareholders and investors, and others). An example of “learning experiences” shared between activists and others is having participants in women’s anti-rape movements train police officers in the best procedures to use when assisting rape victims.

Sociology is, in a sense, the true home of social movement studies. In the broadest sense, sociology is the study of society, and social movements are expressions of unity among some segments of society aimed at finding remedies to social problems. As a sociologist, one reason to study social movements, then, is to gain a better general understanding of social problems and their impacts, and the means by which social groups most effectively address those problems.

How do we study social movements? The answer to this question depends very much on the answer to the first question, above. The reason one wants to learn about social movements helps guide a scholar towards methods of inquiry and interpretation most likely to help answer his or her particular questions.

We will approach the study of social movements with the modest aim of answering five questions, to begin with, in order to set our intention down on paper. They are easy to remember: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Our objective will be to identify and to explain social change related to the activities of one or more social movements.

This method of studying social movements seeks to answer questions about social change and its relation to the struggles of actual people, self-organized within non-violent social movements.

In sum, in order to study social movements in this course, we will:

engage our “sociological imaginations” by connecting our own personal biographies to historical or ongoing social movements, or both;

answer six questions about particular social movements (who, what, where, when, why, and how);

identify change in society (or in social relations, practices, policies, or institutions) related to the activities of the social movement under study; and explain that change, with reference to a conceptual framework of the student’s choice.

You may wish to incorporate the use of any of the conceptual tools and approaches found in the readings for units one and two. You are encouraged to do so at the earliest stages of the research process, including within the Research Proposal assignment.

Suggested research topics

A study of the Clayoquot Sound movement of the 1990s, and the more recent developments around logging in B.C.

A study of a Canadian environmental movement as it relates to questions of subsistence, enclosure, and the commons.
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