Hey, kids. It’s time for a little independent study. For our final two weeks together, you will select one of the “eight big questions” of social science from which we chose the central themes of two of our units. In fact, you can even go back to one of those topics (progress / equality) and take a deeper dive if you like. Or, go ahead and strike off in a new direction. To refresh your memory, here they are in all their glory:
- Why do people so often act against their own best interests?
- How can society build and maintain trustworthy and resilient institutions?
- How can humanity continue to increase its collective wisdom?
- How can we ensure (or at least encourage) equality of opportunity for all people?
- What exactly is the effect of our biology on our society?
- How can we best manage “black swans” – rare events that have extreme consequences?
- Can progress be painless?
- Can there be any such thing as a free and safe society?
Given how little time we have left, this isn’t going to be a big project. What it is, however, is a chance for you to pursue a topic of personal interest, or, dare I say, passion. However, I will put a few guidelines in place to keep you from getting too lost in the woods.
Just don’t even ask. It needs to be as long as it needs to be. Having said that, I am a fan of brevity. Which is to say, prioritize quality over quantity.
Write something. I don’t much care what format that comes in. The standard method is an essay written in Classic Style. If you want a refresher on what that means and don’t really feel like “working” right now, I suggest you watch this video.
Your paper will include:
- A clearly stated thesis. This means you will make a claim of fact that explains some kind of observed phenomenon in the world. Here’s a refresher in case you need one. Alternatively, you may wish to take a more analytic approach. Either is fine.
- Reference to at least two studies. You may come to this information through either primary or secondary sources. A primary source is the actual study itself including all its methodology, statistics, conclusions, etc. A secondary source is someone else writing about a study and so you are therefore looking at the study through that author’s lens.
- Reference to at least two social science theories. These theories may come from the disciplines of: anthropology; sociology; psychology; economics; philosophy; political science; or history. It is okay if those theories are the products of the studies you’ve found.
In the interest of time (and because they’re kind of a pain), informal citation will be fine. If you want to embed hyperlinks, fine. If you want to mention an article’s title and its author in the body of what you write, also fine. As long as I have what I need to search for what you’ve read, fine.
How Will We know It’s Good (assessment)
Sentence by sentence, is what you said true to the best of your knowledge? Have you stated what you want to state in the clearest possible terms? Does your paper contain all of the requirements listed above? Then it’s good. Anything else is a matter of degrees.
The most important thing (okay, fine, aside from all the requirements I listed up there) about this assignment is that you are chasing after a little piece of Ultimate Truth that you happen to be particularly interested in for some reason and that you’re able to communicate what you find in a way that you’re more or less comfortable with. That really is it. I’ll be circulating and checking periodically just to make sure you’re not galloping off in a direction that is so different that it doesn’t even apply to what we’re trying to do here. Other than that, if you feel like raising your hand to ask, “Is it okay if I…?” I’ll tell you right now you can probably answer that question on your own. Just ask yourself: Does what I want to do violate any of the requirements listed above? Will my idea open up an exciting vista of exploration into a vast world of exciting possibilities and wisdom? Is my idea at least tangentially relate-able to one of the Big Eight Questions and/or the social sciences in general? Then, yes. Yes it is okay if you examine the socio-economic impact of body image as portrayed in nineties anime and its subsequent effect on the unstable relationship between the military-industrial complex and major beverage companies. Have at it and let me know what you find out!
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here compiling a list of “exam-able” material we can go over with our final three days together. Trust me. There’s more than you think.
Due: June 20th, 2018