Social Problems Autobiography

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Sociologist C. Wright Mills developed the concept of the “Sociological Imagination” to help us understand how we can see individual lives in a social context. In this paper you will turn a sociological lens on your own life as you analyze your own biography in the context of a sociological analysis of one or more social problems.

For example, you might see your own struggles in getting through college in the context of a sociological analysis of problems in education. You might look at your experience growing up in poverty in terms of sociological perspectives that see poverty as a result of unequal class relations. You might see how social problems like poverty, racism, and gender inequality have interacted (or not) in your life to shape part of your experience. You may also examine how various forms of privilege have shaped your life experience. There are many possibilities but, the central part of this assignment is stepping back and situating yourself sociologically, not always an easy feat in a society that emphasizes our individuality.

In your paper you should first introduce the problem(s) you are addressing and talk about your own experience with these problems. You should then use at least one of the theoretical perspectives (functionalist, conflict, feminist, interactionist) and three specific course concepts (here are a FEW examples: class, race, gender, feminization of poverty, color blind racism and segregation, white privilege, assimilation, etc.) to discuss your experience sociologically. For example, if you have struggled with a learning disability you might look at how your experience of education was shaped by teachers’ and other students’ perceptions of your disability (labeling theory associated with symbolic interactionism).

You might also look at how this labeling may have impacted your sense of self and may have been part of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, or not. You might also discuss how a lack of resources for learning disabled students has shaped your ability to get an education or alternately how coming from a financially well-off family allowed your parents to pay for resources low-income students with the same learning challenges might not have had access to. This is of course, just one example but, we all have experience with the issues we have studied this semester- race and ethnicity, class and poverty, crime, gender, education, healthcare, and so on. This is your chance to do the hardest yet most rewarding sociological analysis of all, sociological self-analysis.


  1. Your paper must be at least 1300 words and no more than 1500 words.
  2. You must include a word count on the front your paper.
  3. Your paper must be typed in 12-point font, and double-spaced.
  4. You DO NOT need to refer to sources outside of the course text, course readings, or lecture materials. However, you should cite concepts from the text and lecture appropriately, i.e. (Leon-Guerrero, 2018), (Bonilla Silva, 2000) or (Lecture 2/26/19). If you do use outside sources you should cite them and include a bibliography. If you use direct quotes from any text, you must include a page number – example: (Mills 1956 p.203). Failure to appropriately cite sources constitutes plagiarism.
  5. Please check out this link to the SJSU plagiarism tutorial and be sure you understand the specifics of academic integrity:
  6. You should avoid using direct quotes from the text, it is best to paraphrase, i.e. to put the quote in your own words.
  7. Work from an outline and be sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence and that the rest of the sentences in that paragraph follow from that topic sentence.
  8. Make an appointment at the writing center now to have them look over your paper before you turn it in. Their appointments fill up fast, so make one now and then get your paper done early so they can help you!
  9. Read your paper to yourself out loud. If a sentence or phrase doesn’t make sense to you, it won’t make sense to me.
  10. Avoid repetition, you have a word limit, yet, you should be able to complete the assignment well and still stay within that limit.
  11. Your paper will be evaluated on:
    1. The use and knowledge of the theoretical perspectives and three course concepts.
    2. Your ability to apply these theories and concepts to your own experience.
    3. Your use of your sociological imagination, shown by your ability to put your own biography in a social context.
    4. Your ability to balance a description of your life experience with a sociological analysis of that experience.
    5. Your ability to successfully follow the guidelines for the assignment.
    6. Your ability to convey your ideas in writing (i.e. grammar, clarity, appropriate word choice).
    7. Creativity.
  12. Please see the syllabus for my late policy. I will no longer accept any late papers after 10am on Tuesday April 23rd
  13. Be sure to save an electronic copy of your paper after you have uploaded it to Canvas.

Last Updated on April 25, 2019 by EssayPro