Draft due February 11, 2016
Final paper due April 14, 2016

The term paper for this course will be a 15-20 page analysis. Here is the default assignment:

Find a drug that used to be taken for one thing and is now used for something else. Describe that social reconstruction. For instance, marijuana was originally a drug used mostly by the poor for recreational purposes. More recently, it has been constructed as a medically useful substance by advocates of medical marijuana. How did that happen? (You can’t choose marijuana for the paper.) Ritalin? Wellbutrin? MDMA? Psilocybin?

If you don’t like the default assignment, you can research the topic of your choice, relevant to the sociological study of drugs, with my approval.

Consider that this is essentially a thought piece cum literature review; your job is to make a convincing analysis. Toward that end, you should back up your thesis with authoritative sources: peer reviewed journal articles, books from reputable publishers, maybe the occassional news item from a respected media outlet. That makes the assignment in some ways like a literature review, but your voice and your ideas should remain central. Possibly you won’t even find any articles that explicitly support your exact thesis (“Drug x used to be prescribed for y but Big Pharma switched gears and started pushing doctors to prescribe it for z”). Instead, you may find some good literature about the effects of drug x, and some other sources about its earlier use, and some recent magazine articles about its reconstruction. Then it falls to you to cobble all this information together into a convincing argument that is consistent with sociological theory and data. Fun!

Some further thoughts:

The default assignment invites you to approach your subject from a social constructivist perspective. You might find it useful to borrow from the literature on the social construction of technology – ideas like open versus closed technologies, interpretive flexibility, technological momentum, etc.

On February 11th, you owe me a preliminary “draft” of your paper. It should include 1) a one sentence thesis statement that describes in a nutshell what the paper is about, 2) a one or two page outline showing the subtopics to be covered and their organization, and 3) at least 10 sources, formatted in ASA style, to be used in the final paper. The draft is worth 10 points of the total 100 points for the paper. It is due at the beginning of class and will not be accepted late.

The paper is worth 100 points. Ten of those points are for the draft. Seventy points will go to content, and the other 20 will go to mechanics.

The content portion of your grade covers your ideas and analysis. Is the paper SOCIOLOGICAL and not just a dry history of the drug? Is the paper well reasoned? Is the exposition clear? Are the references authoritative? Are the references current? As a general rule of thumb, journal articles cited shouldn’t be over 10 years old.

The mechanics portion of your grade covers grammar, spelling, punctuation, and correct citation of references. Formate your paper in the style of the American Sociological Association.

Students in my classes sometimes lose ALL of the mechanical points, because they refuse to proofread. Running the spell checker is not proofreading. For the love of all that is decent, proofread your paper, then have your roommate proofread it.

The number of references you cite will depend on your topic, of course. But a 15-20 page paper will likely call for 15 or 20 sources. Probably not fewer than 10 or more than 50. Surely no more than 600.

Plagiarism won’t be tolerated. Here is a common form of plagiarism that I repeatedly catch graduate students doing. I give them zeros and turn them in to the honor council. Semester after semester after semester. It’s called the “triple hurkey.” First, cut and paste somebody’s words into your paper. Second, omit the quote marks indicating that those are someone else’s words. Third, put a parenthetical reference (the real author’s name or someone else’s – it doesn’t matter) at the end of the stolen words, e.g. “(Smith 1992).” That makes it look like you’ve paraphrased Smith and properly cited him, but of course you’ve actually stolen his words verbatim and presented them as your own. Cheater. Never right click on any text. Never copy and paste anything, ever. I’m sick of giving F’s for this, semester after semester after semester. There are, of course, many other ways to cheat. They are mostly obvious. Just write your own paper, please.

Web pages not obviously authored by credible authorities have no place in a paper of this kind. If you site wikipedia, I will hand your paper back to you ungraded.

Papers will lose 10 points for each day late.

Weird fonts and margins annoy your grader. Use 12 point fonts and one inch margins. Don’t put extra spaces between paragraphs. Basically, if it looks like a children’s book, I’m going to tease you.

Wow I sound cranky. I’m actually excited about reading these papers, I promise. I adore this sort of sociological/historical/technological analysis, and I think you’ll find the project rewarding. This is going to be fun – enjoy!