GUIDELINES ON ESSAY
Choose ONE of the following social problems (in the Australian context): unemployment, binge drinking, homelessness. Choose ONE of the three key sociological perspectives (functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism) discussed in weeks 2-4 to explain the phenomenon. In your answer, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of the nature and extent of the ‘problem’ before applying your chosen sociological theory. The recommended combination of social problems and theories is as follows:
BEFORE YOU START
There are at least four places where you will find useful information about what needs to go into this essay:
This site contains the course profile which provides you with your essay question, formatting guidelines and the submission process. Here you can also find an Assessment tab that contains further relevant information such as the guidelines you are currently reading.
The School’s Essay Writing Guide
This guide contains crucial information about the general requirements for an academic essay, as well as tips on how to write a better essay. Be sure to check out the three modeled essays to see what markers are looking for. Follow this link: http://www4.gu.edu.au/arts/ccj/study_guide/
This sheet shows clearly how marks will be awarded and what you need to do. You will see that it is broken down into three main sections – content, structure, and writing and referencing. You need to use this sheet as a check list and make sure you have covered the points listed. Below is a brief overview of these three sections (according to the criteria sheet).
SUGGESTED ESSAY STRUCTURE (according to the marks allocated to each section)
- Introduction (5 marks): 150 words (one paragraph)
Outline the social problem you will be discussing, the theory you will be applying and your argument (that the theory can be used to explain the origins of the social problem).
- Social problem in an Australian context (10 marks): 300-350 words (one to two paragraphs)
Give a definition of a social problem (and reference it), and connect it to your chosen social problem. Outline the nature of the social problem (who is most affected – the young, the elderly, men, women, social or cultural groups? What percentage of males and females are affected? What percentage of various age groups are affected? What is the social impact [this is not about the biological or physical effects or personal impacts, but the impact on society as a whole]). Also outline the extent of the social problem (how many people in Australia are impacted? What percentage of the population is this?)
- Theory description (15 marks): 400-500 words (two paragraphs)
Give an overview of the broader theoretical perspective you have chosen to apply in this section – aim for three or four elements of the theory. While your description of concepts from the theory are marked within this criterion, it is better to in terms of structure to save concepts until the application section (next section).
- Theory application (15 marks): 400-500 words (two paragraphs)
Name and define one concept from the theory and then apply it to explain the origins of the social problem – use research to support this application. Keeping the definition of the concept close to your application of the concept increases the chances that you will apply the concept to explain the origins of the social problem. This is why the recommendation is to define your concepts here and not in the previous section (although your definitions will be marked as part of theory description).
Name and define another concept from the theory and then apply it to explain the origins of the social problem – use research to support this application.
- Conclusion (5 marks each): 150 words
Outline the social problem you discussed, the theory you applied and your argument (that the theory can be used to explain the origins of the social problem).
CONTENT (see the marking criteria sheet)
Start with three key steps:
This will help you construct your main argument which you need to point out at the very start of your essay (that the theory can explain the origins of the social problem). In addition, you need to continuously relate the information you present back to this argument throughout the rest of your essay. In this instance your argument needs to be grounded in the application of the theory – how does your selected theory explain how your selected social problem occurs. This is a persuasive essay, which means that you need to properly persuade the reader of your argument. In this instance you need to first persuade the reader that your selected social problem actually is a problem (by outlining nature and extent of the problem); second, you need to persuade the reader of your theoretical understanding by properly explaining your selected theory; finally through your application of concepts from the theory, you need to persuade the reader of your argument (that the theory can be used to explain the origins of the social problem).
For your selected social problem, you need to make sure you follow the tips:
Before applying the theory, you need to first explain the theory. Here you need to use academic and authoritative sources to define key elements of the theoretical perspective and demonstrate your understanding of theory. It does not matter which theoretical perspective you choose to apply. What does matter is how well you argue your case. Do not simply describe your selected theoretical position, make sure you apply two concepts from the theory to your social problem. You need to make arguments (come up with two main points) that support your discussion and back these up with appropriate research (empirical) evidence. You need to keep in mind that when using empirical evidence to support your claims you need (i) a brief study description (e.g. number of participants, measures used), (ii) the key study findings (relevant to your argument) and (iii) the link back to the essay argument.
Throughout your essay you need to use at least 10 authoritative sources. This means you have to research widely and you can begin your search with the set readings provided. These were selected because they are directly relevant to the course content, so do not neglect them.
Today, a great deal of research can be done via the Internet, however you need to be selective in what you use. The two main sources of information you need to use for your essay are as follows:
For this essay you need to avoid the use of the following sources:
STRUCTURE (see the marking criteria sheet)
Often the difference between a good and a poor essay is not what is said, but how well it is said. Essay structure is an important part of the essay. The following are some simple tips and rules that can greatly improve your essay.
A good introduction is crucial. To navigate through an unfamiliar essay, the reader needs a map or instructions that highlight the points of interest and guides them safely to the end. Your introduction is a brief summary of your essay. It must do the following:
You must give serious thought to the order in which you present your information. There needs to be logic to it – you cannot just present information in a random order. A discussion needs to be well structured and the structure should be obvious to the reader. Keep telling your reader what you are up to.
Make sure you set out a clear plan in your introduction and then follow that structure in your discussion. Use ‘signposts’ to emphasis that you are following the plan (e.g. The second argument is…). Do not write too short or too long paragraphs (longer than two sentences, no longer than half a page). Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and should only discuss one idea – make sure your paragraphs are not too long.
You conclusion is a brief summary of the essay. Do not introduce any new information, and certainly do not leave your answer to the question (or instructions) until the conclusion. You need to avoid the use of quotes here.
BINGE DRINKING AND SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
Binge Drinking is a huge issue in the contemporary society where lives are heavily affected and destroyed. Binge Drinking involves the heavy and excessive drinking of alcohol in an episodic manner that not only affects the mind and body of the individual, but it also puts strain on the social life of the individual. Binge Drinking is often induced due to a variety of factors such as tension, stress, sadness, excess money, or even plain habit of drinking (Hasselgård-Rowe et al., 2017). However, Symbolic Interactionism can be used to explain and elaborate the origin of the social issue of Binge Drinking. Moreover, it can also be stated that Symbolic Interactionism can help to mitigate the issue of Binge Drinking from the society. The following study critically analyses and evaluates Binge Drinking in Australian Context, Symbolic Interactionism, and Symbolic Interactionism in Binge Drinking.
In the contemporary society, one of the biggest prevalent issues is the issue of excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. Excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages occur when an individual is faced with tension, stress, sadness, as well as the influence of their peers, excess money, or even a plain habit of drinking. This causes the individual to be heavily intoxicated with alcohol which affects his mind, senses, body, and even his social connections. This issue is called binge drinking (Fitzgerald & Jordan, 2016). Men and women who are adults comprise of the groups of people majorly affected by binge drinking. In Australia, 48% adult males as well as 32% adult females are stated to be affected by binge drinking once in a year while, 12% males and 4% females binge drink once in a week at the very least (Keatley et al., 2017). In the age group of 20 to 29, around 18% of the Australian population binge drinks once in a week at the very least and in the under 19 age group, it has been found that female binge drink more than males. The females account for 28.4% while males account for less than 24%. It has been found that binge drinking is prevalent in all age groups up to 55 due to a variety of factors including personal, social, and economical ones (Powers et al., 2016). Binge drinking is very harmful for the society as it not only makes an individual less social, but it also strains his or her social relationships and destroys them as a side effect. Moreover, binge drinking negatively impacts others and they either resent the individual or get influenced by the individual and start binge drinking themselves. Either way this leads to various issues and problems for the binge drinkers and they end up doing things they would never want to do in a normal stable condition (Kuntsche et al., 2017).
Symbolic Interactionism is a sociology which helps mainly the mentally-weak people to interact with the sound-mind persons; it is a framework that helps the society to better understand the interactions among the individuals in a society (Rock, 2016) It is a process of understanding the interpretations that affect the interactions between the individuals. It is a social perspective which developed in the middle of the twentieth century and it spread all over the world. George Herbert Mead is considered as a founder of symbolic interactionism but his work never came into light (Denzin, 2016). The study involves observations of one-on-one interactions between the individuals within a society. In simple words, it can be explained as theory that teaches how to interact with the people and to study their behaviour in terms by symbolic means. It is parallel relationship between an individual’s behaviour and the meaning of symbols in such a manner that the behaviour can be predicted. It gives a depth understanding of interactions to the individuals. It considers human as an active and creative participants who can construct their own social world not just as passive, simple objects of socialization. It identifies the social perspectives of reality are variable and changing. It helps the individuals to learn and get know-how about the symbolic languages in the social environment. It has some weaknesses which shows its other perspectives as well, by using symbolic languages it can be interpreted wrongly or differently among different groups of people in a society that can result as a bad behaviour done by an individual as everyone has its own mentality, anyone can take that interpretation wrongly without understanding its meaning (Vannini, 2016) By using symbolic languages a problem most often occurs that it gets hard to identify and quantify things in symbolic language because the theory mainly deals with the interpretations and it is subjective in nature (Tzeng, 2017)
Human beings are active in shaping their behaviour; the individuals sometimes create their own meanings and understandings in use of symbolic language forgetting the society protocols. It overestimates the power of individuals in society; they create their own realities and perceptions. It ignores the emotional corner of human conduct and strictly focuses on logical behaviour. It seems almost astonishing that such a powerful theory of social perspectives has not resulted more useful theory for social practice (Carter & Fuller, 2016) In some manner, this theory does not seems even a theory and acts more likely as a psychological study. In our daily life, we also use this symbolic language very often with our co-workers, companions, friends, relatives and people around us. Sometimes it turns out good to have an interaction among people in such a manner and sometimes it turns into a disaster when an individual is unable to understand or misinterprets the symbolic language or the interactions.
Symbolic Interactionism is done in both at a micro-level and macro- level to understand the complexities of the social aspects within the community. However, for the social issue of binge drinking, the use of different concepts of Symbolic Interactionism is required. One of the most important concepts of Symbolic Interactionism is the use of Symbols (Katovich & Rosenthal Vaughan, 2016). Symbols are a significant building block of the human conduct where symbols signify the concept or idea of a particular event, status, and even a level of being. Symbols can be either verbal or non-verbal and used to communicate with others so that they can understand the basis of it. For binge drinking, individuals are often misguided and lured by false symbols of drinking where drinking is seen as a sort of achievement (Wiseman, 2018).It has been found that binge drinking is the excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages occur when an individual is faced with tension, stress, sadness, as well as the influence of their peers, excess money, or even a plain habit of drinking. This symbol of excessive drinking can be perceived by the individual as a liberal and honor act towards drinking, transitioning from child to adulthood, medicine to cure depression or sadness or tension, and many more. These different symbolic perceptions of excessive drinking render the individual to drink more beyond their capacity to drink and as such, they start to indulge themselves in binge drinking (Rodriguez et al., 2016).
Another important concept of Symbolic Interactionism is the social acts which is a significant part of social aspect of human conduct. Social Acts refer to the interaction between the two individual parties where they are able to communicate and convey their messages effectively in a manner that is known to them mutually. These social acts are influenced by the human behavior and as such, they convey the desires that are present within the individuals. In case of the binge drinking, individuals are sometimes pressured or forced in drinking with their friends, companions, coworkers, and known people (McGee, 2017). Social acts are employed in such cases where the known companions of the individual lure them to drink. This encourages the individual and as such, they involve in binge drinking under the influence of the social acts from the peers. However, while the use of symbols and social acts are a major mode of influencer for binge drinking, conversely, the use of these symbols and social acts can be manipulated and used to prohibit binge drinking. Not only would these reverse the influence of Symbolic Interactionism in Binge Drinking, but it would also help in the decline of the binge drinking part of the Australian population (MacLean, 2016).
The above-written study critically analyses and evaluates Binge Drinking in Australian Context, Symbolic Interactionism, and Symbolic Interactionism in Binge Drinking. Symbolic Interactionism is a theory of sociology that depicts the use of visual communication between two or more parties in the process of interaction between them. Symbols and Social Acts are used for inducing binge drinking for any individual in any situation. Both Symbols and Social Acts can encourage an individual heavily for binge drinking and ironically, they can also be used to prevent, discourage, and prohibit binge drinking which therefore concludes the study that Symbolic Interactionism has influence over Binge Drinking.