Jane Allyn Piliavin- Sociology at UW Madison, bascom graphic

Suggestions for Writing Comparative Paper

Sociology 236, Fall, 2002: Piliavin

Due date: September 23, 2001

In the final version of this paper you will eventually be comparing and contrasting your observations in three settings or events in which people are engaging in some sort of community participation. The initial polished draft will compare only two settings. The paper should be between two and four pages long, double spaced, although if necessary it could be somewhat longer. Remember that a longer paper is not necessarily a better paper.

1. The paper should begin with an explanation of the nature of the two events you are going to compare. What was the purpose of each? That is, what are people trying to do? How many people were taking part? Where did each take place? How long were you there? Were you an observer or a participant? Notice that there is likely to be no true "thesis statement" in this paper.

2. You should then present your summary of what occurred at the first setting/event. What was being discussed, done, etc.? Give some examples of things that were said and/or done. What was the atmosphere? (Was it cooperative, competitive, hostile, supportive...) On what basis do you make this statement? That is, what emotional expressions, behaviors, statements led you to this conclusion? How did you feel in the situation? (This is also data.) What was the outcome (if any) of the portion of the event you observed or took part in?

3. Then present similar information for the second setting/event.

4. How did the events/settings differ in any aspects you have discussed in (1) (2) and (3). Analyze these differences. How do you think that the purposes, participants, or locations led to differences in atmosphere, actions, and outcomes? I am asking you to speculate, here, on the basis of your personal observations and your general understanding of society.

Please write as polished a draft as you would if this were the final paper you were turning in to a professor in a course in which more than one draft is not permitted. In other words, do it as well as you can. The writing fellows can spend only so much time on each student's paper, and if they have to take that time for grammar mistakes, spelling, or sentence structure, they will not have it for more useful comments regarding organization and presentation.

On writing fellows:

We are very fortunate to have two writing fellows assigned to our class this semester:

Lana Kimayeva skimayeva@students.wisc.edu
Rachel Lang relang@students.wisc.edu

What are writing fellows? They are carefully selected and rigorously trained undergraduates, who serve as peer writing tutors in writing intensive courses. I have in the past found them to be immensely helpful. For two of your assignments in this class, including the comparative paper, you will have the benefit of their comments on your papers (which they generally spend about an hour producing). After your paper is returned, you then have a conference of 20-30 minutes in which you discuss those comments and any other ways in which you might improve your paper for a second draft. This is far more time than a professor would be able to spend in doing the same job. Furthermore, they are actually trained in how to do it, and we are not. When grading, I look very seriously at how well you incorporate this feedback into your final draft; this does not mean that you have to do what the fellow proposes in every instance. But a second draft that looks pretty much like the first will suggest to me that you have not taken full advantage of this valuable resource.

Why rewrite papers? In the real world – that is, the world after college – you will almost never write a first draft and turn it in. Much writing is done collaboratively, and serious work for outside consumption (e.g. a corporate report) goes through many revisions.



Questions? Comments? Please contact jane.piliavin@wisc.edu

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