Soc 220 – Example Paper Topics

These are examples of issues you could use for your Sociology 220 paper. Other issues are possible, you need to receive approval from Professor Oliver or your TA. Include example sources if you are interested in doing your paper on an issue not on this list.

  1. “Racial harassment” as a problem and the rules and laws addressing it including speech codes, hate crime laws etc. (“Free speech” may be a dimension of this but is not the whole issue.)
  2. Should greater efforts be made to make the UW a comfortable campus for racial minorities?
  3. Multi-cultural education vs. “common culture”
  4. Black English (Ebonics) for & against (note that there are people of all races on all sides of this issue, and that there issues about teaching child) NOTE: This is mostly an out-of-date topic that has little current debate.
  5. Welfare “reform” and issues about support and services for low income people (fundamentally an economic debate, but with a racial component.) This was a bigger topic in the 1990s. The more recent version has concerned health care reform.
  6. Housing issues: are zoning laws or suburbs causing racial segregation? NOTE: This can be a hard topic to do because one side says it is racial discriminaton or implicitly racial, while the other side mostly just ignores the issue.
  7. Issues of urban redevelopment and gentrification.
  8. Racial disparities in imprisonment
  9. Racial profiling in policing.
  10. Drug laws: penalties, enforcement and the drug war
  11. Employment discrimination & issues of affirmative action in employment
  12. American Indian treaty rights: hunting, fishing, etc.
  13. American Indian casinos and gambling laws.
  14. Lawsuit about Indian Trusts (this has been settled but there are remaining underlying conflicts one could investigate)
  15. American Indian land claims (there are many of these that can be investigated)
  16. Use of American Indian names and logos as sports and school mascots (CANNOT BE USED BECAUSE IT IS A GROUP PROJECT)
  17. “Respectful” uses of American Indian culture by whites, such as Boy Scouts’ use of “Indian lore” in their Order of the Arrow ceremonies, whites’ adoption of “American Indian” religious rituals and prayers, camp songs and skits.
  18. Should policies be enacted to increase income equality? (Such as minimum wage laws, reverse income tax or earned income credits, caps on high salaries, redistributive taxes, anti-discrimination legislation)
  19. Is housing segregation a problem? What should be done about it?
  20. Bilingual education (in larger context of question of education of children and youths whose native language is not English). CANNOT DUPLICATE GROUP PROJECT.
  21. Toleration or support for persons who cannot speak English: translators or translations of documents in public facilities, commercial establishments, etc.
  22. Is it desirable to actively seek to establish or maintain bilingualism?
  23. White supremacy movements. This involves finding the people who favor these movements as well as those who think they are dangerous.
  24. Separatist movements among racial/ethnic minorities
  25. Gender or sexual preference issues among racial/ethnic minorities or issues about racial conflict/discrimination among gays and lesbians or transgender people.
  26. Remedies for educational disadvantage. (Should extra resources be provided to children whose parents are less educated?)
  27. Are SAT’s, GRE’s, ACT’s, and other standardized tests valid and fair tools for ranking people in college admission?
  28. Financing of public schools. There is a particular debate about whether school vouchers and charter schools are helping or hurting racial minorities which is not just about whether particular schools are good or bad but about whether vouchers or charter schools benefit affluent whites more than low income or minority people. There is another related debate about who should control schools. And another about whether charter schools are increasing segregation.
  29. Debates about bi-racialism (or multi-racialism) and racial classifications. You have to identify the policy or political debates in this, which may be difficult.
  30. Should social resources be spend to increase the educational level of the disadvantaged? Should this expenditure of resources include college?
  31. Should resources be devoted to studying the consequences of slavery and assessing what appropriate “reparations” might be?
  32. Should Hawaii become independent? Should the claims of native Hawaiians for the return of land be granted?
  33. Should Puerto Rico become independent? Should it become a state?
  34. Is it really meaningful to talk about “Asian Americans” as a group? (Most people in the category would not use the phrase to describe themselves, instead referring to themselves as Chinese or Chinese Americans, Koreans or Korean Americans, etc.) Should Asian Americans have a greater since of “group” identification? NOTE: This is a real debate, but it may be hard to find people addressing it directly.
  35. Are Asian Americans discriminated against in college admissions? (Note: There is one branch of this that “blames” Affirmative Action and claims Asians are discriminated against versus African Americans and Latinos. But there is another branch that claims that Asian Americans are discriminated against versus whites; there are also claims that disadvantaged Asian Americans are especially discriminated against.)
  36. Other discrimination/prejudice issues: in employment, treatment in public, “accent” issues.
  37. A variety of issues around the integration/separation dimension. Are “ethnic enclaves” (relatively segregated areas where people of the same ethnicity live together) good or bad?
  38. Interracial adoption. (There are specific movements against the adoption of African American children by whites, and against the adoption of American Indians by anyone not a member of the tribe; some Asian American adoptees have also expressed opposition to the adoption of Asians by people not of the same ethnicity as the child.)
  39. Controversial people or groups: e.g. Black Panthers, Leonard Peltier, Nation of Islam. Note that you need to pose a controversial issue about them and  you need sources that favor the group as well as those opposed.
  40. Is/was race a factor in the debate about health care reform?
  41. Issues around race and the Obama administration. Examples: was racism a factor in opposition to Obama? Was Obama doing less for Black Americans than a White Democrat would? Is Obama favoring Blacks over Whites in his social policies?
  42. Issues around race and partisanship. Here you need to be sure to define an issue that has people doing advocacy on both sides, so just the voting patterns is not a topic.
  43. Do children from ethnic/racial minority backgrounds learn more when taught by teachers of the same background? (Do White teachers do a good job of teaching ethnic/racial minority children?)
  44. Various debates about school curricula around ethnic/racial/religious minorities. Specific topics include the Arizona law banning the teaching of Mexican-American history, the Hindu challenge to the teaching about Hinduism in California textbooks.
  45. Accommodations for religious/ethnic minorities in schools or workplaces. Things like dress codes, prayer rooms, dietary adaptations, holidays or absence policies. Note that if you do a “religious” topic be sure to pick up the dimensions of it that are relevant to racial/ethnic minorities, not just the “First Amendment” debates.
  46. Debates about “proper” English and accommodation to different English accents.
  47. What are desirable immigration policies? (What principles should be used to decide to whom to give priority, and what total amount of immigration is good?). Best to get a narrower angle on this like the policies about work visas or family visas.
  48. Should the border with Mexico be open to transient workers? Should the US and Mexico jointly agree to admit more Mexicans into the US to work?
  49. Should illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children and raised in the US be granted legal resident status and the right to become citizens?