sociology paper

Approximately 8-10 pages, Times New Roman, 12-pt font, 1-inch margins (on all sides), double-spaced!

Preparation to Write the Paper: Throughout this semester, spend approximately 5 hours a week engaging and initiating with a virtual community. Your goal is to immerse yourself as much as possible in a virtual community (either one that you already have some experience with or a new one) to investigate what being a part of such a community is like. This is like doing ethnography and participant observation in a virtual space. Take notes about people’s reactions to you and the social interactions that occur in such a community. Reflect on your own experiences, feelings, and interactions.

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You may create social experiments (without harming anyone) or observe other people’s interaction in the virtual community. You may even conduct interviews (virtually) with people that you meet. And look for connections from your experience to the readings, lectures, and themes from the course.

NOTE: Please follow basic ethical guidelines when conducting research, especially if you decide to do some social experiments or conduct interviews. If you have any questions, please ask me.


Write a 8-10 page paper where you (1) MAKE AN ARGUMENT about the nature of virtual communities and/or social media based on your data you collected from your experience with the virtual community that you chose. Please state your argument clearly in the first page (or paragraph) of the paper.

For example, “In this paper, through participant observation in the sub-Reddit gaming community, I argue that limitations in interactivity prevent the development of strong ties, but using social media to promote and advertise more interactive and engaging events have the potential to create a vibrant, diverse, and vast blended community.” This thesis is very specific in terms of the argument and theories that it will interact with, as well as some of the qualities that it tries to prove. It is also general in that it implies an argument that goes beyond just Reddit (and could be applied to other similar communities). The paper tries to prove that 1) interactivity is a crucial component to developing strong ties over social media, 2) but strong ties are possible and supported through social media, and 3) that these ties are diverse and come from specific forms of engagement that social media can support.

After making your argument clearly, (2) PROVIDE EVIDENCE FROM YOUR DATA as well as (3) UTILIZE AT LEAST TWO READINGS FROM THIS CLASS to make your case. Please provide detailed and specific examples from your participant observation. This means talking about specific interactions and observations. Describe an interaction. What did you post/say? How did they respond? How does this interaction prove your thesis/argument? How do readings (at least 2), theories, and concepts from this class also support your interpretation of your evidence? In other words, how do the readings prove your argument? Conversely, if what you find somehow contradicts the findings in readings, provide more evidence and explanations to show how and suggest why you observed such a difference.

As with the disconnect paper, your interactions with the readings are CRUCIAL and should be the CENTER of the paper. In other words, choose to make an argument that interacts with at least 2 readings in the course. You likely could make MANY arguments with the data you found, but choose something that will allow for deep interaction with the class readings and let that be the focus of your thesis.

The key to this paper is your content and analysis–developing some compelling insight into your experience. Please see rubric Virtual Comm Paper Rubric Students.docx


for more details on how to write a successful paper.

My suggestion on how to approach gathering data for this paper:

Step 1: Spend the first couple weeks doing some basic exploration and learning about the virtual community you have joined–try to become a member of that community during this time. Note things that stand out to you and you find interesting. Ask yourself meaningful questions about the community you are participating in.

Step 2: Once you feel like you have a good grasp of the community, review key themes that we have been discussing in the course. Review the syllabus (looking ahead as well as behind where we are in the course) and look for readings and topics that you think are relevant and interesting to your virtual community. Choose at least 2 readings that you think will be good to engage with in your paper as it relates to your virtual community.

Step 3: Go back to your virtual community and gather more data. This time, do not just do general exploration, but rather focus on the key themes, concepts, and ideas that appear in those 2 readings you chose and gather more data surrounding those readings. Ask yourself key research questions that relate to those readings about your virtual community and try to find data that will help you answer the research question

A simple example: Can you make strong ties on the Internet? Several readings on the syllabus asks this question in different ways. You could ask the same kind of question of your virtual community. In step 3, you would do deliberate, targeted interactions to try to answer this question in regards to your virtual community. Then, when you go to write your paper, you would use the readings to help you compare and contrast the data you discovered and whether or not it is possible to make strong ties in your virtual community and discover why it is or isn’t.

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