Writing in the Disciplines
Faculty Fellowship Portfolio
Sociology – Germantown Campus
Table of Contents
Fellowship Initial Questionnaire……………………………. 4
Informal Writing Assignment: Mini-Task 1……………….. 6
Peer Evaluation…………………………………………….... 7
Informal Writing Assignment 2 ……………………………. 8
Formal Writing Assignment 1 & Grading Rubric………… 8
Formal Writing Assignment 2 & Grading Rubric………….. 12
This portfolio is a representation of the influence of Writing in the Disciplines (WID) faculty
fellowship on the importance of writing in my courses and discipline in general. Throughout my
teaching career, I have always given writing assignments to stude nts. I must admit that the
experience of evaluating student writing has not been always positive. Sometimes I have felt like
some students do not know how to write. Is poor writing primarily a student responsibility?
According to Gottschalk and Hjortshoj (2004), poor writing results from a weak grasp of writing
English in general…, and unfamiliarity with the assigned task [discipline] in particular. It is the
latter that forms the basis of my reflection and the subsequent development of different writing
assignments for my future classes.
Sociology, as a scientific study of society, is unique because it encompasses the interests of all
other subjects. Sociologists are interested in all sorts of topics and can study just about
everything in society. When it comes to writing in Sociology, students deal with very many
familiar issues that constitute the society like economy, race, gender, age, family, media, groups,
organizations, divorce, poverty, crime, healthcare, population, environment, etc. Therefore, it is
not the topic that makes writing sociological, but rather a sociological perspective used in writing
Using a sociological perspective implies making an effort to understand and explain the way
individuals interact within a society based on scientific principles. Sociology students are
required to observe the society and human behavior in a systematic manner – that is, to move
beyond the use of common sense and guesswork; to see the ordinary things in an extraordinary
way. In thinking about sociological analysis, students need to question assumptions and
determine what evidence exists to support views. It is within this context that writing becomes an
important means by which students can demonstrate the connection between theory and research
as an important part of the intellectual tradition of Sociology. This is the basis of all effective
Participating in the WID faculty fellowship has provided me with many unique skills that will
enhance integrating different writing assignments in my courses as seen in this portfolio. I have
learned that writing is not just about term papers (formal writing), but also includes informal
writing, peer evaluation and non-graded writing. Different writing assignments presented in this
portfolio will help students apply scientific principles and methods in investigating social issues
and demonstrate their ability to use sociological theories and concepts to explain observations.
Specifically, these assignments will provide students with the opportunity to develop a
sociological imagination, that is, a critical and analytical orientation with regard to
understanding social interaction, social structure and problems of contemporary society.
Name: Benedict Ngala Discipline: Sociology Date: 09/19/07
Please take some time to answer the questions below in as elaborate a manner as possible.
Save this and all other worksheets/ documents for this seminar, as you will be including portions
of them in your final portfolio.
1. Describe one course in which you would like to incorporate writing.
I would like to incorporate writing in SO101 (Introduction to Sociology). This is a basic
course in Sociology designed to explore fundamental sociological concepts, methods
and theories of analysis used to interpret the patterning of human society. This course
involves analysis of society and basic social processes in the context of life situations
familiar to the student - to help the student perceive the relation of social forces to the
development of his/her own personality.
2. Do you assign writing in this course now? If so, what types of writing do you assign and
to what purpose?
In this course I emphasize the connection between theory and research as an important
part of the intellectual tradition of Sociology. Consequently, I give written assignments
that challenge students to use scientific approaches and apply social theory paradigms
to understand contemporary social life. The main objective is to develop in each student
a “sociological imagination,” that is, a critical and analytical orientation with regard to
understanding social interaction, social structure, and issues and problems of the
3. Is writing commonly assigned in this course among faculty in your discipline? In your
I am not quite sure, but I believe a good number of sociology faculty assign writing or
give essay questions in their courses.
4. In your experience, what are the challenges associated with writing in your discipline?
Developing a topic
Identification, definition and proper use of sociological concepts
Analysis based on sociological perspective as opposed to description
Application of sociological theories to the analysis
Logical organization of ideas
5. What have your experiences been, with assigned writing in this course? Has the
assignment been effective in helping students learn, has it been an integral part of the
course, have students found it worthwhile and meaningful?
I have had mixed experiences. On one hand, it has been quite discouraging because of
the challenges listed in #4. However, it has been one of the most effective techniques to
demonstrate student learning. Written assignments give them the opportunity to apply
skills acquired from class discussions/lectures to real life situations. The fact that they
have to do research in order to write increases their level of knowledge and awareness.
Overall, a good number of students have demonstrated their knowledge of sociology
6. Specify what you would like a new writing assignment to accomplish, and share some
preliminary thoughts on its place in the course.
I would like a new writing assignment that promotes:
a. critical thinking
b. analytical skills
c. interpretation of information
d. logical organization of ideas
e. use of appropriate concepts and relevant examples
This semester, students will be doing a writing assignment that will assess their critical
thinking, scientific reasoning and proper use of sociological approach to understand
The following assignments are intended to help students achieve the following Introduction to
Sociology (SO 101) learning outcomes:
In completing SO 101, students are expected to:
1. demonstrate basic knowledge of sociological concepts, theories and methods
2. recognize and discuss specific sociological concepts and their use by different
3. identify and explain the differences between different sociological perspectives
4. be able to use theories to explain past and present observations
5. be able to apply scientific principles and methods in investigating human socia l behavior
(From my course syllabus)
Mini-Task Assignment #1 (SO 101)
This assignment will help students achieve the learning outcome #1 : demonstrate basic
knowledge of sociological methods. Conducting research is a major component of sociological
analysis. This process involves selecting a research method, and following the scientific
procedure of doing research. It is my assumption that this short writing assignment will give
students the opportunity to think about the utility, appropriateness, and importance of research
methods in investigating human social behavior.
Research Methods Essay Assignment
Suppose you developed a hypothesis that study time determines the grades that a student earns.
What research method (s) would you use? Would they be quantitative and/or qualitative?
Be sure to explain why you would choose this method.
What might be your independent and dependent variables?
How would you select your sample and collect your data?
What ethical issues might you need to address in order to conduct your study effectively?
How do you know whether your study’s findings are reliable and valid?
Please be as specific as possible. Use information from chapter 5 of your class text, lecture notes
and personal understanding of the topic to write two pages double-spaced essay.
This peer evaluation form will be used for the informal assignment #1
PEER EVALUATION FORM (SO 101)
Writer’s Name: __________________________
Peer Reviewer’s Name: _______________________ Date: ________________
Evaluate the writing assignment completed by your classmate. Please be objective. Do not allow
personal relationships with or like or dislike of your classmate to effect your evaluation.
In evaluating the assignment, you should consider the following factors and support your answer
with examples from your classmate’s assignments (Do not just answer YES or NO) :
Did the classmate:
1. identify research method(s) appropriate for the study?
2. distinguish between quantitative and qualitative approaches?
3. explain why they chose the method(s)?
4. identify independent and dependent variables?
5. address ethical issues?
6. explain the concepts of reliability and validity?
Mini-Task Assignment #2
This assignment will be used to achieve the learning outcome #2: recognize and discuss specific
sociological concepts. Discussing sociological concepts will give students the opportunity to be
familiar with and understand contemporary social issues/problems which affect human behavior.
Poverty Essay Assignment
You have been asked by the president to write a summary paper on child poverty in America. To
prepare for your assignment, you go to the National Center for Child Poverty’s website to learn
more (www.nccp.org). Do some searching and research and then answer the question: How
would you characterize children in poverty?
Write an essay of no more than two double spaced pages describing child poverty in America.
Include introduction and conclusion as well as citations and references.
Formal Assignment #1
This assignment will be used to achieve learning outcomes #2: discuss specific sociological
concepts and their use by different sociologists and #3: identify and explain the differences
between different sociological perspectives. The purpose of this assignment is to investigate the
research that has been done on a particular topic and then summarize and evaluate the findings.
This assignment is designed to provide students with an opportunity to:
Demonstrate competency in use of library databases and other online sources to locate
current articles on sociological topic.
Locate and evaluate information on current social issues gathered from a library database.
Produce quality electronic documents using software applications, and present sociological
analysis of findings by applying knowledge of software programs.
Critical Review Assignment:
You will identify a current social issue, then locate and summarize 2 articles concerning different
viewpoints on the issue from Montgomery College Library Database. You will prepare a brief
summary (in table format, 2-3 pages) in which you summarize the views of each of the 2 articles,
and also compare and contrast the quality of the information sources.
1. In order to evaluate the 2 viewpoints, you need to address the following questions for
a. What is the complete citation or reference for the article (author, title, date, etc)?
Present in a standard citation format (e.g., APA style)
b. What is the main idea of the viewpoint expressed?
c. What is the support for the author’s viewpoint? That is, does the author quote
statistics, scientific or government reports? Or does the author use narratives,
personal anecdotes or experiences?
d. Does the author present a fact-centered or value-centered argument?
e. How current is the information?
f. Are references and/or a bibliography included in or at the end of the article?
g. Who is the intended audience?
h. What is the author’s perspective (theoretical preference)?
2. Summarize and communicate the answers to the questions in a clearly-presented table
3. Provide a paragraph, presenting your own view on the social issue and the support for
your view, directly below the summary table.
Excellent Satisfactory Unsatisfactory
10 – 9.0 8.9 – 7.0 6.9 - 0
Selecting a relevant Student has clearly Student has defined Student has not defined a topic or
topic defined and focused the an appropriate has defined a topic irrelevant to
topic on a sociological sociological topic sociology
Accessing the Student has located Student has located Student has not used the
needed information relevant and clear appropriate sources in Opposing Viewpoints Resource
in library databases sources from Opposing the Opposing Center or has not chosen
Viewpoints Resource Viewpoints Resource appropriate sources.
Evaluating the Student clearly and Student presents a Student does not
information completely comparison/contrast compare/contrast the sources and
compares/contrasts the of the quality of the demonstrates little evidence of
quality of the identified identified sources and understanding of the subject
sources, and shows an matter
demonstrates a depth of understanding of the
understanding of the subject matter
Providing complete Student clearly Student lists the Student is unclear about proper
citation for sources provides citations in references but does citation format and/or does not
correct APA Format. not follow all details use APA format.
for correct APA
Providing a clear Document has clear Document has Document has confusing or weak
organization and organization; follows adequate organization; the format does not
presentation of the the formatting organization; the follow most of the guidelines;
information guidelines; with correct format does not meet incorrect grammar and many
grammar and no 1-2 of the guidelines; spelling mistakes.
spelling mistakes. there may be 1-2
Formatting table Table is clearly Table is adequately Table is unclear or is not included
within the document. formatted and formatted; title of in the document.
See the table sample organized with clear table may be unclear
below. and prominent title. or missing.
* This is a modified version of a rubric that was used at UMUC
Vie wpoint 1:____________________ Vie wpoint 2: ______________________
Your view on the social issue:
Formal Assignment #2*
This assignment will help students achieve learning objectives #1: demonstrate basic knowledge
of sociological methods and #5: be able to apply scientific principles and methods in
investigating human social behavior. Once a student has developed a topic, it is important that
he/she finds evidence by use of research methods to support the argument. Sociology, being a
scientific discipline, requires that students base their arguments on evidence that is
systematically collected. This assignment will give students the chance to identify topics and
appropriate research methods for collecting evidence.
Research Methods Assignment
1. Select a topic of interest to you. Do not start by trying to identify what is the right topic.
Instead, begin by thinking about issues/questions that you really want to know more
about. This topic should be about a societal issue rather than a personal problem. It must
be about some aspect of a society or societies and should relate to human behavior and/or
human values and beliefs. For example, you might choose topics such as: Violence
among Youth in U.S. Society or The Influence of the Mass Media on Voting Behavior or
How Culture Shock is handled by International Students.
Select a topic that you would want to research. Remember that as a potential sociologist
you are not trying to “solve a problem” rather you are trying to “understand an issue.”
Keep in mind that individuals in institutions who create social policy and social programs
sometimes rely on social science research to help them develop their policies and
For #1 list the general topic that you have selected.
2. Define more specifically the issues that you have decided to study. Here is where you
will want to get more specific about the topic you are studying. For example, if you are
interested in youth violence you might decide to focus on comparing adult perceptions
about youth violence in specific geographic areas or you might want to compare reported
violence among youth in different school districts or neighborhoods. These are two very
different ways to specifically define your problem, and of course, there are many
additional ways to make this research more specific. For this part of your assignment you
need to come up with just one more specified approach to your chosen topic.
In defining your issue you will want to be specific about what population you are
planning to study. For the above example you might decide that your focus will be on
youth ages 10 to 18 in the Washington Metropolitan area.
For #2 you need to write a paragraph where you give more detail about your chosen
topic and where you me ntion what population you are planning to study. (Your
population is the overall group or social category that you are planning to study.)
3. Formulate a hypothesis about your specific issue. For example, you might hypothesize
that youths who reside in school districts or neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty
will have more reported incidents of violence or you might want to hypothesize that
youth who are more involved in recreational activities and sports will be less likely to
participate in acts of violence.
For #3 list your hypothesis.
4. Review the lite rature. By reviewing the work of others, researchers' thoughts become
clearer and more precise. Go to the home page of the Montgomery College library and
use the library’s online resources to locate at least two social science journals that have
information related to your topic.
Use the section on Articles and Databases and the section on Magazines and Journal
For #4 provide annotated bibliography from two or more specific social science
journals that have information relating to your topic. Use APA or MLA style for
citing your two sources. Our library provides online handouts for “Citing Sources”
at http://www.montgomerycollege.edu/library/students.html. Visit the site. It is succinct
5. Choose a research method for studying your topic. Explain how you would carry out
your research using this method and discuss your reasons for selecting this
methodological approach. Be detailed in your explanation.
The type of research method that you might want to use could be survey research,
participant observation, secondary analysis, an experiment, or another methodological
approach that is in your text or that has been covered in your class. The methodological
approach that you select may be either quantitative or qualitative. You might decide to
use more than one type of methodology in your study. If so, be certain to clearly
differentiate between the types. It is fine just to use one type of research. Be certain that
you carefully consider which method or methods would be best to use for your
hypothetical research project.
For #5 you need to:
a. Select and list a research method that you think will be suitable for your
b. Explain why you chose this technique.
c. Explain in detail how you would carry out your research using your
chosen research method or methods.
Rubric for Formal Assignment #2
Dimension Exemplary/Above Satisfactory Unsatisfactory
Performance 10.0 – 9.0 8.9 – 7.0 6.9 - 0
Identifies and Student clearly selects a The selected societal The topic for selection is
uses evidence societal issue. issue is less clear. not clear.
Part One #1
Identifies and Student clearly defines The selected societal The topic for selection is
uses evidence the selected societal issue issue is less specifically not specifically defined.
Part One #2 more specifically. defined.
Analyzes and Student creates a Student creates a Student creates an
Evaluates measurable hypothesis satisfactory hypothesis. unsatisfactory hypothesis.
#3 which is succinctly
Identifies and Student shows (with The references for The references for
uses evidence proper style) where information on this information on this topic
#4 information on this topic topic are partially are inadequate.
can be found. adequate.
Analyzes and Student selects a highly Student selects an Student selects an
Evaluates appropriate research appropriate research inappropriate research
#5 methodology approach methodology approach methodology approach and
and gives strong detailed and provides some does not have adequate
explanations about explanation about explanation about
conducting the research. conducting the conducting the research.
Interprets and Student accurately and Student provides some Student provides limited or
Draws thoroughly explains the explanation of the no explanation of the
Conclusions reasons for her/his choice reasons for her/his reasons for her/his choice
#5 of research methodology. choice of research of research methodology.
Technical Few grammar, spelling Occasional errors with Significant number of
Presentation and punctuation errors spelling, grammar and spelling, grammar and
of Paper punctuation punctuation errors
*This assignment was originally developed and used for SO101 Outcomes Assessment at MC. I
have made some changes and added new information for future use in my course.
Cadwallader, M. L., & Scarboro, C. A. (1982). Teaching writing within a sociology course: a
case study in writing across the curriculum. Teaching Sociology, 9 (4), 359-82.
Describes a program for teaching writing as an integral part of college sociology classes.
Students do frequent free-writing exercises, participate in small weekly writing groups, and
compose final papers. Suggestions for implementation are offered.
Coker, F. H., & Scarboro, A. (1990). Writing to learn in upper-division sociology courses: two
case studies. Teaching Sociology, 18 (2), 218-22.
Cuba, Lee. (2002). A Short Guide To Writing About Social Sciences. New York: Longman.
Presents guidelines that illustrate writing in the social sciences without becoming overly
Discusses two upper division writing- intensive courses, Sociological Theory and Sociology of
Religion, offered at Millsaps College (Mississippi). Argues that grea ter emphasis on writing in
the upper-division sociology courses allows students to become better learners and better
Gottschalk, Katherine and Hjortshoj Keith. (2004). The Elements of Teaching Writing: A
Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines. Boston: Bedford.
Presents strategies for improving student writing in a variety of courses and disciplines.
Karcher, B. (1988). Sociology and writing across the curriculum: an adaptation of the
sociological journal. Teaching Sociology, 16 (2), 168-72.
Presents an argument that sociology, as a discipline, has much to offer and much to gain
fromparticipation in the writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) movement.
Moynihan, M. M. (1989). Writing in sociology classes: informal assignments. Teaching
Sociology, 17 (3), 346-50.
Describes writing exercises that stimulate learning while not burdening the instructor.
Discusses simulations in which students are asked to write a diary entry about the daily
experiences of a 75-year-old, to formulate a marriage contract, and to write a letter to a friend
describing the student's worst job experience.