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SOC 241 Modern Social Problems: Class Assignments

Find instructions for locating newspaper articles (public attention data) on "poverty industry" topics in this guide.


In the assignments tab you can find in-depth help for completing each of your assignments throughout the semester. See more specific recommendations and resources for completing your papers in the tab drop down list. 

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Assignment Instructions

In the first paper, you will first identify a social problem that you want to research all semester and, then, identify who the key claims-makers are that are trying to bring this problem to public attention.

I. Research guidelines:

Identifying your social problem or claim

The first thing to consider is the dimensions of the problem. How big is it? Who is affected by it? How serious is it? 


Who are the claim makers for your social problem?

Who (other than yourself) is trying to make this condition into a social problem. Who is working to make this condition into a public concern or social problem? What kinds of resources do the relevant organizations have in terms of members, money, prestige or innovative tactics for gaining public attention?


Assignment 2: Media Coverage of Social Problems

Your task in this paper is to figure out what kind of media are working best for the claim you are studying. And, if you think there is a difference between media, what is that? 

I. First Step: Quantity of Media Attention

How much attention your claim has received by one or more media

Count the number of articles that have appeared in one of three newspapers over X number of years. You will have to decide how many and which years to cover as well as which newspaper(s) to study.

For instance, a problem like “climate change” has been around for decades, but only as the temperatures have actually begun to rise in a sustained manner and international conferences have addressed it do we see a sharp uptick in coverage. Thus, to cover mass media coverage of climate change, you will need to go back as far as data are available—the seventies or eighties—and graph the results that you get from your earliest date until the present. In your paper, you will explain why you chose the years that you did.


II. Second Step: Is the Media Supportive of your Claim

Read some of the media and find out the following:

  • Is there a slant toward your claim (positive or negative)?
  • How are claims makers treated (positive or negative)?
  • Does the media support some policy resolution of your claim?

For the print media, you will look up articles at the peaks of coverage or the most recent peak of coverage and read those articles to answer the above questions. If you are looking at social media, you may want to compare several different sources.



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