FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)


This FAQ does not take the place of the syllabus, the required style guide, or the on-line instructions. You are required to review all materials relevant to this assignment.   This FAQ puts in one place questions students most frequently ask me saving me and students time. 


Updated: April 11, 2011


Q: I missed class yesterday. Did I miss anything important?


Yes. Almost everything we cover in class is important.  (Can you imagine your instructor answering, “No, today we did nothing important”?)

Q: I won’t be in class today. Can you tell me what I will miss?


No. You need to speak with a classmate and get the notes. I give lectures once.  I do not have time to give personal lectures.

Q: I want to write about the criminal justice system and how it discriminates against minorities, is this an okay topic?


Q: Can I write about religious institutions and families and how they indoctrinate children in belief in god?


Q: I am very interested in foot binding and neck stretching in other cultures.  Can I write my paper on these subjects?


Q: I'm worried about the level of government intrusion in my life following 9-11, would a paper on the PATRIOT Act work?


Q: How can a public university expel you for a crime you commit outside of university property or university sponsored events.  Does this sound like a question I can pursue for the paper?


None of these are, in and of themselves, acceptable topics or research questions for this assignment. If you were interested in how US telecom corporations illegally cooperated with the US government in its illegal surveillance program following the 9-11, and how they lobbied the government to grant the immunity for their criminal behavior, and the paper was focused on the private corporate side, then you would have a good topic.  But if your focus was the PATRIOT Act, you would not. The point of this assignment is to get students thinking about that form of control that most dominates their lives but about which they rarely think: the corporation, the modern business firm or industry. State control is too obvious.

Q: What is a "bureaucracy"?


bureaucracy: a body of non-elective managers and officials; administrative systems characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority. A bureaucracy is the hierarchical, impersonal ordering of collective human action.  Bureaucracies are organized according to rational principles: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control.  Modern large-scale enterprises political, administrative, and economic are bureaucratic.  Bureaucratic coordination of actions is the dominant structural feature of modern forms of organization.  The characteristics of most bureaucracies under capitalism include complex division of labor and task specialization, credentialism, hierarchy of authority, written rules and regulations, separation of work and home life, and private ownership.  This last one is why the modern business firm is the paradigm of corporate bureaucratic organization. One of the required texts for the course, George Ritzer's The McDonaldization of Society, tells you all about bureaucracies.

Q: What is a "corporation"?


corporation: an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.  A terrific source for learning all about corporations is Joel Bakan's The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (2004).  See the documentary by this title (which was shown in class and for which a link is provided on the course web page).

Q: How is a textbook different from other types of books and why can't I use one for this assignment?  


A textbook is a standard work used by students for understanding a particular branch of study.  It consists of an overview of the subject and summaries of main concepts and arguments and personalities.  Such a book does not represent a scholarly source adequate for an original research paper.  The same is true for encyclopedia.  Also, dictionaries are inadequate for defining scientific concepts (although they are useful for spelling and defining words).   Unfortunately, textbooks and encyclopedia are often allowed in high school for the construction of research papers.  College-level research carries greater expectations (so should high schools).

Q: What do you mean by "scholarly"?


"Scholarly" refers to "scholarship"...


scholarship: knowledge resulting from research and study in a particular field. In constructing original research in the social sciences (or any other science), one of the initial steps involves conducting a literature review, which involves looking at past research to identify concepts, methods, and theories, as well as determining the standard scientific definitions used in studying a particular area of social life.  A literature review involves multiple sources.  I have specified the minimum number of sources for the institutional analysis in the syllabus.  In reviewing the literature, one wants to review peer reviewed scientific publications.  Peer review means that other scientists have examined the manuscripts to make sure there are no outstanding logical or empirical errors and that the work makes a significant original contribution to the literature.  Academic journal and book publishers typically use the peer-review processes. This does not mean that you can’t use other types of sources (except those specifically forbidden).  It does mean that you can only use scholarly sources in meeting the required minimum.

Q: Why do you require Microsoft Word format when there are so many other word processing packages like WordPerfect and Works? 


Although there is consumer choice with the multitude of word processing packages available in the market, this perceived benefit comes with the real problem of incompatibility. What is needed in document sharing is a standard format so that any ordinary document may be read with any machine.  We will enjoy this standard if everybody saves document files in the same format.  Most people already do this.  Most computers are equipped with Microsoft Word.  Even if one uses another word processing package, he can usually save the file as a Microsoft Word document.  If one cannot, then she can convert it (see syllabus for directions). 


If I accept documents in other file formats, then I have to identify different format and download and install programs in order to read them or convert them to Microsoft Word format. This takes time and the various programs and converters take up space on my computer.  I do not have the luxury of time and space.  Moreover, it is not my responsibility to find a program to read a document submitted to me.  It is the responsibility of the person who submits the document to save the document in the specified format.


There is one exception to the rule, and this is PDF format.


Important: I do not usually find out that a paper is in the incorrect format until after the deadline.  At that point, resubmitting a paper is not possible since it is late and I do not under any circumstances accept late papers.

Q: Why don't you accept late papers for any reason?


Part of professional development is meet deadlines.  The university carries a higher level of expectation that not only prepares students for professional life, but is itself an instance of professional life. Students are told about the institutional analysis at the beginning of the semester and have all semester to do the research and write the paper.  Oftentimes, students wait until shortly before the deadline and discover that accomplishing the assignment is much more difficult than they supposed.  Some may find themselves with an illness or a crisis that prevents them from finishing the paper.  Had they started their assignment earlier, they would have finished products - or at least products acceptable for some sort of grade - well in advance of the deadline.  By following the path of professionalism, illness or crisis will not prevent students from meeting the deadline.

Q: Why do you require two electronic copies sent to two different locations?  

I do this because in the past students have claimed to have submitted papers electronically when there is no record of them having done so.  Having no record of an electronic submission is the equivalent of a paper not having been electronically submitted.  This can be frustrating to students who believe they have submitted papers.  Submitting papers to two different locations increases the chance that a record of this will exist.  Of course, it will still be the case that having no record of an electronic submission is the equivalent of a paper not having been electronically submitted.

Q: Does the paper have to be double spaced?  (Or any other style and format questions)


All papers must follow style and formatting rules detailed in the required style manual and on-line instruction guide identified in the syllabus.  I do not answer specific style questions.  That is what style and instruction guides are for.

Q: I have finished a draft of my paper. Will you look it over and tell me how I can improve it?


No. Feedback concerning individual student work for my part comes at the end of the process. Looking over drafts and telling students what they can do to improve their paper comprises the independent character of student work. If the paper is made better with my advice, then it is because I helped. Yet I am also the person grading the paper.  It is therefore a form of pre-grading analogous to looking over an exam before the student turns it in and indicating which answers are right or wrong. The fact that students do not expect teachers to give them the answers on the exam indicates that they already understand the problem. Furthermore, students expect that papers I look over should receive higher grades. This practice manufactures false expectations. So, instead of inserting myself in the writing process, I provide extensive instructions and a detailed writing guide to enable all students to do the best work they can.  What I am looking for in written work is detailed there. Also, the Writing Center is open during the fall and spring and personnel there can assist you in preparation of your papers.  Moreover, there are grammar books, dictionaries, and other tools to help students write better.  Finally, there are examples of scholarly writing in disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals in the library. The best way to learn is to study how things are done and then put those things in practice.

Q: How do you grade papers?


The rubric I use in grading papers is adapted from standards established by Richard Marius, a teacher of English literature at Harvard University, and Lewis Hyde, former director of undergraduate creative writing at Harvard University.  You can find the rubric in the online guide.

Q: May we use George Ritzer's The McDonaldization of Society as one of our four required sources?


Absolutely not.  As the syllabus says, the emphasis is on outside sources.  From the syllabus: "Lecture, assigned text, and news articles found in the LexisNexis database do not count towards the mandatory four sources."  You may use Ritzer's book, just not as one of the required sources.

Q: Are we allowed to use EBSCOhost to find peer reviewed articles to use?


Yes.  You can use any academic database or search engine in the library to identify scholarly sources if that resources permits you to search peer-reviewed journal articles.  Ask the reference librarian for help if you don't understand what this means.  EBSCOhost is one such resourcesJstor is another.  There are several others.  It is very important that you understand this following when identifying articles using a searchable database: You must have the full article to cite it.  Citing titles of articles or even abstracts of articles when you do not have the article is not allowed.  To cite an article when you do not have the article is fraudulent activity.

Q: I can't come up with a topic or research question.  Can you please suggest one to me?

No. Part of learning how to do research involves developing an original question or topic.  If I suggest the question or topic, then the question/topic will not be original.

Q: May I write about fraud in the financial system, for example, Bernie Madoff and his swindling of investor funds? 

Q: May I write about Martha Stewart and how she engaged in insider trading?

Q: I am interested in Medicare and Medicaid fraud.  Can I write about how organized crime syndicates are setting up front companies to defraud the government?  Or how about this case I read in which a psychiatrist abused Medicaid?  Can I pursue this direction for the institutional analysis?

While these would make for interesting topics in a criminology class on the subject of corporate and white collar crime, none of them will make for good topics or research questions for this assignment.  We are interested in the systemic effects of private economic institutions not the aberrational.

Q: What does "systemic" mean?

systemic: of or relating to systems or a system. A system is a group of interacting, interdependent, or interrelated elements forming a whole, and this whole can be a social, economic, or political organizational form, an organized and coordinated method, and a prevailing institution in society.  A systemic effect is an effect that occurs throughout a group of interacting, interdependent, or interrelated elements.  When we are concerned with systemic effects, we are not interested in an anecdotal account or an unusual example, but instead concerned with the normal way things work.  For instance, one can be interested in a particular murder, its details, it participants, and so forth (not a scientific interest), or one can be interested in murder as a general problem of certain types of social organization (now we are in the realm of scientific interest).  In the latter, the researcher wants to explain patterns of murder, and will discuss particulars only if they are representative of the pattern.  Suppose, for example, you want to produce an analysis of deaths in the workplace.  Sixteen workers die every day on the job in the United States because of unsafe working conditions.  Why do corporations maintain unsafe working conditions?  What's in it for them?  Here we are trying to explain patterns of homicide to demonstrate the systemic effects of a particular type of economic organization.

Q: What is an "institution"?

An institution a significant practice, relationship, or organization, such as a bank, a corporation, or a university, in a society or culture.  The institution we are interested in for this assignment is the private business corporation.

Q: What is the Chicago Manual of Style?

The Chicago Manual of Style (also known as Turabian) is the leading style manual and, hopefully, will one day be the only style manual.  It tells writers how to prepare papers for class and publication.  There are two different Chicago styles.  One is called the "documentary-note" system.  This system involves notes (either footnotes or endnotes) and a bibliography.  This is appropriate for courses in the humanities, which includes arts, history, and literature.  Freedom and Social Control is not a humanities course.  It is a social science course.  Thus the second Chicago style, what is called the "author-date" system is the appropriate system for this class. The author-date system is used by natural, physical, and social scientists.  The following link: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html provides a brief comparison of the different systems.  Make sure you know the difference and which one you are supposed to use.  It is recommended that you purchase the style manual for your college career.  It is an investment well worth it.  You should also invest in a dictionary, a thesaurus (don't go crazy with it), and a good grammar book.   And for those who cannot afford the buy the Chicago Manual of Style, it is a reference book.  There are multiple copies in the library.

Q: What is Lexis-Nexis and why don't articles from it count towards scholarly articles?

Lexis-Nexis is a wonderful resource.  It contains newspaper articles and op-eds from major newspapers, transcripts from broadcast news, reports from wire services, etc.  However, journalism is not social scientific scholarship.  Sometimes investigative journalism rises to the level of social science scholarship, but this is rare.  Journalism has different standards of source information and journalists work from a different logic and do not operate on the basis of social science norms. Unfortunately, because journalism in a capitalist society is controlled by corporations, news articles often reflect the interests of the corporations journalists work for.  This doesn't mean that news articles are not useful or that news reporting is often not credible.  It just means that journalism is different from science.