The purpose of this assignment is to construct an essay demonstrating your ability to produce a Research
Project. Here’s what to do:
1. Select any topic from the course outline that you find particularly interesting.
2. Identify three research sources that pertain to your chosen topic. You may use journal articles and
scholarly books available through Marvin Library or you may research your own internet or library sites.
3. Summarize the main points of each article, book or online source.
4. Define, discuss and apply any three specific sociological terms, concepts or theories to your chosen
5. Evaluate the source. Is the source value free (That is, does it reflect the methods used in value
free science?) Does the source use empirical evidence? Are terms operationally defined? Is there
evidence of ethnocentrism in the author’s approach? Does the sponsor or author of the article or
source represent a vested interest? That is, do they represent a biased point of view? (This
evaluation can be woven into the fabric of your paper or it can be presented as an appendix to the
A PRIMARY GROUP refers to a small group of people who share common values and norms and
who engage in frequent, direct personal contact with each other. The functional family would be an
example of the “ideal type” presented in this definition. Most of our intimate groups would be defined as
primary group to different degrees.Trying to decide if group A is a primary group or not is not a
sociological approach. We are interested in the degree to which a particular group reflects this definition.
Other examples would include peer groups, best friends, lovers, a small parish, a sports team, firefighters,
gangs and perhaps a band or two. The PRIMARY GROUP has several characteristics which tend to
distinguish it from other kinds of groups:
1. In the Primary Group one responds to the whole person. That is, primary group members know each
other as unique and total individuals. In our associations outside of the primary group (in the larger
society), people know and respond to fragments of each other. The role we happen to be playing at the
time will dictate our interactions with the outside world. So, for example, we do not really “know” each
other. You all know me in my role as college professor and I know you in your roles as college students.
We do not see each other outside of the structured reciprocal role relationship. Perhaps we might run into
each other in the store and share the role of customers but that is a pretty superfical encounter. (and, of
course, this online environment just adds layers on to the example :).
2. Primary Group relationships are non-transferable. That is, you cannot replace another member of one
of your primary groups. Now, it is true that the social role played by that individual can be filled by
someone else. For example, if you lose your best friend perhaps a new individual could come to occupy
that role in your life one day. But, the individual primary group member can never be replaced. I hope that
those of you who plan to work with people will remember that the human/non-human bond between an
individual and their pet constitutes a loss of a primary group member and is a devastating time for
families, elders, children, etc…. Asking a person who is grieving for their dog if they are going to get a new
puppy serves to diminish the loss of a full fledged member of a family/primary group who cannot be
3. Responses to another member of one of our primary groups is deep, extensive, Spontaneous and
open. There is much “face to face” interaction so we feel free to be ourselves around members of our
primary groups. When I’m out in society I tend to be careful about what I say and how I say it. This is for
two reasons. First, I don’t want to offend other members of a group and I hate to sound stupid. When I’m
with my primary group I don’t have to worry about offending because all will be forgiven in a primary group
and it doesn’t matter if I say something incredibly stupid because other members of my primary group will
gleefully tell me to shut up because I don’t know what I’m talking about. This spontaneity is a key
characteristic of the primary group. Non-verbal responses and empathy are freely exchanged in the
primary group as well. (The dysfunction to knowing each other so well is that primary group members
know exactly what “buttons to push” when they want to “get under the skin” of another primary group
member. You really know, in other words, how to drive you partner crazy like no one else can.
4. The primary group relationship is valued for itself. That is, the relationship is so special that it is
valued not as a means to an end but as an end in and of itself. You (my students), and I do not have a
primary group relationship. This is a means to an end….. you want three credits in Sociology and I want to
5. The primary group shares common values and norms. I would argue that common values are the”
glue “that holds the primary group relationship together. When members of a primary group begin to
develop different values, the primary group relationship is weakened.
6. The primary group provides emotional support to its members. Even when people are playing their
scripted roles in the larger society they often “touch base” with their loved ones. Or, consider how many
individuals have photos of primary group members on their desks at work.
7. The primary group is characterized by a total commitment to the group on the part of its members.
Most of us would probably say that we would give up our own lives to protect at least one of our primary
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY GROUPS
One of the most widely utilized concepts of sociological groups is that developed
by Charles Horton Cooley (Cooley 1909) of the “primary group”.
Cooley defines a primary group as being a “small intimate, face to face
association…” of individuals who share some type of common group identity.
Cooley goes on to say that the development of this common group identity lead
the members of the primary group to naturally identify themselves as “we or us.”
ELEMENTS OF A PRIMARY GROUP
1. Primary groups tend to be small and are ordinarily composed of fewer than 15
to 20 individuals.
2. Interaction and communication among members in a primary group tends to be
of an intimate and personal nature.
3. Members in aprimary group commonly develop strong emotional bonds with
4. Primary groups generally persist over extensive periods of time.
Tips for Writing Papers
Writing a college level paper is fairly straightforward. If you follow three simple steps you will be
able to write all of the papers for this class in an organized and coherent manner.
1. TELL YOUR READERS WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO TELL THEM.
This is your INTRODUCTION. The introduction should clearly state the PURPOSE of the paper.
Now, think about it….. your Professor has already written your introduction for you! Simply restate
the assignment: “The purpose of this paper is to…..”. If you are a really good writer you may want
to restate the assignment in your own words. If you are not a good writer, you are welcomed to
use the wording of the assignment in you introduction.
Your INTRODUCTION should also state the SCOPE of the paper. That is, the assignments
guidelines should be clearly covered in the introduction. Your Professor has already written these
guidelines as well. So, you see, writing an introduction is really quite simple.
2. TELL THEM!
This is the BODY of your paper. All of your assignments for this course have a clear list of
guidelines. Simply follow the list of requirements for each assignment and do so in a precise and
comprehensive manner. Take your time on each requirement and be thorough.