Applying the Sociological Imagination Essay Guidelines


The sociologist C. Wright Mills writes in The Sociological Imagination (1959), “The first fruit of this imagination – and the first lesson of the social science that embodies it – is the idea that the individual can understand her own experience and gauge her own fate only by locating herself within her period, that she can know her own chance in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in her circumstances.” Mills argues that in the effort to think critically about the social world around us, we need to use our sociological imagination to see the connections between our personal “problems” and the larger forces of history.

Mills maintained throughout The Sociological Imagination that it is very difficult for most individuals in society to link their personal troubles to the socio-cultural institutions in which they live. In this paper, you are to use your sociological imagination to analyze a personal problem, past or present, connecting it to a broader social issue embedded in a social and historical context. For example, you may consider the dynamics of a personal relationship/hardship, your job or lack of a job, family dynamics, juggling work and school, drug or alcohol use/abuse, your body image, or securing school financing.

For those students who are not clear what topics to write on or doubtful if their topics are good to write their essays on, I have a few general pointers for everyone.

Before you select a personal situation/topic, think if you …

– can write 4-6 pages on that topic.

– will be able to use concepts from at least 3 different Conley chapters while discussing your personal situation.

– can fit in one of the sociological theories we have studied in the text.

– can find research data to support your analysis.

If you can do all the above, then you are good to go.

You have 5 content areas to take care of in this area. They are numbered below.

4 of the 5 areas need to be labeled. The 4th content area which includes use of stats and research material to substantiate your analysis should be integrated within the 3rd content area.

Here is the assignment

#1.First, write an introductory paragraph introducing/defining C.W. Mill’s concept of “sociological imagination,” and giving a general overview of how you’ll be applying it in your paper using a ‘personal’ issue of yours.

#2.Second, explain how you are dealing/dealt with the personal issue and label this section “personal explanation”; it can be in the past or in the present. You may think of something that is worrying you now. You can also analyze the situation of a person close to you if their experience affected you and you know it well enough personally to write in depth about it. Choose a situation that is easily explained through a variety of sociological concepts! Describe what led up to the situation, its resolution if applicable, the whys, who else is involved and what their roles are, etc. How do/did you feel and why? Describe anything else about this situation, the choices you did and didn’t make and why, etc. This section should be no longer than four paragraphs (1/2 – 1 page).

In this section you can explain what caused the problem, who all were involved, what were others’ and your roles in the situation, and if a resolution was achieved, etc.

Next, you can briefly express how you felt in the situation, why you felt that way, and what choices you made given the circumstances. You can use ‘I’ here because this section is all about your psychological state; it is personal level account of your emotions and thoughts.

#3.Next, applying your sociological imagination, explain the situation sociologically and how society at large has affected the situation.

This third and major part of your paper should now use #1 (Mills Sociological Imagination) to explain #2 (your personal issue).

That is…. you need to analyze your personal issue/topic in sociological terms.

Label this section “Sociological Imagination”; this section will be most of your paper. Discuss the social forces that connect(ed) your personal situation to larger, related social issues. Use terms and concepts from the different chapters and readings (Conley textbook), the Galen College online library, discussions, and lectures.

When you are writing this section, although you are using Mills SI, it is in fact your SI at work. Therefore, while you are filling up this section, it is up to YOU what concepts you will use.

A student who wants to talk about a problem that she/he might think arose due to gender issues will definitely use concepts from the chapter on gender. If it is a racial issue, the student can make use of the concepts from the ‘race’ chapter….. and so on. That is, each student will use concepts that are issue-specific. And your essay should demonstrate the interaction between the social factors (using sociological concepts) and your personal issue clearly.

The highlighted area is the most important outcome expected out of this assignment.

Please integrate the concepts, theory, and stats (from next content area) well into your essay. Having a good flow rather than mentioning them disjointedly (or as separate sections) is important.

For ex: please do not write separate paragraphs with titles such as ‘glass ceiling,’ ‘socialization,’ ‘stereotyping,’ etc. and then write – “Now I am going to use this concept to explain my essay.’

You may need to emphasize some parts of your situation over others in order to include a variety of complex concepts. Your sociological imagination analysis should include as many concepts as applicable.

#4.Cite as many social trends and statistics (from the Conley text, outside sources, discussions, and lectures) relevant to your situation (Depending on your topic, examples can include – divorce rates for various social categories of people, poverty rates, crime and victimization rates, suicide rates, unemployment rates, etc.). You may need to do some outside research to find relevant statistics. You may also need to research within our textbook for sections you are not required to read – make good use of the index and the online library! Cite the pages your information is from within your paper. If you desire, you may use statistics found on websites, but this is not a requirement.

This part of your paper requires that you step-up your explanations a little more into the macro-level. You are asked to do this by showing how #3 (what and how some social factors played a role in your personal issue) is in turn affected by national/global trends/changes.

A hypothetical situation would be…..

  • a divorce in the family (#2 – personal issue),
  • reason is losing job + increased stress + family fights, etc. (#3 – social concepts such as downward class mobility, role strain, etc.),
  • which actually could be due to outsourcing of jobs (when rates of global shifts in the job markets, unemployment rates are sited, you cover#4 ).

You can see how the transition is proceeding from a personal to a social to a national/global level.

Ability to view this kind of interaction between micro and macro level events is CW Mills “Sociological imagination” at work.

You need to do a bit of research on social trends and get statistical facts relevant to your issue. For the above hypothetical situation, you may want to see the difference in the divorce rates before and after the economic crash, the % growth in joblessness, etc. and use that information in your explanations.

#5.Label and write a wrap-up conclusion paragraph summarizing the major finding/themes in your paper.

Things to remember:

Avoid a focus on individualistic & psychological explanations about stress, personal emotions, feelings, personal achievements, and characteristics, etc. except in the 2nd content area.

Refer specifically to information discussed in class, in the texts, and readings and link as many social trends, statistics, cultural values, social policies, or group dynamics as possible to your situation!

Your grade is determined by how well you can utilize the terminology and language of sociology you are learning in this course.

Use a critical reflexive stylewrite in the first person and include yourself in your paper.

Applying the Sociological Imagination Essay Grading Rubric:

Area of Focus

Points Possible

Points Awarded

Inclusion of a personal problem/situation.


Inclusion of a sufficient amount and variety of sociological terms and concepts from a wide variety of chapters and subjects (i.e., use information from at least 3 different Conley chapters and 1 outside source from the Galen College online library).


Inclusion of at least 2 statistics or pieces of research from the text, readings, online library, or websites.


Inclusion of at least 1 sociological theory.


Adheres to formatting and stylistic guidelines, utilizes correct grammar, and has effective writing.




If you look at the rubric, you will see that there are no specific categories under which points can be deducted for omitting a title page and/or a conclusion; however, they will be cut from the last category.

Also, note that ‘statistics’ and ‘theory’ categories carry 25 & 20 points respectively. Therefore, if you just mention a theory without properly explaining what it is and how it fits your analysis, you will not receive full points. Same with the stats category – just mentioning a couple of rates or figures will not be awarded full 25 points.

Look below for ‘Summary of Requirements’ – a sort of check-list that you are recommended to check-off to see if you met with all the requirements, before submitting into the drop-box.

Summary of Requirements

a.A ‘Title page’ with your name, date, and title of your essay.

b.An introduction with CW Mills’ definition of Sociological Imagination and how it is going to be used in analyzing your topic.

c.A personal problem/situation.

d.A variety of terms and concepts from a wide variety of chapters and subjects (use concepts from at least 3 different Conley chapters and at least 1 outside source from the Galen College online library).

e.Mention of chapter #s along with page #s (the chapter from where you took the concept from) for each concept used, within parentheses immediately following the concept. Otherwise you will lose points.

It will be easier for you, and for me as an instructor to check if you have used concepts from at least 3 different Conley chapters and 1 outside source.

For ex: If your analysis is the line of …… “Being a fulltime student, working fulltime, and being a single mother has created a lot of stress in my life lately. There are many instances where I will be at work and I get a call that my child is running a fever. Until I find a replacement, I cannot leave for home and I become very stressful at those times. This is a prime example of ‘role conflict.’ (Ch.4, Pg. 133)”

In the above hypothetical example, I mentioned the chapter# and the page # immediately following the concept.

And please remember…. You need to use concepts from 3 different Conley chapters, not just 3 concepts from a single chapter.

You are welcome to use relevant concepts from the text chapters, other than those we cover in this course.

f.Two stats and/or pieces of research from the text, readings, or websites. These stats and research should be excluding the concepts and theory you use in the paper.

g.At least one sociological theory. (Structural-Functionalism, Conflict, Sick-Role, Symbolic Interactionism, Dramaturgy, etc.)

h.Concepts, theory, and stats – well integrated into your essay….. The writing should have a good flow rather than mentioning the concepts and theory disjointedly (or as separate sections; see the highlighted area above).

i.Please do not personify the concepts or theories. They are just terms used to denote a process(es) that occur(s) in our social settings.

j.A paragraph with ‘conclusion.’

k.Label each content area/section clearly, except the 4th (see above in the Clarifications section).

l.Number your pages.

m.Alphabetize your references.

n.4-6 pages long – shorter than 4 full pages will lose points (4 pages excluding your ‘Title’ and ‘References’ pages). You will NOT lose points if you go over 6 pages J

o.12-point standard font.

p.Double-space your essay.

q.Edit your work carefully for spelling and grammar!

r.Always cite any sources (authors, magazines, etc.) you’ve used within your paper itself. Full citation should be given in the References page.

s.Use APA format.

t.DO NOT plagiarize.

u. Preferred format – Microsoft Word

Applying the Sociological Imagination Essay Guidelines