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race and ethnicity

The assignment

Weight: 40%

The Essay Assignment is designed to assess your understanding of the material.

This year’s assignment topic is:

What is the relationship between race and ethnicity? Why are both these concepts problematic? Provide examples to support your answer and discuss the implications

Due date: Monday 23 April at 23:59 Armidale Time

This essay requires students to investigate and critically evaluate the relationship between the concepts of race and ethnicity. To do this you will first need to develop a sound understanding of these concepts and how they have been and continue to be used in our society. The following questions might help you in formulating your argument:
•What evidence is there to suggest that humans can be divided into discrete races or ethnic groups?
•Are there biological foundations to these concepts or are they social constructs (i.e., the product of social discourses and practices)?
•How are they important to the cultural social creation of individual and group identity?
•What are some of the strengths and limitations of these concepts in understanding human differences?

As all writing guides note, there is no one way to approach an essay. Students are encouraged to approach the essay question the way they wish. Nevertheless, the following might assist those who are unsure how to proceed with the task.

The first step is to read the textbook chapters associated with these concepts: Chapter 13 by Skrbis (2011) deals with ethnicity; Chapter 14 by Green and Saggers (2011) explores the concept of race; and Chapter 10 by Marotta (2011) considers the concept of identity. After reading these chapters you will be in a position to begin to formulate an argument (or thesis) to address the essay question. We do not want students to simply summarise these readings, but to critically engage with them in an effort to construct an argument that addresses the question in a thoughtful, intelligent and creative manner. In order to make a genuine contribution to the subject area, you will need to read beyond the textbook chapters. At the end of each chapter you will find a reference list suggesting other sources that you can draw on to help formulate and/or support your argument. You will also find links to the textbook website in SOCY100 Moodle (Week 6). We have also provided a general list of sources relating to ethnicity, race and identity below for you to consider. Keep in mind that the better your resources (i.e., the reading s you have found) the better your essay is likely to be (if these resources are used thoughtfully, creatively and intelligently).

We highly recommend that students begin the task now and not wait until the last week or two. The more time spent on this assignment the better it is likely to be and the more you will get out of it. Good work takes time and effort.

As always, have confidence in yourself and your abilities.

What reading do I need to do for the Assignment?
•As an overall guide to writing sociology essays, read Chapter 25 of your textbook. It is called “Writing a sociology essay”, and you should find it very helpful.
•You should begin with Chapters 10, 13 and 14 of your textbook. This is an excellent starting point for material to answer the essay question.
•You should also read and cite AT LEAST THREE of the Further Reading extracts available from the textbook website:
•Chapter 10
•Chapter 13
•Chapter 14
• Make sure that you click on the “Read extract” links rather than on the title of the extract.
••You can optionally also search for relevant material through the UNE Library’s Social Science databases at Such material may be used in addition to (but not instead of!) the readings mentioned above. Here are some suggestions:

Chandra, K. (2006) ‘What is ethnic identity and does it matter?’, Annual Review of Political Science, 9:397–424.

Cowlishaw, G. and Morris, B. (eds) (1997) Race Matters: Indigenous Australians And ‘Our’ Society, Aboriginal Studies Press: Canberra.

Forrest, James and Dunn, Kevin (2007) “Constructing Racism in Sydney, Australia’s Largest EthniCity”, Urban Studies, 44 (4): 699-721.

Hill-Collins, P. and Solomos, J. (eds) (2010) The SAGE handbook of race and ethnic studies. London: Sage.

Jay, G. (2007). ‘Who invented white people?’ [Electronic Version]

Kendall, F. (2001). ‘Understanding white privilege’ [Electronic Version]

Mason, V. (2004) ‘Strangers Within in the “Lucky Country”: Arab-Australians after September 11’, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 24 (1): 233-243.

Mazie, M., Palmer, P., Pimentel, M., Rogers, S., Ruderfer, S., Sokolowski, M. (1993) ‘To deconstruct race, deconstruct whiteness’, American Quarterly, 45 (2): 281-294.

Ozolins, U. (2008) ‘Diaspora, Islam, Australia: reflections on Australian Arab case studies’, Journal of Australian Studies, 32 (2): 207-221

Powell, T.B. (2003) ‘All Colors Flow into Rainbows and Nooses: The Struggle to Define Academic Multiculturalism’, Cultural Critique, 55: 152-181.

Sanders, J.M. (2002) ‘Ethnic boundaries in plural societies’, Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 28: 327-357.

Simic, Z. (2008) ‘”What are ya?”: negotiating identities in the western suburbs of Sydney during the 1980s’, Journal of Australian Studies, 32 (2): 223-236

Sullivan, P. (2006) ‘Introduction: culture without cultures the culture effect’, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 17 (3): 253-64.

•As a general guide, approximately six references are appropriate for this assignment, but you may cite more if you wish. But remember the principle of diminishing returns: the more reading you do, the less value each extra item tends to add. If you try to cover too much, your presentation may come across as superficial. You may be better off concentrating on a smaller number of key readings and doing a good job with them rather than spreading your effort across too large a number.

General points on essay preparation and writing

The Academic Skills Office provides lots of useful fact sheets on essay writing:

The physical presentation of your assignment should be characterised by the following:
•Your name, student number, assignment title and unit code (SOCY100) should be on a front page
•Use double spacing please!
•12 point font is ideal (slightly larger is OK, but don’t go smaller than 12 point)
•Easily readable font — NOT something like this!
•Left margin about 4cm, right margin about 3cm
•Number your pages

Essays, even short ones, often require several drafts. In an initial draft you can write down all the points that are relevant to the topic. In a second draft you can concentrate on the points you have chosen to emphasise and search for an interesting way of organising the material. A third draft is usually required to polish the expression.

Your assignment will be assessed according to how you have:
•argued your case based on the evidence/ideas you cite
•expressed your ideas clearly and succinctly and in logical sequence
•critically analysed the relevant literature
•demonstrated your understanding of the subject matter of the unit
•presented your work
•complied with the University of New England Referencing Guide and School of Social Science policies
•complied with the UNE Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct policy.

Provide a brief Introduction: give the reader an idea of what you are going to say. This is an opportunity for you to get the reader on your own wavelength. If they have some clues about what to expect, they will find it easier to navigate their way through your essay. The Introduction can be the last thing you write but the first thing to appear in the assignment.

The body of your essay should be about the substantive argument you are making: discuss theories, approaches, evidence, etc.

Remember that you are writing for an audience, not just for yourself! This is important: keeping it in mind will help you to remember to communicate clearly. The reader cannot see into your mind – you must guide them explicitly through your presentation.

Write a concluding section that tells the reader where we have all got to. The Conclusion is something the reader can “take away” as an intellectual reward for having gone on your journey with you.

Headings are usually good to use: they allow the reader to see the structure of your piece more easily, and also allow you to see it too. They are not strictly required, but highly recommended.

Spelling and grammar: check that these are OK.
•Grammatical errors that do not obscure your meaning are irritating to the reader, but not fatal. So a few minor grammatical errors are not going to matter very much. But you still don’t want to put your marker in a bad mood because of grammatical errors!
•Grammatical errors that do get in the way of your meaning are a different matter. If the reader cannot get what you are trying to say because of grammatical errors, then you have failed to communicate and will most certainly lose marks.

Stick to the word limit: 1800 words ± 10%.
•If your assignment is too long, the reader may legitimately not go beyond the maximum allowed – and miss your exquisitely crafted conclusion.
•If your assignment is too short, you may not be able to develop a convincing presentation.

Attach a reference list! Do not forget this: the lack of a reference list guarantees lost marks.
•The reference list must be in alphabetical order (by order of author’s surname).
•There should be nothing in the reference list that you have not explicitly referenced in the body of the text.
•All references in the body of the text must be listed in the reference list.

Should you use the first person?

In general, this should be avoided. So instead of writing “I think that…” it would be better to say something like “The evidence from X, Y, Z [whatever] demonstrates that…”.

Should you use passive constructions?

In general, it is better to know who the agent of an action is so try to avoid using the passive voice. Sometimes it may be unavoidable, but ask yourself: who (or what) is the agent here, and why would I not name them?

Do not use long quotations in this assignment. A sentence or two here and there is acceptable, but generally when you discuss the work of an author you should paraphrase the material by putting it into your own words, ensuring nevertheless that you reference it properly.

No Abstract is required.

You must reference the material you draw from the sources you use. You must use the Chicago author-date system of referencing. The Academic Skills Office has produced a very helpful fact sheet on this system of referencing. You can find it at (note that this is a pdf file). It should answer any questions you may have. Again: do not forget to list your references at the end of the assignment!

Be very careful of taking anything from websites. It seems so easy to sit at your computer and trawl through a few sites taking a bit from here and a bit from there, but this will lead you into major problems so do not get into the habit of doing it. First, you may not be able to tell if a website is reliable or not, or what its context is, and you might end up taking irrelevant material from it that seriously undermines your essay. Second, it is easy for markers to get a sense that something has been copied and it is easy to trace material taken from websites, so do not think this is an easy way to find material your markers won’t know about. If you do use websites make sure you reference them – if you don’t do this you open yourself to a charge of plagiarism.

Do not plagiarise.

KEEP A COPY OF YOUR ESSAY so that in the event of the loss or destruction of your work we can ask you to send it in.

Non-discriminatory language

You must be careful to use non-discriminatory language in assignments. You must avoid language that makes inappropriate reference to sex, disability, language, race and ethnicity. The ASO has a factsheet on this at


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