Functionalist and Conflict perspectives are macro, big-picture theories. Social phenomena is more obvious when happening to a class of people, but may not be obvious happening to an individual. 1. For the Functionalist perspective, explain how the issue bonds people together, or what's keeping them apart. Stay focused on the overarching big picture forces. Are there norms and values being applied to the collective of people? Is everyone on the same page?
2. For Conflict, find two opposing classes. How does the upper one benefit? How does the lower lose? What is the structure which keeps them this way? Make sure you identify classes, not individuals.
3. Symbolic interaction is a micro, individual-level perspective. Find any symbols or labels which people identify with or shy away from being. Prestige or stigma must drive this force.
How did they learn about these symbols/labels? How do they, in turn, teach these to other people? Learn these perspectives through many sources. One way may not be clear enough. Read other sociology textbooks. Search online. Use links in my site. There is some flexibility allowed in the application of these theories, but leave out your subjective opinion (never write "I believe..."). Make sure it can be understood by someone not familiar with the theories. See the class website for examples and assignment.
Functionalist Theory What would a functionalist talk about? Well-functioning societies need everyone to work together, according to Durkheim. What does this issue have to do with social forces between individuals and society? What keeps everyone together on the same page or apart? What’s missing which would keep society functioning better? Perhaps focus on bonds, roles, solidarity, or latent functions. Not all social bonds/forces are necessarily good for the individual, but might be for the collective.
Conflict Theory What would a conflict theorist talk about? Look for class conflict—are there two classes competing against each other? Identify how one class wins, one loses. A member of the losing class will be disadvantaged. What is the social structure which keeps the conflict going? In this class, use the term "conflict" only as it occurs between 2 classes (don’t ever use this just for conflicts between individuals). Remember class can be defined by race, ethnicity, culture, religion or any other category people cannot easily change.
Symbolic Interaction Theory What would a symbolic interactionist talk about? Think of how people learn the meaning of a symbol/idea (however they interpret it) and how it influences individual attitude and behavior. What stereotypes emerge? Do meanings differ between people who interpret it differently? Don’t just claim that something is a symbol and affects people. Discuss how people learn the meaning of the symbol/idea, learn how to react to it, and then teach others the same.
Conclude with a summary. There is no fixed length for this paper—write what is necessary to demonstrate your understanding of the perspectives (hopefully not more than 3 pages). Be concise and precise in wording—keep revising to make it clear and short. This is an exercise in applying theory to social issues. Do not give your value judgements on the issue. Do not write “I believe that…” or “In my opinion…” Use a standard college paper format: APA style, Times Roman, double-spaced, 12pt (not Word’s often