Forum Rules and Regulations

(Please read carefully.)

We are going to try something new. Instead of a term paper I am going to require you to run a section of the Medical Sociology Forum. I also require that you participate in the forums run by your classmates. All of this will be equivalent to a term paper/class presentation.

Forum Rules:

What I envision is for each of you to select a topic--say "cost of care"--and summarize articles and arguments on issues around that topic. For example, you might want to look at the role of technology in the rising cost of medical care. What does it say in the literature? What is your considered opinion on the subject? You are required to submit a minimum of five (5) such pieces (1 to 2 pages of typewritten material) to your forum on costs (other topics you could address under this broad heading: hospital costs; labor unions and health care; profit and care; physician salaries, third party payments). Articles must be from the professional literature. You have two weeks to post the first such article summary (use the Harvard Citation Guide). If possible, a copy of the article being summarized should be given to the instructor shortly after posting your forum piece (I may want to include excellent articles in our reading room).

In addition, I am requiring that you submit at least five (5) substantive comments, criticism, suggestions, and/or questions on your classmate's forum page. You have three weeks to post your first comment. This will not be too hard in that your lectures, the text, and your own research on your forum topics will give you the background to write intelligently on many of these topics. For those who run the forum, you should answer questions fully, make clarifications where necessary, do additional research if necessary, and attempt to keep your forum on track and interesting. For those of you that are participating, help your classmates out by participating fully (and, perhaps, they will help you in your forum as well). Use this opportunity to summarize short magazine/newspaper items about your topic (or the topics of your classmates). The more the participation, the better the grade.

To sign up for a forum, go to the "Forum" link on the Medical Sociology Index page, once there, select the forum you are going to research/manage, and make the first submission. This submission will be an introduction to yourself--name, major, year, career goals, anything that might interest your fellow students. First come, first served. If you want to start a new forum you must get my approval through e-mail (put "Request for New Forum Topic" in the subject line of the e-mail message). Only new topics of sociological relevance will be approved.

It is possible to work in teams (two people maximum). All of the above guidelines apply (each must submit 5 article summaries, 5 substantive comments to others). The advantage would be that two should be able to get into the literature in greater depth, and share the labor in terms of stimulating discussion. You may also bring in people with expertise from outside the class (physicians, nurses, drug sales people, therapists, professors or anyone else dealing with these issues) to participate in your forum. Your goal is to stimulate, explore, and debate--write to convince, not to simply report.

The Purpose:

The purpose of having a forum is that it gives us the opportunity to focus on a particular topic. This is an intensive research and writing experience that requires you to work consistently throughout the course. (You can not do it at the end of the semester). I expect clear and polished prose. The premise of social science (and what distinguishes it from ideology and armchair philosophizing) is the authority of data and observation over ideology and intuition. Your forum participation should be firmly based on empirical facts as referenced in the social science literature.

The structure of a social science paper reflects this relationship between theory and fact. Facts do not speak for themselves. As Marvin Harris (1979:7) observed, "facts are always unreliable without theories that guide their collection and that distinguish between superficial and significant appearances." Or, as C. Wright Mills put it, "Social research is advanced by ideas; it is only disciplined by fact" (1959, p. 71). The main point is to be guided by an explicit perspective or point of view--take a position. Without a perspective you will be lost in a sea of "information" without a rudder (which is similar to being up the creek without a paddle).

When participating in a forum you can write your piece (particularly if it is long) on a word processor and paste it into the forum window. There will be no obscenities or "flaming" on any of the forums. I expect them to be intellectual discussions with disagreements expressed without resort to name calling, but firmly rooted in social fact and theory (not ideology). Also recognize that discussions can be "threaded" so that a forum can have several different tracks (say one pursuing unions and costs and others on technology, physician salaries, and the AMA). Look at the Forum Page for details. Select articles well--you are looking for those that deal with substantive (important--worth knowing) issues in Medical Sociology.

The Grade:

Your grade will be based on the following criteria:

  1. Quality of summaries
  2. Intellectual discussion stimulated
  3. Grammar and spelling
  4. Quality of participation
At the end of the semester you will e-mail a 1 page summary of your forum activities for grading purposes. Talk to your forum participants, not at them. Pose questions, provide some answers, stimulate some thought, have a good time. I will be monitoring the forums and may comment myself here and there (the lectures I have put online serve as my forum). I want this to be good--let it be so.


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