Soc 125 Research Paper

Twenty-five percent of your grade in Sociology 125 is based on a short research paper that studies the socio-economic structure of a premodern world-system (see below) or a world-system of social animals. Describe the main structural, institutional, spatial and cultural aspects of a particular premodern or animal system of your choosing. 

v  Focus on a particular group of people and estimate the spatial boundaries of the bulk goods network, the political-military network, the prestige goods network and the information network of which this focal group is a part.

v  Discuss the question of core/periphery relations in the system you are studying. Does core/periphery hierarchy or core/periphery differentiation exist? Where is the core? Where is the periphery and the semiperiphery?

v  Briefly characterize the main technological and social characteristics and institutions of the beings you are studying. What kinds of interactional links are there between local and regional groups? Take into account the focal group’s relationships with other regions, its prior history, and contending interests within the system. You should also discuss the nature of the settlement system in the world-system you are studying.[1] Be sure to include a bibliography with citations of the information sources you use to study your world-system. Start with Wikipedia and Google Scholar, and go to the library (you can do this).

            If you choose a world-system for which there is a voluminous literature, narrow your focus to a fairly short time period (say 100 years or so). Begin by describing the structure of the system at a single point in time and then move to a discussion of the dynamics of change.

            Each student should prepare a short written statement that briefly specifies the location, time period and spatial boundaries of the premodern world-system you plan to study. This should be turned in on February 7 along with the citations for two or three library sources (not web sites) of information you will use for your paper. The text of the final paper should be no longer than 10 typed, double-spaced pages, not including maps and bibliography. Your paper is due on March 14. Please include a bibliography.

            Examples of studies of premodern world-systems can be found at  IROWS Working Papers #2 and #4.

A premodern world-system is defined as outside the modern Europe-centered world-system. So anything before 1500 CE is fine, and after that year any region is ok as long as it has not been importantly changed by interaction with Europeans.

The study of an animal world-system should include the settlement system, economy, hierarchy, territoriality of a single species and its relations with other important species with which interacts. It should include consideration of how social behavior and social structural characteristics change as environmental conditions change.

Read the list of requirements above several times while you are working on your paper and be sure to do each of the things that are requested. The maximum length of the text of your paper should be 10 pp. typed, double-spaced. Maps, figures and references can take additional pages.

A Guide to Writing Research Papers is at:



[1] An evolutionary perspective on human settlement systems that defines settlement systems and settlement size hierarchies: “The role of ecosettlement systems in human social evolution” C. Chase-Dunn