Analyzing and Critiquing a Social Paradigm

Analyzing and Critiquing a Social Paradigm

For your next essay, you will describe and analyze a particular paradigm and then form an evaluation of that paradigm. You choose which paradigm to analyze, so long as 1.) it is a specific social group you are at least somewhat familiar with personally and 2.) you get your paradigm approved by me before writing your paper.

Your paradigm can be almost any group who shares a collective point of view towards a particular field. Options include:  a group who share the same work or profession; a particular club or organization’s members; people who belong to the same sporting team; a group of people who share the same hobby or past-time activity; people who share the same major in school; any specific religious or political group; a subculture of some kind; enthusiasts or fans of any kind, etc.  Be creative, but again, choose a paradigm you know in some manner.

Once your paradigm choice is approved, describe and analyze that paradigm in depth and detail. (See the details of how to do this on the essay advice below once you’re ready to write.)

The more detailed your answers, the better. Though you will speak largely from personal experience and observation, research is highly encouraged to fill in the gaps of your knowledge.

Your next task is to use what you’ve described to raise problems or point out negative effects of your paradigm. As a general start, ask yourself if the paradigm seems psychologically healthy for its members or not; if not, explain why not. Present at least three main effects, one paragraph per effect. If “negative effect” seems too harsh, think of these as relative weaknesses within the paradigm—things that are not as good or as healthy as they could be.


This advice isn’t going to matter to you until you sit down to write seriously. Only consider this advice, then, when you start to have questions about structure or how to go about writing this paper more specifically.


First, explain the bare basics of what your paradigm is about to establish your topic clearly and directly. Launch into these basics in the very first sentence—no set-up or “hook.”

Next, quickly sum up how people typically view the members of this paradigm. What is the traditional perception of the paradigm by outsiders?

Directly after that, briefly state whether that general perception is accurate or not, based on your analysis. This will help you pivot toward your thesis statement.

State a thesis. The thesis statement in this paper has two parts: one part to quickly summarize your analysis of the paradigm and a second part to mention two or three “critique points”—that is, your evaluation and opinion, negative in this case, of three aspects of the paradigm you are about to analyze.

All of this goes into one paragraph. BODY PART 1: ANALYSIS

Your analysis is meant to break down your paradigm into specific details in order to

describe it and offer insights about its nature. You have considerable freedom in which specific areas of analysis to choose, so select which fit your topic and the ones for which you have sufficient information. Organize your analytical data into paragraphs where each paragraph focuses one particular aspect of your paradigm, aspects such as the following:

  • HISTORY of the paradigm—its origin, background information. History can take any

one (or more) of three forms: DEEP history (the traditions, stretching back in time for decades or even hundreds of years, leading to your paradigm today); RECENT history (the trends and main developments that have influenced your paradigm in the past 10 years or less); and PERSONAL history (your own “origin story” of how you came to belong to this paradigm, how you became an insider).

  • INSIDERS/ MEMBERS of the paradigm—who are these people exactly? What are they

like psychologically (emotionally, intellectually, attitude, lifestyle) and in terms of their relationships (to other insiders and also to outsiders)?

  • GOALS—both superficial (the obvious ones everyone admits to) and deep and hidden

(the less obvious ones that no one likes to talk about)


What ideas do the insiders take for granted? What do they expect to happen? What other forms of thinking or logic do you notice about this paradigm?

  • COMPARE and CONTRAST—note the similarities and especially the differences

between this paradigm and any one or more related to it.

  • LANGUAGE—insider lingo, specialized terminology, words with unique meanings to members, “insider” talk, anything relating to how insiders communicate and articulate themselves within the paradigm.
  • DAY IN THE LIFE—walk the reader through a typical day in the life of an insider. If it is a job-related paradigm, for example, walk through a typical work shift. If it is a music- related paradigm, walk through a music concert, for instance. Describe not just the physical components of the experience but your emotional and psychology ones, too. Walk through the preparation for the day, the day or experience itself, and the aftereffects.
  • EXTREME CASES—if applicable, describe the more radical or extreme elements of your paradigm and discuss how these extreme cases affect the moderate insiders.

Each bulleted suggestion can its own paragraph. Any give bulleted point may be combined with another. Any given bulleted point may be separated into multiple paragraphs, too. You have many options, in other words, about how to handle and arrange your ideas.

Two things will make this analysis strong: details and insight. Details include vivid descriptiveness, specific details, and most important of all, examples. Insight means that you are including observations that are interesting and deep, ideas beyond the obvious and superficial, ideas that reflect thoughtful and deeper observation. If an outsider can guess what you’re saying, it is too obvious; if an outsider would be surprised to read what you are

sharing, that’s a good sign you are being insightful. BODY PART 2: EVALUATION

The evaluation portion of your paper follows your analysis immediately, with no page break or subheading; the evaluation starts in the paragraph right after the last paragraph of your analysis, in other words.

You will present three different weaknesses or negative effects. These are your opinion that you state about this paradigm. I do not want you to discuss the “truth” or “falsehood” or the validity or absurdity of this social paradigm. I instead want you to address the paradigm’s effects on its members, psychologically and socially (emotional well being, stress level, personal satisfaction, quality of relationships such as family, marriages, friendships). Separate your evaluation points into separate paragraphs. And if you have more than three weaknesses to discuss, by all means include them.

Be sure to explain and support your opinion with reasons and examples. These paragraphs may be fewer than those in the analysis, but this critical evaluation is key to showing me your level of independent and critical thinking, so devote proper time and detail to your reasoning here.


n direct response to your negative critique points, offer proposals for reforming or correcting those problems. Explain why your proposal will make the paradigm better. Be specific, be realistic, and be constructive.


  • Your paradigm MUST be approved by me. Any paper about any paradigm that I did not expressly approve of will receive no grade. Once your topic is posted or approved, that’s it—you’re locked in as if I had assigned you that topic. No second guessing or changes at the last minute.
  • Follow MLA guidelines for citing research, including a Works Cited page. Personal stories and experiences require no citing, but personal interviews need to include names and dates for the Works Cited page (if you wish to keep subjects anonymous, ask me how to proceed).
  • Since your critique is negative, try make the ideas of your paper speak of the problem

rather than any emotionalism. It’s normal to include personal experience and feelings, but if overdone, negative passion can make the essay seem like a rant rather than an educated opinion.

  • There is no minimum or maximum page length. It is likely, however, that your paper is

longer in order to include all the details and examples it needs to be strong. If your essay is four pages or shorter, that is probably a red flag that you are not including enough detail.

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