Social Justice Issue Paper

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Social Justice Issue Paper

You are to choose one issue connected with social justice and leadership, and present the topic to the professor for approval. In the issue paper, you are to state the issue, and in light of your research (using books, articles, interviews, internet resources, and artifacts of practice) discuss it in the context of society and the individual and in the context of your particular organization. Your issue paper should answer the following seven questions:

  • What is the scope of the social justice issue?
  • What is the current situation?
  • What are the societal impacts and consequences of the issue if it is not addressed?
  • What long term changes must be made to improve and/or eliminate the situation?
  • What current actions can be taken to lessen immediate impacts?
  • What programmatic or corrective actions could produce these changes?


The paper will be evaluated according to its focus, coherence, depth, discernment, evaluation of different points of view, relevance, use of sources, and written quality. It should not be a mere report on the subject matter, such as one might be able to find in an encyclopedia, but rather demonstrate assimilation of and critical engagement with the issue as it relates to the conditions of social justice.

The paper will be 4 to 5 pages and must be accompanied by a MLA formatted Works Cited, an application appendix and other appendices as necessary.

Steps for Writing Your Issue Paper

Step 1. Select an Issue Topic:

Decide the particular topic to address. Choose an issue that is personally important and that you wish to explore more fully.

Make sure your issue has an appropriate scope. If the scope is too broad or complex your paper will only scratch the surface of the issue; too narrow and the paper will run out of steam too soon.

Step 2. Conduct Research:

Use reliable sources—class readings, research studies, technical reports and white papers from organizations and research centers. Keep in mind that whatever your issue, chances are that someone has written about it before in the context of its effects on individuals and society and in the context of social justice. It is appropriate to incorporate other author’s thoughts into your paper, as long as you give them credit. Remember, the difference between scholarship and plagiarism is often just a citation!

Step 3. Select a Position:

Based on the research in Step 2, construct a tentative working thesis for your Issue Paper. For example:

Thanks to families, career choices, disparity in pay and other factors, many women in the Hopeful School District will earn less than men in their lifetimes. As a result, these women also accumulate lower retirement benefits from pensions, retirement savings plans, and even from Social Security. A two pronged approach will help to remedy the situation: working to promote equal pay for equal work, and helping women become aware of the present disparity and offset it by saving earlier in their careers and saving more.

In the course of writing your paper you may discover that you change your mind. That’s fine. But for now a working hypothesis will help you to organize your thoughts for the next steps in the process.

Step 4. Constructing a Working Outline:

Based on your working thesis, list the primary reasons the thesis is true. These ideas may come from your own thoughts and observations and must be supported by the research conducted in step 2.

It is not enough to simply assert an issue. Place supporting evidence and reasons that the issue is connected to social justice under the appropriate primary reasons. Here is the basic format of an outline.

  • Working Thesis
    • First Primary Reason
    • First Supporting Reason
  • 2.1.1 Reason, Evidence, or Example
  • 2.1.2 Reason, Evidence, or Example
  • 2.2 Second Supporting Reason
  • 2.2.1 Reason, Evidence, or Example

3. Second Primary Reason

3.1 First Supporting Reason

3.1.1 Reason, Evidence, or Example 3.1.2 Reason, Evidence, or Example

4. Conclusion

Of course your actual outline may have more than two primary reasons and the number of supporting reasons and evidence will vary. Normally the outline will change during the course of writing your paper. Sometimes you will discover have to develop a more nuanced way of phrasing your thesis. This is to be expected.


Step 5. Checking for Fallacies:

Look over your outline and look for any obvious failures in logic or structure. Consult the “do’s” and “don’ts” section below for examples of common fallacies.

Step 6. Planning and Writing the Issue Paper

Write your issue paper in standard format (standard margins, double spaced, 12 point font size, etc.). Your issue papers should be no more than 5 pages.

Introduction: The point of the introduction is to provide an entry point and overview of the issue. Your introduction must include a clearly stated thesis—a clear statement of the position argued for in the paper. It must also include a rationale for the paper—why is the issue important? The introduction should also include a basic overview or map of the issue paper. The thesis statement must either be the first or the last sentence of the introduction. Resist the temptation to get “cute” in the introduction or provide too much information; get to your point as directly as possible. An introduction longer than a half-page is too long. Some writers find it easier to begin the introduction with a bold thesis statement, while others prefer to raise the issue, discuss the importance and then end with the thesis. It is also acceptable to have a complex thesis that states the importance, position, and/or provides a map of the points to be discussed all in one well-crafted sentence.

Body: This is the presentation of the case in favor of the thesis. Here is where you flesh out the bare bones of the skeleton you developed in step 4. Your writing should flow and follow the standard dictates of written English. Again, you may need to modify or nuance your position.

Avoid the temptation to simply gloss over important reasons and supports. A good brief acknowledges the complexities of the issue to demonstrate why the position you are taking in this paper is important. Sometimes it will not be a clear-cut case of the superiority of your position over another. You need to provide a reason, however, for why your position makes particular sense given the scope of the issue, its immediate and long-term impacts and the importance of the remedy or remedies you are proposing.

Conclusion: Conclude your paper by summarizing your issue and re-emphasizing your thesis. There should be a strong degree of correlation between your introduction and your conclusion. If there is a great deal of difference, consider rewriting your introduction. In particular notice if you have softened or hardened some terms in your original thesis. Has must become might? Has some become all? Find overstatements and correct them.

Step 7. Revising the Issue Paper

Once you have a complete draft of the entire paper you should do several revisions. Remember while you may not always be able to say all you know, you do not really understand something until you can communicate it clearly and precisely to someone else. Keep an eye on three important areas while you are editing your issue paper.

Argument: Make sure that you are actually arguing for your points and not merely asserting your opinions. You need to convince the reader that you are correct and these are not merely your personal views.

Scope: Make sure that everything in your paper directly addresses the issue. This can play itself out in two opposite ways. If the scope is too narrow, then the paper will lack integration. It will feel cobbled together—as if there are really two or three little papers instead of one longer paper. If the scope is too large you will need to focus the paper. Do not go on wild goose chases or down rabbit trails. Identify what is essential to your position paper and what is not. Evaluate your use of quotations. Narrow your thesis.

Editing: Make sure that your paper is well written. Don’t count on the spell check and grammar check in your word processor; and do not rely on a thesaurus without consulting a dictionary as well. Remember, all the grammar and spelling you learned in English was for a purpose. Accounting majors don’t forget the rules of addition when they learn double entry accounting; leaders don’t forget the rules of grammar when they write!

Step 8. Finalizing the Paper:

The final form of your issue paper will contain five basic elements in this order:

  1. Title Page
  2. Outline Page
  3. Text of the Paper
  4. Works Cited

Title Page: The title page does not count towards the total pages for the paper, nor does it receive a page number.


Outline: Once you have finished revising your paper, revisit your original outline and modify it so that it matches up with your finished product. Simplify this outline so that it does not have more than three levels of headings and is not longer than one single spaced page in length. It should be detailed just enough to allow the reader to grasp the general argument of the paper before actually reading the paper. Again, the outline does not count towards the total pages for the paper, however it is appropriate to number outline pages using roman numerals (e.g., i, ii).

Text: The text element includes the introduction, brief, and conclusion of your position paper. Because you have a title page, do not include a title on the first page of the text. Make sure that you number your pages (beginning with one—again, you would be surprised by how many students forget this). It is also strongly suggested that you place your name in either the header or the footer to ensure that if pages are detached they may easily be reunited with the correct paper. Remember the text is to be between 4 to 5 pages in length.

Works Cited: Follow MLA guidelines in formatting any sources of information you use in your text. Remember, all sources of information in an issue paper must be properly cited. Works Cited do not count towards the length requirements for the paper, but please place page numbers on page(s).


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