Social Problems in Global Context

Social Problems in Global Context

Stephen J. Sills

Associate Professor of Sociology


This course examines causes of and responses to critical social problems in different world regions with a focus on the dimensions and impacts of globalization. This course is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts that sociologists use to analyze various aspects of social life, while also discussing current global social issues. The goal is not to have you accumulate “facts” about societies, but rather to give you the tools that you need to think critically about important current social issues. Topics in this course will include: global inequalities, conflict and violence; population dynamics and issues of sustainability.

Required Text: Sernau, Scott (2012) “Global Problems: the Search for Equity, Peace, and Sustainability.” Revised 3rd Addition, Pearson Education ISBN 0205841775

Exploring social problems on a global scale This text uses social science perspectives to examine the various dimensions of globalization, the social problems of inequality, war and violence, and environmental sustainability that are occurring on a global scale. Clear writing and vivid examples help students to better understand their role as global citizens. The book was designed for courses such as Global Issues, Contemporary Problems, Social Problems, Social Stratification, World Cultures, and Social Change. Learning Goals Upon completing this book, readers should be able to: Understand social problems on a global scale – from inequalities to sustainability See the interconnections of the world and people throughout the world Learn about issues with a multinational and multidisciplinary approach, so readers will be able to have a broader understanding of the subject


There are 1000 pts available. Grades will be calculated as the sum of the following assignments:

  1. Chapter Outlines 10% (100 pts)
  2. Online Quizzes 50% (500 pts)
  3. Current Events Blogs 10% (100 pts)
  4. Online Current Events Presentations 10% (100 pts)
  5. Online discussions 100% (100 pts)
  6. Attendance 10% (100 pts)
  7. Extra Credit +5% (+50 pts)

FINAL GRADES are distributed according to the following percentages:

  • (A+)       97.5% – 100%
  • (A)          92.5% – 97.4%
  • (A-)        89.5% – 92.4%
  • (B+)        87.5% – 89.4%
  • (B)          82.5% – 87.4%
  • (B-)        79.5% – 82.4%
  • (C+)        77.5% – 79.4%
  • (C)          72.5% – 77.4%
  • (C-)        69.5% – 72.4%
  • (D+)       67.5% – 69.4%
  • (D)          62.5% – 67.4%
  • (D-)        59.5% – 62.4%
  • (F)          59.4% and below


General Advice


1) Don’t get behind. This is good advice in any class, but particularly in this class, where you have a lot of work, and where many assignments depend on previous assignments. Please don’t get behind.

2) Ask for help. Please do not feel like you’re bothering me or the graduate teaching assistant – We are here to help you succeed. We can’t do that if we don’t know that something is wrong! Time and again I hear from folks “I didn’t turn in that assignment because I wasn’t sure how to do it and had questions.” Please, please, please, ask those questions, and before the assignment is due. Also, turning in something is better than nothing.

3) Follow the directions. I know this may also seem obvious, but I’ve had students who didn’t want to trust the process before, and had real trouble in the end. It’s hard not to do well in this class.




Chapter Outlines:

For selected chapters in the text, students will be expected to complete an outline of the reading (10 pts each). The outline should cover the major themes (designated by headings and subheadings in the text) and key terms (bold in the text). Write 1-2 lines for each theme/sub-theme. Write this using your off-line word processor, then either cut and paste or attach the document to the appropriate homework space on BLACKBOARD. There are ten chapters for a total of 100 pts.

You will submit your outlines prior to class. Look at the right-hand column of the schedule for due dates. Assignments received after the class will be considered late and penalized 10% for each dayFor example a 10 pts assignment turned in 3 days late would be worth a maximum of 7 pts.




There will be five timed online quizzes. Each quiz is worth 100 pts. You will have one hour in which to complete the quizzes. You may not log off and on. Quizzes must be completed in one sitting. If you have inconsistent internet connections, I suggest going to a lab on campus to complete the quiz. You will not be allowed to collaborate, though you may use the text and online recourses. However, plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students will be required to acknowledge the UNCG Honor Code before beginning the quiz. You may see the UNCG Academic Integrity Policy at for details.


Quizzes will cover the information from readings, lectures, discussions, and in-class assignments. The format includes multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. A study-guide will NOT be provided (don’t ask). Your outlines should serve as very effective guides to the text and your notes will cover what we discuss in class.


There is no excuse for missing a quiz as they will be offered online and within a 48 hour window.


Current Events Blog:

A central component of this course is to learn about current global social problems. Each student will develop expertise on a particular global social problem by following current events on that problem throughout the semester. The Current Events Blog will be an on-going weekly assignment. Each week you will write an entry (about 250 words) on a newsworthy topic in your problem area (these correspond to the 12 topic areas of the text and will be assigned on the first day of class). This story should be global in nature (not US-only)

Your goal is to become an expert on the problem. Each week you will find at least one event in the news from that week and write a summary and brief analysis of the significance of the event(s). You will provide a citation (weblink) to your source(s) for that week. Each event entry will be worth 10 pts for a total of 100 points.


Please include your name, the date and time of the post, and the topic in the title of the blog. List the source as a weblink (URL) at the end of your blog.


You will need regular access to a serious news source. I recommend using the New York Times ( as there are several locations on campus where you may get them for free. Many online news sources, including online news databases (such as lexisnexis) and major national newspapers, are available through the library ( ) or through


Watch to be sure that your source is reputable


Your current events log will be posted on the class blog entry. You will need to respond to the invitation to join the blog as a contributor. Your posting must be made by Friday by 5pm to be counted for the week. Late submissions/postings will result in -1 point per day.



Current Events Presentations

Due on exam day, you will present a recap of your current events using an online presentation on You will summarize the major current events in your topic area and try to draw a sociological conclusion about the issue you have been studying. Point will be awarded based on thoroughness of content, thoughtfulness of sociological critique, and visual style of presentation… Wow me!



Threaded discussions will occur throughout the course. Discussions are a kind of class participation… Since we don’t have a lot of opportunity to debate topics during the lecture, this will serve as a forum where we get to exchange thoughts on the topics we are reading about. This is where you can show the application of the themes and concepts. In other words, you should be using the sociological vocabulary and apply the theoretical concepts you are learning to the topics being discussed. One definition of discussion is, “an extended communication (often interactive) dealing with some particular topic.” Posting will require students to address one another’s comments and not simply declare an opinion or conclusion about a topic. You should post your comments as early as possible so that you can get a chance to respond to comments made about your post.


Your grade for this section will be based on how well you respond to others comments as well as how often you discuss the topic with others in the class. Discussion with others is important! Word count and content will also be factored into grading. Go to the discussion forum. You will see a list of topics. Click on the topic that is due.   Be sure to post your initial commentary on or before the due date. Find the Post button, write your commentary OFFLINE. Copy and paste your responses into the DISCUSSION posting field. Do not attach a file. This makes it more complicated than necessary for those who will comment on your post.  Now, read through the other posts, and comment on them. Try to engage in discourse with the others about their posts. You should make at least three or four comments per topic. All comments must be online within two (2) days of the initial posting.