SOCI 2013: Social Visual Analysis Essay Guide

This guide was designed in collaboration with Justin Barnum, PhD, to assist students in completing their Social Visual Analysis Essay for SOCI 2013H.

The Assignment

Black Panther Party Poster that reads Women! Free Our Sisters!The Social Visual Analysis Essay consists of two parts. The first part is a summary of an image from a library image database you choose to analyze. A list of available image databases is outlined in this guide, and there will also be an in-class demonstration and you are also welcome to contact the Librarian-in-Residence, Marianne R. Williams to schedule an individual research appointment. Images should be no older than 1930, and will need to be cited in the ASA format.

The SVAE should be one page in length, single-spaced with references on a separate page. Documents are only accepted in .docx due to restrictions on Blackboard for feedback.

Image credit: New England Women's Liberation and the Black Panther Party (1969). Women! Free Our Sisters [Poster]Retrieved from

This assignment is a part of an ongoing research project by Dr. Barnum and Marianne Williams on assessing the visual literacy standards of Sociology college students. To learn more about this project, read our latest article in Art Documentation:

Marianne R. Williams and Anthony Justin Barnum, "Teaching Social Analysis of Images: A Case Study of Interdepartmental Visual Literacy Instruction in Sociology from the Fine Arts Library," Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 38, no. 2 (Fall 2019): 324-337.


Part 1: Summary

The summary should be brief and to the point. It should be the boiled down essence of the image and not a play by play of every visual cue within the article. Avoid overuse of statements such as “In this image” as they are filler. Instead, jump right into the image. Think of the summary as a short line in a memo that tells you the topic. The summary should be the first paragraph and should be 1-3 sentences. It’s easy to write, but can you efficiently and succinctly convey the main ideas of the image? Also, the Summary should not include any sources or opinions. It should be only a summary of the article. Don’t forget that there must be a parenthetical citation at the end of the paragraph! At the end of the summarized paragraph you should have a parenthetical citation in ASA format.

Image credit: Anderson Rev. H. C. (1960 ~ 1970). Wedding portrait of the bride and groom with another man [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Part 2: Analysis

The goal for this section should be to always go deeper. You should be doing two things in this section. The first is summarizing and explaining those ideas and concepts from the sociological reading that you will be applying to the image. You should never assume that your reader has the same understanding of a concept as you do. So it is always important to define the concepts that you are using. If you are using a term like functionalism explain what functionalism is and cite it. Secondly, you should address the application of that concept or idea that you have defined and how it is visible within the image you have summarized. You should be going back and forth between explaining concepts and giving examples of the concepts. Creating the links between the textbook and the article you are analyzing. There should be 4-5 sociological concepts defined and explained in relation to the article. This should be pulled from the Ferguson textbook and cited per the individual author(s) in each chapter.

The analysis should be thought of as any other essay or writing you do. As such it should have an introduction, supporting details, and a conclusion. Furthermore, each paragraph should also follow this structure. Pay attention to your conclusion as it should not be a conclusion about the image you analyzed but a conclusion to the analysis you conducted.

Image credit: Gray F and Newborn Community of Faith Church (2015). Broom used by the community members to clean-up after Baltimore protests [Broom]. Retrieved from