Guidelines in writing a sociology paper
COMPOSING AN OUTLINE
It should be strictly adhered to. For example:
II. Literature Review and Methods for the Collection of Data
III. Discussion and Analysis
CAREFULLY CHOOSE YOUR TOPIC
First seek out journal articles or books on your chosen subject to get some sense of style and outline. Read critically and make notes.
Decide what methods you will use to collect data to inform your work.
COMPOSING THE PAPER
1. State as precisely as possible, the question you intent to pursue.
2. Sketch the main line of your argument or the major elements of your explanation.
3. Note any significant source material.
4. Footnotes are used for the following purposes:
d. to indicate the exact source of every question used;
d. to acknowledge indebtedness to others for opinions or ideas;
d. to give the authority for a fact that the reader might be inclined to doubt because it is outside his/her ordinary experience, e.g. history
Citing references refers to the acknowledgment in your paper of the sources of words, information, ideas, or interpretations other than your own. These may be in terms of paraphrases or direct quotation of others. In either case, documentation is mandatory.
HINTS ON PRESENTATION
One issue about which students worry , is the thought of being accused of writing only ‘their own opinion’. Opinion is involved in everything that is written. However, the following practices help avoid essays which are unbalanced, or opinionated.
1. Present conflicting ideas. It is often useful to say that ‘one explanation is…’ but ‘some contrary views are expressed by… ‘, or ‘one way of understanding this is…’ Try to entertain alternative explanations or interpretations.
2. Present supporting evidence. Often you can choose between different explanations by showing that evidence supports one position and not others.
3. Make use of quotations. Quoting the ‘experts’ can often be an effective strategy (although experts can be wrong.)
4. Structuring information in sequence. Your ideas should build on one another. Once you have established a point (either through quotation or evidence, or both), it can be used effectively to argue against other interpretations.
EVALUATING A PAPER
General criteria of evaluation are spelled out below but they have, of course, been central to everything said above. They are loosely arranged in order of importance.
1. Statement of clear purpose in the introduction.
2. Clear, precise, specification of an important sociological question (puzzle, topic).
3. Logical development of a well-rounded argument.
4. Evidence that the nature of the topic under consideration is understood (for example: awareness and appreciation of alternative views).
5. Evidence that available information has been consulted (relevant quotes, publicity available, information presented.) Methods of data collection have been presented and data is analyzed.
6. Organization and literacy.
7. Bibliographic referencing is included.