Writing and Referencing Guide

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1 SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES Writing and Referencing Guide Sociology/Criminology and Social Work programs

2 Version: 7 January

3 Contents 1. Why this guide? 4 2. How to write interesting, well-structured essays 4 3. How to reference correctly 7 4. Other types of written assignments Plagiarism and how to avoid this 10 3

4 1. Why this guide? Doing a degree at university involves learning a lot about different subjects. We hope that you enjoy your time with us studying sociology and that you develop an understanding of this academic discipline. Your degree also involves learning the skills of being able to find information, and communicate this in different ways. The most important skill of all is the ability to write clearly. Most of our students will be going on to do jobs that involve working with, and communicating, information. Writing essays at university helps you develop this skill. The first step to good writing is being able to construct sentences correctly, and not make grammatical mistakes. We hope that many of you will have learnt to do this at school. However, we also know from experience that many students have fallen into bad habits, or sometimes cannot see that they are making mistakes. Your tutors, especially in the first year, will be correcting your work. If you are making minor or careless errors in your writing, you need to be aware of them. They are easy to correct, and for many students the way to improve is simply by checking your work more carefully. If English is not your first language, then obviously more work is involved in learning how to write clearly. You will need help, from tutors and other supporters. You will also need to set more time aside for checking your writing. You will probably need to think about each sentence! However, we know from experience that you will make dramatic improvements in written English during your time at university. This guide is not concerned with addressing minor errors in your writing. Instead it is concerned with how to structure and write essays at degree level. Section 2 looks at some of the skills involved in essay-writing. Section 3 tells you why referencing is important and how to do this correctly. Section 4 briefly discusses the issues involved in doing other types of assignments, such as short answers and reviews, or longer reports. Section 5 address the important topic of plagiarism how to recognise this and how to avoid committing this breach of university rules. We hope that you find this guide useful, and wish you luck with your essays. 2. How to write interesting, well-structured essays The main objective in writing an essay is to present information in a way that is interesting and easy to follow. It should start with a well-thought out introduction, and answer the set question through a number of paragraphs organised into a clear structure. The essay also needs an interesting conclusion. In our experience, most students can do all these things even at first year level. However, with more thought it is usually possible to improve your technique. a) How to write an essay in Sociology In Sociology, we are looking for your ability to use evidence to create an argument, to think critically, and to write clearly. These are the main things that will influence your essay mark. An essay should be a combination of your own ideas, the ideas of the people you have read, and some short quotes from relevant literature. You need to provide references for both direct quotations, and when you use other people s ideas even if you don't directly quote them. We suggest that you begin writing the essay by reading relevant sections from introductory sociology textbooks and sociological dictionaries. Internet sources such as Wikipedia can be useful, but be careful because they sometimes have incorrect information. These introductory sources will give you an overview of the issues. Next, turn to the readings for the particular unit. There will usually be 4

5 at least two or three of the required tutorial readings that are relevant to the essay question. Read these carefully. Next, look for the additional readings. You will need to find these in the library if they are books, or use the internet based electronic journals for journal articles (these can be accessed using the library catalogue). Try to read at least a few of these. If you have time you might want to search for some additional relevant references. Google Scholar is a useful searching tool for this. Students often ask how many references are required. The answer is that you need enough so that your essay has a good argument. If you only use one or two references, then your argument will not be very interesting and you will probably not obtain a good mark. Most good essays use around 10 or 15 references, with a few less for shorter essays and perhaps a few more for longer ones. The main thing we are looking for is not how many references you use, but how well you have used the references to create a good argument. Once you have read all the readings and taken notes on them, you need to arrange all your notes into a clearly organised argument. One way of doing this is to create a list of topics that you will cover in your essay. Try to arrange the list of topics so that it forms a clear argument. You can then cut and paste the various quotations and summaries you have written under this list of topics. Do not use headings in the final version of the essay but it might be useful to use them in a draft to help you organise your ideas. b) Introductions These should be between a quarter and a third of a page. You should try to say something about the question that catches the interest of the reader and leads into the essay. It is important to give the reader an overview of what you will be doing in the essay. Try to provide a summary of the main argument of the essay. For example, in response to the essay question: Discuss the claim that Australia is a secular society, you might begin your essay with an introduction something like the following: In this essay I will argue that Australia is not a secular society, but that the form and content of religion is changing. I begin the essay with an examination of the concepts of religion, spirituality and secularisation, suggesting that these terms needs to be carefully defined. I then go on to demonstrate that while participation in traditional Christian religions has been declining in Australia, that other forms of religious and spiritual expression are on the rise, including Buddhism, the New Age and more diffuse forms of spirituality such as that found at raves. c) Paragraphs and structure A paragraph should be about a third to half of a page in length. Each paragraph should focus on one main idea. Most paragraphs should be a combination of a summary of someone else s idea (including a reference to the source of this idea), some of your own ideas, and perhaps a short direct quote. A common problem is using paragraphs that are too short. Another is presenting the essay as a list of points. Instead, you should be trying to use linking phrases to make links or contrasts between groups of paragraphs. How this is done will depend on the content or argument in the essay. You might find it valuable to read some of the books listed below, or look at other essays for ideas. d) Conclusions The essay also needs an interesting conclusion. Try to save something to say you have not previously discussed. Many conclusions are too short. At the very least they should return to the question and advance an argument or your own view on the question (see below). e) Using the first person There are different styles of writing in sociology. We suggest that you only use I when you are making a claim about the argument of the essay (see the example introduction above). We would 5

6 recommend that, when starting out, it is good practice to avoid being too personal and subjective. An essay should be about summarising the ideas of academic writers, or using evidence to advance an argument. On the other hand, it is often appropriate to give your own views in the conclusion. Your tutors will help you develop this skill. f) Using quotations A common mistake is to use long quotations, to the extent that you are not answering the question in your own words. On the other hand, quotations can make an essay more interesting. There are two ways of using them: You can make the quotation part of your own sentence. You can even do this with a short phrase. If you have not tried doing this, it is worth experimenting. e.g. According to Marx (1976: 196), religion is the opium of the people. You can introduce a longer quotation (usually more than one sentence), and then indent it within your paragraph. g) Tone e.g. Marx (1976: 196) made the following observations about religion: Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. More generally, you should try to avoid too conversational or casual a tone. Your main sources should be academic books and articles. Try to avoid abbreviations. h) Presentation This is important. Check that there is a blank line between each paragraph or that the first line of each paragraph is indented. Perhaps the most important advice is to leave enough time in your work plan for planning and writing the essay, and then checking it before submission. All writers do this, and they often do a few drafts before they are happy with a piece of work. You have only limited time, but if you spend even a short period of time checking, you will probably improve the standard. Finally, the comments of your tutors, and any mistake they correct, should help you to improve. After each essay, take the time to list the points you need to work on. If you follow the suggestions of your tutors, you should receive higher grades in your next assignment. Further reading Greetham, Bryan (2001) How to Write Better Essays. London: Palgrave. Redman, Peter (2001) Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide. London: Sage. 6

7 3. How to reference correctly a) Why we use referencing Referencing means showing where you obtained the information in your written work. It is important in academic research, because it allows readers to find the sources cited, and see what they say in more detail. There are different ways of citing references in essays. In this guide, we recommend that you use a common version of the Harvard system. You can find it used in most of the books and articles you read. We hope that you can see the point of this it would be confusing if everyone used a different system. This also means that if there is a mistake, for example, if you have forgotten to put book titles in italics, it looks wrong. At any rate, markers will penalise you for errors in referencing. b) In text references Give all references in the essay by the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication, with the page numbers where relevant: e.g. Franklin (1996: 434) claimed that fish are interesting to think with, since they exist on the greyer side of certainty in animal rights debates. There are many kinds of health-care in Australia (Easthope 1998). Notice that in this version of Harvard, page references are given after a colon. c) Reference lists A list of references should be given at the end of the essay (in books, this is called a bibliography). This should be alphabetical and only include the books and journal articles cited. In other words, if you have read something, and find it useful, try to cite it in the essay, and give details in the reference list. Here is an example of a list, using our preferred version of the Harvard system. It uses full-stops, but you can find other versions that prefer commas. In one there is no punctuation at all! The preferred system also puts dates in brackets. Some other versions give the date without brackets. Example References Cook, Nerida (1998) Dutiful daughters, estranged sisters: women in Thailand. In Krishna Sen and Maila Stivens (eds) Gender and Power in Affluent Asia. London: Routledge: Crook, Stephen, Pakulski, Jan and Waters, Malcolm (1992) Postmodernization: Change in Advanced Society. London: Sage. Easthope, Gary (1998) Alternative Medicine. In John Germov (ed.) Second Opinion: An Introduction to Health Sociology. Melbourne: Oxford University Press: Ezzy, Douglas (2003) Practising the Witch s Craft. Crow s Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin. 7

8 Franklin, Adrian (1996a) On fox-hunting and angling: Norbert Elias and the sportisation process. Journal of Historical Sociology 9 (4): (1996b) Australian hunting and angling sports and the changing nature of human-animal relations in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 32(3): Jackson, Natalie, and Rebecca Kippen (2001) Whither Tasmania? A note on Tasmania s population problem. People and Place 9(1): Jacobs, Keith and Maggie Walter (2003) An analysis of the Housing Needs of Young and Older Aboriginal People in Tasmania. Research consultancy commissioned by Aboriginal Housing Services Tasmania. Julian, Roberta (1997) Invisible subjects and the victimized self: settlement experiences of refugee women in Australia. In Ronit Lentin (ed) Gender and Catastrophe. London: Zed Books: Pakulski, Jan, and Malcolm Waters (1996) The Death of Class. London: Sage. Tranter, Bruce (1995) Leadership in the Tasmanian environmental movement: a research note. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 31(3): Travers, Max (2001) Qualitative Research Through Case Studies. London, Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE. Turabian, Kate L. (1995) A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations Sixth Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Walter, Maggie (2003) Working Their Way Out of Poverty? Australian Sole Mothers, Labour Market Participation and Welfare Reform. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Tasmania. White, Rob (ed) (2004) Controversies in Environmental Sociology. New York: Cambridge University Press. White, Robert, and Warren Sproule (2002) Don't mourn the death of theory, organize! : globalization and the rhizome of anarcho-syndicalism. Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 16 (3): Some points to note: Book titles are in italics. The place of publisher comes before the details of the publisher. Journal articles are in singe inverted commas. Journals are in italics. Page numbers are always given. See item 3 in the list, Easthope (1998) for the correct way of referencing book chapters. You will usually know the first name of the author. If not, use initials: e.g. Ezzy, D. (2003) Practising the Witch s Craft. Crow s Nest NSW: Allen & Unwin. 8

9 d) Referencing other sources You will sometimes want to reference other sources of information such as newspaper articles or websites. If you want to cite anything from the internet, the following are useful: Online! (2000) Citation styles <http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/index.html> (15 May 2009) Davis, James (2002) Writing With Sources. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Here are some simple examples: a newspaper article (obtained from the internet) Krupka, Peter (2000) AFL players quizzed on sex assault claim. The Australian 18 August 2000 <http://www.news.com.au/common/indexlib/0,3921,national%255e% 255E%255Enews45,00.html> (18 August 2000). an internet site Boycott Woodchipping Campaign (1998) Amcor Ltd Corporate Profile <http://www.green.net.au/ boycott2.htm#tag3> (30 April 2000). When citing from the internet, it is common to give the date you accessed the site. e) What if the source does not give the name of the author? Some students get worried if the source does not give the name of the author. There are guides that suggest how to cite any conceivable source. Here is one way of doing this: In text reference: The state government changed its policy on swine flu once containment measures had failed to stop the disease spreading (The Mercury, 2009). Reference list: The Mercury (2009) Shift in Swine Flu Fight'. <http://www.themercury.com.au/article/ 2009/06/18/79775_tasmania-news.html (19 June 2009) If you used two articles from this newspaper in 2009, you can distinguish them as The Mercury 2009a and 2009b. In other words, there is an answer to any referencing query. f) Referencing secondary sources Secondary sources in sociological terms are texts which you have not read yourself, but which are mentioned in texts you have read. Students are often uncertain how to reference this material. Say that you wanted to refer to these two passages from Waters and Crook (1993: 243, 369): "Game and Pringle (1983) argue that housework in Australia is even more routinized and monotonous that it once was". 9

10 "[Marx] views religion as an illusion which serves to oppress:... It is the opium of the people (Marx 1977: 64)". Reference the first like this: "Waters and Crook (1993: 243) cite evidence that housework is even more boring than it used to be." Reference the second like this: "Religion is the opium of the people (Marx, quoted in Waters and Crook 1993: 369)". Some final advice on referencing: If you are in doubt, it is always better to cite a source than not to do so. References lists are not included in the word count of an essay, but in-text references are. There are no penalties for too many references; only for too few. There are different versions of Harvard referencing; whichever you use, be consistent. 4. Other types of written assignments This guide has been aimed at helping you achieve a higher standard in essays, and learn the basics of referencing. It is worth mentioning that you will be asked to do other types of writing during the degree. These include: a) Short answers You cannot structure these like an essay, and may not need to give references. However, it is important to write clearly, and to check your work carefully. b) Reports A report is usually longer than an essay. In a report, you can use headings and bullet points. c) Dissertations As you progress in your degree, you may be asked to do a piece of research and to write this in a long report. This could be 10,000 words. The skills you learn from writing essays will help you to do this. 5. Plagiarism and how to avoid this Plagiarism is a form of cheating. It is taking and using someone else's thoughts, writings or inventions and representing them as your own; for example, using an author's words without putting them in quotation marks and citing the source, using an author's ideas without proper acknowledgment and citation, copying another student's work. If you have any doubts about how to refer to the work of others in your assignments, please consult your lecturer or tutor for relevant referencing guidelines, and the academic integrity resources on the web at 10

11 The intentional copying of someone else s work as one s own is a serious offence punishable by penalties that may range from a fine or deduction/cancellation of marks and, in the most serious of cases, to exclusion from a unit, a course or the University. Details of penalties that can be imposed are available in the Ordinance of Student Discipline Part 3 Academic Misconduct, see data/assets/pdf_file/0006/23991/ord91.pdf The University and any persons authorised by the University may submit your assessable works to a plagiarism checking service to obtain a report on possible instances of plagiarism. Assessable works may also be included in a reference database. It is a condition of this arrangement that the original author s permission is required before a work within the database can be viewed. 11

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