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AS Sociology

Academic Practice
How to get it right when you write!
Express yourself accurately and
• Language should never obscure meaning. Academic
writing emphasises precision, and it is important to
be accurate and precise in the language and
terminology you use in essays and exams. To take a
simple example you should never use male nouns
and pronouns when you are referring to people of
both sexes (use a plural 'they', 'their' or 'she/he', or
Express Yourself Accurately
• Avoid colloquial and/or derogatory terms for individuals and
groups of people, the reason being that it is hard to judge
the meaning of these terms.
• Define the terms you use, so that you are always saying what
you mean, for example when talking about social class,
ethnicity, or other labels that define people and categories.
• Clearly all the knowledge that you are going to write about has been
gained from your reading – therefore, someone else has created that
body of knowledge.
• In any academic field it is always important to identify the source of
your information and we do this by referencing.
• What you are doing when writing about a topic is summarising an
author’s argument or position.
• You can do this in a number of ways:
• You can summarise an author’s position in your own words; this
requires you to identify the author from where the information was
obtained e.g.:
• Giddens disputes many of the dominant interpretations of the role of
sexuality in modern culture (Giddens, 1992). [This is my summary of
Giddens positions].
• However, you may decide to use a direct quotation from the book and
this is presented in the following way:
• Giddens develops the concept of ‘plastic sexuality’ which he explains
as ‘decentred sexuality freed from the needs of reproduction’
(Giddens, 1992: 2). [note the position of the full stop!]
Harvard Style
• At the end of your essay you should be able to provide a full reference
for all your sources in the bibliography as below:
• Giddens, A. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy, Sexuality, Love and
Eroticism in Modern Societies. London, Blackwell
• If it’s a chapter in a book:
• Bernstein, B. (1976) Education Cannot Compensate for Society, in E.
Butterworth et al. (Eds.) The Sociology of Modern Britain. London,
• If it is a journal article:
• MacDonald, W. L. and DeMaris, A. (1996) Parenting Stepchildren and
Biological Children. The Effects of Gender and New Biological Children,
Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 17, No.1: 5-25.
• If it is a web site:
• Marx, Weber and the Critique of Capitalism Thursday 31 August 2006,
by Michael Löwy available at: Accessed 9/9/2015
Passing off another’s work as your own
Misunderstanding academic processes
Being Lazy
Leaving work to the last minute
Not reading sufficiently widely
• The most serious consequences will be visited upon you if you are
involved e.g. disciplinary action, voiding of your work, up to removal
from your course – regardless of how far or how high you have
• Example: Raj Persaud (formerly a popular TV psychologist); final year
university students
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