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Writing Guide

Writing Overview

Note: Most of the stylistic recommendations are based American Sociological Association’s Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Writing Tips

  • Try to use the active voice instead of passive voice when possible by eliminating: is, am, was, were, be, being, and been.
  • Do not use contractions in academic writing.
  • Gendered language should be avoided unless specific to the topic. For example, mankind or manpower. Use nongendered language such as individual, people, or humanity.
  • Vary sentence length and structure, this makes your writing easier to read and more engaging.
  • Avoid run-on sentences.
  • Avoid wordy phrases. Short and precise language is preferred. Typically, the words “most”, “much”, and “very” are unnecessary. For example,
    • “as a result,” “due to the fact that” = because
    • “through the use of” = by, using, or with
    • “in regards to” = about
    • “time and time again” = repeatedly
    • “actual fact” = fact
    • More can be found on the following sites:
  • Names: The first time a person’s name is mentioned, write it out completely. Next time, refer to them by their last name. For example, Karl Marx said “yada, yada, yada.” Next time it will be: Marx stated that “yada, yada, yada.”
  • Abbreviations: Words should be fully spelled out with the abbreviation put in (parenthesis). Then use the abbreviation each subsequent time.
    • University of Wollongong (UOW)
    • violence against women (VAW)
  • Read your writing aloud, or have another person or a computer program read your writing to you, to find mistakes and determine where commas and pauses should go.
  • Buy and use a style guide:
    1. APA Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
    2. The Chicago Manual of Style
    3. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
    4. A Sociology Writer’s Guide
    5. The Purdue Online Writing Lab
  • Take a writing course. Improving your writing will help you at university and in the job market.


  • Know the difference between:
    • a, an, and
    • their, there, and they’re
    • to, too, and two
    • Additional Information:
  • Commonly confused words:
    • aloud = out loud, allowed = permitted
    • apart = separated, a part = piece of
    • everyday = common place, every day = Monday, Tuesday, etc.
    • Additional Information:
  • Be mindful of run-on sentences and unnecessary capitalization.
  • Plural = are, singular = is
  • Numbers:
    • Spell out numbers one through nine.
    • Use numerals for numbers 10 and above.
      • Also first, second, and third but 10th, 11th, and 50th.
    • Do not start a sentence with numerals.
      • Incorrect: 52% of make believe Australians like Tim Tams.
      • Correct: Over half (52%) of make believe Australians like Tim Tams.
    • Dates: Apostrophes should not be used on dates. For example, 1970s instead of 1970’s.
  • Possession:
    • An apostrophe must be used before an extra “s” to indicate possession.
      • student’s not students; mother’s, not mothers; society’s, not societies
      • This is Bob’s sociology book.
    • If a word is plural, the apostrophe goes after the “s”:
      • students’ books or fathers’
      • The workers’ rights.
  • Difference between affect and effect: A simple way to remember is the phrase cause and effect. The cause is the affect or an affect causes an effect. Affect is typically a verb and effect is typically a noun. Remember, cause (affect) and effect. Another way to remember is affect comes first in the alphabet and therefore must come before effect.
    • Learning will affect students.
    • Learning had an effect on students.


  • Acronyms: British English typically does not capitalize the entire word, referred to as capital case.
    • Nasa/NASA
    • Nato/NATO
    • Unicef/UNICEF
  • Contractions: British English typically does not use full stops (called periods in American English)
    • Avenue: Ave/Ave.
    • Doctor: Dr/Dr.
    • Street: St/St.
  • List of abbreviations commonly used in sociology.


  • British English typically uses single quotation marks (‘), but American English uses double quotation marks (“). British English does not put the full stop inside a quotation unless it is part of the original quote, while American English typically does. However, both alternate quote marks when there is a quotation within a quotation.

Basic Academic Essay Format

  • Introduction
    • State thesis:
      • The question you intend to answer or statement you intend to prove.
      • Should be one sentence.
    • Preview essay by highlighting the key points you will make in your subject sentences.
  • Paragraph 1
    • Subject Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
    • Summarizing sentence, leading to next paragraph.
  • Paragraph 2
    • Subject Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
    • Summarizing sentence, leading to next paragraph.
  • Paragraph 3
    • Subject Sentence
    • Support
    • Support
    • Support
    • Summarizing sentence, leading to next paragraph.
  • Conclusion
    • Summarize your points.
    • Never introduce new information into the conclusion


  • Create a template for papers in various citation formats such as APA and MLA. Then, start each paper using to the template to save time.
  • Consistent formatting is key; use the same font and font size throughout your work.
  • Use indents or spaces to separate paragraphs.


Quoting and Citation

Proper quoting and citing is required to avoid plagiarism. Choose sources carefully, they must be academic and peer reviewed.


  • Do not italicize; put them in “quotation marks” or ‘inverted commas’.
  • All direct quotes require a page number, paraphrasing does not.
  • Quotes should not be put in italics.
  • A quote by someone other than the text author, must be attributed to the original author.
  • Full stop goes after citation. ‘You are not reading this sentence’ (Bell 2016).
  • Quotes should seamlessly blend into the writing.

Citing and Source Selection

  • There are many different citation systems in use (e.g., Harvard and MLA). Learn which ones you have to use for each class.
  • Only use academically peer-reviewed sources.
    • The UOW library has an extensive selection of academic databases.
    • You can also start your search with Google Scholar.
  • When in doubt, cite it.
  • The period or full stop comes after the citation.
    • Incorrect: ‘Blah, blah, blah’. (Bell 2016).
    • Correct: ‘Blah, blah, blah’ (Bell 2016).
  • Guides to referencing: Deakin University and Purdue University

Citation Software

Use citation software to track references, such as Endnote. Most of these programs provide the same functionality but work slightly different.

  • Endnote
  • RefWorks
  • Mendeley
    • Similar to Endnote with a Microsoft Word add-on to auto-create bibliographies.
    • Excellent for annotating PDFs and sharing data.
  • Zotero
    • Free and open source, has a stand-alone program and imbeds in your browser to automatically create citations and save PDFs.
    • Similar to Endnote, Zotero has an add-on for Microsoft Word that auto-creates bibliographies.
  • Native Microsoft Word reference function.
    • You can install Microsoft Office on up to five devices with your student account.
    • You can improve the native spellchecker in MS Word by going to File > Options > Proofing > Writing Style > and selecting Grammar and Style
  • Comparison of Reference Management Software
  • You may also want to look into Evernote and Scrivener. While not citation programs, they can assist you in writing and collecting data.

Additional Resources


Citing the OESD: Please see the front page for general citation information or any definition for specific citation information.

Works Consulted

Clanchy, John, and Brigid Ballard. 1997. Essay Writing for Students: A Practical Guide. 3rd ed. Melbourne, Australia: Longman.

University of Chicago Press. 2010. The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 16th ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Yellin, Linda L. 2008. A Sociology Writer’s Guide. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.