Writing in the Social Sciences: notes and ideas

Writing in the Social Sciences is a new course that I will teach in the spring. I am very excited about this course. My department is less thrilled. They see it as a service course for the social sciences rather than a writing course for writing majors. Nevertheless there are students wanting and needing to take the course and we have the ability to teach it, so we are going to.

I am online looking for ideas. If you know of any good readings, texts, or websites, please let me know.

I think I have found some useful ideas and websites.

Way to present the course
Science Writing Syllabus, complete with a Narrative Arc section entitled “The Story of the Course.” The course includes writing popular articles for the field. (And an ethnography and a controversies project.) I like the way he presented the course and I might look at that for the syllabus presentation.


The Social Sciences Virtual Library includes a list of the disciplines, journals, and scholarly societies. I like the anthropology link, because it further divided anthropology into (applied, biophysical, cultural, and linguistic) fields.

There is also a page for Social Science Sites by subject. Biosciences is included, but nothing else that deals with nursing. (Nursing students are apparently taking the course as well.)

The University of Texas offers a page of links for writing across the curriculum, including specific disciplines of social science (such as psychology) and in the social sciences as a group. Most of the social sciences sites didn’t work.

Introduction to primary research
The OWL at Purdue offers a description of how to do primary research that is very good. I think that it might be something to take the students through to start so that they can see where you begin to do research.

Types of papers/presentations

The OWL at Purdue also has a whole section on Writing in the Social Sciences, including:
Writing Scientific Abstracts presentation
Sample APA lit rvw
Social Work lit rvw guidelines
Writing with Statistics

Types of psychology writing
includes essays, lit reviews, and research papers. It includes a discussion of purpose, components, and suggestions.

For example:


A description of information with citations, related to your topic or research question
Identification of theoretical conflicts or controversies related to your research question
Any needs or questions for further research to address

I found this to be a good beginning resource. It might help me create my own documents for the course, by reminding me what needs to be in the descriptions.

An excellent Power Point Presentation on how to create a poster for the social sciences is available from George Mason U.

What if my students had to make a poster presentation on the work of one article? It would be interesting, would start them on the path, and would get some discussion going. I like that idea. It would let them know that there is a wide array of information out there (by seeing other students’ posters) and it would get them involved… Now where are those used? I don’t know. Maybe I need to ask a sociologist, psychologist, anthropologist.

Reading… abstract… poster… annotated bibliography…. literature review… research paper…

This is a hypertext guide to writing in psych. It has good information on Latin, abbreviations, and old usage in texts.

Note that (except for et al.) these abbreviations are only used in parenthetic material. In non parenthetic material, use the English translation.
Do not use E and S as abbreviations for experimenter and subject. This was done in articles written many years ago.
Note the following common abbreviations and note also that you do not use periods with them.

He also has a long and specific section on writing research and on research reports (lit review type).


A series of weblinks and exercises on Visual thinking, visual computing has some interesting things. I like the exercise where the Japanese topography is illustrated through 15 woodblocks. It is the first one.

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