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Sociology Subject Guide: Understand research and academic writing

Research your topic

 Research your topic

After conducting some preliminary background reading, form your research question. This can guide you through the rest of the process.

Use the resources described in this guide to find background information, books, and articles.

Work through the sources that you find systematically. You cannot include everything in your essay, so select only the most important sources for inclusion. Linear reading (i.e. reading a whole article/book from beginning to end) is not a good strategy. Instead, actively skim the sources you find using the following methodology:

  1. Analyze the title and subtitle
  2. For books, examine the table of contents. For articles, read the abstract
  3. Read the last section first
  4. Read the introduction
  5. Target the most important chapters of a book, or sections of an article

Make notes as you read. Good notes are essential to avoiding plagiarism when it comes time to write. Use online tools to help you make and organize notes.

Look for both quality and quantity in sources. Can you find enough sources to write about your proposed topic, or are there so many that the topic needs to be narrowed further?

When in doubt, ask a librarian!​

The above advice is adapted from Writing History and Grad School Essentials

Understanding research methods

 Understand research methods

SAGE Research Methods 

SAGE Research Methods provides material to guide you through every step of the research process. From quick dictionary definitions, case study examples, step-by-step data analysis software learning, books and journals about research to video tutorials showing research in action, if you are looking to familiarize yourself with any aspects related to the research process, use this platform to find the answer to your research methods and statistics questions.

Here's what this resource says about the way research is approached in Sociology:

Sociologists use a variety of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods to study social behavior. Surveys are often used to research attitudes and beliefs and produce quantitative data, which can be analyzed using software programs such as SPSS. Common qualitative data collection methods used in Sociology include ethnography, in-depth interviews and focus groups.

The two books below introduce qualitative research and statistical methods respectively in the context of sociological research:

Writing for sociology

 Writing for sociology

Writing well is an essential skill for sociologists. The e-book below is a complete guide for students on how to write clearly and concisely.

The Library has purchased full access directly from the publisher. You can download a full copy as a PDF to save for future reference!