When social scientists write their research papers, they usually discuss the methods that they employed in gathering and analyzing their data and the results that they were able to generate using these methods. They however seldom concentrate on the writing process itself (Cuba, 1997). Writing in the field of social science requires the use of insight and research to better understand and make concrete observations and findings about the various behavioral elements.
There are many methods of conducting social science studies namely through observations, interviews, surveys and case studies. However, when one starts writing the research paper that would embody these pertinent findings, the writer usually faces the challenges that many social science writers encounter. These problems include the complexities of achieving clarity, the potential for committing biases, writing in the first-person perspective, the use of quotations and in-text citations to support the analysis, and formatting styles particular to the field of social sciences.
When writing one’s own research paper, it is important for a scholar in the field of social science to have a grasp of the basic writing techniques peculiar to social science in order to produce an academic paper that is relevant, informative and worth reading. The prevalence of search engines and the use of the World Wide Web have made it easier for scholars nowadays to conduct their studies and research with ease and in an expeditious manner. The libraries and other academic centers which make available to the public the latest references has also contributed to a great extent to achieving academic quality of various writings.
Complexities in Achieving Clarity Like any other field of study, effective writing requires constant practice. This entails continuous process of writing, editing and rewriting ideas and use of words to convey these thoughts clearly to the intended audience (Cuba, 1997). Oftentimes, students of social science put off writing their research paper until they have completed doing all their research and compiled their bibliography. This practice however sometimes leads to insufficient time in writing the paper itself.
In order to achieve clarity when writing a social science research paper, Hult (1996) enumerated the two components that must be considered: rhetorical question and organization. The components of a rhetorical situation include 1) the writer’s purpose; 2) the writer’s persona; 3) the potential readers or audience; 4) the subject matter and; 5) the appropriate language or tone (Hult, 1996). In starting the research write-up, the writer must determine the purpose of his paper and he must be able to define it clearly throughout the entire paper.
The purpose need not be complex. A simple purpose will do so long as the readers can have a grasp of what the research is all about. Writers in the field of social science must also avoid writing in the first-person persona as this will affect the objectivity of their research. Identifying the intended audience will also help the writer in deciding what specific issues to discuss and what areas to avoid. For example, a person writing in the field of political science will have to consider political analysts as his potential readers.
The subject matter is the most important aspect of the rhetorical situation (Hult, 1996). A writer must carefully select his thesis statement and decide from the materials gathered what facts must be included as well as those which need not be discussed. Furthermore, the research writer might also consider providing a glossary of terms when writing on a technical subject in order to make it easier for the readers to understand the language and tone of the research paper. Omitting Biases and Avoiding First Person Writing Style
It is not uncommon practice in the field of social science to write using the first person persona. Writing from the first person perspective however indicates subjectivity in arriving at one’s own research findings and this in turn diminishes the objectivity of the research. In order to be more persuasive, the writer must couch his paper from a third person perspective so as to avoid the impression that he is impelled more by his own biases rather than reporting the facts gathered from relevant data.
Omitting biases should be the foremost consideration of every social science writer because this field requires objectiveness and keen understanding of the facts and data. Unlike writers in the field of literature who have unbridled discretion to unleash their feelings and emotions in their papers, social science writers are bound by their duty to report the facts as they appear and not as they think it should be. The field of social science is primarily detail-oriented and must be supported by relevant, empirical, and reliable facts.
In order to avoid biases, the writer must always dwell on the facts gathered and must use relevant sources to support his findings. Primary and secondary sources play an important role in the persuasiveness of one’s research work because the extent of the credibility of a research paper is to a great extent determined by the depth of research done by the researcher to support his study. The writer must also avoid labeling his chosen population or individual participants to avoid offending the readers. When dealing with a particular ethnic group or race, it is advisable to call them as they would like to be called.
In order to avoid language biases, use the terminology applicable in the research itself. For example, when reporting on a study conducted on two types of participants, it is advisable to describe them according to how they were classified in the given study provided the labels are in themselves not offensive per se. Minimizing the Use of Quotations A writer’s source material must be in the form of paraphrases and summaries. However, paraphrased materials must still be properly documented either through in-text citations or footnotes or endnotes.
Hult (1996) added that putting source material in your own words will improve the flow of your paper since the paraphrased style will blend with your own writing style and will thus contribute to its consistency. Minimize the use of direct quotations. The use of too many direct quotations distracts the reader and it also minimizes coherence of the writing style. It also leaves the impression that the writer knows little about his topic and is in fact relying heavily on what others have come up with (Hult, 1996).
What the writer can do is paraphrase or summarize the portion of the materials used and document it properly. If using direct quotes cannot be avoided, the following principles are helpful in incorporating them smoothly in the research paper. First, when using quotations with four lines or less in length, enclose them with quotation marks and incorporate them in the text. Second, quotes should be introduced using the verb tense which is consistent with the tense of the quoted material. Third, change the capital letter to lower case and vice versa, within the quote if necessary.
Fourth, enclosed in brackets the letter or words inserted inside the quoted material to separate them from the quoted material itself. Fifth, use ellipsis to signal that a material has been omitted from the quote. Sixth, punctuate the direct quote as it appears from the original. Seventh, a period or a comma which is part of the quote should be placed inside the quotation marks. Eighth, use a colon to introduce a quote which is more than one sentence or if the introductory material prior to the quoted portion is too long. Ninth, use a comma for short quotes (Hult, 1996).
Using In-text Citations to Support Analysis A researcher who intends to make use on in-text citation in his write-up should keep in mind the American Psychological Association (APA) style which requires the use of past tense or present perfect tense when referring to earlier research materials. For example, it is incorrect to say “Smith (2008) states that…” when referring to Smith’s research findings. Instead, the researcher must employ the past or present perfect tense; hence, the in-text citation should appear like this: “Smith (2008) stated/has stated that…”
In-text citations must follow the author-date format under the APA citation style, e. g. , (Smith, 2008) and a complete documentation of the source must appear in the reference list. Electronic sources are cited in the same manner as citing a printed document, e. g. , (Purdue University Online Writing Lab, 2008). For sources with no date available, place “n. d. ” (meaning “no date”) after the author’s last name, e. g. , (Smith, n. d. ). Formatting Expectations A writer must see to it that his paper is professional in appearance.
This is not to say however that attention to format should be every social science writer’s foremost consideration. It is also equally important to confer with your instructor as to what should be the appropriate format style for the particular paper. When preparing the paper, it is best to be conservative when it comes to formatting style rather than be ostentatious and vulgar, thus making the paper look less serious and informal. Hence, margin must not be justified on both side of the page but only on the left side only.
The American Psychological Association (APA) is the most commonly used citation style format in the field of social sciences. The guidelines provided under the APA provides a useful tool in writing research papers, using in-text citations and reference page and using footnotes or endnotes. Under the APA formatting style, page headers are required to be placed in the upper right-hand of every page. This page header must contain the first two to three words of the title followed by the page number. The title page should already show include the page header.
A running head must also appear on the first line of the title page flush-left. On the upper half of the page, centered, the full title of the paper, the name of the writer and university or affiliation must be indicated (Purdue University Online Writing Lab, 2008). Research papers are normally comprised of the title page, the abstract (if appropriate), the main body, the references, and the appendixes (if appropriate). The abstract need not be written for short research papers but for published research reports, an abstract is always required regardless of the length of the paper (Hult, 1996).
Appendix may be used to include raw data and other information that need not appear in the main body but is likewise important in the research paper. It is located after the reference page and is labeled sequentially in letters. The reference page must include all the sources used in the research paper. The sources must be in alphabetical order by author’s last name and need not be numbered. Conclusion Writing is a necessary aspect of social research (Cuba, 1997).
A good research means that the writer gave great effort in collecting and organizing his data as well as in organizing his findings in a coherent and scholarly manner suitable to the academic community he intends to present his study to. In preparing the research paper, every writer in the field of social science must consider the pertinent style guides applicable. The writing process is an analytic strategy that can only be improved through practice. This necessarily means that every social science researcher preparing his paper must open to revisions.
The first draft must not be the final paper. Every writer must be also be willing to take constructive criticism from his colleagues because all too often, a writer cannot see the errors of his own work unless others point them out. Letting others read your research paper will help you in assessing some of the loopholes in your own arguments. Writing in the field of social sciences is an important aspect of the research itself because the manner in which a given study is presented contributes to the persuasiveness of the one’s findings and output.
As such, it is important to be familiar with the writing techniques, styles, and formats applicable in your field of research so as to avoid mistakes and errors in presenting your research. The APA citation format style is a helpful tool in the social sciences and every scholar in this field must familiarize himself this formatting to avoid the inconvenience of revising and rewriting the research paper. The social science paper must be formal as to its structure and form and the writer must avoid using first person persona that is usually employed in the literary field.
The sentences must be well-crafted and concise and must clearly reflect in a coherent and thorough manner the findings of the researcher without the need of extravagant words or details. Social science research writing is a challenging task for every writer. It requires practice and hard work just like collecting the data itself. It is an inevitable part of every researcher’s academic life and it cannot be avoided. Hence, every researcher must be familiar with the format and style peculiar to this field in order to increase the success of one’s research paper. References
Cuba, Lee (1997). Short Guide to Writing About Social Science (4th Ed. ). Addison-United States: Wesley Educational Publishers Inc. Gerring, John, Yesnowitz, Joshua & Bird, Stephen (2004). General Advice on Social Science Writing. Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://people. bu. edu/jgerring/documents/Adviceonessaywriting. pdf Hult, Christine (1996). Researching and Writing in the Social Sciences. Boston, Allyn and Bacon. Hess, Diana (2007). From Banished to Brother Outsider, Miss Navajo to An Inconvenient Truth: Documentary Films as Perspective-Laden Narratives.
Social Education 71 (4), 194-199. McDonald, Susan, MD. Social Science Writing Guide. Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://www. emayzine. com/lectures/writing. htm Mullen, Carol (2006). Best Writing Practices for Graduate Students: Reducing the Discomfort of the Blank Screen. Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://cnx. org/content/m14054/latest/ Przeworski, Adam and Salomon, Frank (1995). The Art of Writing Proposals: Some Candid Suggestions to Social Science Research Council Competitions. Social Science Research Council.
Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://fellowships. ssrc. org/art_of_writing_proposals/ Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) (19 June 2008). APA Formatting and Style Guide. Retrieved August 2, 2008 from http://owl. english. purdue. edu/owl/resource/560/01/http://Web address for OWL resource. Watts, Michael. The Holy Grail: In Pursuit of the Dissertation Proposal. Institute of International Studies. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved August 1, 2008 from http://globetrotter. berkeley. edu/DissPropWorkshop/process/InPursuitofPhD. pdf
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