Recent Question

Assessment 1 :

Swedberg gives a brief outline of how other writers (Lave and March) have taught social theory and then he discusses his approach. Using dot points summarise his approach to teaching social theory. Then reflect on some of your other subjects at uni or high school to compare his ideas with your experiences-are your experiences like his outline a little, not all… Do you think his approach is effective in helping you to learn the subject matter and to learn to think-to theorise more generally?

Assessment 2:

Game and Metcalfe make a distinction between sociological writing and writing. Make a few dot points on this difference and then use the points to interpret one piece of writing for each category to see how these ways of writing might work. The writings can be from any source-an old assignment, the newspaper, a textbook, novel etc.

1,500-word essay.
Answer the following question in an essay format:
Sociologists and others have generally been concerned to ‘denaturalize’ gender and sexuality. What does this mean? How has it been attempted? How successful do you think this attempt has been?
(Note that ‘others’ in the essay question refers to feminist, gay and lesbian, and other scholars and advocates.)

Please note the following;
• Word count: Your essay should be no more than ten percent longer or shorter than the specified word limit.
• The word count includes all text in the body of the essay, including quotations, citations, and any other text.
• The word count does not include the reference list.
• Style and formatting: Please use the following:
• Font size of at least 12 point
• Line spacing of one-and-a-half or double
• Margins of at least 2 cm on all sides
• Page numbering
• Submission:
o Please do not include a synopsis or summary with the essay.
o Please do not submit your essay in a plastic sleeve, or bound in a ring binder. Please simply hand in the stapled essay.
o On the cover sheet, please note your tutor’s name.

Marking criteria for essays
I will use the following four criteria to assess your essay. An essay should;
1) Be clearly focused on the set topic and deal fully with its central concerns;
2) Be the result of wide and critical reading;
3) Present a reasoned (and structured and coherent) argument;
4) Be competently presented (with appropriate style and referencing).

These criteria derive from the book, Essay Writing for Students, by Clanchy and Ballard, and this is a useful guide to essay writing.

Please note that resources on essay-writing are provided below.

Resources on essay-writing
There are lots of valuable guides to the skills of essay-writing. The following are just a few of these.

Barrass, Robert (1995) Students Must Write: A guide to better writing in coursework and examinations. Routledge
Betts, Katharine, and Anne Seitz (1994) Writing Essays and Research Reports in the Social Sciences. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson Australia. [UOW: 808.042/59]
Clanchy, J., and B. Ballard (1997) Essay Writing for Students: A practical guide. third edition. French’s Forest, NSW: Longman. [UOW: 808.042/12]
Creme, Phyllis, and Mary R. Lea (1997) Writing at University: A guide for students. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press. [UOW: 808.042/130]
Davis, Lloyd, and Susan McKay (1996) Structures and Strategies: An introduction to academic writing. South Melbourne: Macmillam. [UOW: 808.4/3]
Germov, John (1996) Get Great Marks For Your Essays. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. [UOW: 808.042/112]
McLaren, Stephen (2003) Writing Essays and Reports. Sydney: Pascall Press. [call no #808.02/140]
Pretty, R. K. (1990) Writing Essays: a casebook approach. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, [UOW: 808.042/80]
Turley, Richard M. (2000) Writing Essays: A guide for students in English and the humanities. New York: Routledge. [access electronically]

Essay-writing: Key strategies
Note: These notes are based largely on Clanchy, John, and Brigid Ballard, (1997) Essay writing for students. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Longman. This is an invaluable book, and it goes into much greater detail on all the material covered below.
General expectations of your essay
Your essay is expected to;
Be clearly focused on the set topic and deal fully with its central concerns;
Present a reasoned (and structured and coherent) argument;
Be competently presented (with appropriate style and referencing);
Be the result of wide and critical reading.
Choosing your essay topic
What is the essay about?
The general area of content
Identify the specific concepts on which the topic is focused.
What judgement are you asked for? (Competing understandings and explanations.)
Essays are ‘about’ different bodies of knowledge or disciplines
Most essays require analysis at three levels;
1. Subject: broad field, subject, theory, concept. I.e., what the topic is.
2. Angle: area of controversy, problem, discussion, evaluation. I.e., why you should consider the subject.
3. Process: direction words, instructions about coverage, constraints. I.e., how you must proceed.
Practical considerations? (Which topic is most manageable)
Length, due date?
Availability of materials?
What the course has covered?
Reading for your essay
In intepreting the essay topic, and in starting to read for the essay, do some preliminary reading. Start with:
The course materials (readings and lecture notes);
Additional readings or references provided by your lecturer;
Other introductory sociology texts;
A sociological dictionary.
Use this to develop a basic understanding of the topic: key concepts, debates, authors, and relevant sociological theories.
Which text should you start with? In general, it is best to begin with the most recent general survey of the topic (Clanchy & Ballard 1997: 22). And then progress to more detailed readings on specific areas.
Reading strategies: One strategy appropriate to academic reading is skimming by paragraphs.
In good academic writing, there is clear signposting of connections between ideas and of the development of ideas. These signposts often are at the start of a paragraph. So, read only the opening sentence of each paragraph, to pick up an outline of the argument being presented.
Look for signposts:
• Titles of chapters and sections
• Opening sentences of paragraphs
• Highlighted definitions, concepts, and text
Skim the material to decide whether it is relevant to your purpose, in which case you must read it more thoroughly, or it has little relevance to your needs, in which case you carry on skimming the next section until you do find a relevant passage.
Skimming by paragraph units allows you to:
• Decide quickly which materials you will read in detail and which can safely be skipped;
• Grasp quickly the focus and development of the writer’s argument.
Note-taking for essay writing
Taking notes is valuable for both practical and intellectual reasons;
Notes are an aid to memory.
Your notes provide the raw material for essays.
The process of note-taking forces you to summarise ideas and arguments, select relevant points, understand and interpret, and continually revise your understanding.
What do you note, and how much? The content and volume of your notes are shaped by;
Your own purposes in relation to your essay topic. I.e., shape your notes from the beginning in tems of the topic.
The writer’s intention. Take notes in terms of your purpose and interests.
The discipline. (E.g., the need to summarise vs to quote at length.)
When taking notes: Clearly identify the source. Be systematic in recording bibliographic details.
Use a flexible system (so that they can be rearranged). Leave room for comment (and add your own comments or reactions, note important points, etc.). You may wish to type notes on computer, for easier use in essays later.
Analysing and planning
It is a good idea to get writing as soon as possible. This forces you to clarify your ideas, start developing your argument, notice the gaps, etc.
Most essays involve both description and analysis. Other common tasks in essays;
-- Evaluation of controversy
To what extent do you agree or disagree? Totally? In part? What objections or reservations? Etc.
-- Definition or clarification
E.g., of key concepts. In some essays this is the key task.
-- Interpretation
Planning is a continuous process throughout working on an essay. A process of transforming the demands of the topic, ideas of other writers, and your own thoughts, into your own original argument.
No one way to plan… But all involve the conscious ordering of the material. Planning and writing are interactive processes.
General planning strategies;
1. Analyse the essay topic
2. Read through all your notes.
3. Begin to identify key points.
4. Think about a potential order for your material.
5. Draw up a tentative plan.
Developing a clear and coherent argument & structure
Think about the issues at stake in the essay. Develop a viewpoint: the claims, position, or argument you will make.
Develop a clear and logical structure;
Use the paragraph structure to make your argument. Each paragraph should have a main point or focus, and these should be ordered into a coherent and flowing argument.
Perhaps start by writing your points in as simple and straightforward language as you can, and then complicate and extend them. To clarify your overall argument for yourself, see if you can state the key point of each paragraph in a single sentence.
Signal your points to the reader, through clear and strong writing. One way to do this is to write, “Three main issues are raised by… The first is… The second is…” etc., then explore them in your argument.
Develop an intellectually convincing argument;
Support your points with argument, evidence and examples.
Take into account, or even imagine, alternative points of view / counter-arguments, and possible objections to, or variations on, your own argument, and address them.
Make the essay relevant;
Draw on and refer to the material covered in the course (the lecture content, handouts, and readings).
Make the essay focused;
Direct all content towards helping you make an argument / take a position in response to the essay question.
Drafting and redrafting
At least two drafts are needed: the first for yourself, the second and possibly subsequent drafts for the reader.
The first draft: Involves writing to understand what you think.Written largely for yourself. ‘Think aloud’, sorting through the material, selecting and rejecting, planning and ordering, etc.
Strategies for dealing with common stumbling blocks. E.g.;
Inability to get started.
Getting stuck part-way through.
Finding part-way through that you reading and note-taking have been inadequate.
Your initial argument goes sour or you lose the track.
Running out of stamina.
Redrafting: (a) Is it intellectually convincing. (b) And does it sound convincing?
Re. (a), e.g. is it too long or short? Is there a clear thread of argument running through your essay? Does the essay have an effective introduction and conclusion?
Re. (b), e.g. Are the voice and style you adopt both appropriate and consistent? (Academic style tends to be analytical, serious, intellectual. Although disciplines vary.)
Read the draft out loud to highlight any awkward prose, such as a certain word used repeatedly within a single sentence, or inconsistencies with tense and use of plurals.
Ask (c) Does the essay look convincing? This may include;
Appropriate formatting and presentation
Spelling, grammar, punctuation
Use of quotations (are they accurate, acknowledged, set out correctly, and fully incorporated into the grammar of your own text?)
References & bibliography: accurate and correctly set out?