GUIDANCE IN WRITING
TERM PAPERS FOR 
SOCIOLOGY STUDENTS

Mary C. Sengstock PhD, CCS
Professor 
Department of Sociology

Wayne State University


TERM PAPERS: 
In most instances, students will find that the most appropriate manner of fulfilling a term paper assignment will be by writing a library research paper. You will be expected to review the literature on some topic related to the material in the course. You should review a number of sources at least equal to the number of pages in the assigned paper (e.g., 8-10 sources for an 8-10 page paper). These sources should normally be of the following types: 
        1) professional books in the area; 
        2) articles in professional journals 
(EX: American Sociological Review; Journal of Marriage and the Family; Law and Society Journal; etc.) 
No more than 2 sources may be from "popular" publications, such as daily newspapers, general readership magazines (such as Time, Newsweek), or the daily newspaper.   NOTE:  This also includes the Internet.  (See note below.) 
 

It is of course expected that the paper will be your own work. That should be assumed in a college class. This means that: 
        1) Under no circumstances will you turn in a paper written by someone else, either from published materials, or from a kindly friend who agrees to write a paper for you, or from a professional agency which writes papers for students for a fee. You should also avoid "recycling" a paper which you have submitted for another class (this term or previously). 
        2) Any material in the paper which is taken from another source MUST have the source indicated. If the material is a direct quote, the material must be in quotation marks (" "). If only the sense of the material is copied, and the ideas are expressed in your own words, then the material need not be in quotes. However, the source of the material must still be stated. 
        3)  Do not use escessive quotations.  The paper should be your work, not a series of quotes from other people.  In general, there should be more more than 1 direct quote for each 4-5 pages of your paper.

Please Note: Failure to indicate where you got the materials in your paper will result in a considerable loss of points in the grade for the paper. As a general rule, papers can contribute considerably to students' grades in my  courses. Do not lose points by failing to indicate where the ideas you present were learned.

Citations:  Citations of material used as references may be in any acceptable form. 
These include: 
        1) Footnotes (at the bottom of the page). The footnote should list: Name of author; book/article where the material appeared; page where it appeared. 
        2) Endnotes (at the end of the paper). Contents as noted in (1) above. 
        3) References within the text of the paper. This is probably the easiest method. You simply need to place a complete Bibliography of the references you used at the end of the paper. In the body of the paper, whenever you refer to an idea taken from one of your sources, you indicate the name of the author, date of the publication, and the page from which the reference was 
taken. (EX: A reference to a book listed in the Bibliography as: Smith, James L. American Family Problems Today. New York: Academic Publishers, 1997, would appear in the body of the paper as: (Smith, 1997: 193) -- where "193" is the page where the quote or idea appeared.

Students should take particular care to insure that they DO NOT PLAGERIZE.  That is, they should never use the writings of others and pass them off as their own written work.  This, of course, involves avoiding the copying of papers written by others and submitting them as your own.  It also involves appropriate citing the works of others to which you refer, and indicating when you have used quoted the works of other authors in your papers.  If you have any questions about the appropriate manner of quoting others' work and making appropriate citations, please see my special section on QUOTING AND PARAPHRASING in the longer web site on Writing Sociology Papers.  

Bibliography: Whatever system of notes you use, you will need to have a complete list of books and articles consulted at the end of your paper.
In your Bibliography, all articles and books which you have used in obtaining information for your paper should be listed.  This both those which you have quoted directly, as well as those from which you took general information should be listed in the Bibliography as follows:
Books:  Jones, R.M., 2011.  Modern Sociology. New York: Harper Publishers.  
Articles:  Jones, R.M., 2012.  "Dealing with Inequality in the 21st Century."  Sociological Practice.  Vol. 22, No. 3: pp. 23-34.
PLEASE NOTE:  As these examples indicate,  you should cite the name of the author and the work, as well as the publisher.  You should NOT indicate where you found the article or book.  That is, if you obtained the article in the journal lasted above by getting it from the through the JSTOR program in the library, you do NOT list JSTOR as the source.  The source is the journal publishing the article, or the publisher of the book.  (Citing JSTOR is similar to telling the reader you found the book at Barnes and Noble or the Detroit Public Library!)


A Few Additional Hints for a Good Paper:

1) Length and Form: Papers should be approximately 8-10 pages, typed, double spaced (12-15 pages for Graduate Students and Honors Students).

2) As noted above, do not use excessive quotations. Quoting material from other authors should be done sparingly. This should be your paper, not a series of quotes from other authors. There should be no more than 1 quote for each 4-5 pages.

3) Number the pages of your paper. It is very annoying to have to flip back and forth to make comments when there are no page numbers.

4) Give your paper a meaningful title -- one that provides a rough description of your topic. "Sociology Term Paper" or the title of the course are NOT good term paper titles!

5) Staple your paper neatly in the upper left hand corner. Do NOT enclose your term paper in a folder of any kind. I HATE them and they only cost you extra money.

6) Watch your grammar, spelling, and punctuation! Yes, I do take points off for mistakes in these areas. They also make it difficult, if not impossible, for the reader to understand what you are saying. Make sure I can understand your points by using good English.  Be sure to proofread before your turn your paper in! 
 

A SPECIAL NOTE ON THE INTERNET AS A SOURCE: 
The Internet is a marvelous mechanism for obtaining information. Many professional journals and libraries now have their materials on the web, so you can consult them from your home or office. And web sites can direct you to important data sources. However, web sites are NOT professionally reviewed and are often biased. They cannot substitute for professional journals. They may be considered in the category of "popular sources," as described above. Hence, no more than 2 of your sources may be from a combination of such sources, including web sites. You will lose points if you depend on them.

While the Internet is a marvelous mechanism for locating information, anyone can upload -- or "publish" -- material on the Web.  Consequently, many of these sources have not been reviewed by anyone other than the author.  You may use the Web to locate sources, but if you base your term paper on web sites, you will lose points. 
  

ALTERNATE PAPER ASSIGNMENT: 
In some classes, notably those with a strong practical or applied focus, an alternate paper assignment may be available for graduate students and/or for undergraduates in lieu of the regular review of literature paper described above. If this option is available for the class you are taking, you will be so informed either in the early weeks of the class or on the class syllabus, 
or both.

The Alternate Paper Assignment requires the following: 
        1) Service in a social, legal, or medical agency related to the topic of the course. This may be on a volunteer basis, or paid if the student has access to such a position. Students are responsible for finding their own agency positions. I do not have the resources for placing students, nor overseeing their work, so I cannot take responsibility for their students' work in the agencies. 
        2) A paper of approximately 8-10 pages (12-15 pages for Graduate Students) must be written analyzing the student's experience in the agency. This paper may focus on some specific aspect of the agency's work, on some problem the student found particularly interesting, etc. It should not be a simple description of the work. 
        3) The paper does not have to have outside publications as sources, as in a normal research paper. However, students will be expected to make reference to theoretical materials used in class, and indicate the manner in which the course materials were supported or not supported in the experience which was obtained in the agency. (Incidentally, having the class materials NOT 
supported, and why you believe this was so, may be at least as important as 
finding that they were supported.)

PLEASE NOTE: This assignment requires a considerable commitment of your time. It is not really an "easy" way of getting out of writing a paper. In most instances it will be more difficult than a standard library research paper. It requires a substantial amount of service time in the agency, as 
well as a rather thorough and insightful analysis of the experience in the light of your increasing knowledge of an area of sociology, as a result of the class readings and discussion. It can, however, be a good experience for students with an intense interest in the specific area the class 
covers.


Revised 1/1/14