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This book guides students in how to construct coherent and powerful essays and dissertations by demystifying the process of creating an argument and helping students to develop their critical skills. It covers everything from the beginning stages of reading critically and keeping notes, through to the final stages of redrafting and proof-reading. It provides step-by-step instructions in how to identify, define, connect and contrast sociological concepts and propositions in order to produce powerful and well-evidenced arguments. Students are shown how to apply these lessons in essay writing, and to a longer piece of writing, such as a dissertation, as well as how to solve common problems experienced in writing, including getting rid of waffle, overcoming writer’s block and cutting an essay down to its required length. For students wishing to improve their basic writing skills or to refresh their memories, the book also gives a clear and concise overview of the most important grammatical rules in English and how to use them to good effect in writing clear sentences and sensible paragraphs.

Examples from essays written by sociology students at leading universities are used throughout the book. These examples are used to show what students have done well, what could be done better and how to improve their work using techniques of argument construction. It will be of use to students studying sociology and related disciplines, such as politics, anthropology and human geography, as well as for students taking a course which draws upon sociological writing, such as nursing, social psychology or health studies.

Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott
in The craft of writing in sociology
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Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter reviews some different essay structures which sociological arguments might take, including: ‘compare and contrast’, ‘build and refine’, ‘author and their critics’ and ‘data interpretation and analysis’. It explores in fine detail how an argument can be built by use of objects, concepts and propositions, showing how to link a critical review of the literature into an independent argument. It stresses the importance of connecting, comparing and contrasting definitions, concepts and propositions in order to build a response to arguments found in the sociological literature.

in The craft of writing in sociology
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter shows students how to develop a critical reading of sociological literature, by reading in depth and breadth. It guides students through the process of summarising a text and of locating it in the relevant sociological context. It shows the importance of identifying key concepts and propositions in the literature to be able to critically engage with the arguments being developed by sociologists. It provides a system for taking notes when conducting a literature review which is designed to keep track of and link together concepts and propositions. Overall, the chapter provides students with a guide to the basic skills involved in critically assessing a body of literature and compiling the notes required to create their own sociological arguments.

in The craft of writing in sociology
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Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter explores what is required of a middle section for a sociological essay. It uses real student examples to show how to flesh-out an argument by providing evidence and quotations from academic sources. It demonstrates how the middle of the essay is built paragraph-by-paragraph, to deliver the key points and review the evidence in a sequential fashion, gradually building towards a conclusion. This chapter provides a guide to students showing how to use argument ‘signposting’ without being repetitive and the importance of paying attention to the way each sentence is constructed. .

in The craft of writing in sociology
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter highlights a range of tools which students can use to build the first few paragraphs of their essays. It guides students through the work of framing a question and responding to the question to help them produce strong opening paragraphs that have a lasting impact on the reader. The chapter uses real student examples to show how to write a guide to an argument and inform the reader what the conclusions will be. Overall, it takes students step-by-step through the key techniques used in the beginnings of sociological essays, paying particular attention to setting-up the essay’s principal argument.

in The craft of writing in sociology
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter explores the use of the techniques and tools developed in the preceding chapters in the context of writing a longer piece of work, i.e. a dissertation. It shows that each chapter of a dissertation can be thought of as a response to a set of implicit questions which a reader might have about the dissertation, and guides students through writing their dissertation with these questions in mind. It details what is expected of a literature review, a methodology and a findings section in a sociological dissertation. The chapter shows that the argument in a dissertation has to be developed in each individual section.

in The craft of writing in sociology
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter examines three examples of student work in detail. It reviews each one to show what the students have done well and what they have not done so well, by showing how they have used the techniques detailed in the book and where they could improve their writing by use of these techniques. Each case study is then revised in light of the critical comments on the examples to show students how to implement such changes in their own work.

in The craft of writing in sociology
Abstract only
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter explores the importance of bringing an argument to a clear conclusion. It shows students how to construct a conclusion which goes beyond a mere summary of points already made in the middle. It emphasises the importance of producing a synthesis of materials, highlighting the main points made in the argument of the essay, so that the conclusion brings the argument directly to bear on the essay question itself. This chapter also points out some common mistakes which students make in writing conclusions, and uses real student examples to show what works and what does not work so well in writing a conclusion to a sociology essay.

in The craft of writing in sociology
Andrew Balmer and Anne Murcott

This chapter deals with the last stages of writing an essay or dissertation to produce the final draft. Editing pays attention to the content, includes the last revisions and ensuring that the text is understandable by readers (e.g. reviewing the signposting). In contrast, proof-reading is a practical task checking spelling (e.g. watching out for homophones), grammar, layout etc. Illustrating the way that editing and proof reading are different from all the preceding stages of constructing an essay, the discussion demonstrates how to carry them out

in The craft of writing in sociology