Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Social Science Writing

The subjects under the academic umbrella of “social sciences” are diverse and numerous, and require specific writing approaches. Regardless of these specific academic emphases, all social sciences concern themselves with examining behavior – be it the behavior of a specific individual, or the behavior of a unique system, society, or culture. Social scientists are not content with merely describing or documenting various types of behavior; they are interested in thoroughly and critically examining behavior with the belief that careful observation and analysis will reveal recurring patterns of behavior, from which conclusions, predictions, and a better understanding of the human-constructed world can be reached.

  1. Social Science Methodology
  2. Style of Social Science Writing
  3. Structure of Social Science Writing


Social Science Methodology

Social Science differs from the Humanities in its reliance on constructing methods to actively gather evidence rather than directly citing texts or previous works. In Humanities courses, like literature or art history, writers support their claims with evidence directly drawn from the examined work itself. Social scientists don’t have the luxury of directly citing the subject of their analysis – instead, they must construct methods of acquiring necessary evidence. There are two varieties of methodology that can be used by social scientists: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative methodology relies on evidence directly based on statistical measurements.  Qualitative methodology relies on evidence based directly on observation. Regardless of the two methods a social scientist uses, he/she is forced to actively engage with the subject of his/her analysis. 


Style of Social Science Writing

When writing for a social science course, the urge to insert yourself and your own beliefs into your paper might seem overwhelming.  After all, you’re writing about the behavior and actions of human beings, a topic about which there is no shortage of opinions. Extracting the personal values, beliefs, and judgments that invariably arise when writing about a subject you care about is one of the most difficult demands of the social sciences, but it is also the most necessary. Social scientists take the science part of their titles very seriously, and you never hear a nuclear physicist talk about how quantum mechanics really make them feel. Objective writing is fundamentally important to crafting a paper in the social sciences. Social scientists rely on their data, rather than emotional rhetoric, to convince readers of their paper’s validity. As a result, writing style for a paper in the social sciences should be as clear and concise as possible. Try to make your points simply and avoid overly “flowery” writing, which dilutes the strength of your paper’s argument. Additionally, complicated or long-winded writing can impart unrelated or unintended meaning onto the subjects you discuss in your paper. Don’t be alarmed if this simple style of writing results in unusually short paragraphs and sentence structures that differ from your normal style. Additionally, social science writing sometimes makes greater use of the passive voice than other styles of writing.  Ignore your spell check’s suggestions to “consider revising” – using the passive voice is the inevitable result of structuring sentences in as objective, unbiased way as possible!


Structure of Social Science Writing

Social science writing should be organized in a consistent, straightforward manner. Paper structure should generally consist of the following components:

  • The Introduction: The introduction is very important because it sets up the rest of your paper. The introduction should begin by defining the problem that the paper will set out to explore. What exactly will be examined? Why is this topic worthy of exploration? Next, the introduction should review the existing literature on this subject. What are the notable works that address your topic? What conclusions have other authors drawn? Next, you should identify the gaps in this body of literature. What is left unsaid? What details are lacking? What areas deserve further discussion? Finally and most importantly, the introduction should explain how this work will address the questions above.
  • Describe Methods: The next portion of the paper should introduce and describe the methods used by the social scientist to observe his/her subjects or collect quantitative or qualitative data about them.
  • Declare Results: In this section, the author presents the results obtained from his/her methods. Provide as much detail as possible, but make sure your tone remains cool and collected. Avoid analyzing or commenting on these results until the next section.
  • Discuss Results: Now you finally have the chance to discuss and interpret the findings you’ve arrived at. Go into as much depth as possible, and make relevant connections to existing work.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion summarizes the results and further implications of your work.  How do your discoveries alter prior understanding and interpretation of the addressed subject? Where do we go from here?