Writing Expectations

Sociology Program Expectations

The purpose of papers in college/university level courses is twofold. First, they help your professor evaluate you on what you've learned in the class. Secondly, these assignments prepare you for writing in the academic or professional world. Essays, papers and reports - whether it is in graduate school, law, research-related jobs or in the business world - must be persuasive as well as demonstrate authority and knowledge of the topic at hand. As such, readers of such papers expect the following: 

  1. Quality Sources (Research)
  2. Attribution (Citation)
  3. Accuracy (Careful writing w/ possible revision)

In order for you to communicate your thoughts effectively, it is very important to spell check and proofread your paper for grammar. It is also important to properly cite and reference material properly. Failure to do so can result in significant grade penalties, as well as referral to the Dean of Students for academic dishonesty (see: the policy).

Sociology papers require you to gather and use evidence to make an argument about social phenomena, problems, or society. This means looking beyond individuals, and examining how choices and opportunities are influenced by social structure. Key to making an argument is finding support for your claim. In the absence of doing first-hand research, papers should rely on the existing literature on a subject (the concepts, theories, and data already used, published or written about by other researchers). 

It is your responsibility to submit college-level papers and to know your professors' expectations. If you struggle with writing papers, there are resources on campus (such as the University Writing Center) that can help you.

Style & Formatting Expectations

Your paper should be formatted in a professional manner. Unless stated otherwise by your professor, papers should be written in a 10-12pt font such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Paragraphs should be double-spaced and justified, while margins should be 1 - 1.25". Furthermore, your works cited page should use a hanging indent.

If this is a long paper (8+ pages), it is recommended that you use section headings, page numbers, and running headers.  If you are using charts, figure or tables, you should check with your professor if an appendix or list of figures is necessary.

Academic & Scholarly Sources  

In many of your sociology courses, you will be required to use academic or scholarly (also called peer-reviewed or refereed) articles for your papers. These articles are found in journals in which they have been evaluated by other academics, experts and scholars.

How do you know it is academic or scholarly?

  • They often have an abstract before the body or main text of the article.  
  • They always cite their sources.
  • They are typically accessible only via a library database or an academic publisher's website.


American Sociological Review

Social Forces

Contemporary Sociology

Sociological Methodology

Journal of Marriage and Family

Sociological Theory

Rural Sociology

Teaching Sociology

NOTE: Both news and academic sources can be found via the KU Library databases. However, it is your responsibility to differentiate between the two types of sources when using searches such as Academic Search Complete (EBSCO).

For more information on academic sources, the following resources are available at KU Library.

Scholarly versus Popular Sources

Rohrbach Library Citations Resources

In-Text Parenthetical Citations (ASA Style)

If you are using ideas that are not yours, be sure to include citations. In the social sciences, In-Text Parenthetical Citations is the preferred style of referencing. This guide will be using the American Sociological Association (ASA) style. However, the APA style is acceptable as well. Whichever style you use, it is important to be consistent in both your in-text citations and works cited page.  In-Text Parenthetical Citations appear following quotes, paraphrases, or any content that comes from an outside source (even your own work!). These citations correspond to the references found in the works cited section at the end of the paper. Because in-text citations reference the bibliographic entries at the end of the paper, it is very important to include all the citation information so the reader can identify the cited source.

One work by one author

If the author's name appears as part of the text and you are discussing the general themes, findings, or arguments of the article, include only the year of publication in parentheses:

In another study by Greenwood (2012)...

If the author's name is not in the text, enclose the last name and publication year in parentheses:

...the acceptance of cultural products requires legitimization... (Fu 2011).

Pagination follows the year of publication after a colon:

...O'Boyle (2006: 71).

If you are using quotes, page numbers MUST be referenced. Example of Quotation: 

In examining the interaction between family members, we see that "shame can contribute to the process of boundary dissolution in multiple ways" (Johnson 2010:876).

NOTE: Academic journal articles via online databases should be cited as articles, NOT as websites.

Block Quotes

When using block quotes, do not double space. Direct quotes that are longer than three lines should be single-spaced and indented like so:

The relationship between assimilation and the well being of immigrant children has been the focus of debate in recent sociological literature. Much of this work has questioned whether classical theories of immigrant adaptation, which assumed assimilation to be an integral part of the process of upward mobility for immigrants, are still applicable to today's immigrant children. (John 2012: 3).

Block quotes should be used sparingly. Also, you should not rely completely on quotes and always analyze the material with your own ideas and words. Using large quotations or using long strings of quotes means that you are not thinking about the material.

One work by multiple authors

List all the authors' names for the first reference.

Myers and Crockett (2012) found that female foster parents derive a sense of satisfaction from feelings of competence.

If a work has three authors, cite all three last names in the first citation in the text; thereafter, use: et al. in the citation. If a work has more than three authors, use et al. in the first citation and in all subsequent citations.

First citation for a work with three authors: (Leahy, Crockett, and Hunter 2008).

Later...(Leahy et al. 2008)

Groups as authors (organization, association, etc.)

The name of the group is usually spelled out each time it appears in a text citation. If the name of the group is long and cumbersome and if the abbreviation is familiar or readily understandable, you may abbreviate it in second and subsequent citations.

FIRST CITATION (Food and Drug Administration [FDA] 1996)


This is not an exhaustive list. More style information can be found here.

Bibliography versus Works Cited

Bibliography and works cited page are not the same thing. A bibliography is an alphabetical list of sources you either used in your research or intend to use in an upcoming project. An annotated bibliography is a bibliography which includes a brief summary of the source. Works cited page lists only sources that you referenced in your paper. If your paper does not have an in-text reference to the source, it should not be in your works cited. For both a bibliography and works cited section, they should be cited as follows:


The basic form for a book entry includes...

  1. Author's last name, followed by a comma and author's first name and middle initial, ending with a period.
  2. Year of publication followed by a period. Title of book italicized ending with a period.
  3. City of publication (with state abbreviation if it's not a well-known city), followed by a colon and name of the publisher, ending with a period.

NOTE: If it is an edited book, you cite the author who wrote the chapter. For instance, see the difference between (Demissie 2008) and (Fu and Murray 2008) below.

Journal Articles

The basic form for a journal article includes...

  1. Author's last name, followed by a comma and the first name and middle initial ending with a period.
  2. Year of publication followed by a period.
  3. Title of article in "quotations," ending with a period inside the closing quotation mark.
  4. Title of journal in italics, no period following.
  5. Volume number followed by the issue number in parentheses, followed by a colon, page number(s) and period.
  6. For articles found online, including from a commercial database AND DOES NOT HAVE PAGE NUMBERS:

If the article has a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), add it at the end of the citation: DOI:10.0011/0000000X0001100101.

If the article does not have a DOI, add the date of retrieval and the URL of the site at which you located the article in parentheses, followed by a period: Retrieved [date of retrieval] (www.databasename.com).

Sample Works Cited

Demissie, Fassil. 2008. Postcolonial African cities : imperial legacies and postcolonial predicaments. London: Routledge.

Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. 1996. "Food standards: amendment of standards of identity for enriched grain products to require addition of folic acid." Fed Register 61(44): 8781-8797.

Fu, Albert S. 2011. "Contradictions in California's orientalist landscape: Architecture, history and Spanish-Colonial Revival." Cities 28(4):340-346.

----, and Martin J. Murray. 2008. 'Cinema and the Edgy City: Johannesburg, Carjacking, and the Postmetropolis'. Pp. 121-30 in Postcolonial African cities : imperial legacies and postcolonial predicaments, edited by Fassil Demissie. London: Routledge.

Greenwood, Joleen L. 2012. "Parent-Child Relationships in the Context of a Mid- to Late-Life Parental Divorce." Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 53(1):1-17.

John, Mauricia A. 2012. "The Impact of Race, Class, and Gender on Second-Generation Caribbean Immigrants' Assimilation Patterns into the United States." Doctoral Thesis, The Ohio State University.

Johnson, Diane E.  2010. "Case Study on Boundary Dissolution:  An Instrument Anyone Can Play." Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 19(8): 875-895.

Leahey, Erin, Jason L. Crockett, and Laura Ann Hunter. 2008. "Gendered academic careers: Specializing for success?" Social forces 86(3):1273-1309.

Myers, Monika J. U., and Jason L. Crockett. 2012. "Foster Parent Satisfaction: Differences by Gender." American Journal of Social Issues & Humanities 2(4):208-21.

O'Boyle, Timothy. 2006. "The illegal use of video poker machines by public bars and private social clubs in Pennsylvania: It's a rational choice." Journal of Economic Crime Management 4(1):1-26.

***Note: A works cited page (or bibliography) should be formatted with a hanging indent of ½".