Writing Topic: Socy 122 Essay Guidelines

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Sociology: Style and Reference Guide for Undergraduate Essays

Department of Sociology, Queen’s University


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The following style and reference guide is based on the American Sociological Association Style Guide (4th Edition). A copy of the ASA Style Guide is available on reserve in the Stauffer Library. https://qcat.library.queensu.ca/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=3551711

While this style and reference guide follows the ASA Style Guide on most points, we have introduced some minor but important differences for the purposes of undergraduate essays in the Queen’s Department of Sociology. You should read through this guide before you begin to write your essay and refer to it when referencing ideas, paraphrasing, or making direct quotations.

Queen’s offers you the opportunity to access a web-based bibliographic management tool (often called a “citation manager”) called “RefWorks” (http://library.queensu.ca/help/refworks) through the Queen’s Library.  If you use this system, or any other bibliographic management tool, you must ensure that it will create an ASA style list of references at the end of your essay and always compare it to the guide and check for errors.


Basic Layout and Cover PagesHeadingsIn-text References (Embedded Citations)Miscellaneous Style and Grammar MattersWhat is a Social Theory? What is not?AssignmentsAppendicesReferences/Works Cited (Bibliography)

Basic Page Layout and Cover Pages

Basic Page Layout

Basic Page Layout

  • Type your essay in 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Double space the text and use left-justified style
  • Pages should be numbered consecutively (not including the title page) and placed in the top right-hand corner of each page as a number only (not as “page one,” for example).

To prevent Word from numbering your title page:  Insert – page number – top of page (right corner) – format page number- start at 0

  • One-inch margins top, bottom, and sides; write to the page limit specified in the assignment. Word counts were invented before word processors, they measure only large words and you should get about 250 per 8.5 x 11 page. Therefore always write to the specified page limit.
  • Student papers do not need spaces between each paragraph, and paragraphs should be indented

Remove extra spaces between paragraphs in Word:

“Home” tab  “Paragraph” box  “Line and Paragraph Spacing”  “Remove Space Before/After Paragraph”

Cover Pages

Cover Pages

  • Essays are to be stapled in the left-hand corner. NO COVERS, plastic or paper.
  • Title (titles must be real titles, not things such as “Essay # one”)

In the bottom right hand corner should be:

  • Your student number. (You are not required to place your name on assignments, but it helps.) Make sure your student number is correct!
  • The professor’s name and TA’s name
  • The course (tutorial day and time if applicable)
  • The date

Do not repeat any of this information in the body of the essay. There is no need to repeat the title on the first page of your essay, even though the formal ASA publication guide says you should.


First year students are cautioned to avoid using headings because they take up space and make it seem as if you do not have enough to say in your paper. If you are going to use them this is proper formatting in ASA:


  • Left justified, all capitals and no bold or italics

This Is A Level Two Heading

  • Left justified, first letter capitals, italics font, no bold

This is a level three heading.

  • A level three heading should appear at the start of sentence and should be indented if at the beginning of a paragraph. The first letter of the first word of a level three heading should be capitalized. The heading should be in italics font with no bold.

IMPORTANT: Headers do not replace the need for transitional statements connecting paragraphs. Also consider introducing your header sections somewhere in your introduction to help your reader better understand how and why you have structured your paper with headers.

In-Text References (Embedded Citations)

Essays must reference all quoted and paraphrased material within the text as it appears and have a list of references at the end or they will not be marked. The author-date system (ASA style) is used for in-text references.

Three ways to embed citations
Other citation rules including punctuation

Miscellaneous Style and Grammar Matters

Referencing Problems
Evidence vs. Example
Avoid Vague, Unfocused Thesis Statements
Avoid Wordiness
Avoid Sweeping Assumptions
Using Numbers
Active Voice
Subject-Verb and Number Agreement

What is a Social Theory? What is not?

Conceptual Framework:
Ideology vs. Theory, Theoretical Depth, and Methodological Errors

Some theories you cannot categorize in this way as they attempt to integrate macro and micro level considerations.

Ideology vs. Theory
Include Theoretical Depth
Methodological Errors


ANSWER THE QUESTION! Maintain a balance in your essay sections. Each component of the question to be answered should hold equal weight. Incorporate recent publications into your references. Do not say, “Today we think …” if your source is not recent!  Qualify your use of old sources. Explain sociological concepts  –  never assume the marker knows what you are talking about. Follow the instructions exactly.

Submitting Essays

Submitting Essays

Essays are typically submitted on line through the course web page. However, if you ever miss this opportunity or have to hand something in late, or you are asked to submit a hard copy, you can hand papers through the “essay slot” outside the Sociology main office M-C D431. They will be date stamped and put in the appropriate mailbox. DO NOT enter the main office and disturb the administrative staff. You are responsible for providing your own staples and ensuring that all the relevant information is on the front of your paper. Please get your TA’s name correct, as assignments cannot be distributed properly without the TA’s name. NEVER slide essays under any door. If you are not in this sociology class, please ask your instructor where you are to hand in your papers.



It is assumed that students have read and are familiar with the university’s policy on academic dishonesty in the regulations section of the Queen’s Faculty of Arts and Science Calendar. The section on plagiarism spells out what constitutes academic dishonesty with reference to essay writing. This includes:

  • Submitting as one’s own an essay written in whole or in part by someone else.
  • Preparing an essay for another student to submit.
  • Using direct quotations or large sections of paraphrased material without acknowledgement.

There are serious penalties for plagiarism. If you have any doubt about what this means, you should talk to the professor or your TA.

Note: Please keep copies of all past assignments until you graduate because you may be asked to produce old assignments if we feel that work has been submitted more than once. Always keep a back-up copy of any essay you hand in.


Use appendices only when necessary and make them brief. Appendices allow you to include detailed information in your paper that would be distracting in the main body of the paper. Examples of items you might have in an appendix include mathematical proofs, the questionnaire used in the research, a detailed description of an apparatus used in the research, etc.

Format of appendices

Your paper may have more than one appendix. Usually, each distinct item has its own appendix. If your paper only has one appendix, label it “Appendix” (without quotes.) If there is more than one appendix, label them “Appendix A,” “Appendix B,” etc. (without quotes) in the order that each item appears in the paper. Start each appendix on a new page. Continue numbering your pages as in the main body of the research paper.

In the main text parenthetical citation refer to the Appendices by their labels.
(see Appendix. Age and Gender of Participants)
(see Appendix A. Age and Gender of Participants)

In the Reference section:

Author. year. Appendix A Title of work. Location: Publisher

References/Works Cited (Bibliography)

Your final list of sources, titled References, is an alphabetized list of EVERY source referred to or quoted in your paper. References are not numbered. These references allow your reader to identify and retrieve the sources you have cited in your research in order to engage further in the ideas you present in your research. NOTE:  A bibliography is not the same thing as a reference page per se. Bibliographies include sources you have found helpful, even if you have not directly quoted from or referred to them in your paper. For our students only materials cited in the text of your essay may go in your reference page at the end of the paper, everything else will be considered padding.

Reference List Rules

  • Your references list appears on a separate page at the end of your paper. Number this page sequentially with the rest of your paper, and centre the word “References” at the top of it. You do not need to bold, italicize, or underline this title. All references cited in the text must be listed and vice-versa.
  • Officially, references should be double-spaced, but this is very hard to read so check with your TA or instructor for their preference. You will notice that the sample bibliography provided is not double spaced but a space between each entry is helpful.
  • Use hanging indention. Type the first line of each reference entry flush to the left margin. Indent all subsequent lines at least three spaces.
  • List references in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Invert the authors’ name. If there are two or more authors, invert only the first author’s name. When no author is given, list the work alphabetically by title, disregarding “A,” “An” or “The.” NOTE: The author is not necessarily an individual, but may be an institution or a committee.
  • Arrange multiple items by the same author in order by year of publication, earliest year first. Use six hyphens and a period (——.) in place of the name(s) for repeated authorship.
  • Distinguish works by the same author in the same year by adding letters (e.g., 1993a, 1993b, 1993c).
  • Use italics for book and periodical titles (underline if italics are not available).
  • If no date is available, use “N.d.” in place of the date.
  • Name every author of each reference; “et al.” is not acceptable.
  • Use authors’ first names, not first initials, unless only initials appear in the original source.
  • List the publisher’s name as concisely as possible without losing clarity.  For example:  “Riley” for “William Riley and Sons.”


Sample Reference List Using American Sociological Association Style

(See The Sociology Student Writer’s Manual Fifth Edition by Johnson, Rettig, Scott and Garrison for more detailed information and entries)


You need Hanging indentation. Here’s how:
1. Select all the text you want indented. (CTRL/A will select the entire document.)
2. Right-click in the selection and select Paragraph from the pop-up menu.
3. Set the Special list box to Hanging.
4. Click OK.

Journal Articles
Other Source Types
Non-Print Media
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