Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article: Second Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)

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Students and researchers all write under pressure, and those pressures—most lamentably, the desire to impress your audience rather than to communicate with them—often lead to pretentious prose, academic posturing, and, not infrequently, writer’s block.

Sociologist Howard S. Becker has written the classic book on how to conquer these pressures and simply write. First published nearly twenty years ago, Writing for Social Scientists has become a lifesaver for writers in all fields, from beginning students to published authors. Becker’s message is clear: in order to learn how to write, take a deep breath and then begin writing. Revise. Repeat.

It is not always an easy process, as Becker wryly relates. Decades of teaching, researching, and writing have given him plenty of material, and Becker neatly exposes the foibles of academia and its “publish or perish” atmosphere. Wordiness, the passive voice, inserting a “the way in which” when a simple “how” will do—all these mechanisms are a part of the social structure of academic writing. By shrugging off such impediments—or at the very least, putting them aside for a few hours—we can reform our work habits and start writing lucidly without worrying about grades, peer approval, or the “literature.”

In this new edition, Becker takes account of major changes in the computer tools available to writers today, and also substantially expands his analysis of how academic institutions create problems for them. As competition in academia grows increasingly heated, Writing for Social Scientists will provide solace to a new generation of frazzled, would-be writers.

Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2 edition (December 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226041322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226041322
  • ASIN: 0226041328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces

Customer Reviews

Good, but the second edition has few changes

18 people found this helpful.
 on January 21, 2008
By Hal Jordan
I bought the first edition of this book about 20 years ago and found it very helpful. I long ago misplaced my copy and so was happy to order the new second edition. On reading the book again, I found Becker’s advice to be as good as I remembered, but I was disappointed that he had made so few changes in the “second edition.” Essentially, the first edition has been reprinted verbatim–even typos weren’t corrected–with a relatively few pages of additional material added to the last two chapters. Chapter 9 now contains Becker’s general thoughts on recent software that he considers useful to writers. This discussion would have been more helpful if he had been willing to mention specific programs. I guess he decided not to either to avoid giving free advertising or to avoid dating the discussion. The last chapter gives some interesting, if brief, observations on the place of writing in modern academic life.

Hits the nail on the head.

 on October 6, 2015
By Nick's Mommy
Reading this for one of my classes. Wish I had read it in the first semester of my doc program. Would have saved me some stress and many hours of writer’s block. Academic writing can be very intimidating. Becker does a great job making us see that we’re not alone in our insecurity & quirks about writing. This book and its themes are timeless.

Great for Writers!

 on June 29, 2017
By Amazon Customer
Excellent text to dispel the fears and challenges, internal and external, to becoming a professional writer. Becker is witty and informative and indeed hopeful.

Commentary on the Process

 on September 20, 2013
By Prof MacCreedy
Here Becker offers a series of essays about various aspects of the academic writing process, and the life of the academic while all of this is going on. Part writing and life skills advice, part cautionary tale in how the whole process might get off track, part encouragement for the newer writer, this is an interesting supplement to one’s writing project–and perhaps an interesting piece to read while one is going through a phase of classic avoidance behavior (we all do it).

I found this book comforting.

 on March 13, 2014
By J. E. Holmes
This is an easy to read beautifully written book, which made me realise that the difficulties I have writing are not unique, on the contrary, they are pretty much the norm. I feel encouraged to believe that my methods will eventually yield success, even though my field is not actually sociology and quite a bit of the advice was a bit irrelevant to my concerns. I’m very glad I bought this book.

Bought as a gift for my son-in-law – he was thrilled!

One person found this helpful.
 on August 21, 2013
By Amazon Customer
My son-in-law is writing his undergraduate thesis (his school actually requires a thesis to graduate with a B.A.). I was attracted to the title based on his and my daughter’s strong interest in sociology (her major) and their relentless research into why people do the things they do. He was thrilled with the book and feels like it will help him.

producing an easy to read document absent of the "academic fluff"

 on June 28, 2014
By Kai
This booked changed the way I write. It is full of lessons/stories that compare how I previously thought an “intelligent writer” should write (or sound) vs. producing an easy to read document absent of the “academic fluff”…It is very beneficial as I worked my way through a graduate school grounded in social science.

Four Stars

 on September 28, 2017
By Victoria Morris
Great good, but a little dry at times.


 on October 2, 2016
By Chenthuran Jayachandiran
Very worthwhile and should be in every social science writers library!

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