Writing for Social Scientists

Writing for Social Scientists : How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article

3.98 (851 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 today and also substantially expands his analysis of how academic institutions create problems for writers. As competition in higher education grows increasingly heated, "Writing for Social Scientists" will provide solace to a new generation of frazzled, would-be writers.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 208 pages
  • 141 x 216 x 13.97mm | 258g
  • University of Chicago Press
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • English
  • Revised
  • 2nd Revised edition
  • 0226041328
  • 9780226041322
  • 86,411

Back cover copy

Both the means and the reasons for writing a thesis or article or book are socially structures by the organization of graduate study, the requirements for publication, and the conditions for promotion, and the pressures arising from these situations create the writing style so often lampooned and lamented.
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Review quote

"Humane, wry, reflective, gentle, wise....A primer in the sense that it teaches the elements of good writing [and] a shrewd and subtle essay on the social organization of scholarship." - Kai Erikson, Contemporary Sociology "This little book is must reading for any would-be writer, social scientist or not, who has sat in front of a blank piece of paper...and wondered whether the plants have been watered lately." - Jane Delano Brown, Journalism Quarterly"
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About Howard Saul Becker

Howard S. Becker lives and works in San Francisco. He is the author of several books, including Outsiders, Tricks of the Trade, and Telling About Society.
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Rating details

851 ratings
3.98 out of 5 stars
5 32% (269)
4 41% (349)
3 23% (193)
2 3% (28)
1 1% (12)

Our customer reviews

Howard S. Becker, the author of "Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article", is a social scientist. Of course, no respectable scientist, social or non-social, would dare generalizing to other fields of knowledge the findings laboriously made in his own field. So, Becker conservatively addresses his book just to "social scientists". Writing is, however, an essential aptitude for any scientist. In fact, it is no less crucial to the survival of the scientist, as a scientist, than his or her own aptitudes to read or think logically. So, what Becker writes in his book is just as important to social scientists as it is to any other kind of scientist. Quite paradoxically, most scientists initiate and develop their scientific careers without devoting a single minute of their time to specifically learning how to write. Anyone would agree that it is impossible to play good tennis without proper training, and whoever wished to become a professional tennis player by just playing along would very likely be regarded as downright naive. This is, however, what most scientists do when it comes to writing. Becker's book does not fall in the category of the so called "how-to" books. It is, rather, a personal reflection written in a very entertaining and conversational style by an academic who addresses his fellow academics, not from the top of a pulpit, but from the cultural standpoint of the beliefs, traditions, aspirations and rites of their common academic life. It covers, in this way, a remarkably diverse collection of central aspects of scientific writing, such as the crucial role of editing and rewriting (and rewriting, and rewriting), the fear of scorn, the encounters with writer's block, or the urge to produce pompous and obscure texts. As the book progresses, the readers notice that they are being faced with the main fallacies of traditional scientific writing and that they are being helped to build their own opinion on how these fallacies can be properly handled. One such fallacy resides in the belief that there is only one right way of putting things down on paper. In fact, most less experienced writers tend to believe that to write well is to get the text right the first time. So, they stumble in the beginning of their text, unsuccessfully trying to work out the best beginning (and believing that, if they don't, they will not be able to proceed). Often, they also stumble when trying in vain to get the best plan for their text. Indeed, they seem to ignore that a significant part of our knowledge is built through experimentation, and that experimentation begins inside our own minds, as we tentatively combine ideas and try to make sense out of them.show more
by Antonio Dias de Figueiredo
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