Choose Topic

If you choose to use articles from online databases for your essays, be sure to use only peer-reviewed academic journals as your sources. These journals can be accessed, free of charge, through Laurentian University’s website ( Information about how to access these online libraries is available in the J.N. Desmarais Library’s web pages.

To ensure that your essays are based on appropriate sources of information, follow these instructions when searching for sources in online databases. It is important to note that, if you use readings retrieved from these databases that do not conform to the specified criteria, your essay will not be acceptable. You will be looking for full-text PDF peer-reviewed articles from scholarly journals

  1. Go to the J.N. Desmarais Library‘s website, click on “Research Guides,” then use the drop-down menu to select “Sociology” and click the search icon to the right. Next, choose “Get articles” in the left-hand menu and follow the instructions and tips for accessing appropriate articles in sociology.
  2. Examine the readings and choose only those that are sociological in nature. You must read the name of the periodical (i.e., the journal name or journal title). If the name includes the words “sociology,” “sociological,” “social,” or “society,” you can be quite sure the sources will be appropriate. Note that you must ensure the name of the journal meets the requirements; it is not required that the title of the article contain the keywords “sociology,” “sociological,” “social,” or “society.” You must use three articles from journals with appropriate names, e.g., Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, Qualitative International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Canadian Journal of Sociology, and Annual Review of Sociology.
  3. Ensure the articles you select have been published after 2005. It is best to use more recent articles if they are available on your topic.
  4. Read the section in the writing guide Fit to Print which describes “The Argumentative Essay.” Follow these guidelines in writing your essay assignments
  5. Note that you must formulate a thesis statement and base your essay on this statement. See the chapter in Fit to Print titled “Devising a Thesis.”

If you use the Brym reader for essays you need not be concerned with the online sources since all readings in the reader are appropriate for this course.

Selecting Your Topic

As a strategy for selecting your topics, you should first familiarize yourself with the readings by searching the online databases using key words OR by examining the table of contents for the Brym reader. In preparing Assignments 1 and 2, you must choose two different essay topics, each of which allows you to draw on information from at least three readings for each essay. Another option available to you is to use a combination of readings from the Brym reader and the online databases.

Gender inequality is an example of a topic that is addressed in several chapters in the Brym reader. The book contains the following readings related to this topic:

Duffy, A. & Mandell, N. Poverty in Canada

Friendly, M., Ferns, C., Prabhu, N. & Forer, B. The state of early childhood education and childcare in 2009.

Green, A. I.. The changing face of matrimony: Same sex civil marriage in the twenty-first century

Welsh, S. & Baker, J. Sexual harassment in the Canadian workplace

Gender inequality is only one example of an essay topic. There are many other topics that could be chosen. The variety of readings included in the sources (i.e., the Brym reader and online databases) allows you a wide range of choice. You may also refer to the text as a source of information, but do not use it as the main source.

It is expected that your assignments will be based to a large extent on the material from these readings. This does not mean that you will be merely reproducing what is in the readings, but that you will be synthesizing and commenting on the material in the readings within the context of the question you posed in identifying your topic. Take some time to plan your essay. You must develop a thesis to be examined in the essay. Read Chapter 1, Devising a Thesis in Fit to Print by Joanna Buckley (2013).

You may have information on some topics based on your personal experiences. Many students find it helpful to relate the theories and concepts they are reading about to important features of their own lives. In writing on such topics, it is important that the account of personal experiences does not become the main feature of the paper. The point of referring to your own life is to illustrate and make concrete the more abstract concepts and theories in the readings, not to provide the reader with a life history as such. If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself, then you should feel under no obligation to do so—there is plenty of scope for choice within the topics covered by readings in the Brym reader and in the online databases.

General Guidelines for Essay Assignments

You must use the writing guide Fit to Print by Joanne Buckley when working on your essay assignments. Ensure that your essay conforms to the guidelines provided in this text. You will notice that in Part Six of this guide, instructions are provided for citing sources in APA style. You are required to use this style in Assignments 1 and 2. Sociologists and psychologists generally share many of the conventions for writing essays and research papers. Therefore, the APA style guide is also useful for sociology students.

The list of comments below indicates the most common errors made by students in writing essays. Before you submit your assignments, read this list carefully, then check over your assignments for these potential errors. When you get your graded assignments back, you may receive comments like those noted below:


  1. Do not use the popular press (e.g. news or fashion magazines) as major sources of reference, except to identify a topic as important with the media. You must use academic materials such as those found in the reader or the online academic databases.
  2. Include author’s last name and year of publication when referring to ideas or information from the readings, e.g., (Smith, 2012).
  3. Include the page number when directly quoting an author, e.g., (Smith, 2012, p. 125). Enclose quotations in quotation marks.
  4. a.Always include a reference when referring to factual information or ideas presented in the readings. If you do not credit your sources, you are committing the academic offence of plagiarism.

    b. Always support your arguments with references to the literature (i.e., cite last name(s) of author(s) and year of publication).
  5. Include only the author’s last name, year of publication (and page number for a direct quotation) when citing references in the text of your essay. Other information such as author’s name or first initial, title, editor(s), issue number, publisher, and so forth must be included in your references section at the end of your essay.
  6. Avoid using different referencing styles in your essays. Be consistent and use one style only. The one required for this course is APA style.
  7. To be consistent with the required referencing style, when citing two or more authors who have said essentially the same thing, enclose all authors’ names, in alphabetical order, in one set of brackets and separate with semicolons, e.g., (Jones, 2006; Smith, 2012; Towne, 2009).
  8. Do not use the textbook, Sociology in Our Times, as the major source of reference for your essay. Primary sources from the online libraries or the Brym reader must constitute the major sources of reference for your essays. The text should provide more general information.
  9. List all references in a reference section at the end of your essay. Be certain to list all references used and/or clarify the source of reference. When you are citing a source which you have not directly read, make this clear. For example, if the source you read was Smith, who cited a finding by Brown, you should indicate this as follows
    1. Smith (2012), citing the findings of Brown’s (2009) study on gender inequality, indicated that …
    2. Brown (2009) has stated that …(cited in Smith, 2012).
    Thus, if you did not read the original work (Brown, 2009, in the example) but wish to cite it, you must make clear your source of reference.
  10. Always cite the chapter author, not the editor(s) or title of the book, when referring to a chapter of a book in which each chapter was written by a different author. For example, each chapter of the Brym reader has been written by a different author.
  11. In your references section at the end of the paper, you must list sources in alphabetical order, according to surnames. As well, when referring to a chapter from a book of readings, include the author’s and the editor’s names as indicated in the following example:

    Myles, J. (2014). The inequality surge. In R. Brym (Ed.), Society in question (7th ed., pp. 101-108). Toronto: Nelson.
  12. The first time you cite a reading which has more than two authors, you must include all authors’ names. Thereafter, you may use the name of the first author listed and “et al.” For example, the first time, cite (Jones, Moore, & Smith, 2005); thereafter, cite (Jones et al., 2005). If there are only two authors, always cite both names.
  13. References to authors made within the body of the essay are part of the sentence structure. Thus, do not place a period before and after the reference but rather after the reference only. Consider the following example: The relationship between social class and educational attainment has been clearly documented (Smith, 2012).


  1. Consult your dictionary with regard to the spelling of words when you are uncertain.
  2. Check the grammatical structure of sentences.
  3. Use correct punctuation.
  4. Check your dictionary with regard to the meaning of words when you are unsure about their meaning

Organization & Style

  1. Avoid single sentence paragraphs — each paragraph should contain at least two sentences and express a complete thought. Have no more than one idea per paragraph.
  2. Work on organization so that arguments (evidence) are presented in a logical order.
  3. Ensure the ideas or arguments are clearly related to the topic.
  4. Begin your essay with an introductory paragraph which indicates the chosen topic and your approach to it. 
  5. End your essay with a concluding paragraph that ties together the ideas you have presented.
  6. Develop ideas fully and explicitly. Do not simply list a series of points.
  7. Avoid using a writing style that is vague and/or confusing which makes it difficult to understand what you are saying. Focus on the expression of ideas to achieve clarity of expression.
  8. Do not use an informal writing style. Adopt a formal style of writing for academic papers.
  9. Do not make excessive use of quotations. Choose quotations carefully. Use only those which support ideas and use them sparingly. Make an effort to express ideas in your own words.
  10. Integrate quotations into the text of your essay. Quotations are most effective when the ideas are discussed.
  11. Do not exceed the maximum length by more than 10% or submit a paper that is more than 10% shorter than the length guideline.

General Comments

  1. It is acceptable to illustrate points you wish to make with reference to personal experiences, but ensure that these do not become the main feature of your essay. Such examples can be an effective means of lending support to evidence from readings, but you must use them sparingly.
  2. Number the pages of your essay.
  3. Include a complete list of references cited in the essay at the end of your paper.
  4. Refer to Fit to Print regarding proper style for listing references.
  5. Avoid sexist language. Instead of using the gender specific pronoun “he,” use “he or she” or reword the sentence so that it is gender neutral. The word “they” is not an acceptable alternative.

    For more suggestions on how to avoid sexist language, see
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