Starting your essay guide
HGA102: Starting your essay
Academic Research Essay
Length: 2000 words
Task Description: The academic research essay provides students with the opportunity to choose a
topic of interest and explore it through one of the central questions in the unit: What is social
inequality and what does it matter in sociology?
This question is intentionally
oad in order to
give you an opportunity to focus on an area that you are interested in, and curious to explore.
Your answer should refer specifically to at least one of the six topics in modules one and two of the
unit: gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, work, education, or health. Some topics will overlap, like
gender and work – and that’s okay!
To properly answer each question, you must develop a clear argument that is supported by
sociological research, referencing peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and scholarly
ooks. There are two weeks set aside during semester to assist with essay preparation (weeks 8
and 9) but you should begin planning much earlier.
This assessment item is to be submitted online via MyLO Dropbox. Before the submission point
ecomes available, you must complete the submission checklist in the Assessment folder. All essays
will go through the Turnitin software to detect plagiarism. For more information on how to submit
assignments via MyLO Dropbox, see:
Follow these requirements in constructing your essay:
• Where relevant and possible, use a primary source - that is, go to and read a section of
Marx, Weber etc rather than rely on articles that other people have written about these
author's works and ideas.
• Use good secondary source material – that is, academic books, book chapters and journal
• In addition to the textbook, you need at least 7 additional sources (books and/or journal
articles) to be satisfactorily judged in the criteria of research depth.
• Do not cite Wikipedia or other similar internet resources, but do use them as sources that
provide you with links to primary and secondary sources. Refer to the ‘evaluating web
sources’ document on MyLO for advice on how to determine whether or not the website
you have found is okay to use.
• Do not cite or quote from lecture notes. As with Wikipedia, use the lecture notes to point
you towards relevant academic sources.
• Draft and proof read! It is always good to leave a piece of writing for a day or two, and then
come back to it fresh so you can find the e
ors and inconsistencies that you cannot detect
when you are so close to it. Share your work with others and ask them to highlight sections
they don’t understand, or that are unclear.
• If you are unsure of something or need some direction, talk to your tutor or the unit
Marking criteria – what we will be looking for when we mark your essay
1. Sociological understanding and analysis: Explains the key sociological ideas, concepts and
theories; Use of sociological and academic language; Illustrating key concepts or points with
an appropriate sociological example/s.
2. Research: Draws on a range appropriate materials; Use of research materials.
3. Presentation: Adherence to conventions around the technical construction of an academic
esearch essay, spelling, punctuation, grammar and referencing.
A step-by-step guide to starting this essay
1. Deciding on a topic and turning that into a question: Choose a topic that you have found
interesting. Go back over that chapter in the text, and the lecture notes. How was inequality
addressed in this topic? What are you curious to explore further?
2. Get specific: The question – what is social inequality and why does it matter in sociology? –
oad. It is meant to be your first step in constructing a more specific argument. This
means that we may have 200 essays answering the same question, but each essay may
answer it in a slightly different way. You need to decide on a particular focus. How can you
turn this curiosity into a question? For example…
• How does unemployment impact on a person’s life?
• Do queer people encounter unequal situations in their lives, due to stigma
associated with their sexuality?
• How does race/ethnicity affect people’s experiences of the world? How is the
notion of ‘privilege’ associated with race/ethnicity?
3. Do some research: Now that you have settled on a topic (or you have a short-list of topics)
you can do some research. First, go back over the relevant chapter and the co
lecture slides. Both the text and the lectures provide various references for additional
esearch. The content folders on MyLO will also often contain further reading – reports,
links to articles, and so on. Next, use the UTas Li
ary Search and/or Google Scholar as your
main engines for finding academic books, book chapters, and journal articles. If you are new
to scholarly research, talk to your tutors for tips and hints and to get some advice on what
constitutes an ‘academic’ source of information. You will need to develop a list of key terms
to search effectively. Remember you need at least eight academic sources. The assigned
eadings can be included, but the rest you will need to track down yourself. Wikipedia, some
logs and most other websites do not count and should not be refe
ed to as reliable
scholarly research. Newspaper articles or other media can be refe
ed to, in order to
establish a sentiment or discourse, but they do not count as scholarly sources.
4. Build your argument: Once you have a topic and you have done some research, you can
uild an argument. You should be explicit about your essay’s argument in the first
paragraph (the introduction). Then, each paragraph of your essay must advance this
argument for the essay to be successful. This does not mean you repeat a single line each
paragraph, but the evidence you present must support that central claim. See below for an
5. Write! This last step might seem obvious, but it’s the most important. Some people like to
structure their essays very carefully with topic sentences for each paragraph, meticulously
crafting their writing as they go. Other people like to just blurt out a few thousand words
and then go back and edit it. Most of us fall somewhere in between, but the most important
thing is to put your research to good use and to make a clear argument. Good luck!
TOPIC à QUESTION à ARGUMENT
• The essay question is
oad and even vague. This is to give you an opportunity to make the
question your own. Consult with your tutors on how to do this if you are unsure.
• Make use of the many resources available on MyLO:
o There are referencing guides on MyLO
o There is an essay writing guide by David Gauntlett that provides lots of helpful tips
and suggestions – how to get better marks without (necessarily) doing more work!
o There are links to College policies around assessment (late submission, word counts,
• Be sure to use the appropriate terminology throughout your essay. You don’t need to prove
to us that you have a big vocabulary (clarity is always more important than the
your vocabulary) but you do need to use the terms from the unit where appropriate. Refer
to your textbook for help here, or a disciplinary, sociology dictionary (not a regular one).
When using these terms be sure that you understand them – it will be obvious to your
marker if you have not fully grasped the meaning of the words you are using.
• There are no concrete formulas on how many quotes you should have. You will need to
find the right balance between your voice and the voice of the research you are drawing on.
Given the limited space you have available, I would recommend using quotes sparingly, no
more than two long quotes (that is, quotes longer than 30 words which you will need to
indent), and only one or two short quotes per paragraph, maximum. You need to
demonstrate that you can paraphrase, not that you can copy + paste + cite. The introduction
and conclusion might not contain any quotes.
• You must always reference where your ideas or concepts are coming from. If you take an
idea or paraphrase it, include an in-text citation. Even if you don’t use a quote, always
eference (Nash 2011: 4). Then, include that reference in your list of references at the end
of your essay. Refer to the referencing guides in MyLO for more information.