Term Paper Guide

Rhode Island College
Department of Sociology

This document serves as a guide to writing term papers and other assignments that require research involving outside sources for courses offered by the Sociology Department at Rhode Island College. Please remember that any guidelines your instructor gives you will supersede this document. The document consists of two sections: first, a set of general guidelines on writing term papers, and second, a style guide for creating citations in American Sociological Association format.

General Paper-Writing Guidelines

  1. All material that is quoted directly must be cited. Paraphrasing of ideas or thoughts that are specific to that author (not a part of general knowledge) must also be cited. Otherwise, the scholar is free to use ideas that are widely accepted and need not feel the need to cite every possible thought taken from another's writing. The term "citation" is used here in a general sense; it refers to all sorts of in-text references including parenthetical citations, footnotes, or endnotes.
    Note: Citing is done mainly to assist the reader in being able to investigate further the ideas that the writer presents. For example, if one is describing the characteristics of anomic suicide as presented by Durkheim, one need not cite every thought that Durkheim had on that subject, but if one is searching for an example of fatalistic suicide and Durkheim's illustration of the slave is used, it would be helpful to the reader to know where in Durkheim that reference is found (a footnote!).

  2. There is another side of referencing, however, and this is the issue of originality. If, when one is writing, one uses the words or ideas of another, one must give them credit. Presenting someone else's writing or unique treatment of the subject as one's own is plagiarism and is considered a serious academic offense, the equivalent of theft in the world at large. Any time a student presents someone else's work as if s/he had written it, even with some slight alterations, it is plagiarism. This includes material obtained from the Internet. Writing style is almost always the giveaway. See the section on Academic Integrity in the Student Handbook for details on penalties.

  3. Direct quotes of more than three or four lines must be indented (normally about five spaces or one use of the 'tab' key), single-spaced, and without quotation marks. Direct quotes of fewer than three or four lines are set off with quotation marks and are kept within the body of the paragraph.

  4. If you include some information about the text you are citing in the body of your paragraph, for instance writing "As Max Weber wrote in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," you may exclude that information from your in-text citation. It still must appear in your bibliography, however.

  5. All papers should conclude with a properly formatted list of references (alternatively called a bibliography or works cited). It is assumed that the student has read the textbook, so if you are using the textbook only for general principles, you should not include it as a reference. However, if you have included quotes or paraphrases of textbook material, you must be sure to reference them properly.

  6. Be alert to how you present your finished work. Your printout should use dark ink with neat, unwrinkled paper. Take the time to proofread your work before submitting it; errors in grammar or spelling convey a negative impression which may distract the reader from the quality of your good ideas. While you should use the spellcheck feature of your word processing program, be aware that spell checkers can and do make errors, often quite funny ones that convey a different meaning from the one you intended.  The spell checker may suggest a word that is inappropriate for the context; it may also fail to catch an error or typo in which you typed the wrong word, but spelled it correctly (typing "dime" instead of "crime," for instance). There is no substitute for active proofreading--the best way to catch your mistakes is to read your work out loud to yourself.

  7. All non-English words should be italicized, and the first letter of all German nouns is capitalized. For example, you would write voir dire (the Latin term for the jury selection process), or Verstehen (the German term for understanding).

  8. Use sources from the Internet very cautiously. While it has become second nature for all of us to just Google things any time there is something we don't know, remember that material that appears on the Internet has not been checked for quality. Almost anyone can put anything on the Internet--including middle school homework assignments and purposefully-false pranks. This is true of Wikipedia as well--it can be a great source for basic information, but pages on legal issues and social controversies are often wrong in various ways. If you do site Internet sources, you must provide a URL so that your readers can locate the source you used. In addition, do remember that Internet sources change frequently--always provide an accessed date so that if the page has changed since you last used it your reader will understand what has happened. Because of how frequently they change, citations to Wikipedia should include the time of access as well.

  9. As you will undoubtedly become aware as you go through college, there are dozens of different citation styles out there. The second most important goal in citations, after insuring that you give credit where credit is due, is to be sure that you are adhering to the guidelines of a specific, recognized citation format.

  10. If your paper includes tables, they should be numbered consecutively throughout the text. Each table should include a title describing the contents of the table, and all columns and rows should have headings. Use asterisks to indicate levels of significance.

American Sociological Association Citation Formats

The instructions presented in this section are drawn from The American Sociological Association Style Guide, 4th (2010) edition.

Text Citations
In American Sociological Association (ASA) format, in-text citations are parenthetical. This means that you include the author's name and the date of publishing in parentheses. Page numbers need only be presented for direct quotes. Subsequent references to the same source should be identified in the same way as the first.

Some examples:

For a standard parenthetical citation, provide the author's last name and the publication date:
(Ehrenreich 2006)

If the author's name is mentioned in the text, follow it with the publication date in parentheses:
Ehrenreich (2006) studies the job-seeking process for middle-class workers.

If you are providing the page number for a direct quote, it follows the year of publication after a colon; omit the space between the colon and a page number:
"The movement of Americans to different income groups has leveled off" (Scott and Leonhardt 2005:13).

If the quote you are presenting is split across multiple pages, provide the page range in the citation:
"The more education these women receive, the more money they will make” (Wilkerson 2005: 231-2).

For a work with two authors, provide both authors' last names:
(Scott and Leonhardt 2005).

For a work with three authors, provide all three authors' last names in the first citation, and then use the first author's last name followed by et al. in subsequent citations:
1st citation: (Altbach, Berdahl, and Gumport 2005)
2nd citation: (Altbach et al. 2005)

For a work with four or more authors, provide the first author's last name followed by et al.
(Gray et al. 2007)

For a work without an individual author, such as many websites, provide the organization or entity that is responsible for the work along with the date:
(American Sociological Association 2007)

The Reference List
The reference list follows the text and must begin with a heading reading "references." All references cited in the text must appear in the reference list. References should be listed in alphabetical order by the first author's first name.  The first author's name appears inverted (Gray, Paul S.), but subsequent authors do not appear inverted (Gray, Paul S., John B. Williamson).

If your reference list includes two or more references by the same author, list in the order of year of publication, with the earliest year first. If there are multiple works written by the same author in the same year, follow the year of publication of each by a letter (2006a, 2006b, 2006c) and list in alphabetical order by title. Edited works are listed with works written entirely by the author.

If no date is available for the work you are citing, use n.d. in place of the date (but do make your best effort to locate the date!). Include both the city and the state for the place of publication, with U.S. postal codes given for states (For instance Providence, RI); give countries for cities outside the US (for instance Surrey, UK). If the location of the city is obvious (as in something published in Berkeley by the University of California Press, or in works published in famous cities like Boston, London, Tokyo, Paris, etc., you do not need to provide the state/country. For works published in New York City, just write "New York." For works published in Cambridge, be sure you specify whether you mean Cambridge, MA or Cambridge, UK.

Some special tips for citing websites:

  • The publication date often appears at the bottom of the page. It may say (c) or copyright, or it may say "last updated."
  • The author may appear at the top or the bottom of the page. If no author appears, try to figure out what individual or institution is responsible for maintaining the page and use that.
  • For a website, you should provide both the title of the specific page in question and the title of the overall website. The sample formatted reference to a website below provides an example of how this works.
  • Be sure to include the date of access, the type of electronic source (website, CD, etc.), and the complete URL for the website.

Examples of Formatted References

Books with a single author

Western, Bruce. 2006. Punishment and Inequality in America. New York: Russel Sage.

Books with two or three authors
Bowen, William G. and Derek Bok. 1998. The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Books with four authors

Gray, Paul S. et al. 2007. The Research Imagination: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Methods. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

An edited volume
Kimbrell, Andrew, ed. 2002. The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Books with an edition number

Della Porta, Donatella and Mario Diani. 2006. Social Movements: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

A book that has been translated
Dukheim, Emile. 2001. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Translated by Carol Cosman. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

An article from a book
Johnstone, D. Bruce. 2005. "Financing Higher Education: Who Should Pay?" Pp. 369-92 in American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Philip G. Altbach, Robert O. Berdhal, and Patricia J. Gumport. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

An article from a scholarly journal

Edin, Kathryn. 2000. "What do Low-Income Single Mothers Say About Marriage?" Social Problems 47(1):112-33.
NOTE: in this example, 47 is the journal volume and 1 is the journal issue.

An article from a magazine
Gans, Herbert J. 2005. "Race as Class." Contexts 4(4), 17-21.

An article from a newspaper

Dauvergne, Peter. 2008. "Shrinking Resources, Growing Demand." Chronicle of Higher Education. November 28. B11-B13.

A website
Rhode Island College. 2006. "Sociology Program." Providence, RI: Rhode Island College Sociology Department. Retrieved December 8, 2008 (http://www.ric.edu/sociology/degreeList.php)

A report
DeNavas-Wait, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith. 2008. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007. Current Population Reports: Consumer Income. U.S. Census Bureau report P60-235. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau.

Government data
U.S. Census Bureau. 2007. Population Estimates: Rhode Island--County. Population Estimates Program. Table GCT-T1. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau.

A court case
Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. 137 (1803)

A film
Gibney, Alex. 2006. The Human Behavior Experiments. The Sundance Channel.

Page last updated: November 15, 2012