Writing in the Social Sciences and Education

Graduate Student Resource Center

Workshop Videos on Writing in the Social Sciences

These recorded versions of GWC workshops cover topics such as the basics of social science writing, conference proposals and presentation, literature reviews, and the social science dissertation proposal.

Writing in the Social Sciences

Becker, H. S. (2007.) Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish Your thesis, book, or article. 2nd ed. (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
This book, written by a sociologist, draws on the experiences of graduate students and scholars and offers advice on overcoming writers' block and self-doubt.

Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., & Shaw, L.L. (2011.) Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, 2nd ed. (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
This book features some useful advice on moving from note-taking to coding to writing.

Singh, A. A. & Lukkarila, L. (2017.) Successful Academic Writing: A Complete Guide for Social and Behavioral Scientists .
This book provides an overview of academic writing in the social sciences, a look at specific genres, practice exercises, and a guide to publishing.

Wolcott, H. F. (2009.) Writing Up Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
This book, revised in 2009, is a straightforward and engaging guide to writing qualitative research, from description to analysis to interpretation. Wolcott addresses potential pitfalls particular to this process for qualitative writers, and provides suggestions for how to get started and how to maintain momentum. He shares personal anecdotes as well as stories from students to illustrate a variety of experiences.

Dissertations and Theses

ProQuest Digital Dissertations Online: This site has full-text links to most recent dissertations. You can search by author, keywords, subfield, advisor, etc. Looking through several dissertations, preferably by former students of your advisor, can provide a wealth of information about the practical expectations for dissertations and theses.

Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation: Compiled by Joe Levine, a list (with short reviews) of books that are written for dissertation writers.

Bolker, J. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. 1998. New York, NY: Owl Books.
This is one of several “write your dissertation” guides on the market, and it’s one of relatively few that gears itself toward writers of all disciplines. Bolker here is part career counselor, part writing coach, and part therapist. She seems particularly interested in the ways that graduate students block themselves from completing the dissertation through fear, ambivalence, procrastination, etc. Recommended as a general reference on the dissertation process, although some issues might require more specialized help for individual writers.

Clark, I. 2007. Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the Conversation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
This title is regarded by many in composition studies as the best book on dissertation writing. Some of the writing strategies may be oriented more towards the humanities and social sciences, but the book offers excellent advice on writing process issues that is helpful to graduate students in all fields.

Krathwohl, D. R. & Smith, N. L. 2005. How to Prepare a Dissertation Proposal: Suggestions for Students in Education & the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Syracuse, NY: University of Syracuse Press.
This is a step-by-step guide to the dissertation proposal, with sections on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches.

Lovitts, B. E. & Wert, E. L. (2008). Developing Quality Dissertations in the Social Sciences: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Achieving Excellence. Stylus Publishing.
A concise booklet designed to define and explain expectations for dissertations in the social sciences.

Rudestam, K.E. & Newton, R.R. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
This guide discusses every stage of the dissertation process, including selecting a suitable topic, conducting a literature review, developing a research question, selecting an appropriate methodology, analyzing data, and interpreting and presenting results. It also covers the principles of good scholarly writing, how to work with committees, how to meet IRB and ethical standards, and how to overcome task and emotional blocks.

Zerubavel, E. 1999. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Working from the premise that "it is methodicalness and routinization … that help us produce theses, dissertations, and books," (p. 3), this short book presents a detailed process for coming up with a realistic writing schedule and deadlines. Zerubavel explains management strategies for long writing projects: scheduling regular writing time, making outlines, setting realistic expectations, adhering to deadlines, etc.


GWC Resources on Writing for Publication: A list of resources curated by GWC staff.

Belcher, W. L. (2019). Writing your journal article in twelve weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
This workbook takes the approach to scheduling and work style that productivity scholars recommend and tailors its advice to the specificity of the journal article for humanities and social scientists. It is helpful on several fronts: first, in breaking down the process of writing the article into manageable parts and second, in explaining several other genres that graduate students need to be aware of, particularly the abstract.

Grant and Fellowship Proposals

Writing Grants and Fellowship Applications: Recorded GWC workshops on writing fellowship and grant applications.

The Art of Writing Proposals: Written by Adam Przeworski and Frank Salomon, an excellent discussion of the spoken and unspoken expectations for social science proposals posted on the Social Science Research Council website. Much of the information is applicable to social science writing in general.

Show Me the Money: Grant Writing Tips for Graduate Students: Published in the Association of Psychological Science Observer, this piece contains tips on effective grant-writing strategies and a useful list of links.

Library Research Guides by Subject

These online guides offer discipline-specific links and tips for library research at UCLA. They include links to databases, catalogs, dictionaries, encyclopedias, electronic texts, and online archives.

To report a broken link, please email us at gwc@gsa.asucla.ucla.edu.