Techniques of reading and writing practices
Techniques of reading and writing practices
List of contents
1. On now to read social theory texts – by David Sonnenfeld
2. Memo: Questioning a text
3. Modes of reading
4. A note on methodology – by Tine Tjørnhøj Thomsen
5. Plagiarism – by Earl Babbie
6. APA styles
7. Gender fair language – By Jenny Redfern
8. Helpful websites on reading and writing
9. Conceptual analysis: An introduction
10. Writing Guide
1. On now to read social theory texts – by David Sonnenfeld
Reading social theory can be slow, grueling, and frustrating. However, if you are patient, take the time, and make the effort, doing so will reward you with powerful insights into fundamental social institutions and processes. Some suggestions to facilitate the process: Your first time through the assigned text, skim lightly, before you get “lost in the forest of details”. Get an overview of the structure of the section you are reading. Read the introductory and concluding paragraphs. Take note of section structure & headings. Once you have an overview of the assigned text, return to the beginning and read more closely.
Focus on the author’s main points and/or what you want to get out of it. Take notes. In text margins, keep a running dialog with yourself and/or the author. In a notebook, record the author’s main ideas, as well as your reactions and responses. Ask yourself: What is the author’s main point? Try summarizing those main points — in writing, orally with a fellow student, etc. If necessary, outline the author’s argument. Read as many times as you have to — 2, 3, or more — until you at least get the gist of the author’s main points and have a feeling for the structure & components of the author’s argument. Make full use of other students in the class. Study together. Compare notes. If you don’t understand a term, look it up in one or more dictionaries. Start with a comprehensive collegiate dictionary. Also, look in a good, disciplinary-specific dictionary. If you’re still stumped, or feel you are not grasping basic concepts, consult an introductory text, or ask your instructor during office hours. Construct your own course dictionary using the above.
2. Memo: Questioning a text
What is the text “about” — empirically and conceptually? What modes of inquiry were used to produce it?
How is the text structured and performed?
How can it circulate? What is the text about – empirically? What phenomenon is drawn out in the text? A social process; a cultural and political- economic shift; a cultural “infrastructure;” an emergent assemblage of science-culture-technology- economics?
Where is this phenomenon located – in a neighborhood, in a country, in “Western Culture,” in a globalizing economy?
What historical trajectory is the phenomenon situated within? What, in the chronology provided or implied, is emphasized — the role of political or economic forces, the role of certain individuals or social groups? What does the chronology leave out or discount?
What scale(s) are focused on — nano (i.e. the level of language), micro, meso, macro?
What empirical material is developed at each scale?
Who are the players in the text and what are their relations? Does the text trace how these relations have changed across time – because of new technologies, for example?
What is the temporal frame in which players play? In the wake of a particular policy, disaster or other significant “event?” In the general climate of the Reagan era, or of “after-the-Wall” globalization?
What cultures and social structures are in play in the text?
What kinds of practices are described in the text? Are players shown to be embedded in structural contradictions or double-binds?
How are science and technology implicated in the phenomenon described?
What structural conditions– technological, legal and legislative, political, cultural – are highlighted, and how are they shown to have shaped the phenomenon described in this text?
How – at different scales, in different ways – is power shown to operate? Is there evidence of power operating through language, “discipline,” social hierarchies, bureaucratic function, economics, etc?
Does the text provide comparative or systems level perspectives? In other words, is the particular phenomenon described in this text situated in relation to similar phenomenon in other settings? Is this particular phenomena situated within global structures and processes? What is the text about – conceptually? Is the goal to verify, challenge or extend prior theoretical claims?
What is the main conceptual argument or theoretical claim of the text? Is it performed, rendered explicit or both?
What ancillary concepts are developed to articulate the conceptual argument?
How is empirical material used to support or build the conceptual argument?
How robust is the main conceptual argument of the text? On what grounds could it be challenged? How could the empirical material provided support conceptual arguments other than those built in the text? Modes of inquiry? What theoretical edifice provides the (perhaps haunting – i.e. non-explicit) backdrop to the text? What assumptions appear to have shaped the inquiry? Does the author assume that individuals are rational actors, for example, or assume that the unconscious is a force to be dealt with? Does the author assume that the “goal” of society is (functional) stability? Does the author assume that what is most interesting occurs with regularity, or is she interested in the incidental and deviant?
What kinds of data (ethnographic, experimental, statistical, etc.) are used in the text, and how were they obtained? If interviews were conducted, what kinds of questions were asked? What does the author seem to have learned from the interviews?
How was the data analyzed? If this is not explicit, what can be inferred?
How are people, objects or ideas aggregated into groups or categories?
What additional data would strengthen the text? Structure and performance? What is in the introduction? Does the introduction turn around unanswered questions — in other words, are we told how this text embodies a research project? Where is theory in the text? Is the theoretical backdrop to the text explained, or assumed to be understood? What is the structure of the discourse in the text? What binaries recur in the text, or are conspicuously avoided? How is the historical trajectory delineated? Is there explicit chronological development? How is the temporal context provided or evoked in the text? How does the text specify the cultures and social structures in play in the text? How are informant perspectives dealt with and integrated? How does the text draw out the implications of science and technology? At what level of detail are scientific and technological practices described? How does the text provide in-depth detail – hopefully without losing readers? What is the layout of the text? How does it move, from first page to last? Does it ask for other ways of reading? Does the layout perform an argument? What kinds of visuals are used, and to what effect? What kind of material and analysis are in the footnotes? How is the criticism of the text performed? If through overt argumentation, who is the “opposition”? How does the text situate itself? In other words, how is reflexivity addressed, or not?
Circulation? Who is the text written for? How are arguments and evidence in the text shaped to address particular audiences? What all audiences can you imagine for the text, given its empirical and conceptual scope? What new knowledge does this text put into circulation? What does this text have to say that otherwise is not obvious? How generalizable is the main argument? How does this text lay the groundwork for further research? What kind of “action” is suggested by the main argument of the text?
3. Modes of Reading – by Joe Dumit
Notes on reading that I have sent to my students:
I wanted to respond to the questions raised during our class regarding what kind of a
reading I have been doing over these weeks. I see it as close (as opposed to general), constructive (as opposed to deconstructive), positive (as opposed to negative), generous (as opposed to critical), slightly genealogical (as opposed to hermeneutic), methodological in focus (as opposed to explicative), and ethical (as opposed to descriptive). Given this little machine of reading possibilities I can see almost any combination of the above as a possible mode of reading. I should note here that this is not necessarily a ‘conceptual system of possible readings’ that I am committed to – I may not use it in this way again – nonetheless it is a working draft. Comments appreciated. Now I will more fully elaborate what I mean.
Close reading means that I attend to the specifics of the text. I am interested in how a text as a text makes arguments. What specific modes of writing, grammars, uses of words, modes of characterizing others, and of characterizing others’ arguments are used. I bring up the author’s other works as part of a general context of the kinds of problems being addressed but am committed to figuring out how to find these problems within the text, even if this means reading across a number of pages for a small number of passages. My aim here is to locate the textual basis for making a claim about what the text is doing. Hence my predilection for comments about the method of the text within the text. A general reading I would (perhaps unfairly) characterize as one that sees a text as an instance of something that transcends it (the author’s intention, oeuvre, the times, etc., see Foucault’s “What is an author?”).
Constructive means that I aim to locate/generate coherent arguments/stands from the text. I am interested in finding a line of argument and showing how the argument is supported and elaborated within the text. This does not mean that I am inattentive to problems, to contradictions, and incoherences, but I have tended to read these as problems with the text, not with the arguments that I locate. A deconstructive reading, as we discussed today attends specifically to the incoherences and contradictions in the text and attempts to show how they are motivated. It looks at the ‘structure’ of these arguments with a kind of psychoanalytic/multiple-logic eye. It emphasizes the arguments of the margins of the text and shows how these are often better than the central arguments, and how the central arguments depend either on the margins or on the specific things they attempt to exclude. My readings of the cognitive science books ( Cognition in the Wild, and Plans & the Structure of Behavior) were deconstructive in that they showed how the apparent arguments of the books were dependent upon a binary-like valuing of reason and rationality that permitted the temporary exclusion of social and emotional issues at the outset so that they could be added later on – but that these issues were in fact the foundation of the enterprises and that this foundation could be seen in various traces throughout the books.
A positive reading to me is one which aims to create new concepts or arguments, or to elaborate on existing ones in order to articulate them with current issues. As I discussed today, I think a negative reading is one which is addressed to one’s own limitations as a cautionary tale. A negative reading points out how errors happen and offers means to be aware of them and hopefully avoid them. As such it is usually about a mode of attention: watch what you are doing. But it does not offer a different mode of operating. I think the negative mode is extremely important and worth a lot of effort. At the same time, for this class, for ‘information’, my interest is in finding new ways of talking about it. So one task is to locate intriguing existing ways of talking about information and thinking about how they can be extended. It also means locating in the texts that we have been reading a set of possible metaphors, models, logics, and arguments that might be fruitfully applied to information (even if info is not thematized).
A generous reading is very close for me to a constructive one, but is more general in that it emphasizes the text’s strengths. I am interested in making the best case for most texts, pulling out their strongest arguments, even if this means constructing them from scattered fragments in the text. It is important here to make a close reading and to see where the tekst fails to make the argument and where it makes counter-arguments. A generous reading thus requires a certain fidelity to the text that a positive reading does not. The positive reading need only use the text as a site from which a new argument can be launched (Nietzsche: the philosopher shoots the arrow, another picks it up and shoots it somewhere else). A constructive generous positive reading thus works to find a coherent defensible new argument/concept within the text. An argument that perhaps goes beyond “the author’s intention” but could be demonstrated to be nascent or latent within it (a solid set of traces). A critical reading on the other hand, emphasizes the weaknesses of a text, and holds it particularly responsible for inconsistencies, and usually attempts to tie these problems to the value of the text in general (often implying that these problems raise a general question of the legitimacy or truth- value of the text as a whole). Again, critical readings are very important, worth training on, and wonderful allies in making a case against your enemies. But I feel that we academics are often so much better trained at critical rather than generous modes of reading that we value those who make them more, think they make more sense, and experience them as so much easier to do than generous ones. I see Derrida’s Grammatology as deconstructive, mostly negative, but generous.
My mostly un-worked-out mode of archaeological reading is a means of constantly locating a text’s arguments, statements, and metaphors within a set of other discourses. I see a hermeneutic mode as one that works almost completely within the text to unfold a meaning by insight and in Heidegger’s case a kind of etymology. Or in Gadamer’s, the hermeneutic mode of analysis concerns locating a text within a geo-historical epoch’s “horizon of thought and common sense.” My sense of an archaeology means that I am interested in how a certain figure of speech echoes managerial business lingo at the time of text; how a formulation of rationality shows strong traces of a Shannon+cognitive-science lineage. I see this as a potential continuum in that the archaeological pays attention to more local and struggling modes of discourse whereas the hermeneutic (say in Derrida) attends to epochal modes (linguistics, hermeneutics, Western philosophy). An archaeological reading tends to create a web of connections among different texts (New Corporate Activism borrowing its rules and structure from Rules for Radicals, its notion of citizenship from the neoconservative-libertarian-fiscal-Right, and its notion of discourse from rhetoric via PR).
In a methodological reading I attend to the traces in the text of how the text was made, the research that was done to provide the text and the work of the construction of the text (meaning the constructive, generous, positive, archaeological one that I have been identifying). I ask the question: what could I learn from this text about how to go about my own research? A more explicative approach might ask what does this text say, and how can I use its conclusions in my own writing? Or more prosaically: what is the main argument of this text, what are its main supports and weaknesses, and what is potentially worth citing in the future by me? The explicative approach is important and part of what we must attempt with all texts. But my feeling reading the secondary literature that abounds about most key texts is that there are many plausible, competing accounts of the meaning of the text (including along the above set of dimensions) and that to engage at this level is a choice that involves one in a responsibility toward that secondary literature. Also, I feel that this is not my strength for a number of reasons (most of this stuff is in translation from languages I don’t read, most of it is within traditions that I am inadequately trained in, most of the secondary literatures develop internal vocabularies and concerns that lie outside of my own research interests). A methodological engagement with a text seems to offer me the most valuable way of learning from it (cf. Ignorant Schoolmaster: one researcher engaging with another).
I am very ambivalent about the notion of an ‘ethical’ right now – but that means that I am drawn to it in spite of my reservations and deep sense of the vagueness of what follows. I call my mode of reading ethical because I am interested in how the arguments, concepts, and models that I draw out of a text can be read as being deployed against social things that one is opposed to. A descriptive approach I would characterize as presuming a distinction between an argument and how it might be deployed. This does not mean that I read arguments as having a necessary politics, far from it, but I do read them as deployed-arguments (within the text, and for my own purposes), they are articulated within a set of discourses and bodies (and abstracting them from these is to create a different argument). Nor do I think that ethics is necessarily good: I read new corporate activismethically in two ways: for how it articulates a coherent ethical position for the corporation (the person of the
corporation), and then again for how it offers me a mode of thinking through the weaknesses of corporate tactics (their often dependence on cooperation among competitors for instance). In 1000 Plateaus terms, I read texts ethically as order-words, as interventions (and not as descriptions, representations, or anything secondary to some primary reality). So there you have what I hope is a helpful, considered analysis of my own reading practices at this moment. I would really welcome any comments that come to mind, especially challenges, criticisms, additions, deletions, etc.
4. A note on methodology – by Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen
Methodology pertains to another level of abstraction or research activity than method. The term methodology is used in various ways, often interchangeably with the term method. Method can be defined as a particular systematic way of doing an inquiry, investigation or analysis, as procedural rules or particular techniques. In-depth interviews, observations as well as surveys and questionnaires are examples of data collection methods or data generation methods, while for instance statistical analysis or narrative analysis are methods of data analysis or data interpretation. Sometimes methodology is used for a body of methods employed within a particular academic field. The particular methods are linked to and informed by specific approaches, research traditions or theories. In regards to qualitative research methods these are often presented in the literature as ethnography, phenomenology, case studies, narrative analysis or grounded theory. While quantitative methods are associated with for instance statistical analysis, multi-level analysis and regression analysis. But the reasoning and rationale for how these approaches link to the actual research methods belong to methodology.
In his book The Conduct of Inquiry. Methodology for Behavioral Science ( 2004), Abraham Kaplan offers a useful definition of methodology. According to Kaplan, methodology can be defined as the “study – the description, explanation, and the justifications – of methods, and not the methods themselves” (Kaplan 2004:18). Kaplan clearly distinguish between methodology and method in pointing out that the aim of methodology is to describe and analyze methods, and “throwing light on their limitations and resources, clarifying their presuppositions and consequences, relating their potentialities to the twilight zone at the frontiers of knowledge” (Kaplan 2004: 23). Following Kaplan there are two closely interrelated meanings of methodology that relate to different forms of methodological activity:
First, methodology is often used as the heading for a particular section of research papers, articles, theses or book chapters. The methodology section must account for and discuss the relevance and rationale for the research design – whether it is qualitative, quantitative or mixed – thereby presenting a well-reasoned argument for why and how the chosen methods are considered suitable for accomplishing the study goals and for answering the research questions. For that reason this section has to describe and justify the why, what, who, where, when and how of the research
process. This includes why the particular research problem was undertaken in the first place, the reasons underlying the choice of research subjects or participants, the research site, the sampling, the data collection methods, the measures, and the analytical procedures. Also, it may be relevant to explicate and reflect on the role or position of the researcher in the research process, the ethical concerns and dilemmas relating to the research activities, and the measures taken to ensure validity and reliability (see Merriam 2009). Thus, methodology entails an explanation and justification of why and how particular methods were chosen – or modified as the research evolved – and their appropriateness for answering the research questions. Consequently, methodology implies reflexivity on the conditions encountered and choices made in the process of knowledge production. As Kaplan states, the aim of methodology is to help researchers to “understand, in the broadest possible terms, not the products of scientific inquiry but the process itself” (ibid: 23). Furthermore, both qualitative and quantitative researchers must reflect on their particular positioning and perspective. As Hastrup points out, knowledge is always knowledge about someone or something from a particular perspective (Hastrup 2004: 409-410).
Secondly, the methodological work consists of linking methods to the philosophical foundations of the research. Thus, methodology can be defined in terms of the theoretical and philosophical frameworks that give authority or justification to choice of methods of data collection and data analysis. Research methodology and the particular researcher’s methodological position are always shaped by the philosophically founded assumptions of research. These assumptions can be thought of in terms of ontology and epistemology. Ontology refers to basic assumptions about the nature of the reality being investigated. Epistemology is about how this reality can be known, the means of knowing, the access the researchers believe they have to knowledge, and the nature of knowledge (Hoeyer 2008). Epistemology is also, therefore, about the relationship between the researcher and the field of research and between knower and what is known (Hastrup 2004).
Qualitative and quantitative research methods (also referred to as designs, approaches or strategies) differ with regard to their ontological and epistemological assumptions. Quantitative research methods (like surveys, experiments, statistical analysis) are often characterized with reference to a positivist or postpositivist paradigm, assuming the existence of a stable, objective reality that can be observed and measured independently of people’s perception of it. The researcher is assumed to be neutral, objective, independent and detached from what is being researched. Quantitative studies are characterized by a fixed design, probability sampling, structured and close-ended data collection methods, and statistical analysis (Sandelowski 2010: 81).
Qualitative methods, often linked to constructivist, interpreting or phenomenological approaches, are concerned with the ways in which the people under study experience and ascribe meaning to social phenomena, how they interact and how setting and contexts impact on their world views and practices. Qualitative methods of data collection are open-ended and flexible to the reality of research and aligned with inductive reasoning. The assumption here is, contrary to what characterizes quantitative studies, that reality is multiple or fluid and that the acquisition of knowledge rest on the researcher involvement with people under study. The researcher needs, therefore, to consider how this involvement impact on the knowledge production.
Mixed methods – mixing methodologies
It is the research objective that determines the choice of methods and the methodology. Some research problems are best solved by using quantitative methods, while some call for a qualitative approach. Yet others may call for a so-called multi-method or mixed methods design combining and integrating a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods within a single research project (Bryman 2012, Padgett 2012, Creswell and Clark 2010, Tshakkori and Teddlie 2010). The actual combination may take many forms (ibid.). Combining methods founded in different research traditions or paradigms is not a novel activity (it has for instance been practiced within the field of ethnography). However, in the last decades the notion and use of mixed methods have increased also within health sciences and public health research. The widespread and expanding use of mixed method raises methodological questions that need to be answered and dealt with. This is not only a question of with what purpose and how the different methods are used but also a question of which of the methods are given priority, how they are connected in the research process, i.e. the sequence of their use and how they are integrated in the final academic product (see Bryman 2007).
SEE ALSO: Qualitative Research Methods; Methods in Preventive Health Behaviour research; Medical Research; Clinical Trials; Design, monitoring and Evaluation of Health Programs; Evidence-based Medicine; Grounded Theory; Measuring Mental Illness; Phenomenology; Study of Primary Care
References and suggested readning
Bryman, Alan. 2012. Social Research Methods. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Creswell, John W, and Vicki L. Plano Clark. 2010. Designing and conduction mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Hastrup, Kirsten. 2004. “Getting it right: Knowledge and evidence in anthropology.” Anthropological Theory 4(4): 455-472.
Hoeyer, Klaus. 2008. “What is theory, and how does theory relate to method”, In Research Methods in Public Health, edited by Signild Vallgårda and Lene Koch, 17-42. Copenhagen: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Kaplan, Abraham. (2004 ) The Conduct of Inquiry. Methodology for Behavioral Science. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Merriam, Sharan B. 2009. Qualitative Research. A guide to Design and Implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Padgett, Deborah K. 2012. Qualitative and Mixed Methods in Public Health. London: SAGE. Sandelowski, Margarete. 2010. “What’s in a Name? Qualitative Description Revisited”. Research in Nursing & Health 33: 77-84.
Tashakkori, Abbas and Charles Teddlie. 2010. Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
5. Plagiarism – by Earl Babbie
Turning in a paper actually written by your room-mate and saying “I wrote this” would be a flagrant example of plagiarism. The same would be true if you were to buy a term paper from a “paper mill”. Plagiarism is the presentation of another’s words or ideas as your own. The lightest punishment for plagiarism of this sort would be a grade of zero for the paper. Other common punishments are failing the course or even expulsion from school. As you can see, plagiarism is a very serious offence in academia. Plagiarism is wrong for several reasons. First, it is lying. If you have been asked to write something as evidence that you have grasped the materials of the course you are taking, offering someone else’s work as evidence is a lie. It is no different from having someone else take an examination in your name. Second, it is an insult to your fellow students. When you plagiarize, just as when you cheat on an exam, you treat unfairly those who play by the rules. You seek an unfair advantage over them, and inevitably, you will find yourself looking down on those who devote their time and energy to the task which you have cheated on. Third, when you use other people’s words and ideas without their permission, it is stealing. It would be wrong to sneak into a factory and steal the products manufactured there during the day, and in the academy, words, ideas, paintings, compositions, sculpture, inventions, and other creations are what we produce. It is wrong to steal them and claim them as your own. Plagiarism is a big deal in the academy. There are many forms of plagiarism, some less flagrant than the examples I began with. However, you need to understand and avoid all forms of plagiarism. Presenting someone else’s words or ideas as your own–in any form–constitutes plagiarism. Some forms of plagiarism are probably not obvious to you, so I want to spell them out in detail. I think much plagiarism is inadvertent and unknowing. I want to help you avoid that potential embarrassment. Let’s suppose you were assigned to write a book review of Theodore M. Porter’s book, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995). In preparing to write your paper, you come across a book review by Lisa R. Staffen, published in Contemporary Sociology (March, 1996, Vol. 25, No., 2, pp. 154-156). Staffen’s review begins as follows: Staffen’s opening is good, active prose. Let’s suppose you like it. More important, you imagine that your instructor would like it a lot. You decide to start your paper as follows. (I’ve indicated Staffen’s original comment in red.). This would be a clear case of plagiarism and therefore unacceptable. Adding “I feel” at the beginning is a nice personal touch, but it doesn’t change anything. Let’s tell the truth: you have probably not spent a lot of your waking hours agonizing over “the notion of absolute objectivity”, much less worrying about whether others would reject the notion or embrace it with passion. Even editing the passage as I’ve done above would constitute plagiarism. While you have changed some of the words—“stylish” for “fashionable”, “idea” for “notion”, etc.–the idea being expressed, along with many of the phrases, have been taken from someone else, without acknowledging that fact. Leaving off “I feel”, by the way, wouldn’t absolve the sin. Anything you write in a term paper, unless you indicate otherwise, is assumed to be your own, original thought. It’s fine to have original thoughts, incidentally. In fact, we encourage it. We’re happiest when your thoughts and opinions are based in evidence and reasoning rather than rumour and belief, but don’t feel that your. It has become fashionable to reject the notion of absolute objectivity on the grounds that objectivity is simply unattainable or, even if attainable, is undesirable. Plagiarism: I feel it has become fashionable to reject the notion of absolute objectivity on the grounds that objectivity is simply unattainable. Plagiarism: I feel it has become stylish to reject the idea of absolute objectivity on the grounds that objectivity cannot be achieved. professors are somehow perversely thrilled by the mindless parroting of ideas they already know about. (I know it sometimes seems like that.) Even though few of the original words remain in the passage above, the thought expressed has been taken from another writer and offered as your own. Even if you found a way to express Staffen’s idea without using any of her original words, that would still constitute plagiarism. Sorry. If you’re going to use someone else’s words and/or ideas, you have to give them due credit. Use someone else’s words and ideas, go to jail. Well, it’s not quite that bad, but academics don’t have much sense of humour about cheating. I’ll admit, I kind of enjoyed the student who turned in a paper his friend had written for the same course the preceding semester. He just whited-out his friend’s name and typed his own over it–and you could read the original name from the back of the page. He took the course again. There is nothing wrong with presenting someone else’s words and ideas in a term paper or in a published, scholarly work. In fact, any field of thought evolves as people read each other’s ideas, learn from and build on those ideas. The key to doing this properly lies in acknowledgement and citation.When we borrow words and ideas from others, we acknowledge that we are doing so, and we give our readers a full bibliographic reference so they would be able to locate and read the original. It might be useful for you to leaf through some academic journal articles. It will be clear that academics think it is fine to use other people’s words and ideas. It’s just important to use them appropriately. Use them as resources for building your own unique contribution to the ongoing conversation of ideas. Plagiarism: Many people today have rejected the idea that there is such a thing as absolute objectivity since they do not believe that it can be achieved. You might want to create a sculpture of an elephant. No problem. Get a block of granite and chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. Just don’t pretend that you created the granite. (Unless you did, in which case I really apologize.) Here’s an example of how you might properly include Staffen’s comment in your term paper, with a bibliographic entry at the end of the paper. Proper use: Lisa Staffen (1996:154) begins her review of Porter’s book by suggesting “It has become fashionable to reject the notion of absolute objectivity on the grounds that objectivity is simply unattainable or, even if attainable, is undesirable”. This gets the information out for the reader, and it would be accompanied by an appropriate bibliographic citation at the end of your paper: Here are some other acceptable ways to use Staffen’s passage. Each would be accompanied with a bibliographic entry at the end of the paper.
Bibliography: Lisa R. Staffen, “Featured Essays”, Contemporary Sociology, March, 1996, Vol. 25, No., 2, pp. 154-156.
Proper use: In her review of Porter’s book, Lisa Staffen (1996:154) says the idea of absolute objectivity is now commonly rejected as “simply unattainable or, even if attainable, [as] undesirable”. Proper use: According to Lisa Staffen (1996:154), it has become fashionable to reject the idea of absolute objectivity altogether.
In summary, it is quite acceptable — even desirable — to include the ideas of others in your term paper. This can be a sign of good scholarship, as well as assuring your instructor that you’ve done some of the reading for the course. (We like to think you read some of it.) However, it’s important that you acknowledge and cite materials properly. The key is that your reader knows what you are borrowing and how to look up the original materials. By the way, if your instructor asks you to write a report on plagiarism, don’t copy what you’ve just read here unless you cite it properly…
6. APA styles
The ‘APA-style’ is a format of academic writing that is developed by the American Psychological Association (APA). ESST students are obliged to follow these rules in academic writing. See: http://www.apastyle.org
In 1928 editors and business managers of anthropological and psychological journals met to discuss the form of journal manuscripts and to write instructions for their preparation. The report of this meeting . . . was published as a seven-page article in the February 1929 issue of the Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA). The group agreed that it would not dictate to authors; instead, it recommended “a standard of procedure, to which exceptions would doubtless be necessary, but to which reference might be made in cases of doubt” From the Foreword to Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Edition.
For a more comprehensive look at APA documentation guidelines, please consult the 4th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Copies are available in the Writing Center and the Rensselaer Library.
In using APA style, sources are acknowledged in two locations in your document: a “References” page and within the body of your paper using In-Text Citations. All examples of citations are from the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th Edition.
The “References” Page
All sources that you use must be listed alphabetically at the end of your document on a page titled “References”, centered at the top of the page. The alphabetized list of sources begins two lines down from this title; each citation is double-spaced within and between citations.
References American Psychological Association. (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597-1611.
Brown, H., & Milstead, J. (1968). Patterns in poetry: An introductory anthology. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.
Each citation begins with a standard paragraph indentation. The citations themselves are not numbered; however, they are ordered on the page. There are two ordering principles to keep in mind: alphabetical and numerical.
By first letter of the author’s last name. i.e. Brown precedes Jones
Letter by letter if the last names are the same. i.e. Brown. A.R. precedes Brown. J.R.
Alphabetize last names with articles or prepositions as if the article or preposition is a part of the name.
Alphabetize numerals as if they were spelled out. i.e. 9 (nine) precedes 2 (two).
Alphabetize group written works by the first significant word of the
One author entries by the same author are arranged by the year of publication.
One author entries precede multiple- author entries beginning with the same last name. i.e. Brown, A.R. precedes Brown, A.R. & Wallston, J.
References for group authors where the first author is the same are arranged by the second author’s last name (or the first last name that differs between the two citations).
References by the same author (or by the same two or more authors in the same order) with the same publication
group’s name. i.e. The American Red Cross precedes The Federal Communications Commission. If no author is listed, the title shifts to the author position – alphabetize by the first letter of the title. Date are listed alphabetically by the title.
Citing a Book
Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the book underlined. City of publication: Name of publisher.
Harris, M. (1986). Teaching One-to-One. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
NOTE: Only the first letter of the title of books and journal articles is capitalized (with the exception of proper names).
Citing a Book with more than one author
Author’s last name, first initial, & second Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the book underlined. City of publication: Name of Publisher
Mitchell, T.R., & Larson, J.R., Jr. (1987). People in organizations: An introduction to organizational behavior (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
NOTE: List authors in the order that they appear on the cover of the book regardless of alphabetical order.
Citing a Journal Article
Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of article – no quotation marks. Title of the periodical italic, volume, number, page numbers.
Bekerian, D.A. (1993). In search of the typical eyewitness. American Psychologist, 48, 574-576.
Citing a Journal Article with more than one author
Author’s last name, first initial., & second author’s last name, first initial (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the article – no quotations. Title of the periodical italics, volume, number, page numbers.
Borman, W.C., Hanson, M.A., Oppler, S. H., Pulakos, E.D., & White, L.A. (1993). Role of early supervisory experience in supervisor performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 443- 449.
Citing the Internet
Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication or page update in parenthesis). Title of source italics, Retrieval information including date of access, and source of information: URL.
Land, T. (1996, March 31). Web extension to American Psychological Association style (WEAPAS), Retrieved April 24, 1997 from the World Wide Web: http://www.beadslands.com/weapas.
Citing an Encyclopedia or Dictionary
Editor’s last name, first initial. (Ed.). (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the source italics (edition and volume in parenthesis). City of publication: Name of publisher.
Sadie, S. (Ed.). (1980). The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians (6th ed., Vols. 1-20). London: Macmillan.
Citing an Article or Chapter in an edited book
Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of article or chapter. In Editor’s first initial and last name (Ed.), Title of the source book italics (pp. starting page -ending page). City of publication: Name of publisher.
Bjork, R. A. (1989). Retrieval inhibition as an adaptive mechanism in human memory. In H. L. Roediger III & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Varieties of memory & consciousness (pp. 309-330). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
NOTE: For less well known cities of publication, you should also include the postal abbreviation of the state or country where that city is located.
Citing Technical and Research Reports
Author’s last name, first initial. (Date of publication in parenthesis). Title of the technical or research report italics (report, contract, or monograph number in parenthesis). City of publication: Name of publisher.
Mazzeo, J., Druesne, B., Raffeld, P.C., Checketts, K.T., & Muhlstein, A. (1991). Comparability of computer and paper-and-pencil scores for two CLEP general examinations (College Board Rep. No. 91-5). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Reference Citations in Text
It is of the utmost importance to give credit to the authors whose work you are using. Any material in your document that is derived from another source either by direct quotation, paraphrase, or inspiration must be cited immediately.
When appropriate, and when it can be done so smoothly, you may wish to cite your sources directly in your text.
On page 276 of her study, Miele (1993) found that “The ‘placebo effect’ . . . disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner”.
NOTE: Whenever you wish to edit out a portion of a quote replace the edited section with an ellipse (. . .)
A parenthetical citation must include (if not already given) the first author’s last name or one significant word from the title of the source followed by a comma, and the date of publication. If you are quoting something specific from the source, you must follow the date of publication with another comma, and include the page where the material is located.
She stated, “The ‘placebo effect’ . . . disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner” (Miele, 1993, p. 276), but she did not clarify which behaviors were studied.
NOTE: When quoting another quote you must use single quotations (‘’) to mark the beginning and end of the quoted quote.
Miele (1993) found that “the ‘placebo effect,’ which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when [only the first group’s] behaviors were studied in this manner: (p. 276).
NOTE: Whenever you wish to include words in the middle of a quotation, which did not originally appear there, put those words in [square brackets].
Notes on citing multiple authors
- − For a work with two authors: Cite both author’s last names at every reference.
- − For a work with three, four, or five authors: Cite the all author’s last names at first reference,thereafter only cite the first author’s last name followed by “et al.”
- − For a work with six or more authors: Cite only the last name of the first author followed by “etal.”
Punctuating your Citations
If your parenthetical citation concludes a sentence, you should place the period after the parenthesis.If you place the parenthetical citation in the middle of the sentence, you need not follow it with special punctuation, only that required to make the sentence grammatically correct. If you use a block quotation, the period should come before the parenthetical.
If the quotation that you are using is more than 40 words long, you must use a block quotation. In a block quotation, you should not use any quotations at all unless they are needed to indicate a quoted quotation. To format a block quotation correctly you need to begin the quotation on a separate line that is indented 10 spaces from the left and right margin. The block quotation should have the same line spacing as the rest of the document.
Miele (1993) found the following: The “placebo effect”, which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Furthermore, the behaviors were never exhibited again, even when real drugs were administered. Earlier studies (e.g., Abdullah, 1984; Fox, 1979) were clearly premature in attributing the results to a placebo effect. (p. 276)
7. Gender fair language – By Jenny Redfern
Our language and society reflect one another, so it is important for us as communicators to recognize and respect change in the meaning and acceptability of words. Concern about the use of sexist language is part of our increased awareness that the perceived meanings of some words have changed in response to the changing roles of men and women in our society. For example, girl once meant a young person of either sex, while youth indicated only a young man. Now, girl applies only to young female persons, while youth can refer to young persons of either sex. Just as you would not use girl with its outdated meaning, you should not use other words connoting gender that do not accurately represent the people behind them.
If you write with non-sexist language, you write to represent with fairness the gender identified in many words. Gender-fair language minimizes unnecessary concern about gender in your subject matter, allowing both you and your reader to focus on what people do rather than on which sex they happen to be. For example, the practice of using he and man as generic terms poses a common problem. Rather than presenting a general picture of reality, he and man used generically can mislead your audience. Research by Wendy Martyna has shown that the average reader’s tendency is to imagine a male when reading he or man, even if the rest of the passage is gender-neutral. Therefore, you cannot be sure that your reader will see the woman on the job if you refer to every technician as he, or that your reader will see the woman in the history of man. On the other hand, replacing every he with he or she attracts even more attention to gender and defeats your purpose. This predicament merits special attention in scientific and technical writing, where any ambiguity is unacceptable.
Below are some examples of how you can revise the most common sexist usages of he and man.
PROBLEM: By using either he, his, or him as a generic pronoun when the referent’s gender is unknown or irrelevant, the writer misrepresents the species as male.
Solution 1: Write the sentence without pronouns. Try to avoid conditional structures, generally introduced by “if” or “when”, which often require the use of pronouns.
Original: If the researcher is the principal investigator, he should place an asterisk after his name. Gender-fair: Place an asterisk after the name of the principal investigator.
Solution 2: Use gender-specific pronouns only to identify a specific gender or a specific person. Original: Repeat the question for each subject so that he understands it.
Gender-fair: Repeat the question for each male subject so that he fully understands it.
Solution 3: Use plural nouns and pronouns if they do not change the meaning of the sentence. Original: Repeat the question for each subject so that he understands it.
Gender-fair: Repeat the question for all subjects so that they understand it.
Solution 4: Use a first- or second-person perspective. Notice in the table below that only the third- person singular is marked for gender.
Table of Personal Pronouns
First Person – I, my, me, mine
Second Person – you, your, yours
Third Person – it, she, he, her, him, its, hers, his Plural
First Person – we, our, ours, us Second Person – you, your, yours Third Person – they, them, their, theirs
Original: The driver should take his completed registration form to the clerk’s window and pay his license fee.
Gender-fair: You should take your completed registration form to the clerk’s window and pay your license fee.
Original: The principal investigator for this report has appended data tables to his summary.
Gender-fair: I have appended data tables to the summary of this report.
The following solutions produce language less fluent than Solutions 1 through 4.
Solution 5: Use a double pronoun, i.e. s/he, he or she, he/she, him and her. Original: Each supervisor will be at his workstation by 8 a.m. Gender-fair: Each supervisor will be at his or her workstation by 8 a.m.
Solution 6: Use an article instead of a possessive pronoun as a modifier.
Original: After filling out his class schedule, the student should place it in the registrar’s basket. Gender-fair: After filling out a class schedule, the student should place it in the registrar’s basket.
Solution 7: Sparingly use the passive voice.
Original: If a student wishes to avoid sex bias in his writing, he should examine these alternatives. Gender-fair: These alternatives should be examined by any student who wishes to avoid sex bias in writing.
Note: Though not acceptable in formal writing, a common speech pattern uses a form of they (they, them, their, theirs) as a generic pronoun following everyone, anybody, and other indefinite pronouns: “Everyone cheered when their team won the game”.
PROBLEM: By using man as a generic noun to represent groups that include women, the writer misrepresents the species as male.
Solution 1: Use human, person, mortal, and their variations: humankind, humanity, human beings, human race, and people.
Original: The effect of PCBs has been studied extensively in rats and man.
Gender-fair: The effect of PCBs has been studied extensively in rats and humans.
Solution 2: Use a more descriptive or inclusive compound word: workmen’s = workers’; man- sized = sizable, adult-sized; chairman, chairwoman = chair, chairperson, presider, convener. Original: The governor signed the workmen’s compensation bill.
Gender-fair: The governor signed the workers’ compensation bill.
With practice, you will use gender-fair constructions more readily and with less revision. For more information on sexism in language and how to avoid or revise it, please see the following bibliography.
Christian, Barbara. “Doing Without The Generic He/Man in Technical Communication”. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 16 (1986): 87-98.
Council of Biology Editors. CBE Style Manual. Bethesda: Council of Biology Editors, Inc., 1983. Dodd, Janet S., ed. The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors. Washington, DC:
American Chemical Society, 1986.
Martyna, Wendy. “The Psychology of the Generic Masculine”. Women and Language in Literature and Society. Ed. S. McConnell-Ginet, R. Borker, and N. Furman. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1980.
Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift. The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing For Writers, Editors and Speakers. New York: Lippincott & Crowell, 1980.
Nilsen, Alleen Pace. “Winning the Great He/She Battle”. College English 46 (1984): 151-157
8. Helpful websites on reading and writing
On Citation Styles, resumes, thesis writing, abstract, cover letters, styles of writing and presentation:
Developed by The Writing Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. http://www.wecc.rpi.edu/handouts.html
On finding literature: developed by our own university library
On Dictionaries, Thesauruses, and Other References:
On social science research:
9. Conceptual analysis: An introduction
Sjaak Koenis and Karin Bijsterveld (Maastricht University)
Philosophy is not possible without conceptual analysis, as is true of most disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Many standard academic questions already provide a rudimentary basis for such analysis. What is “civilization” according to Norbert Elias? How does Bruno Latour conceive of “technology”? How does the European avant-garde of the 1920s understand the notion of “the masses”? Which sense of “Europe” does the European Convention embrace? Such questions already provide a “rudimentary basis” for conceptual analysis, as we cautiously put it. After all, it is all too common that students and scholars merely consider the meaning of some concept in the work of an author without exploring what this author in fact tries to accomplish when relying on a particular meaning of that concept. The goal of this introduction is to develop your proficiency in addressing this concern. Conceptual analysis can be defined as: a systematic investigation of what authors or speakers try to achieve by their use of concepts in particular texts and contexts.
Before we are able to analyze concepts, we first have to recognize them. What is a concept? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a concept is an “abstract idea”. This description seems hardly helpful to us. Let us consider, therefore, a more extensive example. In a newspaper report of a lecture by Peter Sloterdijk on the perfectibility of the human race we can read that according to this German philosopher the old humanistic ways towards civilization have become outdated. He called on philosophers to reflect on rules that would put the practice of genetic manipulation on the right road. Sloterdijk did not reject in advance all forms of gene technology, which he considered as merely the continuation of the humanistic “taming” en “cultivating” of individuals. (NRC Handelsblad, 1-5-2000). In this brief fragment the words “philosopher” and “practice” do not count as concepts because their meaning is coconsidered obvious. If this fragment were to address what a philosopher is, then “philosopher” would function as a concept here, but this is not the case. If you do not know the meaning of the word “philosopher” or “practice”, you just look it up in a dictionary, and that will solve the problem. By contrast, notions like “humanist”, “genetic manipulation” and “gene technology” do function as concepts in this particular fragment. If you do not know their meaning, you will also turn to your dictionary initially. If you look up, “humanistic”, for instance, the dictionary will refer you to “humanism” of which it provides the following three general descriptions:
1. an outlook or system of thought concerned with human rather than divine or supernatural matters;
2. a belief or outlook emphasizing common human needs and seeking solely rational ways of solving human problems, and concerned with mankind as responsible and progressive intellectual beings;
3. literary culture, esp. that of the Renaissance humanists.
These descriptions certainly help us get going. Still, we are not there yet, because in this newspaper fragment the meaning of “humanistic” cannot be considered as being unproblematic. Its meaning is precisely subject to debate here: Sloterdijk himself suggests how we are to consider “humanistic’: he speaks of “humanistic ways towards civilization” and of “the humanistic ‘taming’ and ‘cultivating’”, and he calls on people to reconsider the meaning of “humanistic” in light of the potential of the new gene technology. A concept, then, is indeed an “abstract” or complex notion, but it is also one of which the meaning(s) cannot be taken for granted. As our newspaper fragment underscores, Sloterdijk has specific goals in mind when using the word “humanistic” in the way he uses it, and if we are to establish what these goals are, it will not suffice to leaf through a dictionary and look up a word here and there.
Concepts and the Point of a Text
What else, then, do we need? Let us consider the following explication by Rein de Wilde of the views of Quentin Skinner, an expert in the history of ideas, and J.L. Austin, a language philosopher.
Suppose that we do a study of the history of the notion “nobilitas” and that in a Renaissance text we come across the assertion: “The military aristocracy displays noble conduct par excellence.” The meaning of this sentence depends on what the author had in mind when making this assertion. Did he really mean what he said, or was it his intention to bring this whole notion of “nobilitas” into discredit? By posing this question it becomes clear that knowledge of the meaning of a concept in a specific sentence does not yet explain the meaning of the statement. Skinner elucidates this distinction with the help of the speech act theory of J.L. Austin. According to this theory, language use, when considered pragmatically, generates two kinds of meaning: the locutionary or semantic meaning of words, sentences, and texts, and the illocutionary force of the speech acts that are performed with those words, sentences, or texts. If we want to comprehend a historical text, or parts thereof, it is not enough to trace its locutionary meaning, Skinner contends. We also need to know what the author was doing in that text. To this end, we need to recover a text’s illocutionary force, or, as Skinner rather puts it, the point of a text. But, so he goes on, this is only possible if the historian moves beyond the boundaries of the text. Only against the backdrop of a particular time’s intellectual conventions we may gain insight into the intentions of speech acts as well as reconstruct the point of texts. Yet, Skinner argues, it would be wrong to explain the meaning of texts entirely on the basis of the social context or the political motives of authors, as if knowledge of the causes of an act is equivalent to understanding the act itself. But even if one knows someone’s motives for writing a text, one has not yet established the text’s thesis or point. Those who explain the meaning of texts directly on the basis of social contexts pay not enough attention to the fact that texts are always situated in a network of other texts. They are written in a specific vocabulary, they belong to a particular tradition or, conversely, try to break away from that tradition; they respond to texts from a bygone era or, conversely, consciously ignore earlier texts; etcetera. If one tries to recover the point of a text, one does not so much enter an author’s mind to look for “interestedness” or “motives”; rather, one joins his outward gaze, so to speak; what matters is to investigate the relations between that text and other texts. It is important, after all, to realize that texts not only exist in a context, but that they also may change contexts. Because based on their point, or their illocutionary force, texts may bring about perlocutionary effects. Just as we may do things with words in specific settings, texts may give the world a different outlook. (De Wilde 1992, 229-231) If we consider our first example once again and want to investigate the point of Sloterdijk’s usage of the concept “humanistic”, we cannot rely on a dictionary, while a consideration of the entire newspaper article from which was quoted will not solve our problem either. Instead, we should consult Sloterdijk’s text, his lecture entitled “Rules for the Human Park”. Which meaning does he give to “humanistic”? How does he characterize the tradition of humanism and which interpretation(s) of this tradition does he thus reject? With whom is he in fact arguing? Which consequences does he believe modern gene technology to have for humanism? If we are to recover what an author is doing in a text, we as readers too have to start doing something and adopt an active stance: do a close reading of the text at hand, draw relations between the text and other relevant texts, and study how the text intervenes in a specific context, such as a debate, a practice, a given order, or a particular tradition. We will return below to how to go about doing all this, but first it is important to ponder the question why conceptual analysis matters so much.
The Significance of Conceptual Analysis
Conceptual analysis helps us in the selection of interesting texts and the understanding of authors’ intentions, and it is indispensable for those who want to participate in public discussions.
First and foremost, conceptual analysis offers us the opportunity to pick and choose the more interesting or better writings out of the ocean of publications that otherwise may threaten to drown us. By approaching a particular publication as if we are going to do a conceptual analysis of it, we learn to distinguish between quality work and sloppy or uninteresting work quite soon. When central notions or basic categories are not clearly explained, for instance, this frequently means that authors are unsure about their objectives or that they are unable to support their thesis consistently. Furthermore, as indicated above, conceptual analysis is vital for understanding what authors try to achieve when using specific concepts in their text. This form of analysis allows us to surrender to the text in a critical yet all but passive manner. By earnestly analyzing it, we join, as it were, the discussion on humanism, democracy, or biotechnology. And because these concepts are not just relevant in our own day and age, we also gain access their history, which can be a quite lengthy one in certain cases. Of course, it is not always relevant to rake up old quarrels about the meaning of a concept, especially if it is no longer controversial. The concepts that play a major role in the humanities and the social sciences, however, often continue to be subject to debate or reconsideration. Sloterdijk, for instance, reopens the debate on humanism in light of new developments in biotechnology. It is still too early to determine the effect of his intervention. In the initial reactions to his lecture he was accused, albeit rather rashly, of fascism (Hartmans 2000). Especially given his fairly moderate proposals to open up a public discussion on the boundaries of biotechnological interventions in the human body, the sensitivity of such concerns in Germany – where the memory of the nazi’s medical experiments still lingers – is striking. This German context, marked as it is by the history of National Socialism is indispensable for a proper understanding of Sloterdijk’s lecture, but it is surely not the only relevant context. His lecture is also situated in a substantial international network of texts on eugenics and Social Darwinism. If we are to establish the point of his text we will have to take all these texts and contexts into account. In this way we may form an opinion about an intervention in a particular discussion: we may criticize it or agree with it. Criticism based on conceptual analysis may have both fundamental and very practical implications. An example from another discipline is the study of the concept “dismorphophobia” in medicine. Berrios et al. (1996) studied 178 historical cases of dismorphophobia. This showed that the definition of dismorphophobia (initially: an individual’s fear to have or get a malformed body) drastically changed with the introduction of a medical protocol and this in turn led to a new population of patients. Another example involves the concept “privacy” in psychology. Psychologist Irwin Altman (1976) did a conceptual analysis of the usage of “privacy” and subsequently proposed to study it no longer as a certain measure of seclusion, but as someone’s selective control over one’s self or one’s group, including the behavioral mechanisms – like non-verbal behavior – that people rely on when trying to achieve privacy. By means of this definition shift from “privacy” as a spatial phenomenon to a form of behavior, Irwin tried to accomplish two things: he tried to make privacy easier to research for behavioral psychologists and he tried to draw it into their professional domain. Maximal comprehension of some author’s usage of a concept requires an active stance on the reader’s part and may involve a time-consuming effort. But there is a pay-off: once you have a good grasp of some concept’s meaning in a particular text or context, it is only a small step towards actually joining the discussion. Proficiency in conceptual analysis also allows you to develop your own point of view on an issue more easily or to challenge someone else’s position more convincingly. After all, a good debate is impossible without a careful and credible handling of concepts. Those who defend “democracy” will have to clarify, sooner or later, what they mean by that concept. And those who disqualify a specific painting as art challenge someone else’s standards about what art is or does. If discussion is to be possible at all, there will have to be some articulation of standards and development of concepts – your own as well as those of others.
The Author’s Objectives in Using a Specific Concept
In order to understand the point of an author’s handling of concepts it is necessary:
- − to collect information about the author and the medium of publication
- − to learn more about the semantic meaning of a concept
- − to trace the kind of intervention an author has in mind when using a specific concept. Wedistinguish here between elucidating, opposing and persuading
- − to gather knowledge about the historical meaning (or transformation) of a concept.
Author and medium of publication
To determine an author’s objective it is first important to put the text in which the concept is used in context by collecting information on the author and the medium of publication. Concerning the author this involves questions like: What is his or her professional background? To which academic (sub)discipline does he or she belong? What are the implications of this for the text’s style and vocabulary? Try to recover information on the author in monographs, (auto)biographies, encyclopedias, handbooks, books on the history of a field or discipline, and so on. The medium of publication is also highly important. In which journal, magazine, book, newspaper, or section of the newspaper (op-ed page, economy section, etcetera) has the text been published, and what does it say about the text’s genre or quality? What are the characteristic stylistic features of that genre? A scholarly article, for instance, generally requires a different kind of argument and use of evidence than a letter to the editor of the newspaper. Who is in charge of editing a specific journal and what does it mean for a text when no one is in charge, as frequently happens on the Internet?
Whenever the meaning of concepts is discussed, often a distinction is made between the intension and extension of a notion. Philosopher Daniel Dennett explains the difference as follows: Each meaningful term (predicate) of a language has an extension (the thing or the set of things to which the term refers) and an intension (the special manner in which this thing or set of things is referred to). “The father of Chelsea Clinton” and “President of the United States in 1995” indicate the same thing: Bill Clinton, and therefore they have the same extension [or denotation], but they describe this common entity differently and therefore they have different intensions [or connotations]. (Dennett, 1996, 46) If we are to understand what an author has in mind when using certain concepts we should be able to name both the denotation and connotation of those terms or descriptions properly. After all, it is quite possible, as we will see below, that authors solely capitalize on the positive connotation of a specific concept to win the reader for their point of view.
Kind of intervention
Next, we should ask ourselves what the author tries to accomplish with a certain concept: what kind of intervention is at issue? We will discuss three major forms: elucidating, opposing and persuading.
Above we already indicated that interesting concepts are best understood dynamically, as steps or moves in a larger (historical) discussion, rather than as static, isolated, or unequivocal notions. This explains why it is relevant for authors to explain or elucidate concepts used by other authors in their texts. Especially in the humanities and the social sciences, scholars and students frequently have to engage in explaining what some philosopher or scholar means or meant with a concept. Of course, such elucidation can be more or less convincing and as readers we always have to be aware that each elucidation is also an interpretation. Elucidating is interpreting, and interpreting is translating, not only from one language to another, but also from one philosophical or scientific jargon to another. It is inevitable that meanings of concepts shift, even if one tries to do no more than explain what some author has in mind when using a particular concept. When there is much at stake, it may be necessary to go back to the work of the author who first used or reflected on a particular concept. This may seem laborious at first, but reading original sources is especially valuable for those who want to develop a more subtle feeling for conceptual analysis. After all, there is a reason why certain texts about specific contexts have become authoritative. Over the years, such texts have developed into nodal points in discussions and therefore they cannot be disregarded. For example, those who are interested in discussions about tolerance will soon discover that John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration from 1689 is a key text to which participants in discussions on the need for tolerance continue to refer. A superficial reader who encounters the concept “tolerance” in a text will try to find a fixed or unambiguous meaning. By contrast, students and scholars of culture and history will not look for such easy hold, because they know that there is a whole debate behind this concept that precisely underscores its complexity and ambiguity. A conceptual analysis will frequently rely on authoritative sources, not so much to find a single or general meaning of a concept, but rather to develop and refine its meanings or bring out its intricacy. This is not to say that the crucial texts on a particular concept allow for just one interpretation. Nor is it uncommon that of the work of major authors two or more interpretations become dominant. For example, there is the “young Marx” and the “old Marx”. The former refers to the interpretation in which his early philosophical work inspired by Hegel is central, while the latter refers to his later, more social science oriented work such as Das Kapital. Elucidating, then, is interpreting, and this means that frequently there is no agreement about the proper interpretation of an author or work. In most cases, therefore, authors are interested in doing more than just explain or elucidate. They are interested in criticizing classic authors, in providing a new interpretation of their work, in using them in support of their own argument or for choosing sides in an ongoing debate.
Major concepts tend to be complex and ambiguous, and this may already be ground for differences of opinion. According to Gallie, an expert in the history of ideas, some concepts constantly give rise to divergent opinions, which is why he calls them “essentially contested”, or fundamentally controversial. Concepts like “democracy”, “justice”, and “art” belong to this category. Authors deploy them in their arguments or exchanges in order to contest each other’s views.
Fundamentally controversial concepts have the following five features, Gallie proposes. First, they are complex, and, second, they have an evaluative element in them. Consider, for instance, “democracy”. In political philosophy it is arguably one of the most complex concepts. Democracy does not only describe a specific factual state of affairs, namely the way a country is governed; it also refers to a certain estimation or positive evaluation of this type of governance. In the claim “But that is not democratic at all!” this positive element stands out, even though on the basis of this claim one cannot derive which standards for democratic governance or democratic conduct are used. Other concepts that are both descriptive and evaluative are “solidarity” or “justice”, but also the seemingly more neutral concept “art”.
From these two features, complex and evaluative, a third one can be deduced, namely that it is always possible to provide various rivaling descriptions of a fundamentally controversial concept. For example, with economist Schumpeter we may view “democracy” as an institutional mechanism that is characterized by competition between two or more groups of political elites that fight each other for winning the votes of the public. In this interpretation of democracy the emphasis is on the choice of political leaders. This also implies what good democracy is: when the fight generates good political leaders, democracy “works”. A rivaling interpretation of democracy does not primarily consider the quality of the leaders, but the degree in which the people or the public is represented in a particular political arrangement. The philosopher Dewey felt that good democracy is identical with the best possible representation of the public. If the first interpretation highlights efficiency and decisiveness, the second gives priority to the measure in which the public participates in politics. A fourth characteristic of controversial concepts is that they are open: changing conditions, such as the growing importance of transnational organizations like the European Union, may rekindle the discussion on the meaning(s) of democracy in the Netherlands. A fifth feature of these concepts is that the discussion participants are also aware of the fact that their usage of “democracy” contrasts with other usages, because, as Gallie argues, “to use an essentially contested concept means to use it both aggressively and defensively” (1968, 161).
These five features characterize concepts that are subject to contestation. Around certain interpretations of such concepts, individuals or groups will be formed that fight over the right interpretation of these concepts. Another example is “technology”. This concept, as an analysis by Leo Marx reveals, only became common after the First World War. It not only refers to certain technical systems, but also to a specialized form of theoretical knowledge or expertise, a certain mental style and a unique set of skills and practices. Technology, therefore, is not just a complex concept; because of its abstract and inclusive character – it does not directly refer to specific institutions, nor is it directly associated with concrete sites or groups of people – “technology” seems imbued with metaphysical qualities and possibilities, which turn technology into a major autonomous, causal factor of social changes. This aspect, Leo Marx argues, is at the root of the illusion that history is driven forward by technology. Depending on how individuals assess the effects of technology, groups of proponents and opponents of technology will come into being. The unlimited optimism of Americans in the days before World War Two, Marx indicates, has meanwhile been replaced by a “postmodern” technological pessimism, in part because of a number of major technological disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (Marx, 1994, 249).
What the two concepts “democracy” and “technology” have in common with other controversial concepts that Gallie discusses, such as “art” and “culture”, is that they have been – and still are – at the heart of a struggle for their proper definition and their normative, political and ideological value. Those who lose sight of this “contested character” or who misguidedly believe that these concepts merely indicate a “state of affairs” in the world, while in effect they involve controversial interpretations of it, those people really miss the point of what authors try to accomplish by using these concepts.
Not all concepts, however, are fundamentally controversial, in the sense of Gallie. Even if concepts are at the center of public debate and struggle, they can still play a modest and constructive role. Consider a concept like “paradigm”. Thomas Kuhn used this concept in his epoch-making 1962 study The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. “Paradigm” refers to the characteristic way in which a specific scientific community practices science. It pertains to the requirements that apply to theories, the scientific achievements that a scientific community views as its models (like the work of Newton or Einstein), and so forth. The point Kuhn advances is that the choice between rivaling theories is not just made on the basis of rational, methodological “decision-rules” (which is not to say that it is purely an irrational matter, as his critics sometimes seem to think), and that for the understanding of a scientific revolution – or its failure to materialize – one has to have insight in the paradigm scientists rely on. In reactions to Kuhn’s book, “paradigm” was sharply criticized as being too vague. After some time, however, vagueness proved to be one of the advantages of this concept. It was much used in the philosophy of science, which focuses on the development of scientific knowledge, but it grew increasingly popular in other knowledge domains as well, mainly to refer to the ways in which in a specific group cognitive and social factors are entwined. Thus, it began to function in similar ways as concepts like “style”, “intellectual style”, “tradition” and “culture”.
The disadvantage of such concepts is that they are used quite loosely, and all too often people will resist them precisely for this reason. But they also possess a quality that in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary studies of culture and history is of great importance. They contribute to the intellectual transfer of insights, both within and between disciplines. To emphasize this bridging function between disciplines, as well as to indicate the major heuristic value of this transport (“heuristic” meaning that a concept gives people new ideas), we say that such concepts persuade us to articulating new insights. It is misguided to think that new insights appear out of the blue; progress in science mostly takes place through the application of concepts (or models) from one discipline to another discipline or to a new research area. In the 1960s, for instance, the computer, both as concept and as model, caused a revolution in cognitive psychology. The “mind as computer” generated new research concerns, while the later introduction of neurological concepts heralded a new phase in cognitive psychology, known as connectionism.
Obviously, to persuade someone, or to be persuaded, is never an entirely innocent matter or without risk. Consider “evolution”, for instance. This concept was not an invention of Darwin, as his grandfather and others already used it, but the evolution theory succeeded in providing a most authoritative interpretation of it. The heuristic or “persuasive” value of this concept is not only shown by the various theories that were modeled on Darwin’s evolution theory outside the discipline of biology, like Popper’s evolutionary knowledge theory in his Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (1972), but also by Darwin’s enormous influence on sociology and psychology around the turn of the twentieth century. This example also underscores the danger of an all too swiftly transfer of ideas from biology (in this case) to the social sciences. As frequently occurs in translation, such transfer may go hand in hand with a loss of meaning, and the cautious manner in which Darwin used the evolution concept was hardly shared by some of his social science colleagues, who projected his “struggle-for-life” philosophy uncritically onto societies and cultures. The ensuing “Social Darwinism” is a product of the persuasiveness that emanated from the evolution concept, and that it is still a tempting concept is suggested by the popularity of modern evolutionary psychology. Fear of this sort of temptation is equally present, though, given the early responses to Sloterdijk’s lecture as discussed above. When an author “persuades” a reader by using an existing concept in an excitingly new way, the reader should realize that such concepts are no tabula rasa: they do not come out of the blue. Here, again, the great importance of having knowledge of intellectual traditions and discussions in which these concepts played a role becomes palpable. Those who are familiar with this history will be able to offer resistance to a tempting concept. This allows one to expose or criticize intellectual fashions, as the one involving the concept “new economy” (this new economy, after all, contains very many elements of the old economy). Another example is “network”. Is it not used for too many phenomena? Do all sorts of people merely try to cash in on the positive connotations of that term, wherever these connotations may originate? People who are persuaded easily tend to be blind for the darker motives others may have in certain contexts. In this respect it is important to realize that many concepts have distinct political or ideological overtones. The boundaries between the three kinds of intervention – elucidating, opposing, persuading – tend to be fluid, however. Explanation or elucidation always involves interpretation, and interpretation may contain elements of resistance to or critique of existing interpretations of authoritative texts. Similarly, opposing and persuading may go together; if, for instance, one tries to convince one’s colleagues of the need for a new concept that has proved valuable in another discipline, one will implicitly argue against the use of conventional concepts. Nevertheless, for a proper understanding of the objectives authors have when deploying particular concepts, it is always important to consider the specific nature of their intervention closely.
Gathering knowledge about a concept’s historical meaning (transformation)
Clearly, for each of the three kinds of intervention it is useful, if not indispensable, to have knowledge of the history of a concept. Above we indicated that it is relevant to go back to the original sources when it comes to elucidating some author’s use of a concept. For example, our comprehension of philosopher Charles Taylor’s use of the concept “recognition”, in his influential essay “The Politics of Recognition” (1994), increases when we are familiar with the transformations of this concept in the work of Rousseau and Hegel. Mapping controversies about concepts is not possible without acquiring knowledge of the history of these controversies, as we illustrated by the example of Leo Marx’s analysis of “technology”. Finally, we also need to be informed about the history of a concept to resist being persuaded too easily by some new fashionable concept. In trying to make sense of our world we cannot get by without relying on concepts. This means that our elucidations will only be richer and more discerning if we consider their conceptual framework in a historical light.
By way of summary, and without wanting to suggest that conceptual analysis can be reduced to simple or formal procedures, we list some questions that we see as crucial for any critical analysis of concepts:
Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: is this a concept? To what extent is the meaning of this notion itself discussed in this text? What does this concept mean? Gather information about author, information medium, and (semantic) meaning of the concept. Why does the author use this concept? Explore which kind of intervention the author aims for by using the concept: elucidating, opposing, or persuading?
Indeed, all this takes time. But once you gain more knowledge, as well as more experience as a critical reader, conceptual analysis becomes an almost habitual and therefore less time-consuming endeavor. More importantly: with proficiency in conceptual analysis you are less easily overwhelmed by scholarly texts and arguments. And, finally, it will allow you to join discussions on a more abstract, conceptual level, and thus enjoy for yourself the pleasure of elucidating the world, of opposing other views on the basis of sound reasoning, and of persuading others of the need, beauty, or incontestability of your own conceptual constructions.
(1976). “Privacy. A Conceptual Analysis.” Environment and Behavior, 8, 1, (pp.7-29).
(1962). How to do things with words, Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Berrios, G.E. & Chung-Sin Kan
(1996). “A conceptual and quantitative analysis of 178 historical cases of dysmorphophobia.”
Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, 94, 1, (pp.1-7). Gallie, W.B.
(1968). Philosophy and HistoricalUnderstanding, New York, Schocken. Kuhn, Th. S.
(1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press.
(1994). “The Idea of ‘Technology’ and Postmodern Pessimism.” In: Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx (Eds.) Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma Of Technological Determinism, Cambridge, MA., MIT Press.
Popper, K. R.
(1972).Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Taylor, Ch. et al.
(1994). Multiculturalism: examining the politics of recognition, Princeton, NJ, Princeton
Tully, J. (ed.)
(1988). Meaning and Context: Quentin Skinner and his Critics, Cambridge, Polity Press.
10. Writing Guide
1.1 Basic rules layout
All writing that is turned in must be typed and carefully proofread (for spelling and other errors) and meet the following formal standards:
Paper size and colour: use A4 and white paper only
Print: only print one side of the paper
Line spacing: 1.5 throughout (except quotations and footnotes or endnotes: 1.0)
Font: 12-point Times New Roman (except footnotes or endnotes: other fonts allowed)
Margins: leave 1 inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the main text
Hyphenation: turn off your word processor’s automatic hyphenation feature
Justification: do not justify the lines of your paper at the right margin
Indention: indent the first line of each new paragraph one-half inch (or five spaces) from
The left margin, except the first paragraph of your paper or after a blank line; indent set- off
Quotations as a whole one inch (or ten spaces) from the left margin
Page numbers: use Arabic numerals for numbering all pages consecutively, except the title page (and, if applicable, the contents page and the page with list of illustrations). Put the page number preferably at the centre of the top or the bottom of the page. If your paper has a preface of more than one page, use Roman numerals for the page numbers of the preface.
1.2 Order of components
Typically, a short paper consists of a title page and the main text, but a longer research paper also consists of an abstract, table of contents and a list of references, and, if applicable, a foreword (preface) and a list of illustrations. These various components should be arranged in the following order:
Always use a title page. Type the title horizontally centred, approximately 2 inches from the top. Use capitals for the first and last word and other main words. If there is also a subtitle, use a colon to separate title and subtitle. Title (+ subtitle) (You may use bold typeface, but no underlining or italics)
Name Student ID-number Date Name of assignment Number of words used Supervisor’s name preface. The preface contains relevant introductory remarks and/or acknowledgments. contents. Use a separate page for listing the “Contents”. This page is not numbered. It contains a listing of all parts of the text, except the title page and the contents page; (b) the title of each chapter and/or other formal part of the main text; (c) the number of the first page of each part and/or chapter. For a short paper a table of contents is not necessary.
List of illustrations.
If illustrations are used they should be listed on a separate page, called “Illustrations” (make sure that the numbering here refers to the correct graphs, tables and figures in the text). This page is not numbered. It contains the following information: (a) the number of each illustration, (b) the caption summarized, and (c) the number of the page on which the illustration is found. The caption contains the following information: (1) name artist, (2) title, (3) year, (4) description and commentary (if applicable), and (5) source.
The main text consists of an introduction, body and conclusion. Be sure to use well-organised paragraphs and generally avoid very brief of very long paragraphs. Especially in longer essays a set of interrelated paragraphs should be presented as a chapter or (subsection) thereof; in short essays (sub) sectioning should be avoided.
Chapters and sections have number and/or heading.
Each chapter begins on a separate page, but sections or subsections do not have to be numbered and they do not need to begin on a new page. If it seems useful to number sections and subsections, use Arabic numerals (example: 1.1 refers to the first section of Chapter 1.
References. At the end a listing of all the sources used, called “References,” is added. The list should be arranged alphabetically, starting with the author’s last name. The entries listed all follow the APA style. The reference list should begin on a new page.
Appendices. Each appendix begins on a new page.
The spelling used in your research paper should be consistent throughout, except in quotations (and references), which must retain the spelling of the original. Of course, there are different ways of spelling English correctly. The most widely practiced in the world is US spelling, but in Europe, UK spelling is perhaps more prominent. The differences between these systems are minor, though, while over the years the various systems tend to become more alike. Moreover, even within a single spelling system a word may have variant spellings. What is most relevant, then, is that your spelling be consistent. Rely on a good dictionary (Oxford for UK English, Webster’s Collegiate for US English), and always use a spelling check tool. If possible always have someone else read your text (a fellow student, friend or family member; preferably a native speaker). It will insure your argument is clear and well stated.
The main role of punctuation is to ensure the clarity and readability of writing. Punctuation marks clarify the sentence structure and can also affect the tone or meaning of a sentence. Their improper usage may cause misunderstandings and suggests a lack of control or sophistication on the writer’s part. As a rule, you must use punctuation in a consistent manner. The usage of periods, question marks, and exclamation points is obvious in most cases. A period indicates the end of a sentence and is also used in abbreviations. A question mark is indicative of a question the writer articulates, but an indirect question must be ended with a period rather than a question mark. An exclamation point follows a word group or sentence that expresses exceptional feeling or deserves special emphasis; it is, in fact, rarely used in research papers. By contrast, commas are a crucial element in academic writing, while other punctuation marks – semicolons, colons, apostrophes, quotation marks, dashes, parentheses, brackets, ellipsis marks, and hyphens – are important as well.
The comma is a major tool for helping readers. It helps dividing a sentence –it provides breathing space, or a ‘soft break’ within a sentence – and is used in lists. Not using commas, or misplacing them, can complicate their understanding of an entire sentence. For more information check the APA manual, or http://www.apastyle.org. You may also check Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/566/01/.
The semicolon is used to separate major sentence elements of equal grammatical rank. Use a semicolon: between closely related independent clauses not joined by a coordinating conjunction like and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet (example: Men and women started to worship gods as soon as they became recognisably human; they created religions at the same time as they created works of art). When independent clauses have been joined with a conjunctive adverb (e.g. however, nevertheless, therefore, moreover) or a transitional expression such as for example or in fact (example: I have read many studies about the EU democratic deficit; however, I never understood why it is such an important issue). To use merely a comma in these instances creates an error known as comma splice. Between items in a series containing internal punctuation (example: Present at the conference were Sandra Johnson, a European Convention member; Peter Barrett, a professor of European Studies; and Lucia Pavese, a European Council member).
The colon is primarily used to call attention to the words that follow it. It must be preceded by a full independent clause. Use a colon after an independent clause to direct attention to a list (example: The first European Union consisted of six countries: France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands). after an independent clause to direct attention to an appositive (a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun) (example: Two of the original member states vetoed the new directive: Belgium and Luxemburg). After an independent clause to direct attention to a quotation (example: In a recent interview the party leader said: “We favor a more active government”).
between independent clauses if the second summarizes or explains the first (example: This we are forced to conclude: The EU must be expanded).
Use an apostrophe:
- to indicate that a noun is possessive (example: Only a minority of the European Parliament was present at today’s meeting). If the noun is singular and ends in –s, add’s, but if the noun is plural and ends in –s, add only an apostrophe (example: Most members’ feelings on this issue are predictable).
- to indicate joint possession (example: What is France and Belgium’s view on this issue?) or individual possession (example: Germany’s and Belgium’s views on this issue could not have been more different). In the first example the assumption is that the two countries hold the same view.
- to pluralize numbers, words mentioned as words, and abbreviations (example: You must ask to see their student I.D.’s. Or: We have heard enough maybe’s from the Commission).
- it is common to use references to specific decades without apostrophe (cf. the 1960s, the 1850s).
2.2.5 Quotation Marks
Use double quotation marks:
- to enclose direct quotations that are integrated in the text (example: In a recent interview the party leader said that he favored “a more active government”). around titles of articles, poems, short stories, songs, television and radio programs, and chapters or subdivisions of books.
- to set off words as words (italics is also allowed here) (example: The meaning of “integration” is obvious). use single quotation marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation (example: The chairman told us that “the party leadership told him ‘to step down’ and that indeed he planned to do so”).
- do not use quotation marks for indirect quotations or to express irony or detachment. periods and commas must be placed inside quotation marks; colons and semicolons must be placed outside quotation marks; and question marks and exclamation points must be put inside quotation marks unless they apply to the sentence as a whole.
Dashes (– or, preferably: –, thus not: -) should be used sparingly. Their application may contribute to a sentence’s clarity or a more varied sentence structure, but in many cases commas do just as well. Use a pair of dashes:
- to set off parenthetical material that deserves emphasis (example: Everything that went wrong – from the policy’s initial design to its implementation – was blamed on the lack of cooperation from local governments). to set off an appositive that contains commas (example: In Brussels the basic needs of people – food, clothing, and housing – are much more expensive than in some other European capitals).
- use a single dash to introduce words that summarize a preceding series or to prepare for a list, a restatement, an amplification, or a dramatic shift in tone or thought
(example: Young and committed, clever and pragmatic, ardent and humorous – the star of the European Parliament’s new representative from Poland is rising quickly. Or: The new commissioner from the Netherlands is polite, motivated, well-educated, internationally oriented – and a failure
- to enclose supplemental material, a minor digression, or an afterthought (example: After the new policy’s outlining, planning, and drafting (all standard procedures), the vote was a mere formality). Do not overuse parentheses for these purposes. to enclose letters or numbers labelling items in a series (example: She is (a) a good writer, (b) a skilled communicator, and (c) and excellent manager).
- to refer to a source (see below).
Use brackets [ ] only in direct quotations:
- to enclose any words or phrases that you insert for the sake of the quotation’s clarity or to fit the quotation into your own text smoothly (example: He argued that “the goal [of integration] is to increase the security and political stability of Europe”).
- the Latin word sic in brackets indicates that an error in a quoted sentence appears in the original source (example: He argued that the goal of integration is “to increase the security and poltical [sic] stability of Europe”).
2.2.9 Ellipsis mark
The ellipsis mark consists of three spaced . . . periods (not: (…) or: …). Use it:
- to indicate that you have deleted material from an otherwise word-for-word quotation. This can be useful in cases where you only need part of a quotation as evidence or illustration (example: He argued that “the goal of integration is to increase . . . the political stability of Europe”).
- the ellipsis mark should normally not be used at the end or beginning of a quotation; nor should it be enclosed in parentheses.
Consult a dictionary on how to treat a compound word. It will tell you whether to treat a compound word as a hyphenated compound (water-repellent), one word (waterproof), or two words (water table). If the compound word is not in the dictionary treat it as two words.
- Use a hyphen to connect two or more words functioning together as an adjective before a noun (example: The new Agriculture Commissioner is not a well-known figure).
- Hyphenate the written form of fractions and of compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine (example: Two-thirds of the Polish population voted in favor of their country’s accession to the EU).
- Use the hyphen with the prefixes all-, ex-, self- and with the suffix -elect (example: ex-husband, self-assured, mid-September, all-inclusive, mayor-elect).
- The hyphen is used in some words to avoid ambiguity or to separate awkward double letters (example: There is a strikingly anti-intellectual attitude in Brussels). 2.3
- Spell out numbers of one or two words. Use figures for numbers that require more than two words to spell out (unless the numbers form the beginning of a sentence).
The use of numbers is acceptable in dates, addresses, percentages, fractions, decimals, scores, statistics and other numerical results, exact amounts of money, divisions of books, pages, identification numbers, and in references to time. Use historical dates in a consistent manner. Some examples: 16 August 1993, September 1900, the 1980s, the thirties, from 1970 to 1975, 200 B.C., A.D. 500. Spell out references to centuries or parts thereof. Examples: the eighteenth century, the mid-nineteenth century, a late-nineteenth-century development, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, early-twenty-first-century EU politics.
In consecutive page numbers used in references, numbers of three figures or more are abbreviated according to the logic implied in the following examples: pp. 21-28, pp. 87- 167, pp. 345-46, pp. 200-10, pp. 330-460, pp. 1008-74, pp. 12345-47, pp. 12345-447.
Use italics for:
- the titles of books, journals, plays, films, long poems, works of visual art, newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and musical compositions (example: The Abduction of Europa is a famous painting), but not for the names of authors, titles of articles or chapters.
- foreign words in English sentences (example: The German Bundeskanzler won the elections for the second time).
- words, letters, and numbers mentioned as themselves (example: As a concept, integration is quite vague). Quotation marks are also allowed here.
- emphasis, but only sparingly (example: I really enjoy being in the European Studies Program).
Quotations must be copied accurately and correspond to the original in words, spelling, and internal punctuation. Each adjustment needs to be accounted for explicitly. Avoid dropping quotations into the text without warning; instead, provide clear signal phrases, usually including the author’s name, to prepare readers for the source. Use phrases like: according to Prodi, as Prodi has noted, Prodi points out that, as Prodi claims. The first word of a quotation that is a full sentence needs to be capitalized (even if this is not the case in the original).
Quotations of one, two, or three lines must be incorporated into the main text between quotation marks. E.g.: The author signals that “Schengen is about enlightened self- interest” (Van Es, 1991, p. 57).
Quotations of four lines or more must be set off from the main text by an extra line spacing of 1.5 and indention (one inch or ten spaces from the left margin). Within the quoted block use a line spacing of 1. Because these features already mark the words as quoted, quotation marks are not necessary anymore. Two useful marks of punctuation, the ellipsis mark and brackets, allow you to keep quoted material to a minimum and to integrate it smoothly into your text
Abbreviations must be used sparingly in formal writing, but the following categories of abbreviations are common:
- titles immediately before and after proper names (like Mr., Mrs., Dr., Prof., Jr., M.D.).
- names of well-known organisations or countries, especially when used frequently in a particular context. Consider, for instance, EU, UN, USA, IBM, UNESCO, and CIA. Note that the letters of these abbreviations are not followed by periods.
- generally accepted abbreviations like A.D. (Latin anno Domini, “after Christ” precedes the date), B.C. (before Christ, follows the date), a.m., and p.m.
- Latin abbreviations like cf. (compare), e.g. (for example), etc. (and so forth), N.B. (note well), and i.e. (that is) are only used in comments in parentheses or in notes (see below, under Documentation); in formal writing only use the appropriate English phrases.
- Where you feel you must use an abbreviation, write out the full name or phrase the first time you use it and follow this with the abbreviation; for instance, “In 2015 the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The following words must be capitalised:
- the first word of a sentence. the first word of a quoted sentence unless it is blended into the sentence that introduces it (cf. In a recent issue of European Studies a German professor wrote, “The EU is on the verge of meeting entirely new cultural challenges.” And: In a recent issue of European Studies a German professor wrote that “the EU is on the verge of meeting entirely new cultural challenges”). proper nouns and words derived from them. Months, days, and holidays are treated as proper nouns; the seasons and numbers of days of the month are not. (example: The next EU summit will take place in early spring, on the second of April).
- titles of persons only when used as part of a proper name (example: I was asked a question by Prof. Johnson. And: I was asked a question by the professor).
- the first, last, and all major words in titles and subtitles of works like books, articles, and movies when they are mentioned in the main text (cf. The End of the Opera, “Europe: A History of a Symbolic Quest”).
- abbreviations for departments, major policies, organisations, corporations, and so on (cf. EU, CAP, UN). do not capitalise the first word after a colon unless it begins an independent clause, in which case capitalisation is optional (example: The European integration effort divides people into two groups: staunch believers and radical sceptics. And: This we are forced to conclude: The [or the] EU must be expanded).
3. Documentation of work: references
Traditionally, academic writers mainly relied on a set of footnotes or endnotes for acknowledging their sources. Today, most disciplines rely on one of the so-called “author-year” (or author-date) systems. At FASoS we choose to follow the system of the American Psychological Association. This system consists of a reference list, a list comprising all sources that are used in a particular paper, and parenthetical in-text references to this particular list.
It is crucial that in-text references are clear, correct, and concise. In-text references generally consist of three elements at most: last name(s) of the author(s), year of publication, and page number(s). Moreover, a comma follows each of the elements. This information allows readers to identify the correct source(s) in the list of references at the end of the text. The complete bibliographic information of a source is only provided once: in the list of references, not in footnotes or endnotes. Footnotes or endnotes are only used for some extra information you want to add but which does not properly fit in the text itself.
3.1 In text references
A characteristic in-text reference directly following the quotation of a source is structured as follows:
The author thus argues that “citizenship . . . is one of the defining characteristics of a state” (Shore, 2000, p. 83).
Alternatively, the quotation and reference can be formatted as follows:
As Shore (2000) argues in his recent work on cultural politics in the European Union, “citizenship . . . is one of the defining characteristics of a state” (p. 83).
Quote long passages as follows: The molecular explanation of consciousness is succinctly exemplified in Churchland’s Matter and Consciousness. Whatever Churchland says of the self-replicating beginnings of life at the end of his book is predictably cued in advance by what he has stated at the beginning of his book about human life:
“The important point about the standard evolutionary story is that the human species and all of its features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process. We are notable only in that our nervous system is more complex and powerful than those of our fellow creatures. We are creatures of matter. And we should learn to live with that fact” (Churchland, 1984, p. 21).
The problem comes not in living with that fact but in living hermetically with that fact. Living hermetically with that fact comes at the expense of a viable natural history, for the fact passes over fundamental understandings of animate corporeal life. These omissions in understanding emerge in a striking way in the metaphysical relationship Churchland proposes between the organic and inorganic (though again, not specifically using these broadly cosmic terms).
Do not, however, paraphrase long sections of an author’s argument and cite him/her only once at the end of a discussion or paragraph, as it is then difficult to see to what extent your previous paragraphs are in fact your own contribution.
A single in-text reference may contain references to multiple sources: (Delors, 1988, p. 15; Delors, 1990, p.67; Dehaene, 1994, pp. 104-06).
A reference to a source with no author mentioned (retrieved from the internet or drawn from a newspaper) takes the form of a short title instead of the author, e.g. (“Study finds”, 1982) would be the appropriate form to refer to an anonymous article titled: Study finds free care used more. (1982, April). APA Monitor, p. 14.
When you summarize or paraphrase someone’s overall argument, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to that source in general, without specifying a particular page (Comsky, 1988).
The first time you refer to sources with 3-6 authors, all names must be mentioned, while consecutive references to the same source will only mention the first name and then add: et al. (Willemsen et al., 1987). Sources of more than 6 authors are always referred to by the first authors name plus et al.
In case of a corporation as author, the full name of the corporation and the abbreviation between brackets need to be spelled out in the first reference (American Psychological Asociation [APA], 1987); in consecutive references only the abbreviation is used (APA, 1987).
Tables, graphs, etc. need to be numbered and references should be included below them, if applicable. When directly copying from other scholar’s work, references should be included in a similar way as other in-text references, e.g. (Delors, 1988, p. 16). When using others scholars’ data to draft your own table or graph, this should be acknowledged, too, for example: Based on Delors (1988, p. 16). If you are not sure what this should look like, have a look at some books or journal articles for examples.
It is preferable not to use ‘ibid.’ when you refer for the second time to the last author you cited as this is inconsistent with APA and most other in-text citation methods.
3.2 Difference between references and bibliography
The distinction between references and a bibliography needs some explanation, since these terms are often confused. A bibliography is more extensive than the references. The list of references contains only those works that are actually cited in the text. A bibliography, on the other hand, contains in addition all the works that have been consulted during the research, and that are considered relevant for further reading on the topic, but are not cited in the text.
3.3 List of references according to APA guidelines
Examples of references to books
Book, 1 author Hall, J. A. (1986). States in history. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Book, 2 authors Goldsmith, J., & Wu, T. (2006). Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless
World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Book, 2-6 authors Davignon, E., Ersbøll, N., Lamers, K., Martin, D., Noël, E., & Vibert, F. (1995). What future for
the European Commission? Brussels: Philip Morris Institute.
N.B. In case of more than six authors only the first six names are mentioned, followed by ‘et al.’ (e.g. see below under journals).
Book, corporation as author Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (1979). 1899-1979. Tachtig jaar statistiek in tijdreeksen.
’s-Gravenhage: Staatsuitgeverij. American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American
Psychological Association. (5th, rev. ed.). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
N.B. The first time you refer to this kind of publication: American Psychological Association [APA] (2001). The second, third, etc. time: APA (2001).
Edited book, Graham, B. (Ed.) (1998). Modern Europe. Place, culture, identity. London: Arnold.
Edited book, 2 editors Duncan, G. J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (Eds.). (1997). Consequences of growing up poor. New
York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Government communication Commission of the European Communities. (2001). European governance: a white paper. (COM
(2001) 428). Brussels: European Commission. New edition of a book
Eagleton, T. (1996). Literary theory. An introduction (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwel
Examples of references to periodicals
Journal article, 1 author:
Hussain, A. J. (2007). The Media’s Role in a Clash of Misconceptions: The Case of the Danish
Muhammad Cartoons. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 12(4), 112-130. Journal article, 2 authors:
Sandholtz, W., & Zysman, W. J. (1992). Recasting the European bargain. World Politics, 41, 95-128.
Journal article, more than 6 authors:
Lengacher, C., Bennett, M., Gonzales, L., Cox, C., Shons, A., Reington, D., et al. (1998).
Psychoneuroimmunology and immune system link for stress, depression, health behaviors, and breast cancer. Alternative Health Care Practitioner, 4(2), 1-14.
In these examples the numbers 12, 41 and 4 (like the journals’ titles in italics) refer to the “volume” (number of years since the journal’s first year of publication). Since most journals make use of continuous pagination (starting with page 1 at the beginning of the year and
numbering through), there is no need to indicate the number of the specific issue an article comes from. If a journal does start numbering pages every new issue again (some journals
occurring every week, two weeks, once a month, or quarterly), the issue number must be added (between parentheses) directly following the volume number.
Kossinets, Gueorgi & Watts, Duncan J. (2009) Origins of Homophily in an evolving social
Network. American Journal of Sociology, 115 (2) 405- 450. doi:10.1086/599247.
Include a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) if the journal lists one. A DOI is an alphanumeric string that, when appended to http://dx.doi.org/ in the address bar of an Internet browser, will lead to the source. If no DOI is available, provide the URL.
Electronic source (based on paper edition)
Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5).
Electronic source (without paper edition)
Gemert, L. van (2001). De voorwaarden van een goed gesprek. De wetenschap en het publiek. Neerlandistiek.nl, Artikel 01.03. Retrieved December 18, 2005, from http://www.neerlandistiek.nl
Doorman, M. (2002, 17 mei). Springplank voor vernieuwing. NRC Handelsblad, p. 23. Calmthout, M. van (2003, 20 december). Als bestaande theorie onderuit gaat, begint smaak
mee te spelen. de Volkskrant, p. 1W.
Students must agree with their supervisors on a system of citing interviews and personal communications, but keep in mind the APA guidelines which state:
“Personal communications may be private letters, memos, some electronic communications (e.g., e-mail or messages from non-archived discussion groups or electronic bulletin boards), personal interviews, telephone conversations, and the like. Because they do not provide recoverable data, personal communications are not included in the reference list. Cite personal communications in text only. Give the initials as well as the surname of the communicator, and provide as exact a date as possible:
T. K. Lutes (personal communication, April 18, 2001), (V.-G. Nguyen, personal communication, September 28, 1998).
Use your judgment in citing other electronic forms as personal communications; online networks currently provide a casual forum for communicating, and what you cite should have scholarly relevance.” (APA, 2010: 178)
In-text references to interviews may also read: According to John Carver (Interview, 29.04.12): “The Minister gave us the message that we should try to be more realistic.” The interviewee has to agree to be cited as a source of personal communication. Anonymous interviewees may be assigned a code, for example ‘Informant A1’ (see: above) or signifier which can be explained in an appendix.
It is generally wise to provide a separate list of interviewees to be included in an appendix, particularly if there are many interviewees, eg:
Formal Interviews: Staff and ex-members of staff of the Monti Rural Association
John Carver, MRA Director 29.04.1
2 Michael Ndlovu, senior MRA staff and one of the 11.12.1
first ARA 3 fieldworkers
Informant A1, ex-MRA Coordinator 06.12.1 3
Green, A. B. (Producer), & Brown, C. D. (Director). (1991). The joys of inconsistency [Videotape].
Tiburon, CA: Vader. Wood, M. (Writer), Dobbs, R. (Producer), & Wallace, D. (Director). (2003). In search
of Shakespeare [DVD]. London: BBC Worldwide.
Gardner, H. (Writer), & DiNozzi, R. (Producer/Director). (1996). MI: Intelligence, understanding and the mind [Motion picture]. Los Angeles, CA: The Classroom Media.
Simon, P. (2000). You’re the one [cd]. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Hooker, J.L. (1991). This is hip. On Mr. Lucky [cd]. New York: Silverstone Records.
Dylan, B. (1964). Mr. Tambourine man [Recorded by The Byrds]. On The very best of The Byrds
[cd]. London: Sony Music Entertainment. (1997).
Works of art
Bernini G. (1623). David [Sculpture]. Rome: Galleria Borghese. Meegeren, H. van (1941). De voetwassing [Schilderij]. Amsterdam: Rijks Museum. Steichen, E. (1928). Greta Garbo [Photograph]. New York: The Museum of Modern Art
For in depth information regarding the APA system and an online instruction, visit the website
There is software available to help you processing your references and the reference list. Amongst these are: EndNote (UM license), Zotero and Mendeley (see appendix C for more details)
Appendix A How to avoid common problems and errors
Correct grammar, punctuation and syntax help with the clear and effective expression of ideas, so you need to pay close attention to getting these things right. Certain errors in writing are very common.
Below you will find examples of some of the most common errors, together with examples of correct usage and the rule which govern these cases.
1. Many students incorrectly put commas between the subject and predicate (i.e. verb + object) of a sentence. Wrong: The photograph, is now in the National Gallery. Right: The photograph is now in the National Gallery.
More complex: Wrong: The photograph that I have been discussing, is now in the National Gallery. Right: The photograph that I have been discussing is now in the National Gallery.
2. If the sentence you are writing has an independent clause (a clause with a subject and predicate) and a dependent clause (a clause without its own subject), then no comma goes between independent and dependent clauses. Wrong: The exhibition is now on at the National Gallery, and will be concluding its run soon. Right: The exhibition is now on at the National Gallery and will be concluding its run soon.
3. If the sentence you are writing has two independent clauses, insert a comma before the conjunction that joins them. Wrong: The exhibition is now on at the National Gallery and it will be concluding its run soon. Right: The exhibition is now on at the National Gallery, and it will be concluding its run soon.
4. If you are writing a sentence with two independent clauses, one of which has a dependent clause, then insert a semi-colon before the conjunction that joins them. Wrong: The exhibition, which includes over a hundred artworks, is now on at the National Gallery and it will be concluding its run soon.
Right: The exhibition, which includes over a hundred artworks, is now on at the National Gallery; and it will be concluding its run soon.
5. If you are writing a sentence with two independent clauses and no conjunction joining them but one that is implied, then insert a semi-colon between the clauses. For example: The exhibition is now on at the National Gallery; its run will finish soon.
6. Students often use a semi-colon where a colon is called for. For example, the colon precedes a list of elements. Wrong: Caravaggio’s The Death of the Virgin has typical Baroque features; strong light-dark contrasts, vivid colour and a relatively shallow pictorial space.
Right: Caravaggio’s The Death of the Virgin has typical Baroque features: strong light- dark contrasts, vivid colour and a relatively shallow pictorial space.
7. Students often tend to use long, complicated sentences. In general it is best to keep sentences short and simple.
8. A common error is the incorrect use of only one comma where a pair is called for. Commas often go together. It is usually the case that when one uses the commas with a dependent clause beginning with ‘which’ or similar words, symmetrical commas before the first word of the dependent clause and at the end of the dependent clause are required.
Wrong: The work we are considering today, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is seen by some writers as initiating a new phase in the history of modern art. Right: The work we are considering today, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is seen by some writers as initiating a new phase in the history of modern art. Wrong: The exhibition, which is on at the National Gallery now will be over soon.
Right: The exhibition, which is on at the National Gallery now, will be over soon.
9. Another common error is that of incorrectly placing a comma before brackets when it should go after them. Be alert to this. Wrong: Marcel Duchamp’s ready made, Fountain, (1917) was excluded from the Society of Independent Artists’ inaugural exhibition.
Right: Marcel Duchamp’s ready made, Fountain (1917), was excluded from the Society of Independent Artists’ inaugural exhibition. Wrong: Duchamp’s submission, Fountain, (a porcelain urinal which he purchased at a New York plumbing store) was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists.
Right: Duchamp’s submission, Fountain (a porcelain urinal which he purchased at a New York plumbing store), was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists.
10. If you have an independent clause inside brackets, the sentence which it concludes (if it is positioned at the end of a sentence) will have its full stop before the bracket; and the clause within the brackets will have its full stop inside the brackets. No full stop is inserted after the close-bracket.
Wrong: The exhibition, which is on at the National Gallery now, is finishing its run soon (Be sure to see it). Right: The exhibition, which is on at the National Gallery now, is finishing its run soon. (Be sure to see it.)
11. A common error is to have a plural subject and a singular verb (and vice versa). Wrong: The exhibition and its curator is in town now. Right: The exhibition and its curator are in town now.
12. Another mode of punctuation commonly misused is the apostrophe. First, the apostrophe must be used to form the possessive: Wrong: Jasper Johns painting, Flag, changed the direction of postwar abstract painting in the United States.
Right: Jasper Johns’ painting, Flag, changed the direction of postwar abstract painting in the United States. or: Jasper Johns’s painting, Flag, changed the direction of postwar abstract painting in the United States.
Second, be alert to the mistake of putting the apostrophe before the s when the proper name ends with an s. If you make this mistake, you change the proper name! Wrong: Jasper John’s painting Right: Jasper Johns’ painting or Jasper Johns’s painting
Also watch out for the grocer’s apostrophe, that is, the use of the apostrophe where one is not called for, including using an apostrophe to form a plural noun. Wrong: The pizza’s are ready. Right: The pizzas are ready.
13. Students sometimes writ write non-sentences, that is, incomplete sentences that lack a subject or a verb. Often the problem with the verb is that it is in the participial form (being/ being that) Wrong: The most famous of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting being his Mona Lisa. Right: The most famous of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is his Mona
Lisa. or: Wrong: Being that Van Gogh is one of the most popular artists of all time, any exhibition of his work will attract many thousands of visitors. Right: Since Van Gogh is one of the most popular artists of all time, any exhibition of his work will attract many thousands of visitors.
14. Be careful not to use a dangling participle or one which modifies the wrong subject. Wrong: Painting in the 1960s, art historians face difficult problems in reconstructing the career of Morris Louis. Right: Morris Louis, who painted in the 1960s, poses problems for art historians seeking to reconstruct his career.
15. Learn the difference between its and it’s (and whose and who’s). The former – its – is a possessive form, e.g., its handle was broken. The latter – it’s – is the contraction of it is, (as well as it has) e.g., it’s great to see you, or it’s been great to see you. The same pattern is followed with whose/who’s (i.e. the former is a possessive and the latter a contraction).
16. Watch out for the use of the objective case pronoun where the nominative case pronoun is called for. Wrong: Her and her interpreter came to the opening. Right: She and her interpreter came to the opening.
17. While commas are sometimes very useful in clarifying meaning, avoid choking your writing with needless commas. A comma is not determined by one’s breathing pattern.
18. Aim for as much precision as possible in your articulation. When you use words like ‘they’ and ‘it’, make sure that what they refer to is clear.
19. Always state within the body of the text the name of the author you are quoting, for example: As Gertrude Stein writes, ‘…’ Never construct a sentence only of a quotation. Always reference publication details.
20. Always state within the body of the text the name of any author whose ideas you are paraphrasing, alluding to or otherwise drawing upon. A footnote number is not good enough as it makes it impossible to identify what comes from the source and what comes from you. Try to distinguish your ideas from those of your sources.
21. Always give the full name of the author/artist the first time you mention him/her
22. The titles of artworks, like the titles of journals and books, are underlined (or italicised), not put in quotation marks. The titles of articles are placed in quotation marks. When underlining or italicising, underline or italicise only the title. For example:
Wrong: Guernica’s frenetic figuration seems to sweep up the viewer within it. Right: Guernica’s frenetic figuration seems to sweep up the viewer within it.
23. Do not fall into popular ‘art book’ language or the effusive, over-written style of some forms of art writing (e.g. ‘The great Leonardo painted this inspiring work in 1504’).
24. Watch out for common spelling/grammatical errors such as: seperate, truely, its for it’s, your for you’re, their for there, who’s for whose, women (plural) for woman (singular), criteria (plural) for criterion (singular), phenomena (plural) for phenomenon (singular), like where as is correct, in regards to for in regard to, alot for a lot, infact for in fact.
25. Remember: simple expository writing is best.
26. Remember that paragraphs are the building blocks of your argument. Each paragraph should contain one key message or idea, thus avoid overly-long paragraphs. Correct paragraphing will not only help the reader to understand your writing, but will help you to organise your thoughts as you write.
27. Pay attention to the transition between sentences and paragraphs. If you are presenting two contrasting ideas, for example, use words such as “despite” or “nevertheless”. Ensure that it is clear to the reader why you have chosen to follow one particular argument, sentence or section with another.
Software available to help you with processing your references and writing the reference list
· EndNote (UM license) (http://onlinelibrary.maastrichtuniversity.nl )
· Zotero (http://www.zotero.org/) · Mendeley(http://www.mendeley.com/)
AppendixC Ethical Issues
By Ruud Hendriks (Maastricht University)
plagiarism: 1. an act or instance of plagiarizing 2. something plagiarized.
plagiarize: 1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own: use (a created production) without crediting the source 2. to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
The word “plagiarism” is derived from the Latin word “plagiarius”, which literally means “plunderer”. Just as plundering or looting the possessions of someone else is unlawful, plundering someone else’s words or ideas is illegal. Put simply, plagiarism is stealing the intellectual labor performed by others. In the academic community plagiarism is not only considered a vulgar form of theft, but also seen as an attack on fundamental academic values. By robbing others of their ideas and subsequently behaving as if one has generated them on one’s own, the confidence of fellow students, staff members, professors and the academic system at large is seriously undermined. As a matter of principle, members of the academic community subscribe to a basic code of conduct when it comes to quoting the work of other scholars or referring to scholarly and other sources.
In order to avoid unintentional plagiarism it is important to know exactly what plagiarism is. After all, it entails more than just copying some other author’s work (or parts thereof) and putting your own name under it. Plagiarism is every form of use of ideas that are derived from an external source and that are not generally considered as common knowledge, without acknowledging their origin. When borrowing ideas, it makes no difference whether you literally copy someone else’s words or whether you put them into your own words. Paraphrasing, rearranging words or sentences, using the same sequence of ideas or line of reasoning, summarizing paragraphs, repeating specific formulations – these are all strategies for deriving ideas from others and incorporating them into your own text or argument.
Of course, we produce academic writing precisely because we want to share our views and findings with other individuals, who may very well be interested in actively using our knowledge in their own writing. It is even expected that we as academic writers make generous use of the work of others, for in many cases it will serve as excellent support for our own findings, especially if the sources we rely on are widely seen as authoritative. But this basic academic principle of striving to integrate our knowledge with that of others – as a crucial element of our common effort to contribute to a better and more advanced intellectual knowledge community – can only be effective if we always account for the source of specific information with as much care and detail as possible. After all, only then will we enable others to check information, to see whether sources are quoted correctly, or to find out if certain interpretations are justified or, in effect, contribute to a new understanding.
In order to avoid unintentional plagiarism, it is useful to keep in mind the following rule of thumb: If you have specific knowledge or opinions about a topic prior to reading a particular source on that topic and writing about it, you do not have to account for this source. When in doubt, always refer to your source.
The following example should clarify the difference between proper and improper use of ideas and phrases from other authors. Assume that you have read the following brief passage in a 1991 study by the Dutch author Andrée van Es, entitled Schengen, of de nieuwe deling van Europa (Schengen, or the new division of Europe; Amsterdam: Van Gennep).
Schengen is enlightened self-interest. It is an attempt to protect Europe against chaos and poverty. But the price is high. Schengen shifts the balance of power between government and citizens in favor of government. Those who believe that these regulations can stop migratory movements will have a rude awakening. After all, the basic challenge will be how to enforce these regulations. (Van Es, 1991, p. 57). This information might be used in various ways in an essay about the argument presented by Van Es. One possible version reads as follows:
In the wake of debates about the control of migratory movements and the ensuing sharpening of regulations, as formulated, for instance, in the Schengen agreement, the power balance between citizens and government has shifted too much in favor of the latter. People accepted this out of a sense of enlightened self-interest. But recent debates about asylum policies support our thesis that those who believe that Europe can be protected against the chaos and poverty that is found elsewhere in the world will have a rude awakening. A further shifting of the balance of power will be seen as inevitable to enforce the regulations.
This is an unambiguous case of plagiarism. Not only did the author borrow specific ideas from Van Es, but also did he use some of the exact same formulations without reference to the source. Moreover, the author does as if these ideas are the author’s own views (“support our thesis …”).
A second version reads as follows:
In the wake of debates about the control of migratory movements and the ensuing sharpening of regulations, as formulated, for instance, in the Schengen agreement, the power balance between citizens and government has shifted too much in favor of the latter. People accepted this out of a sense of enlightened self-interest. But recent debates about asylum policies demonstrate that those who believe that Europe can be protected against the chaos and poverty that is found elsewhere in the world will have a rude awakening. A further shifting of the balance of power will be seen as inevitable to enforce the regulations.
This is plagiarism as well. The author uses a number of ideas and some literal phrases without making any reference to Andrée van Es or the book from which these ideas and phrases are borrowed. Thus the author pretends as if these ideas are more less facts that are unchallenged by anyone and that thus count as general knowledge, while in reality, they are the individual views of Van Es. A more acceptable way of using this particular source is the following:
In the fall of 1998, the parliamentary commission in charge fiercely debated the issue of additional regulations to “dam”, as it is called, the “growing influx” of asylum seekers. These debates confirmed the views of Andrée van Es, who, in response to the decision process about Schengen, already warned for citizens’ blind trust in the potential of new regulations and strong government to curb the migratory influx. “Schengen is about enlightened self-interest,” she writes. “It is an attempt to protect Europe against chaos and poverty. But the price is high.” (Van Es, 1991, p. 57) After all, as van Es argues, in order to enforce the new regulations a constant shifting of the balance of power between government and citizens in favor of the former will turn out to be inevitable.
In this last version the author accounts for the ideas and formulations presented through a direct reference to their source. In order to support his own view, the author relies on Van Es as an authority and by making a very specific source reference he allows the reader to trace whether this interpretation of van Es’s views is correct and whether her words are quoted correctly.
Anti Plagiarism Software: Blackboard’s Safe Assignment In order to check student’s papers on plagiarism, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences makes use of Safe Assignment – a software programme that allows for the comparison of written work of students with a data-base of available sources on the internet and other students’ work. An example of a so-called safe assignment report is printed below.
In such a report suspected parts of the paper’s text are underlined and a percentage of matching with existing sources is given. A list of matching sources is given on top of the report; the codes that are inserted in the paper’s text refer back to these sources. Note that matching percentages as such are neutral: a proper quote – making use of quotation marks and referencing – also gives a matching percentage.
The example below concerns the paper of an ES student that was considered suspect by his/her supervisor. The safe assignment check did not yield an especially high match with existing sources. On closer scrutiny, however, much of the underlined text seems to be directly derived from internet sources with codes 50 and 56. Other sources were used and copied without proper quoting and referencing. Safe assignment cannot replace human judgement, but it can usefully assist a supervisor in making the case of plagiarism.