Skip to main content

Writing for Social Scientists, Third Edition

How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article

Third Edition

With a Chapter by Pamela Richards and a New Preface
For more than thirty years, Writing for Social Scientists has been a lifeboat for writers in all fields, from beginning students to published authors. It starts with a powerful reassurance: Academic writing is stressful, and even accomplished scholars like sociologist Howard S. Becker struggle with it. And it provides a clear solution: In order to learn how to write, take a deep breath and then begin writing. Revise. Repeat.
This is not a book about sociological writing. Instead, Becker applies his sociologist’s eye to some of the common problems all academic writers face, including trying to get it right the first time, failing, and therefore not writing at all; getting caught up in the trappings of “proper” academic writing; writing to impress rather than communicate with readers; and struggling with the when and how of citations. He then offers concrete advice, based on his own experiences and those of his students and colleagues, for overcoming these obstacles and gaining confidence as a writer.

While the underlying challenges of writing have remained the same since the book first appeared, the context in which academic writers work has changed dramatically, thanks to rapid changes in technology and ever greater institutional pressures. This new edition has been updated throughout to reflect these changes, offering a new generation of scholars and students encouragement to write about society or any other scholarly topic clearly and persuasively.

As Becker writes in the new preface, “Nothing prepared me for the steady stream of mail from readers who found the book helpful. Not just helpful. Several told me the book had saved their lives; less a testimony to the book as therapy than a reflection of the seriousness of the trouble writing failure could get people into.” As academics are being called on to write more often, in more formats, the experienced, rational advice in Writing for Social Scientists will be an important resource for any writer’s shelf.


“Do you have trouble starting writing? Do you always want to hold onto your work until it’s perfect? Are you afraid that you will expose yourself by what you write? Are you terrorized by ‘the literature’? If so, this may be the book that will change your life.”

Praise for the second edition | Sociology

Table of Contents

Preface to the Third Edition

1. Freshman English for Graduate Students
2. Persona and Authority
3. One Right Way
4. Editing by Ear
5. Learning to Write as a Professional
6. Risk, by Pamela Richards
7. Getting It Out the Door
8. Terrorized by the Literature
9. Writing with Computers, Then and Now
10. A Final Word



Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press