Social Science Writing Project

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Student Workshops: Fall 2014

September 26: Communicating through Writing

Communicating through Writing
Instructor: Miriam Neirick

In this workshop, participants will read a short, prize-winning essay that describes a non-profit organization founded by the essay’s author to combat maternal mortality in developing countries. The essay combines the genres of personal narrative, social observation, and knowledge transmission to communicate a series of messages. Students will work together to identify those messages and to consider whether, and how, the author communicates them effectively. Most excitingly, we’ll get a chance to see how the final essay developed out of an initial set of brainstorming notes, a rough outline, a first draft, and then a second draft, both of which the workshop presenter peer-reviewed. The workshop will emphasize the power of the writing process and the significance of close reading as a practice that will improve writing skills.

Handout: The Writing Prompt (.pdf)

Handout: Brainstorming Notes and Preliminary Outline (.pdf)

Handout: First Draft with Peer Review (.pdf)

Handout: Second Draft with Peer Review (.pdf)

Handout: Final Submission (.pdf)


October 3: Using MS Word to Organize Papers and Citations

Using MS Word to Organize Papers and Citations
Instructor: Steve Graves

This workshop will introduce students to several functions in Microsoft Word that are helpful when organizing ideas and citations. In the first part of the workshop, students will learn how to use MS Word's outlining toolkit to arrange and re-arrange the sections, sub-sections, and paragraphs of a paper so that they flow in a logical sequence. Students will also work to create topic sentences for each paragraph that appears in the outline. The second half of the workshop will introduce students to the citation tool in MS Word. Students will practice using reference tools to insert citations, create a bibliography, and build a personal, digital inventory of books, articles, and other references for future use.

Youtube Video Tutorial - Outlining in MS Word

Youtube Video Tutorial - Citations and Bibliographies in MS Word

Additional Writing Resources

October 10: Writing Analytical Essays

Writing Analytical Essays
Instructor: Tom Devine

This workshop will focus on two interrelated skills: first, how to read a prompt and write an essay that addresses the question(s) posed in the prompt and, second, how to write paragraphs and sentences that respond clearly to the prompt. Students will work with several essay prompts as they discuss how best to approach writing an analytical paper -- from the first reading of the prompt to the development of a thesis and collection of pertinent evidence to the final edit before they print or email the completed essay. During this process, students will be provided with numerous specific examples of well-written sentences and paragraphs and poorly written sentences and paragraphs.  Students will be asked to explain what they think distinguishes the good from the bad.

Download: "Three Steps to Better Writing" (.pdf)

Download: "Writing Better Analytical Essays" (.pdf)

Download: "Sample Midterm Exercise" (.pdf)


October 17: Academic Arguments: How to Pick and Win a Good Fight

Academic Arguments: How to Pick and Win a Good Fight
Instructor: Holli Tonyan

This workshop proposes that in order to make an effective argument, social scientists must refute any evidence that might support a counter-argument. Dr. Tonyan will organize this workshop around a metaphor:  Why take ten "punches" if it only takes three to "knock out" an "opponent," or a counter-argument?  Students will learn to organize their "punches," or evidence, in the way that is most effective in supporting their own arguments by besting potential counter-arguments.

Handout: Academic Arguments: How toPick and Win a Good “Fight” (.pdf)

October 24: The Provinces of a Sentence (and other quaint notions)

The Provinces of a Sentence (and other quaint notions)
James Sefton

This session will focus on the principles of good writing with a particular emphasis on grammar and sentence structure. Specific topics will include: subject-verb agreement, correct tense, pronoun-antecedent agreement, and problems with the passive voice. Students will work with specific examples of correct and incorrect usage in these challenging areas of grammar.

October 31 : Becoming a Better Writer

Becoming a Better Writer
Instructor: Alan Malfavon

Alan Malfavon is a senior history major who will share with students the story of his own development as a writer. He’ll present the example of a paper he wrote in his first year alongside a paper he wrote in his junior year, and he’ll ask workshop participants to identify the features that make the recent paper a more effective piece of writing. He’ll then share some of the lessons he’s learned from teachers, from other students, and from his own experience that have helped him become a better writer during his time at CSUN.

Handout: Becoming a Better Writer (.pdf)

Handout: Sample Essay 1

Handout: Sample Essay 2

November 7: Reading for Writing

Reading for Writing
Miriam Neirick

Workshop participants will be introduced to a method of reading social science texts by identifying not only what these texts “say,” but also what they “do.” In the workshop, we’ll work through each paragraph of the introduction to an empirical study about writing skills in the workplace, reading not only for the content of each paragraph, but also for the operations that the author is performing throughout. We’ll ask ourselves: does the author introduce a new claim, establish the significance of a prior claim, explain a term, offer evidence, describe methodology, transition from discussing existing scholarship to defining the present research purpose? The workshop will encourage students to be mindful of and deliberate about the various moves that they are making in their own writing.

November 14: Managing Literature and Lit Reviews

Managing Literature and Lit Reviews
Instructor: Vicki Jensen

In this workshop, students will work on developing the skills needed to effectively manage the process of writing an academic literature review.  Participants will discuss the authorial voice and writing conventions that are appropriate for use in a literature review. They will also be introduced to strategies for reading academic journal articles that consider what the various sections mean and what purposes are served by each section. Handouts and written examples will be provided, and students will be strongly encouraged to provide examples from their own papers to help illustrate the process. 

November 21: Writing the Basic Paragraph

Writing the Basic Paragraph
Instructor: Jeff Auerbach

In this workshop, students will practice writing the basic, expository paragraph. Students will work with a sample text and a series of worksheets that will help them to break the elements of a paragraph they will write summarizing the text into component parts. Students will then write out, in turn, each element of a paragraph, before then tying the various pieces together into a seamless whole.

Presentation: How to Write a Paragraph (.pdf)

Handout: Paragraph Writing Examples (.pdf)

December 5: The Writing Process

The Writing Process
Instructor: Miriam Neirick

This workshop will be a forum for an open discussion about the writing process. We’ll start by reading the introduction to an article on the importance of developing an effective writing process, along with a series of interviews in which notable authors talk about their own writing practices. Students will then be invited to describe their own writing practices, to daydream about their ideal writing practices, and to think together about ways to establish a writing process that will be both effective and maintainable.

Handout: "Excerpts from Paris Review interviews with Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway, Carlos Fuentes, and Ohran Pamuk on the writing process" (.pdf)