Social Studies, Sociology and Psychology Essay Writing

Sociology is, in short, the study of society, and all social studies subjects are concerned with studying society too, meaning, in brief, the man-made world around us and how people operate within it.

Often, primary research will be needed, especially with larger essays and dissertations (via questionnaires, for example). Referencing style is often APA.

As ever, extensive research is needed before starting the actual writing of your sociology or social studies essay. Recent sources are a must, so make sure you can access up-to-date journals and research. When you have done this research, it will be easier to construct an argument and then to plan a structure for your essay.

Usually, you will need to link theory – by a range of social scientists – to ‘real world’ scenarios. A common error is for students just to describe theories, rather than analysing them and relating them to the real world – it is only be demonstrating a deep knowledge of theory and how it relates to the essay question that you will gain good marks.

As always, referencing should be correct and extensive. When you have finished your essay, read it, read it again, and read it again – make absolutely sure all referencing is correct as this is the most common way to carelessly lose marks. If you can, ask your tutor to read through the essay and give advice (pre-marking) – these days, this is allowed (though it used to be called cheating!) If you have this option, use it. In the past, students did not have this option, and it is a real advantage for students these days to have it!

Ideally, your sociology or social sciences essay or dissertation will be about a subject in which you are interested – one which you are keen to research in order to write your essay. In fact, the problem may be keeping within the word limit if this is the case – so you will have to be careful to only include relevant material in your essay.

The most common error in writing essays is not answering the question – or not answering it in full. Rereading the essay question after you finish every paragraph is a good way of ensuring you don’t go off topic and embark on a wasted journey away from the path asked for in your essay question. Of course, this will not happen because you will have researched the essay topic thoroughly and created a perfect plan before even starting the process of writing.

If in doubt, read the question, read the question and, finally, READ THE ESSAY QUESTION AGAIN. That way, your essay will answer the question in full and in detail, and you will demonstrate a knowledge and an understanding of your subject area that will lead to top essay marks!


Psychology is the study of the mind, and the area is wide with new research constantly becoming available. In an essay in this subject area, you should try to find the most recent research regarding your topic – it is often useful to compare this with older research to see how things have changed! Comparing and contrasting is a useful technique for many essays.
As with sociology essays and all other essays, researching and planning are a must. You must also understand what the question is asking for – if in doubt, consult your tutor (that is what university staff get paid for!)

Often, available research will use statistics and you should cite these properly, and use them sparingly – a good knowledge of the question being asked will mean you will not go ‘off topic’, and that you will use only the research that is relevant to your essay question.
For larger essays and dissertations, primary research is often needed. Perhaps you will be asked to design a questionnaire and go out on campus to conduct research yourself. As with any written task, planning and designing the questionnaire is something you should not skimp on – because that is where the real work is done.

Research for psychology essays should be as up-to-date as possible, using journals and websites to make the essay as relevant as possible to recent developments in the field. Often, an essay question will expect reference to theory – but you should not simply describe a theory! You must relate any theory to the topic you are writing about, point by point – if you are not doing this, you will lose marks for writing ‘descriptively’, rather than demonstrating how the theory relates to the ‘real world’ psychology topic you have been researching and writing about.

Websites such as and are useful for research, but be sure to use a range of material, from books and journals, to online sources. Use psychology databases such as PSYCHNET or PSYCInfo, if your university provides access to these. First and foremost, however, make for use of your university library – and if you cannot find what you need, ask! Professional organisations such as APA have their own websites too with the latest research and publications displayed and useful links too.

Good luck with your essay!