Writing in Humanities: Do’s and Don’ts for Researchers

by Elizabeth Oommen George
Writing in Humanities: Do’s and Don’ts for researchers

Academic writing in humanities plays a pivotal role in advancing the field and disseminating new ideas to a diverse global audience. With readers from various cultures and first languages, effective writing in humanities and sociology requires clarity, convention, and a structure that supports reader comprehension. To help researchers make their mark in influential international journals, we present five essential dos and five critical don’ts of effective academic writing in humanities and sociology to help researchers create a lucid narrative and showcase concepts that can strengthen your argument.

5 Dos to keep in mind when writing in humanities

Maintain focus on the problem statement

When writing in humanities, remember to clearly state the aim of the study and the problem statement in the introduction, and refer back to this in later sections so that readers do not stray away from the key message.

Present relevant, interesting original work

Leading international journals will only publish work that is original and fills gaps in our current understanding. So, choose the topic of your research carefully to ensure your work is novel, relevant, and interesting.

Write in clear, concise, simple language

When writing in humanities, it’s always helpful to use short sentences that convey your message in a clear, easy-to-understand way. While you may be tempted to use technical jargon, steer clear of complex terms and convoluted phrases that can be confusing or even misleading for your audience.

Be aware of the target journal’s scope

Some journals focus on a certain aspect of the subject, while others publish work from related fields like anthropology, psychology, economics, political studies, and history. So, when writing in humanities, keep in mind the target journal’s scope, audience, and ensure your research can be understood by non-academics or peers from other fields.

Make your Abstract impactful and discoverable

Abstracts are perhaps the most important part of your manuscript and must be crafted with a lot of thought. Typically, keywords from the Abstract and research paper title are used to drive its success on search engines so use at least one phrase to indicate your problem statement, the methodological approach used and why it is important for readers and understand.

5 Don’ts when writing in humanities

Not including visuals to break the monotony of text

Visuals are a great way to convey complex concepts at a glance, but these should be designed to clearly communicate ideas, without needing to refer to body text. Avoid complicated or ambiguous visuals, use high-definition images, include captions and legends, provide abbreviations and symbols where required, and appropriately cite copyrights, sources, or permissions.

Not adhering to ethical reporting guidelines

Academic writing in humanities often include human subjects, which requires appropriate permissions, ethical reporting, data sharing, and author identification. Adherence to the standards of the Declaration of Helsinki and the ASA’s Code of Ethics on informed consent is considered mandatory; neglecting to follow these ethical guidelines can be cause for manuscript rejection.

Not paying attention to analyses of results

Most reputed journals require authors to include an analysis of the study in the Discussion section; it is not enough to merely mention the validity of findings. This is a common reason for journal rejection among early career academics, who detail their findings and state the methods and approach but overlook this aspect in their humanities research paper.

Not addressing the limitations of the study

Humanities and sociology involve the study of human society and culture, with all its diversity and complexities. This makes it crucial to mention the limitations of your study in the final paragraphs of your humanities research paper to help readers understand the study’s purpose in the context of existing relevant international literature. Provide a brief summary of the issues you addressed, the restrictions your report uncovered, and how your research can benefit future studies in the field.

Not mentioning the impact and applications

Researchers aspire to conduct studies that are relevant and positively impacts our world, so when writing in humanities, highlight the value of your work. It is essential to explain why your study is relevant to readers and how it directly connects with existing themes and concepts. Highlighting your study’s potential applications, relevance and contribution allows readers to analyze your work from specific perspectives and understand its significance in the broader context.

Don’t miss the chance to learn more on how to write a good humanities research paper, where the writing style, structure, and presentation differs from other disciplines. And when you are writing in humanities, remember to write simply and clearly to connect with a diverse audience. By following the dos and avoiding the don’ts mentioned above, researchers writing in humanities can elevate their manuscripts, engage their readers, and leave a lasting impact on the field. Happy writing!

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