The Quick Fix Guide to Academic Writing: How to Avoid Big Mistakes and Small Errors


Phillip C. Shon

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright


    To my wife, the MSG of my life.

    About the Author

    Phillip C. Shon received his MA and PhD in Criminal Justice from the University of Illinois (Chicago); he also holds an MA in Linguistics and a BA in Philosophy from Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago). He is currently a Professor of Criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology where he teaches courses in Homicide and Criminological Theory. He is the author of How to Read Journal Articles in the Social Sciences (Sage, 2015), Language and Demeanor in Police-Citizen Encounters (University Press of America, 2008), and Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity: Profiling Parricide in Nineteenth-Century America, 1852–1899 (Peter Lang, 2014). He is a co-editor (with Dragan Milovanovic) of Serial Killers: Understanding Lust Murders (Carolina Academic Press, 2006). Phil grew up in Chicago. He no longer hides the shame of being a Cubs fan, and has completely forgotten Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. He is patiently awaiting the Chicago Bears to come up with a sequel to the “Super Bowl Shuffle” before they return once more to the Promised Land.


    I am grateful to my former and current students, especially at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, for being open to the idea of the reading codes. I know I caused you a lot of anxiety and concern as you worried about “beating one horse” or making other big errors. I am especially grateful to Ms Bakshi for allowing me to use her RCOS for purposes of illustration. I would also like to thank Jai Seaman at Sage for her enduring support for the current project.

    Dr Kerr, I want you to know that the lessons you imparted on me over twenty years ago still live on. I chuckle every time I scribble the grading code “LMG” on the margins of students’ papers. I still turn pages of The Will to Power and think of you, even though it has been over fifteen years since you passed away. I never got to say goodbye. This is what I would have said: Let the world perish, but let there be philosophy, the philosopher, you.


    Most how-to books on writing mention the various errors that students make in their papers without adequately delving into the origins and consequences of those errors. This book uses the “big” and “small” errors that students commonly make in their papers as tools to help them become more effective writers. In this error-based approach to writing in the social sciences, Phillip C. Shon—“Dr. Phil”—teaches undergraduate and graduate students how to write their papers using the information gathered from their reading of social science journal articles as part of the writing process. By showing how social science texts are structurally and logically organized, he teaches students how to apply that social science logic to the various writing assignments they encounter throughout their tenure at the university.

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