Non-sexist academic writing

What do we mean by sexist language? Basically, it's using language in a way that suggests that, for example, that one sex is more important than another, or that particular occupations are better suited to one sex or the other. For example:

  • using he when you are referring to an individual who could equally well be a she
  • referring to a policeman when police officer would be more appropriate
  • using expressions like the pilot, he……
  • similarly, the nurse, she ……
  • using mother instead of parent
  • suggesting in any way that certain jobs (salaried or otherwise) might be more suitable for one particular sex
  • indicating in any way that men are the main breadwinners in the family
  • referring to a particular sex where a book or article has been written by several authors, and where, for example, the first one is a man and your writing refers to he when in fact you should say they or the authors or the research team.

Non-sexist writing is something that you should develop. It might seem to some people that this is not an important point. The reality however, is that repetitive use of particular language can reinforce unhealthy stereotypes and strengthen prejudices of different kinds. It is important that this does not happen in a piece of academic writing. It is also very important to show the marker that you are not prone to make these stereotypical generalisations and that you are aware of these issues.

Task

Find alternatives for the sexist expressions in these sentences:

  • A researcher in this area is likely to experience difficulties and he may meet resistance.
  • It is clear that businessmen have to address the issue of computer crime far more seriously.
  • The authoress arrived on time for the presentation.
  • There is no doubt that men and women, as well as boys and girls, found the experience of travelling in Japan to be highly educational.
  • I now pronounce you man and wife!
  • The woman told the researcher that she had five girls working in the typing pool and three men in the store-room.
  • As Tickling (1998) has shown, Man was far better equipped to cope with the extremes of temperature than was first thought.
  • A recent economic survey (Openheimer, 1999) indicated that housewives responded far more rapidly than expected to price changes.
  • With the recent fall in prices and the rapid technological developments, a consumer is more likely to change his computer within three years.
  • The Kariba Dam is one of the largest man-made structures in Africa.

 

Notes on the Task

1. A researcher in this area is likely to experience difficulties, and he may meet resistance.

A researcher in this area is likely to experience difficulties, and Æ may meet resistance.

Researchers in this area are likely to experience difficulties and they may meet resistance.

 

2. It is clear that businessmen have to address the issue of computer crime far more seriously.

It is clear that business executives have to address the issue of computer crime far more seriously.

It is clear that business people have to address the issue of computer crime far more seriously.

 

3. The authoress arrived on time for the presentation.

The author arrived on time for the presentation.

 

4. There is no doubt that men and women, as well as boys and girls, found the experience of travelling in Japan to be highly educational.

There is no doubt that adults as well as children found the experience of travelling in Japan to be highly educational.

There is no doubt that women and men, as well as boys and girls, found the experience of travelling in Japan to be highly educational.

(Note: Don't automatically place male reference words in front of female reference words.)

 

5. I now pronounce you man and wife!

I now pronounce you husband and wife!

 

6. The woman told the researcher that she had five girls working in the typing pool and three men in the store-room.

The woman told the researcher that she had five women working in the typing pool and three men in the store-room.

 

7. As Tickling (1998) has shown, Man was far better equipped to cope with the extremes of temperature than was first thought.

As Tickling (1998) has shown, human beings were far better equipped to cope with the extremes of temperature than was first thought.

As Tickling (1998) has shown, humans were far better equipped to cope with the extremes of temperature than was first thought.

As Tickling (1998) has shown, people were far better equipped to cope with the extremes of temperature than was first thought.

 

8. A recent economic survey (Openheimer, 1999) indicated that housewives responded far more rapidly than expected to price changes.

A recent economic survey (Openheimer, 1999) indicated that consumers responded far more rapidly than expected to price changes.

 

9. With the recent fall in prices and the rapid technological developments, a consumer is more likely to change his computer within three years.

With the recent fall in prices and the rapid technological developments, consumers are more likely to change their computer within three years.

 

10. The Kariba Dam is one of the largest man-made structures in Africa.

The Kariba Dam is one of the largest constructions in Africa.

The Kariba Dam is one of the largest artificial structures in Africa.

The Kariba Dam is one of the largest engineering structures in Africa.


Academic Writing Skills 26

Your bibliography

All the books that you have referenced in your essay, together with other books, articles and journals that you have referenced, will be listed at the very end of your essay. They should be arranged alphabetically according to the family name of the author so that the reader can find them easily.

The titles must be presented in a formal way and there are two main styles which institutions use for this purpose. It is best to check with your lecturers to find out which system your college would like you to adopt. It doesn't matter which system is used as long as you follow it faithfully.

 

The Harvard System

This system lays out the details in this way:

name (+ initials) + date + title (in italics) + city + publisher

McChlery, J.P.S. (1998). Foreign Direct Investment in China 1990-1995. Oxford, OUP.

If you want to name only one particular article or chapter, the arrangement changes slightly, with the chapter or article being within commas. The book title remains in italics.

Liu, X. (1999). 'Trading Patterns in China', in Economic Modelling. London. Heinemann.

If it is an article in a journal:

Liu, X. and Simmonds P. (1999) 'Investing in China', China Today, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp.25 - 31.

It is important to get the layout absolutely correct because some markers can be very fussy when it comes to issues like this, so play safe and follow the pattern recommended by your own school, college, university, or publisher very carefully.

 

The British Standard System

The details are the same but the arrangement is slightly different, with the date coming at the end.

name (+ initials) + title (in italics) + city + publisher + date

Watling, M. South of the Sahara. Oxford: Heinemann, 1996.

The same pattern is followed for journals:

Smith, P. and Jones, B. 'Luna Landing Craft' Aeronautics 2000, Vol. 69, No. 2 (1999), pp.46-67.

Academic Writing Skills 27

Expressions commonly used in academic texts

Here is a list of expressions, mainly Latin based, that are found in academic writing. You may have met some of them in the past and wondered about the precise meaning. Using them correctly in your own essays will give your writing a more professional quality.

Expression Original Meaning
cf. confer

compare

    copyright; date of publication
diss.   dissertation
et al. et alii and other authors not mentioned here
ibid. ibidem this is the same reference as the one before
i.e. id est that is to say
loc. cit loco citato in the place already cited
MS (MSS pl)   manuscript
N.B. nota bene take note of this point
op. cit opere citato in the work already cited recently
passim passim this point is made in several places
sic sic the error in this quotation was in the original
viz vidalicet namely

However, many of these expressions are no longer necessary and should be avoided especially when using Harvard or APA methods of citation and referencing.


 

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