Academic Writing Skills Guide
Yet, it is also a means in itself. Writing helps you organize your own ideas, discover the strengths and weaknesses in your thinking, and internalize the knowledge you construct. We hope this guide will help you on your way. But like all guides, it does not contain everything. As Voltaire said, ” the best way to be boring is to leave nothing out’ This guide acts as a starter – it is up to you to go deeper. Just as you will find with your writing assignments, We too have gone through the writing process in the construction of this guide.
We constructed a plan, consulted numerous sources and people, wrote the text, bevies it, and edited it, all the time trying to keep it clear and simple. In putting together this guide, we have aimed to follow Ernest Hemingway who said, ” My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what feel in the best and simplest way. ‘ ‘We hope we have succeeded. Henry Menses, Masc. Robber Wilkinson, Masc. second edition (2010) The second edition of this guide to academic writing is a thorough revision o the first edition (2002).
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Apart from changes to chapter 2, we have significantly changed chapters 3 and 5. In addition, we have completely rewritten chapter 4 on citing and referencing in line with the current (2010) citation and preference norms of the American Psychological Association. Major changes also entail the introduction of many more examples. In addition, the format requirements for submitting papers has changed. 2 We have not included information on grammar and punctuation, since we expect students at the School Of Business and Economics to have a good command of these aspects on entry.
However, we are aware that many users of this guide will wish to seek reassurance in this respect. We recommend users to consult a good grammar book or one of the many good writing sites on the Internet. Robert Wilkinson, Masc. Jennet Homes, MA NOTE: the Guide is not presented in the format that you have to present your papers (see section 5). However, where extracts of student essays are given, these are in the required format. Acknowledgements We gratefully acknowledge the many people and sources we have consulted during the construction of this guide.
In particular, we would like to express thanks to Henry Menses for his work on the first edition, and Keith Campbell of the Language Centre who adapted the first edition of this guide in 2006. We also thank the Academic Writing tutors of the Language Centre for their inputs ND the many students who have made use of the first edition. Furthermore, we are indebted to Mike Hannah and Lacuna Mackenzie, whose book Effective writing in English: A resource guide (both the 1 996 and 2002 editions) has been a major source of information for chapters 2 and 3.
We acknowledge the American Psychological Association whose ” Publication manual” (American psychological Association, 6th deed. , 2010) has been an excellent support in the construction of chapter 4 in this guide. Finally, we are grateful to the Director of the School of Business and Economics for purporting the production of this second edition. 3 1. Introduction Academic writing covers the wide range of specific writing tasks that you are required to write during the course of your academic studies: papers, reports, literature reviews, projects, case studies, dissertations, theses, research papers, and articles.
Some of these text types are quite rare outside the academic environment (papers, literature reviews, dissertations, theses); others (reports, projects, etc. ) may well be aiming at a much broader public. However, what they all have in common is a similar type of reader: a person educated in the specialist field (here economics or business studies), and usually acting as a professional in that field. These target readers represent the professional community of which you aim to become a member. To be accepted as member requires you to meet the norms and standards that the professional community expects.
Thus with regard to writing, you are expected to adhere to the norms expected by the (international) academic community. Compare this to a relay race in athletics. In the relay race, you run with three other runners. If you are one of the two middle runners, you eve to collect the baton smoothly from the previous runner and pass it on to the next runner. In the relay race your team runs against other teams (your local community). All of you have to run according to the set of rules agreed by the sports governing body (the professional community). If you do not, your team may be disqualified.
The rules set the framework for a potentially great race, and within the rules there is vast scope for individual flair and talent. So with academic writing: you have to write according to the ‘ rules’ but to write well demands your own India, Vidal talent and enterprise. Just as a highly skilled athlete knows how to use the rules to his advantage, so an expert writer uses the norms and standards of professional academic writing to persuade readers of the power of his argument. We should not extend this athletics analogy too far: sports have clear sets of rules that everyone can read and study; academic writing does not.
What a professional academic field has is a set of overt norms, such as a style guide. This guide is based on the editorial style requirements described in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 2010). Alongside these is a set of covert norms that are just as powerful. Examples of the covert norms will be the nature of argumentation that is considered acceptable in the field. Covert norms are hidden and therefore take a long time to acquire. Most novice writers acquire them through extensive reading in the field, and by paying active attention to the way other writers use 4 language.
This process of acquisition demands close observation of how expert writers use words and expressions differently in different types of text, e. G. Literature reviews or case studies in a single field (e. . Marketing). Academic papers (and most other forms of academic writing) are typically expository or argumentative. An expository or informative paper describes or explains a particular set of phenomena, and provides an account of why these phenomena are found in one or more specific situations or contexts. The goal of the expository paper is also to acquaint the reader with a body of knowledge.
An argumentative or persuasive paper must choose a side, make a case for it, consider and refute alternative arguments, and prove to the undecided reader that the opinion it presents is the best one. You must be aware of other sides and be fair to them; dismissing them completely will weaken your own argument. It is always best to take a side that you believe in, preferably with the most supporting evidence. To develop a good academic paper you should go through a number of stages, called the writing process.
The following seven stages can be distinguished: The writing process 1 Thinking stage 2. Research stage 3. Outline stage 4. Drafting stage 5. Revising stage 6. Editing stage 7. Final version stage Planning process Transfer in a first draft output Revising & editing F-IANAL output Figure 1. Stages of the writing process 1 . Thinking stage In this Stage you determine your topic area (which may Of course already be given), brainstorm about ideas on the topic, select, reject and focus those ideas, before arriving at your final choice. 5 2.
Research stage Here you search for and study background literature and other materials, analyses the results, draw your own conclusions and interpretations, etc. 3. Outline stage In this stage you draft an outline of the paper you intend to write, setting out your main aim or purpose in the paper (the purpose statement or thesis statement), sketch how you will develop the mints that follow from the purpose, and indicate how you will conclude the paper. 4. Drafting stage Here you put down on screen successively improved versions of your paper. 5.
Revising stage In this stage you scan your work on a macro level for logical coherence, checking whether you need to add or delete information, whether sections need rephrasing for clarification. 6. Editing stage Here you edit your text on a micro level, checking the grammar, spelling, punctuation, in-text citations, references and the layout. 7. Final version stage In this stage you set out the final paper neatly and clearly. Writing a paper is recursive: you do not start at the beginning, and work through straight to the end, and that is that.
At all times you will be ‘ backtracking ‘ or looping that as you are , writing your first draft, you may discover you need to add more information and have to return to the research stage. During the revising stage, you may discover that your original plan was too broad, and so decide to cut out a whole section. You may produce several revised versions of the paper before your final version. Do not forget to allow yourself plenty of time between writing your first draft and your final version.
Figure 2 illustrates the three groups of actions in writing a paper, the planning process, the transfer, and revision and editing. The figure emphasizes the recursive nature of writing a paper in that each action not only feeds into the next but feeds back into the previous actions, entailing revision of those actions. 6 “You may Start with a plan, conduct some research (reading, library and/or Internet search), analyses and then synthesize the information you have acquired, construct a question or a statement tattoo will examine, draft an outline, write a rough draft of the introduction, start writing the body, then top.
You go back, conduct some more research, adjust your outline, rewrite the body, write a bit more, adjust the introduction, perhaps adjust the statement of your purpose, then stop again. You conduct more research, rewrite the body again, draft a conclusion, go back to the introduction, adjust the purpose, rewrite the introduction, then stop. You let the paper’ isomerism’s a while, then reread it, adjusting here and there for content accuracy, perhaps search or check for a contrary argument, throw out less relevant parts of the paper, check the logical development of your ideas and arguments, and wrap up the conclusion.
Then you check again for spelling (using the spellchecker, but also reading carefully word by word), check for grammar (using the grammar checkers wisely), check all punctuation, check the layout, check the citations and the references. You check too for sentence length (eliminate very long, rambling sentences), check paragraph structure (particularly if the topic of the paragraph changes in the paragraph – check the subjects of the main verbs), check the logical links between paragraphs and sections. And so on. ” Figure 2: The writing process and its recursive nature (Bauer, 1993).
This guide is organized as follows. Chapter 2 focuses on the planning process, describing the planning activities and the construction Of an outline. Chapter 3 elaborates on the structuring of the paper, through a detailed discussion of the three parts of a paper, introduction, body, and conclusion. Moreover, structuring a paper effectively requires that you write wholeheartedly paragraphs: this chapter also provides brief guidelines on paragraph organization. Chapter 4 explains the importance of citing sources and giving references, and provides guidelines how to put them in the paper in a correct ay.
Chapter 5 concentrates on finalizing the paper. This chapter discusses the format requirements, text revision and the evaluation of the paper. To conclude, this guide helps you to master the process of academic writing, which you can apply to the specific writing assignments during the course of your academic studies. It specifies the elements necessary to a successful academic paper. But keep in mind two things. First, each assignment will be different and require a different organization. Second, writing is a skill; 7 you only get better at a skill through regular practice.
Regular practice leads o routine and expertise. The application of the principles of this guide can be of use until your last writing examination: the final thesis. However, this guide just contains a brief summary of the different topics discussed. For more information you should consult literature, especially the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010, 6th deed. , in the University Library), and the Internet. Besides, keep in mind that the writing process is not just simply following a set of rules. Try to develop your own style, expertise and talent, in order to distinguish yourself.
Good luck with your rating career! 8 The planning process 2. The planning process In order to get a good start to writing your paper, it is Important that you go successfully through the planning process. This chapter describes the different activities of the planning process. Then, section 2. 2 discusses the most important stage of the planning process: the construction of an outline. 2. 1. The planning activities During the planning process, according to Hannah and Mackenzie (2002), you are concerned with six major activities: 1 Generating ideas for the content.
Ideas for content can come from several sources: from your own knowledge, room discussions with other people, and from various media sources (written texts, audio-visual media and electronic media). Brainstorming techniques help you to generate ideas in the first two categories. 2 Selecting and classifying points. Here you are concerned with ordering your ideas. Analyses them to determine the extent to which they are connected with each other. Ideas and concepts that are highly connected are likely to form key points in your texts. Those which are less closely connected may form essential supporting topics, or may need to be abandoned.
Some may require more development. Always be prepared to get rid of ideas that prove not to be relevant to your argument. 3 Establishing your perspective. In this activity you need to decide what angle you are going to take with your material. Are you taking a historical perspective, or only discussing the present situation? Are you taking an objective position, or are you bringing in your own personal standpoint? Are you taking a general viewpoint, or only a specific case? Are you looking at the matter from your home country’ perspective? Are you discussing a general issue or only a NAS action situation? 4 Determining your intention. Now you need to consider what you want to do with the text. Do you want to present both sides of an argument equally, or do you want to present only one side? Do you need to give examples, or will your argumentation be sufficient on its own? Do you want to persuade the reader of your opinion, or are you only wishing to describe the matter? Do you want just to present a problem, or do you want to offer solutions as well? What you are going to do with your text must become very clear to the reader in the thesis statement: this statement directs the readers to the purpose of the text. Formulating a draft title, structuring the introduction and inclusion. Here you should set down a working title and devise a draft structure for the introduction and the conclusion. At this Stage your drafting should only be provisional: you should write the actual version only after you have written the body of the paper. This is because you do need to know what your introduction is indeed introducing, and you need to know what your conclusion is concluding. A useful rule of thumb is: Plan your introduction, then your conclusion, and then your body, but write your body, then your conclusion and then your introduction. Drafting paragraph themes. At this stage, go back to the ideas (themes) you have selected and classified. Now you have to decide which will be suitable for your text. Each theme usually is the basis for a single paragraph. Each theme too will require sufficient development; so do not try to include too many. As a rough guide, you probably cannot treat adequately more than about 4 themes in a 1000-word paper (roughly 3 pages), while a 2500-word paper (roughly 6 pages) will seem overwhelming if it includes more than 9 or 10 themes. Once you have selected your themes, list the points that you need to make to support the theme in the paragraph. 2. The planning outline The goal of the planning outline is to help you organize your ideas, and present them in a logical order. It serves to identify the relationships between the ideas: it allows you to see how related ideas can be grouped together, and which ideas you can cut out, and which ideas need more support. A good outline helps you to maintain the direction in your paper, and prevents you from getting distracted into irrelevant information. 10 Figure 3 lists six steps that may be considered in the development of a planning outline. 1 Decide the purpose of your paper and the audience you re writing for.
Develop a statement in which you define the goal or purpose of your paper (commonly called thesis statement). This clarifies what you are going to present or argue in the paper. At this stage you may not have a definitive version of this statement. List all the important points you want to handle in the paper. These points have to be split in three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The points in the introduction include the items that lead to the purpose or thesis statement (so-called background information), and a statement of the purpose or goal that should now be defined precisely.
When you are planning your paper, you will group all your ideas around one central theme. This theme forms the core of your purpose or thesis statement or research question. The points in the body have to be logically organized so that they follow from your purpose and lead towards the conclusion. In a larger paper (for example a Master’ thesis), you usually develop a set of subs questions, covering the s points that lead to an answer to the research question. By answering step by step the different substitutions in the body, you can draw a structured and well-founded conclusion at the end.