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Academic Writing A practical guide for students Stephen BaileyPart 1: The Writing Process 1 Student introduction 1 1. Background to writing Writing Foundations 3 2. Developing plans from titles 6 3. Evaluating a text Reading and Note-Making 9 4. Understanding purpose and register 12 5. Selecting key points 15 6. Note-making 18 7. Paraphrasing 21 8. Summary writing 23 9. Combining sources 26 10. Planning a text Writing Stages 29 11. Organising paragraphs 32 12. Organising the main body 36 13. Introductions 39 14. Conclusions 42 15. Re-reading and re-writing 45 16. Proof-reading 48 Part 2: Elements of Writing 51 Student introduction 51 1. Cause and effect Flooding results from heavy rain 53 2. Cohesion The former/the latter 55 3. Comparisons His work is more interesting than hers 57 4. Definitions An assignment is a task given to students … 60 5. Discussion Benefits and drawbacks 62 6. Examples Many departments, for instance medicine, 65 7. Generalisations Computers are useful machines 67 8. Numbers The figures in the report … 70 9. References and quotations As Donner (1997) pointed out 73 10. Style It is generally agreed that … 76 11. Synonyms Interpretation/explanation 79 12. Visual information Graphs, charts and tables 81 Contents Introduction viPart 3: Accuracy in Writing 85 Student introduction 85 1. Abbreviations i.e./WTO 87 2. Adverbs currently/eventually 89 3. Articles a/an/the 91 4. Caution Poor education tends to lead to crime 93 5. Conjunctions furthermore/however 95 6. Formality in verbs speed up/accelerate 98 7. Modal verbs may/could/should 100 8. Nationality language Spain/Spanish 102 9. Nouns and adjectives efficiency/efficient 104 10. Nouns: countable and uncountable business/businesses 106 11. Passives The gases were discovered 108 12. Prefixes and suffixes undergraduate/graduate 110 13. Prepositions The purpose of this paper … 113 14. Prepositions after verbs concentrate on 115 15. Punctuation ‘ ? : 117 16. Referring verbs Martins (1975) claimed that … 119 17. Relative pronouns that/which 121 18. Singular/ plural The team is/are 123 19. Tenses Few scientists dispute/have disputed 125 20. Time words and phrases since the nineteenth century 128 Part 4: Writing Models 131 Student introduction 131 1. Formal letters Letter layout and letters of application 133 2. CVs Layout and phrasing of a curriculum vitae 135 3. Designing and reporting surveys Survey reports and questionnaire design 137 4. Comparison essay A comparison of classroom learning with internet-based teaching 139 5. Discursive essay Education is the most important factor in national development – Discuss 141 Writing Tests 143 Answers 146 Sources 191 vi ContentsAcademic Writing is designed for anybody who is studying (or planning to study) at English-medium colleges and universities and has to write essays and other assignments for exams or coursework. International students especially find the written demands of their courses extremely challenging. On top of the complexity of the vocabulary of academic English they have to learn a series of conventions in style, referencing and organisation. Academic Writing is a flexible course that allows students to work either with a teacher or by themselves, to practise those areas which are most important for their studies. Many students find that they have very limited time to prepare for their courses, and that writing is only one of several skills they need to master. The structure of the book has been made as simple as possible to allow users to find what they want quickly. The course is organised to provide maximum hands-on practice for students. Skills are developed from writing at the paragraph level, through organising the various sections of an essay, to discussing statistics and describing charts. This book is divided into four parts: 1) The Writing Process guides students from the initial stage of understanding an essay title, through reading and note-making, to the organisation of an essay and the final stage of proof-reading. 2) Elements of Writing deals with the key skills that are needed for all types of assignments, such as making definitions and giving references, and is organised alphabetically. 3) Accuracy in Writing gives remedial practice in those areas that students tend to find most confusing, such as definite articles and relative pronouns, again in alphabetical order. 4) Writing Models gives examples of the types of writing that students commonly need, including letters and survey reports. All units are cross-referenced and a comprehensive key is provided at the end. There is also a Writing Tests section for assessing level and progress. Although every effort has been made to make Academic Writing as useful and accurate as possible, if students or teachers have any comments, criticisms or suggestions I would be very pleased to hear from them. Stephen Bailey academicwriting@beeb.net Introduction Instructions to students are printed like this: Complete the sentences with suitable words from the box below. Cross-references in margins look like this: 2.11 Synonyms This means: refer to the unit on synonyms in Part 2 (Unit 11). cross referenceStudent Introduction Most academic courses in English-medium colleges and universities use essays to assess students’ work, both as coursework, for which a deadline one or two months ahead may be given, and in exams, when an essay often has to be completed in an hour. The process of writing essays for coursework assignments can be shown in a flowchart: 1. The Writing Process Part 1, The Writing Process, examines each of these stages in turn. If students are concerned only with preparing for exam writing they could omit the reading and note-making stages, but if they have sufficient time they should work through every unit, preferably in the order given, for each stage builds on the previous one. Although it is essential to understand the basic writing process, at the same time it will be useful to be aware of the elements which contribute to good academic writing. When practising note-making, for example, it is helpful to be aware of the conventions of referencing, and so students should use the cross-reference boxes to look at the unit on References and Quotations in Part 2. Understand essay title/requirements Assess reading texts – choose most appropriate Select relevant areas of texts Keep record for references Make notes on relevant areas, using paraphrasing different writers have examined the availability of capital, the growth of urban populations and the political andd) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . religious climate. All of these may have played a part, but first it is necessary to consider the precise nature of what is meant by ‘Industrial Revolution’. e) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Industry had existed for thousands of years prior to the eighteenth century, but before this time society as a whole remained agricultural. With the arrival of the ironworks and cotton mills whole towns were dominated by industrial activity. At the same time, agriculture itself went through significant changes which produced more food for the growing urban population. 5. Why are all texts divided into paragraphs? How long are paragraphs? Read the following text, from the introduction to an essay, and divide it into a suitable number of paragraphs. INVESTMENT Most people want to invest for the future, to cover unexpected financial difficulties and provide them with security. Different people, however, tend to have different requirements, so that a 25- year-old just leaving university would be investing for the long-term, whereas a 60-year-old who had just retired would probably invest for income. Despite these differences, certain principles apply in most cases. The first issue to consider is risk. In general, the greater the degree of risk in investment, the higher the return. Shares, for example, which can quickly rise or fall in value, typically have a higher yield than bonds, which offer good security but pay only about 5%. Therefore all investors must decide how much risk is appropriate in their particular situation. Diversification must also be considered in an investment strategy. Wise investors usually seek to spread their investments across a variety of geographical and business sectors. As accurate predictions of the future are almost impossible, it is best to have as many options as possible. A further consideration is investor involvement. Some investors opt for a high degree of involvement and want to buy and sell regularly, constantly watching the markets. Others want to invest and then forget about it. Personal involvement can be time-consuming and worrying, and many prefer to leave the management of their portfolios to professional fund managers. Writing Foundations 5 1.11 Organising Paragraphs 1.12 Organising the Main Body cross reference6 Part 1: The Writing Process 2. Developing Plans from Titles Most written work begins with a title, and students must be quite clear what question the title is asking before starting to plan the essay and read around the topic. This unit deals with analysing titles and making basic plans. 1. When preparing to write an essay, it is essential to identify the main requirements of the title. Y ou must be clear about what areas your teacher wants you to cover. This will then determine the organisation of the essay. For example: Academic qualifications are of little practical benefit in the real world – Discuss. Here the key word is discuss. Discussing involves examining the benefits and drawbacks of something. Underline the key words in the following titles and consider what they are asking you to do. a) Define Information Technology (IT) and outline its main applications in medicine. b) Compare and contrast the appeal process in the legal systems of Britain and the USA. c) Evaluate the effect of mergers in the motor industry in the last ten years. d) Trace the development of primary education in Britain. Illustrate some of the issues currently facing this sector. Note that most of the titles above have two terms in the title. Y ou must decide how much importance to give to each section of the essay (e.g. title (a) might demand 10% for the definition and 90% for the outline). 2. The following terms are also commonly used in essay titles. Match the terms to the definitions on the right. Analyse Give a clear and simple account Describe Make a proposal and support it Examine Deal with a complex subject by giving the main points State Divide into sections and discuss each critically Suggest Give a detailed account Summarise Look at the various parts and their relationships 3. Almost all essays, reports and articles have the same basic pattern of organisation: Introduction Main body Conclusion The structure of the main body depends on what the title is asking you to do. In the case of a discuss type essay, the main body is often divided into two parts, one looking at the advantages of the topic and the other looking at the disadvantages. A plan for the first example might look like this: 1.10 Planning a Text 2.5 Discussion cross referenceAcademic qualifications are of little practical benefit in the real world – Discuss. Introduction variety of different qualifications different methods of assessment Benefits international standards for professions, e.g. doctors students have chance to study latest theories qualifications lead to better salaries and promotion Drawbacks many successful people don’t have qualifications many qualified people don’t have jobs Conclusion qualifications are useful but not guarantees of success 4. Write a plan for one of the titles in (1). title introduction main body conclusion 5. T eachers often complain that students write essays that do not answer the question set. Consider the following titles and decide which sections should be included in each essay. a) Describe the growth of the European Union since 1975 and suggest its likely form by 2010. A short account of European history 1900–2000 An analysis of candidates for membership before 2010 A discussion of the current economic situation in Europe An outline of the enlargement of the EU between 1975 and now b) Summarise the arguments in favour of privatisation and evaluate its record in Britain. A case study of electricity privatisation An analysis of less successful privatisations A study of major privatisations in the UK A discussion of the benefits achieved by privatisation c) T o what extent is tuberculosis (TB) a disease of poverty? A definition of TB Writing Foundations 7A report on the spread of TB worldwide A case study showing how TB relates to social class A discussion of new methods of treating the disease d) Nursery education is better for children than staying at home with mother – Discuss. A study of the growth of nurseries since 1995 A report on the development of children who remain at home until five A discussion comparing speaking ability in the two groups of children An outline of the increase of women in the labour market since 1960 e) Compare studying in a library with using the internet. Will the former become redundant? The benefits of using books The drawbacks of internet sources Predicted IT developments in the next 15 years An outline of developments in library services since 1945 6. Underline the key terms in the following titles and decide what you are being asked to do. Example: Relate the development of railways to the rise of nineteenth-century European nationalism. Relate means to link one thing to another. The title is asking for links to be made between the growth of railways in Europe in the nineteenth century and the political philosophy of nationalism. The writer must decide if there was a connection or not. a) Identify the main causes of rural poverty in China. b) Calculate the likely change in coffee consumption that would result from a 10% fall in the price of coffee beans. c) Classify the desert regions of Asia and suggest possible approaches to halting their spread. 8 Part 1: The Writing ProcessReading and Note-Making 9 3. Evaluating a Text Having understood the title and made an outline plan, your next step is probably to read around the subject. Although you may be given a reading list, it is still vital to be able to assess the usefulness of journal articles and books. Time spent learning these skills will be repaid by saving you from using unreliable or irrelevant materials. 1. When reading a text, it is important to ask yourself questions about the value of the text. Is this text fact or opinion? If fact, is it true? If opinion, do I agree? Can this writer be trusted? These questions can be shown in a diagram: Start here 2. Read the following sentences and decide first if they are fact or opinion. Then decide if the factual sentences are true, and if you agree with the opinions in the other sentences. Opinion Agree or True or or fact? disagree? false? a) The USA has the biggest economy in the world b) Shakespeare wrote textbooks c) Shakespeare was a great writer d) Smoking can be dangerous e) Too many people (32%) smoke in Britain f) 95% of criminals cannot read g) Poor education causes 75% of crime FACT TRUSTWORTHY AND USEFUL TRUE OR FALSE? FALSE TRUE DISAGREE AGREE OR DISAGREE? ? OPINION FACT OR OPINION? AGREE3. It can be seen that even short sentences can contain a mixture of fact and opinion. Most longer texts, of course, consist of both. Read the following and underline facts ( ____ ) and opinions ( ). a) Britain has one of the highest crime rates in the world. b) A robbery takes place every five seconds. A car is stolen every minute. Clearly, criminals are not afraid of the police. c) Even if they are caught, few criminals ever appear in court. d) Most of those who are found guilty are let off with a tiny fine. e) To restore law and order, we need many more police and much tougher punishments. 4. The previous sentences can be evaluated as follows: a) Fact, but only partly true. Britain does not have one of the highest overall crime rates in the world. For some crimes, e.g. car crime, the rate is high, but other countries, e.g. South Africa and the USA, have much higher rates of violent crime. b) These facts may or may not be true, but it is not clear from them that criminals are unafraid of the police. c) Fact, but not true. A significant number of those arrested are charged and later prosecuted. d) This statement is vague. A fine is not letting off. What is meant by tiny? e) This is a half-truth. More police would probably help reduce crime, but it is not clear if stronger punishments would have that result. From this it can be seen that even if the facts are correct, the opinions that are expressed may not be reliable. The evaluation above would suggest that the writer of the original text could not be trusted, and it would be better to look for another source. 5. Evaluate the following passages in a similar way. First underline facts and opinion, then decide if the text as a whole is trustworthy. a) Every year large numbers of students travel abroad to study at university. Most of them spend thousands of pounds on their degree courses. The cost of travel and accommodation adds significantly to their expenses. But they could save a lot of money by studying their courses online, using the internet and email. Increasing numbers of universities are offering tuition by the internet, and this has many advantages for students. In the future most students are likely to stay at home and study in front of a computer. b) London is an ideal city for young students. Britain’s lively capital, with a population of two million, is the perfect place to live and study. Cheap, comfortable accommodation is always available, and transport is provided by the clean and reliable underground system. Another advantage is the friendly citizens, who are well-known for their custom of stopping to chat with strangers. Overall, London is probably the best place in the world to study English. 10 Part 1: The Writing Processc) A leading academic has claimed that European unemployment has been made worse by high rates of home ownership. He argues that the growing trend towards owner- occupation is the best explanation for the high rates of unemployment in Europe. This, he argues, is because home owning makes people more reluctant to move if they lose their job. His research suggests that a strong private rented sector is the key to low unemployment. For example, Ireland, where only 9% rent their homes, has an unemployment rate of 8%. At the other extreme, Switzerland has a rental rate of 60%, but only 3% are unemployed. d) Global warming affects most people in the world, especially those living in low-lying areas near the sea. It has been predicted that the melting of polar ice may cause the sea to rise by as much as twelve metres by 2050. This would cause flooding in many major coastal cities, such as Tokyo. It has been suggested that the best solution to this problem may be for mankind to become amphibious, like frogs. It is argued that life was originally found in the sea, and so it would merely be a return to our original habitat. e) There is shocking new evidence of the effects of heavy alcohol consumption by young people. In Britain in 2000 nearly 800 people under 44 died from cirrhosis of the liver, a condition which is mainly caused by excess drinking. This is over four times higher than the number in 1970. As a result, the government is studying the possibility of compulsory health warnings on alcohol advertising. The growing problem seems to be due to ‘binge’ drinking among the young, when drinkers deliberately set out to get drunk. Reading and Note-Making 11Having decided that a text is reliable, a student must read and understand as much as necessary for the needs of the essay. Understanding a text is not just a matter of vocabulary; the reader needs to find out the writer’s intentions. Is the writer aiming to inform, persuade, describe or entertain? The answer to this question may affect the way a student uses the material. 1. Compare the two extracts below: a) Rebus College is seeking candidates for the position of Treasurer. As the Chief Financial Officer of the College, the Treasurer is responsible for working with the senior administration and Trustees to develop and implement a financial strategic vision for the College. b) Are you wondering what to do with that jumper you were given for Christmas that’s two sizes too small – or worse, the personal stereo that simply doesn’t work? Well, don’t worry. Chances are, you’ll be able to get your dud gifts swapped, fixed or get a refund. And, armed with our guide to your rights, you’ll be able to get any defective products sorted. The first extract is written to inform the reader about a job vacancy and to give information about the work. The second aims to persuade the reader to buy the guide described. The language style, or register, of the extracts is also very different. The first uses very formal vocabulary such as seeking, position and implement. The second uses an informal tone, the pronoun you, the question form and informal vocabulary such as dud and swapped. 2. Read the following extracts and complete the table using one or two of the following: inform/amuse/persuade/entertain. Text Purpose a b c a) The lower you are in the office hierarchy, the more disgusting your sandwiches. You can safely assume that a chicken and banana man is not a main board director. Some people, generally those in accounts, have had the same sandwich for the past 30 years. People like to prove how busy they are by eating their sandwich at their desk. But this is counter-productive, because every time you take a mouthful the phone rings, and you’ll only get to finish that last mouthful just before you go home. b) Writing for publication can be both profitable and enjoyable. It’s open to everyone, because you don’t need any qualifications. In Britain there is a huge demand for new materials, with thousands of newspapers and magazines published every week. In addition there are TV and radio programmes, the theatre and films. Given this situation, there are many openings for new writers. But the director of one of the UK’s main writing colleges, the Writing Academy, advises: ‘to enter this market successfully you must have good training’. 12 Part 1: The Writing Process 4. Understanding Purpose and Registerc) The Advertising Standards Authority makes sure that advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. The Authority safeguards the public by ensuring that the rules contained in the British Code of Advertising Practice are followed by everyone who prepares and publishes advertisements in the UK, and that advice is freely available to prevent problems arising. The Code lays down what is and is not acceptable in advertisements, except for those on TV and radio. 3. Register. Compare the tone, or register, of the following: a) These apparent failures often result from inadequate planning and management, especially the lack of integration of biophysical and socio-economic information into the effort. The lack of integration of information is, in fact, a limitation that has been emphasised by many authors working with agricultural and land use planning in recent years (see, for instance, Vaughan et al., 1995; and Chidley and Brook, 1997). b) It was routine – an ordinary minor operation – except for a single extraordinary point. The patient was on an operating table in Milan. The doctors were in Washington, nearly 6,000 kilometres away. The news that, for the first time, a transatlantic operation had been carried out with a robot doctor in one continent copying the real-time hand movements of a live doctor in another, introduces a new medical age. c) Legislation identifies the minimum space of 11 m 3 that should be allocated to each person and should be adhered to especially if much of the room is taken up with essential furniture. Equally, the maximum height of a room is now accepted for such calculations as three metres. For example, in a room 5 m 4 m 3 m (high) this would provide initial space for five persons. The first extract is an example of academic register, used, for instance, in dissertations and academic journals. This typically uses cautious language like apparent and often, as well as academic vocabulary (biophysical, socio- economic), and will generally include references. The second passage is journalistic. The first part attempts to interest the reader by presenting the story in a simple but dramatic way (a single extraordinary point). The importance of the news item is stressed by the claim a new medical age. Journalism often uses current idioms like real time. The last extract uses a very formal tone, suitable for a semi-legal text. V erbs such as identifies, adhered to and allocated, the use of passives (be allocated), and special vocabulary (persons instead of the more normal people) are typical of




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