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0273721704 Dissertation

0273721704 Dissertation

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Summarising means taking information you’ve already discussed and restating it

ina more condensed form. Sometimes it may be in the form of full prose, at others

it may consist of a series of bullet points. The contents of a 15-page dissertation

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The style of academic writing

chapter, for example, might be reduced down to two-thirds of a page or a series

ofeight bullet points. The main purpose of summarising is to give the reader an at-

a-glance overview of the main points of a chapter (or part of a chapter), and this

inturn has a number of benefits:

■It helps the reader see the wood from the trees. Particularly if a chapter or journal

article is long, complex and information-rich, the reader can become disorien-

tated and lose their sense of its structure, how the various sections and sub-

sections relate to each other, and where exactly they, the reader, are currently

located in the chapter. This can happen despite the fact that the introduction may

have mapped out the direction of the article or chapter.

■It serves as a reminder of the main points discussed.

■It can help link what has been discussed to what is about to be discussed. In

other words, it can help smooth the transition between two consecutive parts of

a chapter or article, or between two chapters.

Although they are often encouraged, particularly within the context of dissertations

and theses where chapters tend to be long and complex, whether or not to include

a summary is very much down to the judgement of the individual writer/researcher.

Once again, accessibility and comprehensibility must be paramount and each writer

has to put themselves in their reader’s shoes and ask whether, in the absence of a

summary, their work remains clear and easy to process. Conversely, they may wish

to ask themselves, ‘Would a summary make the reader’s life easier here?’

If it is considered necessary, a summary will often form the initial part of a conclu-

sion but it does not need to. It may stand alone as a ‘Summary’ or be incorporated

within the main text of the body of the chapter or article. There may, in fact, be a

number of short summaries within a single chapter, particularly if it’s a long and

complex chapter with a number of foci. The summary may be presented as a series

of bullet points or as normal prose.

Summaries: useful expressions

This chapter/section has discussed the following:...

This chapter/section has sought to ...

This chapter/section has ...

This chapter has looked at/addressed a number of ...First,...

The key points discussed so far are:...

Fivemainideashavebeencriticallyappraisedinthischapter.Tobeginwith...

In summary,...

To summarise,...

The main points discussed in this chapter can be summarised as follows:...

In summary,the argument/position is as follows:...

We might summarise the main points thus:...

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4Clear and effective writing

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Now look at the examples of chapter summaries.

Examples of chapter summaries

Thischapterhasexaminedcommunicationstrategiesusedbysecondlanguage
learners(andnativespeakers)whentheyarefacedwithaproductionproblem.
Theyconsistofsubstituteplansandarepotentiallyconscious.Atypologyofcom-
municationstrategiesdistinguishesreductionstrategies,whichareusedtoavoid
theproblemaltogether,andachievementstrategies,whichareusedtoovercome
theproblem.Thelattercanbefurthersubdividedintocompensatorystrategies
(includingbothfirstlanguageandsecondlanguagebasedstrategies)and
retrievalstrategies.Therehasbeenonlylimitedempiricalstudyofcommuni-
cationstrategies,butthereisevidencetosuggestthattheiruseisinfluencedby
thelearner’sproficiencylevel,thenatureoftheproblem-source,thelearner’s
personality,andthelearningsituation.Itisnotyetclearwhateffect,ifany,
communicativestrategieshaveonlinguisticdevelopment.

(Adapted from Ellis, 1985: 188)

This chapter has sought to show that since the 1990s there has been more tele-
vision news produced for the UK audience than ever before,and that despite
the concerns of some within the industry,the traditional public service commit-
ment to high-quality news remains written into the broadcasting legislation.
Furthermore,the statistics suggest that commercial television is similarly com-
mitted to quality journalism at peak-time.News,it seems,is popular and there-
fore justifiable on purely commercial grounds.The prospects for current affairs
broadcasting,particularly on Channel 3,are less certain because financial
pressures may lead to cuts in the number of programmes broadcast as well as
changes to scheduling.

(Adapted from McNair, 1994: 121–2)

Look at the text below. Although it’s considerably shorter than a chapter in a disser-

tation or thesis, write a summary of the information it contains using the guidelines

above.

Activity 4.10Summarising a text

Both Burma and Iran are repressive authoritarian regimes:the former a mili-
tary regime,the latter a theocratic state.Of the two,Iran seems to exhibit a
greater tendency to totalitarianism,although in an incomplete form.Neverthe-
less,the near total control of all levers of power by Iran’s conservative clergy
since 2005 indicates that there may be further movement in this direction
(Linz,2000:36;Kaboli,2006b).Regardless of definitional debates about regime
types there can be no question that the opportunities for genuine green dissent
in these countries are severely constrained,but also constrained differently.In
Iran,green issues have been largely coopted by the state,with state-sanctioned
NGOs the dominant voice – dissenting groups exist,but with little public

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The style of academic writing

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