The University of Sydney Centre for English Teaching

BRIEF WRITING GUIDE ACADEMIC WRITING
July, 2009

Jorge Rojas Vallejos

Sydney, Australia

INTRODUCTION
This brief guide has been divided into three main sections. These sections are: exposition, discussion and critical review. Each section contains a summary of the writing style, a diagram related to the structure, the most important information used in the respective writing genre, and an essay as example which may have some mistakes; nevertheless, it is still very useful to understand the structure of the genres which will be analyzed.

The information provided in this paper is only a guide for understanding the three chief genres of writing. The aim of this paper is to introduce the general concepts involved in Academic Writing for classmates and beginners, and it should be understood as a mere guide and not as a template for writing because the development of these skills for writing may require years for non-native students. Therefore, the readers are encouraged to provide as much feedback as possible to the author. Finally, it is necessary to mention that this Log was basically written as an assessment based on the English classes at the Centre for English Teaching of The University of Sydney.

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EXPOSITION
WEEK 1-2
The purpose of an Exposition essay is to expound an idea related to a subject in which the author tries to persuade the readers that his/her idea is the best for solving or answering the question. In order to achieve this ambitious aim the writer provides a general background about the issue, and his thesis statement with the main points. These main points are called the Preview. The preview is essentially the set of arguments for defending the author’s viewpoint. This set should be written with parallelism and in the packaging form. The reader should note that parallelism is the process of writing the different points with the same word form, for instance, nouns.

The body of the essay is made up for paragraphs in which the writer develops every idea which has been exposed in the preview. These paragraphs contain one topic sentence where the main idea is expounded, and is followed by explanations, details and examples. The second last sentence in the same paragraph ought to refer to the main idea exposed, while the last sentence should be a transition for the next idea which is showed in the following paragraph.

This genre could include a counter-argument paragraph in which the author refutes the points of view of others. In order to do thus the writer of the essay provides examples which support his idea. This is done for persuading the audience.

Finally, the exposition must contain a conclusion which function is to reiterate the thesis, summarize the ideas exposed and to do recommendations or predictions for the future in the topic which was studied. 3

GENERAL DIAGRAM OF AN EXPOSITION ESSAY

INTRODUCCION PARAGRAPHS COUNTER-ARG CONCLUSION

BACKGROUND (definitions, issue) THESIS PREVIEW

ARGUMENT (main idea) EXPLANATIONS AND EVIDENCE REITERATION MAIN IDEA TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE

TOPIC SENTENCE (main idea) REFUTATION TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE

PARAPHRASE THE THESIS SUMMARIZE ARGUMENTS RECOMMENDATIONS OR PREDICTIONS FOR FUTURE

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GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURES AND REPORTING VERBS. Two interesting structures which could be used in an exposition essay are: While____________________________________________, Concessio n _________________________________________________. E x p o s i t i o n a u t h o r’s i d e a

Because of________________________________________, C a u s e (usually a noun) _________________________________________________. E f f e c t (a complete clause)

Examples: While the religious institutions have certainly helped people to have a hope in the future, those institutions have done a hard censorship in many countries. While group travel has definite organizational benefits, it also deprives travellers of authentic travel experiences. Because of global warming, there has been an increase of the rain in Sydney in the past three years.

The most common reporting verbs in this genre are: state, explain, argue, claim, point out, reject, discuss, mention, note, conclude, suggest, emphasize, point to. It is important to note that these verbs have different connotations. For this reason, the reader should understand the real meaning of each one verb before using. Another kind of reporting verb are using for evaluating the statements of other authors. Some of these verbs are: contend, assume, reveal, allege, imply, and exaggerate.

For more information you could consult: Brick, J. (2006). Academic Culture: A student’s guide to studying at university. Sydney: Macquarie University.

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EXPOSITION EXAMPLE The growth of e-commerce will primarily benefit those in the developed world and this could lead to further divisions between developed and developing countries. Do you agree? The commerce has been changing its traditional manner of doing business to a more technological and sophisticated form. This new way has been made by means of Internet, and then the commerce has become called e-commerce. The e-commerce has benefited much more developed countries than developing ones. Even more, it is very feasible that the gap between these kinds of countries will increase in the next decades. This essay will focus on the advantages in the developed world, the disadvantages in the Third world, and the relationship between them. The developed nations have significant advantages such as financial resources, knowledge and well-trained workers. Most rich countries are getting profits from this type of virtual commerce because they had the capital to invest in this activity when it started, in other words, they now have enough knowledge to continue squeezing this niche of the market. Countries, such as the USA, Finland and the UK, have had the opportunity to train professionals in this area to improve the efficiency of e-business. The aforementioned elements lead to having suitable infrastructure to get benefits for developed countries and shareholders. The second relevant issue is connected with the disadvantages of the poor countries. These nations do not have enough resources to generate their own background in ecommerce. Furthermore, they are not able to acquire the infrastructure to develop their e-economy. Although, the poor countries do not have opportunities and money to develop this kind of commerce, they have a high level of pressure from rich countries in order to decrease barriers and to create policies to facilitate foreign investment. In conclusion, these factors will certainly increase the gap between rich countries and poor ones. For avoiding this inequality in the future, rich countries should share their knowledge and money with less developed nations, in that way the majority of people will get profits and better living standards.

NOTE: When you write an academic essay, you must not use contraction such as you’re, doesn’t, didn’t, shouldn’t and so on. In addition, if you use someone else’s ideas, you must paraphrase and cite, providing the source with enough details for retrieving the original information in case of being necessary.

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DISCUSSION ESSAY
WEEK 2-3
The purpose of a Discussion essay is to expound a collection of different ideas connected with the same subject. In order to achieve this ambitious aim the writer provides a general background about the issue, and the main ideas which will be showed in the essay. These main points are the Preview.

The body of the essay is made up for paragraphs in which the writer develops every idea which has been expounded in the preview. This development could be done in two different ways. The former is in a block structure in which each perspective is displayed and studied. The latter is in a chain form in which for a same field or situation is showed the opinion of each perspective. Which way is better? The answer depends on the sort of issue which is being studied.

This genre might include the author’s opinion or not. However, if the author’s position is presented in the essay to the audience, it would be a good alternative to show this opinion in the conclusion. Furthermore, the conclusion should summarize the ideas showed.

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GENERAL DIAGRAM OF A DISCUSSION ESSAY

INTRODUCCION PARAGRAPHS CONCLUSION

BACKGROUND (definitions, issue)

PREVIEW

BLOCK Position 1 Position 2 Position 3
Different paragraphs for each perspective

CHAIN Position 1 Position 2 Position 3
In the same paragraph is exposed each perspective

SUMMARIZE ARGUMENTS DELIVER AUTHOR’S OPINION

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For writing a discussion essay is usually necessary to read a set of different text to achieve the perspectives related to the issue. The following list shows the steps for summarizing an article: 1. - Read the abstract 2. – Write the subheadings 3. – Read topic sentence in each paragraph 4. – Highlight important words in topic sentences 5. – Make up a kind of index 6. – Summarize the ideas from the text in one or two paragraphs.

DISCUSSION EXAMPLE Discuss the different points of view related to Law.

Historically, there have been two contrary points of view in order to define the effects of the law over people. Some thinkers argue that the law is a system which attempts to regulate people’s behaviour for achieving a peaceful society. For others, meanwhile, the law is basically an instrument which benefits only resource-rich groups and prevents the progress for the rest of society. This paper will analyze both of these judgements and will synthesize these postures in a more balanced perspective. The first way of thinking claims that legal institutions have generated throughout history an environment of peace and friendship where citizens, for example, have been able to make business with security and confidence. This is in fact one important example associated with the advantages of the legal system. In modern and affluent societies such as the United States and Australia, the law has been the driving force for building an equitable place to live where each individual has the same rights irrespective of religious belief, fortune, sexual preference or any other idea or condition. On the other hand, for some people, the law has created more disparity than equality. This affirmation is supported with many examples from ancient history as well as recent events. According to Bakunin, an anarchist thinker, the legal institutions, especially the states and governments, have endeavoured to dominate people from neglected and poor sectors. The governments would do thus in order to benefit wealthy groups, such as priests, politicians, businessmen and soldiers with high positions.

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The advocates of the latter concept believe that people may in fact fulfil their tasks without any social or legal pressure because people could understand the importance of their jobs and roles in society. While the first group accepts that people could be responsible with no pressure, these thinkers argue that to do so, people must be well-educated, and then education would be the main problem to solve by the whole society. In brief, both of these ways of thinking are partially correct. The first one considers the spirit of the law, while the second one regards the effects of the law in the real world. However, the legal framework is completely necessary and should be not only improved, but also adapted to the new times.

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CRITICAL REVIEW
WEEK 4-5
The structure of a Critical Review consists of four main parts which are: introduction, summary, critique and conclusion. The introduction must contain not only a brief explanation of the topic of the text which will be studied, the title of the article and author’s name, but also the aim and the key argument of the text. Finally, the introduction should present a preview of the judgement on the text. This judgement is usually a mix between positive and negative evaluations. The summary should present the most important ideas written in the text such as the author’s purpose or main claim. It is advisable to avoid too many examples or details which are not necessary. The critique should evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and originality of the text. This evaluation must be based on specific criteria and supports with evidence which validates that evaluation. Some general criteria for evaluating texts are: relevance, significance and contribution to the field of knowledge, coherence and consistency of the text itself, methodology and originality, practicality, omissions, argument and use of reliable evidence, writing style and text structure. The conclusion is basically a restatement of the judgement in two sentences. It could have some recommendations for the future, but is not usual in short reviews. The structure (diagram) in this genre is very similar to the exposition essay, the only difference is that the body of the essay is made up for the summary of the text and the critique.

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CRITICAL REVIEW EXAMPLE This review is based on the article “Chinese learners and Western Convention” written by Mr. Shei.

The globalization process has had an important effect on education around the world. This effect is related to the migration of students from developing countries to developed nations such as the UK, the USA and Australia. This process has resulted in an increase in the number of international students in the highest level of education. The article written by Shei addresses the issue associated with the relationship between Chinese learners and plagiarism. Although the ideas expounded in the article are valuable in different ways, there is a lack of relevance, and a high level of inconsistency on some key points. Shei states three main ideas in his paper to analyze Chinese students’ behaviour. The first of these is related to the Chinese cultural background of imitation before being creative. The second idea consists of the three most common types of plagiarism done by Chinese learners which are blatant stealing, close imitation and integrated borrowing. Finally, according to Shei, the western academic tradition should reconsider the notions of authorship moving from the concept of intellectual property to intellectual value. Before explaining the strengths and weaknesses of Shei’s paper, I would like to recognize the value of writing about this significant issue in the academic debate. However, despite some positive ideas, Shei could not provide a well-developed explanation for the possible correlation between Chinese students and plagiarism. Though Shei makes very insightful suggestions related to plagiarism such as reconsidering the concept of intellectual ownership for accomplishing more equitable access to information, he does not propose any methodology or strategy for achieving the aforementioned aim. Furthermore, his article has important inconsistencies in different sections of his argument. Much of this incoherence is due to his effort to avoid stereotyping as he says in his article, but actually he does so. Shei provides a large amount of information without reliable sources to show the reasons why Chinese learners would be prone to plagiarize. The main reason would be the educational background. Another issue of particular concern is the serious lack of relevance that he shows in his article. A good example of this is when he illustrates his points with general situations and achieves conclusions for Chinese students. However, his examples are very general and do not show any specific relationship with Chinese students. In brief, the article is a positive attempt to explain plagiarism and its implications in the academic world, but he does not provide a successful explanation for the relationship between Chinese students and plagiarism, and this was the original aim of the article. Furthermore, his initial effort was to avoid stereotyping, and yet he does thus within his paper.

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