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Approaches to Writing

Dr. Tom Adam Davies

Lecture Outline
- What to bear in mind before you
start writing
- What to bear in mind while you are
- What to do when you think youve
finished writing

The first question you should always
ask yourself when you set out to write
something is:
Who is going to read it? Who is
the audience you are writing for?

For undergraduate coursework and all
written work at undergraduate level
you must operate on the basis that
you are writing for an intelligent
general reader who, although certainly
able to understand complex ideas and
words, has no prior knowledge of the
subject matter.
Your audience, therefore, is NOT
your tutor.

Audience: A common
[.] The best example of tensions
increasing between America and the
Soviet Union came in the Cuban Missile
Crisis. The episode also highlighted
President Kennedys uneasy relationship
with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev
during this period. The Cuban Missile
Crisis also demonstrated the increasingly
important role played by technology in the
Cold War. [.]

Other important considerations before you start writing

Spending the necessary time considering the

question are you sure you know exactly
what it is asking you to do? Does it set quite
tight parameters, or does it afford you a high
degree of freedom?
Once you are clear on the question, you can
then begin your outline planning, which will
then lead into the research (i.e., the
secondary reading and primary research),
which will then lead into the more extensive,
more detailed main planning stage.

Other important considerations before you start writing

Comprehensive, detailed planning is an essential

ingredient of a well written essay. The tactic of just
sitting down in front of your computer and starting to
type has a long history of delivering negative results.
Good planning rests heavily upon good note taking remember to get all the information that you may
need in order to accurate reference ideas, material,
etc, in the future.
You should think also about ways to make navigating
what will be increasing amount of notes as
effectively and swiftly as possible in the future
obviously with computers this is made easier by
bibliographic tools (such as EndNote or Zotero).

Good Practice
Advice and exercises used here can be
found on Purdue Universitys Online
Writing Lab one of a number of
excellent online resources concerning
guidance on writing.

Good Practice: Structure

The structure of the argumentative essay is
held together by the following:
A clear, concise, and defined thesis
statement or research question that
occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
Clear and logical transitions between the
introduction, body, and conclusion.
Body paragraphs that include evidential
A conclusion that does not simply restate
the thesis, but readdresses it in light of
the evidence provided.

Thesis statement or research question?

What is a thesis statement?
Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message.
The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The
sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis
statement. American academics always use this format in their work.
How long does it need to be?
A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present
the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation
to the topic. Your thesis statement or research question should tell your reader
what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument
Where is your thesis statement or research question?
You should provide a thesis or a research question early in your essay -- in the
introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph -- in order to establish
your position and give your reader a sense of direction.
Why research question rather than thesis statement?
If you open your essay with a statement of your position, the reader is
effectively seeing the same idea 3 times over: first in your intro, then in
the body of your essay, and finally in your conclusion. This is boring and
can look very mechanical. Better, therefore, to formulate your argument
at the beginning as a question: rather than say I will argue you might
write: I will be asking whether.

Good Practice: Using the Active Versus Passive Voice

In a sentence using active voice, the subject of

the sentence performs the action expressed in
the verb.
E.g., The dog bit the man.
In a sentence using the passive voice, the
action is performed upon the sentence subject.
he or she receives the action expressed by the
verb. The agent performing the action may
appear in a "by the..." phrase or may be omitted.
E.g., The man was bitten by the dog.

Active/Passive Voice
Passive voice example:
Action on the bill is being considered by
the committee.

Shifted to the active voice the sentence

would read:
The committee is considering action on the

Active Voice
Active voice is used for most nonscientific writing. Using active voice
for the majority of your sentences
makes your meaning clear for
readers, and keeps the sentences
from becoming too complicated or
wordy. Too much use of passive voice
can cloud the meaning of your

Good Practice
As a rule of good practice, try and
work to the following time split:
1/3 of your time researching
1/3 of your time writing
1/3 of your time editing

The more efficient your use of language,
the better.
Isolate each sentence and consider
whether what you have written could be
expressed in a more concise fashion.
Some sentences will require you to use
many words that is unavoidable just
make sure that the ones you do use are
the best ones for conveying your exact

Every word counts

Wordy: (14 words)
The politician talked about several of
the merits of after-school programs in
his speech.
Concise: (8 words)
The politician touted after-school
programs in his speech.

Every word counts

Wordy: ( 14 words)
Suzie believed but could not confirm
that Billy had feelings of affection for
Concise: (6 words)
Suzie assumed that Billy adored her.

Every word counts

Wordy: (20 words)
Our Web site has made available many
of the things you can use for making a
decision on the best dentist.
Concise: (9 words)
Our website presents criteria for
determining the best dentist.

Every word counts

Wordy: (20 words)
Working as a pupil under someone who
develops photos was an experience
that really helped me learn a lot.
Concise: (10 words)
Working as a photo technician's
apprentice was an educational

Every word counts

Wordy: (22 words)
The teacher demonstrated some of the
various ways and methods for cutting
words from my essay that I had written
for class.
Concise: (10 words)
The teacher demonstrated methods for
cutting words from my essay.

Every word counts

Wordy: (66 words)
Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new
band of musicians together in 1969, giving it the
ironic name of Blind Faith because early
speculation that was spreading everywhere
about the band suggested that the new musical
group would be good enough to rival the earlier
bands that both men had been in, Cream and
Traffic, which people had really liked and had
been very popular.

Every word counts

Concise: (32 words)
Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood
formed a new band in 1969, ironically
naming it Blind Faith because
speculation suggested that the group
would rival the musicians previous
popular bands, Cream and Traffic.

Combining Sentences
Wordy: (18 words)
Ludwig's castles are an astounding
marriage of beauty and madness. By
his death, he had commissioned three
Concise: (11 words)
Ludwig's three castles are an
astounding marriage of beauty and

Combining Sentences
Wordy: (24 words)
The supposed crash of a UFO in Roswell, New
Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life.
This crash is rumored to have occurred in
Concise: (16 words)
The supposed 1947 crash of a UFO in Roswell,
New Mexico aroused interest in
extraterrestrial life.