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Academic Writing

Retno Lestari

 Understand what is expected at Masters level

at University.
 Know how to use an appropriate academic
writing style.
 Know the differences between an essay and a
 Know the different sections within a report.

 What do you think will be expected of you at

Masters level?
Take a few minutes to discuss this with the
person sitting next to you.
Masters level work

At Masters level you are expected to be able

to :
 Demonstrate knowledge of practice
 Apply theory to practice
 Analyse relevant material
 Evaluate theory and evidence within the
context of study
 Synthesise new information and knowledge.
 Reflect – critiquing and critically reflecting on
your learning and using this to improve
Deep and Surface learning

 What does a deep learner do?

 What does a surface learner do?
Surface Approach
 Concentration on assessment exercises
 Passive acceptance of all ideas
 Routine memorisation of facts
 Sees small chunks
 Ignore guiding patterns and principles
 Lack of reflection about underlying patterns and theories
 Little attempt to understand
 May not see patterns or connections
 Minimal preparation for classes
Deep approach

 Effort to understand material for themselves

 Critical and thoughtful about idea and information
 Relates ideas to own previous experience and
 Sees the big picture
 Relates evidence to conclusions
 Examines logic of arguments
 Interested in wider reading and thinking
 Ongoing preparation for classes
The importance of improving language
 Are you a deep/active language learner?

 Discuss with your partner some ways in which

you can improve your language skills.
Ways to improve your language

 Interact with as many different people as possible.

 Watch TV, listen to music, read in English.
 Journal
 Books
What will some of the features of
academic writing be at Masters
Academic writing at Masters Level

 The language has to be clear, concise and

 Material is to be well researched.
 Appropriate theories should be used.
 It should be supported by relevant literature.
 All literature should be correctly
What is academic writing?

 Academic writing is formal and follows some

standard conventions

 Each academic discipline has its own specialist

vocabulary which you will be expected to learn and
use in your own writing

 Note: The following conventions are general

guidelines for academic writing. Be sure to follow
the specific requirements for each assignment.
What is the point of academic writing?

 The substance of academic writing must be

based on solid evidence and logical analysis,
and presented as a concise, accurate

 Academic writing can allow you to present

your argument and analysis accurately and
How is it done?

 Aim for precision. Don’t use unnecessary words or

waffle. Get straight to the point. Make every word
 If there is any uncertainty about a particular point,
use cautious language (such as ‘may’, ‘might’,
‘could’, ‘potentially’).
 Unless you are a confident writer, it is best to avoid
over-long sentences and to aim for a mixture of long
and short sentences for variation and rhythm.
 Avoid repeating the same words
Avoid overly elaborate language

 When using words that are not technical or

subject related, use simple words in place of
obscure words that have the same meaning.
 Using overly elaborate language can make
your writing seem pretentious.
Technical and specific language

 Use technical language and words specific to

your discipline where appropriate.

 However, it is wise to avoid convoluted

phrases and terms when writing about
general information.
Why is the following text not a good
example of academic style?
 Today being fat is totally bad for your health.
About 30,000 fat people die every year in the
UK and loads more fat people die in the USA.
By 2005 more people will die of being fat than
smoking and it doesn’t have to be this way,
this could easily be prevented, couldn't it?

 The number of deaths per year attributable

to obesity is roughly 30,000 in the UK and ten
times that in the USA, where obesity is set to
overtake smoking in 2005 as the main
preventable cause of illness and premature
Avoid abbreviations and contractions

 Abbreviations and contractions are informal,

and are best avoided in academic writing. For
 ‘Department’ should be used instead of the
abbreviation ‘dept’.
 ‘yang’ ≠‘yg’.

 Can you think of common abbreviations in

your subject area?
Avoid conversational terms

 This totally changed people’s lives’

 Why is ‘totally’ there?
 If it’s a ‘filler’ it can be omitted.
 If it’s used for emphasis, a more appropriate
word could be used, for example
‘significantly’ or ‘fundamentally’
How can you make writing

 What is writing in the first person?

 What is impersonal writing?
 Can you give an example of impersonal
Be Impersonal

 In many academic disciplines, writing in the

first person is not acceptable as it is believed
to be too subjective and personal. Many
tutors prefer impersonal language to be used
in assignments.
Types of Academic Writing
 Coursework
 Reports
 Dissertations
What are the differences between
essays and reports?

 Tend to present an argument

 Focus on evaluating or analysing theories, past
research by other people and ideas. Rarely include
new or original research.
 Are continuous pieces of prose
 Are meant to be read carefully
 Do not generally include recommendations
 Are mostly used in academic settings

 Present information
 Present data and findings that you have collected
yourself e.g. in an experiment, survey, case study or
particular experience.
 Are divided into separate sections
 Their structure means they can be scanned quickly
 Often include recommendations for action.
 Are typical of writing produced in the workplace.
Essays and reports: similarities

 Both use formal academic style

 Have some form of introduction, main body

and a conclusion
 Contain critical analysis

 Are well structured and presented

Academic reports

 A report presents the results of an


 Reports are highly structured forms of

Standard Reports

 Title
 Abstract/ Executive Summary/Overview
 Introduction
 Background/Scene Setting
 Literature Review
 Method
 Results/ Analysis
 Discussion.
 Recommendations.
 References ( using an appropriate system)
 Bibliography.
 Appendices.
Basic Framework for a research report

 Preliminaries- The title

List of contents
List of figures/tables

 Introduction - The abstract

Statement of the problem
Main body

 Main body- Review of the literature

Design of the investigation
Measurement techniques used
End sections

 Conclusion – Discussion and conclusion

 Summary of conclusions

 Extras – Bibliography
What do these terms mean?

 Please note: many reports will contain

different or additional features.
Title Page
 A title is very important!
A brief summary of the entire report,
generally around 150 - 200 words.

Write the abstract after you have written the


 Provide a context for the report.

 States the purpose of the report.

 Indicates what the report will cover.

Literature Review

 Not needed in a standard report- but required

for thesis/dissertation
 Critical evaluation of literature on topic or
issue of study
 Identify gaps in subject area
Methodology, results, discussion

 Methodology summarises what you did.

 Results describes what you discovered,

observed, etc, in your observations and
 Discussion - discusses and explains your
findings and relates them to previous
Conclusion, recommendations

 Conclusion - sums up the main points of the


 Recommendations - suggestions for future


 Academic writing is formal in style and there

are a number of conventions to follow.
 Once you have completed your first few
assignments, you should become more
familiar and confident with this style of
 Reports are highly structured forms of writing
and differ from essays.

 The features of reports vary, but some

common features have been introduced.

 The report writing style should be concise

and formal.
Writing Process
The writing process: a model
based on Coffin
1. Prewriting 1

 To find something to write about

 Understand, generate ideas
 Research, read, discuss

1. Brainstorming
2. Freewriting
3. Personal journal writing
Research the topic
Read the right
 Books
 Periodicals/journals
 Internet
Writing is not isolated
2. Planning
 To clarify, focus, organize
Methods include:
1. List
2. Graphic organizers: mind map,
3. Outline view (essay plan).
Cluster diagram4
Mind maps
3. and 4. Drafting and
 Whatever your process, good writing
 Time
 Work
 Revisions.
 Revisions can be made on the word
processor screen or on paper.
 Leave time for revisions.
Elements of writing

 Summarize
 Paraphrase
 Synthesize
 Analyze
 Evaluate
Paraphrase or summary?


“To express the meaning … in

other words”
Summary or Abstract

 “Containing the chief points or sum

or substance of a matter” … “with
implication of brevity”
(Shorter Oxford English Dictionary)
5. Peer review
 Peer review is an essential part of
professional academic life.
 Anonymous peer reviews are
necessary for journal publication and
some books.
 Review by “critical friends” is
6. Editing
Editing, proofreading & polishing are to correct
the surface features of the text.
1. Appearance
 Formatting, fonts, footnotes, footers
2. Linguistic accuracy
 Spelling, punctuation
3. Sources, references, acknowledgements
 Citations correct, references complete
The Paragraph

The paragraph is a series of

sentences developing one topic.
The Topic Sentence

 The topic of a paragraph is stated in one sentence.

This is called the topic sentence. It should be specific
and detailed.
 The topic sentence is often found at the beginning
of the paragraph, but it can be in other places, too.
 The sentence in which the main idea is stated is the
topic sentence of that paragraph
The rest of the paragraph consists of
sentences that develop or explain the
main idea.
 Through the centuries rats have idea
managed to survive all our
efforts to destroy them. We have
poisoned them and trapped them.
We have fumigated, flooded, and
burned them. We have tried germ
warfare. Some rats even survived
atomic bomb tests conducted on
Entwetok atoll in the Pacific after
World War II. In spite of all our
efforts, these enemies of ours
concluding continue to prove that they are the
sentence most indestructible of pests.
 Read the following paragraph and
underline the stated main idea. Write down
in your own words what you are able to
conclude from the information.

 The rules of conduct during an examination are clear. No

books, calculators or papers are allowed in the test room.
Proctors will not allow anyone with such items to take the
test. Anyone caught cheating will be asked to leave the
room. His or her test sheet will be taken. The incident will be
reported to the proper authority. At the end of the test
period, all materials will be returned to the proctor. Failure
to abide by these rules will result in a failing grade for this
 Answer:
 You should have underlined the first
sentence in the paragraph - this is the
stated main idea. What can be concluded
from the information is: If you do not
follow the rules, you will automatically fail
the test. This concluding information is
found in the last sentence.
Developing a Paragraph

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 A to l o pe d ss
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Unity in the Paragraph

Every sentence in a paragraph should support

the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

main idea
c e e nce
e n
c e
t e nce
se n
The concluding sentence
 Restate the topic sentence in
different words.

 A concluding sentence clinches the

point made in the paragraph.

 It summarizes the paragraph.

Paragraphs: A Bad Example
I live in a house in west Provo. I like the
view from our house. We have lived there
since November. We also have a car that
I like very much. We were in an accident
a few months ago. We hit a deer that was
crossing the street at night. I felt sorry for
the deer, but it cost a lot of money to
repair the car.
Paragraphs: A Good Example
My husband and I bought our first house last
November, and we love it. It is located in west Provo
near Utah Lake. Although we cannot see the lake from
our house, we do have a beautiful view of Mount
Timpanogos. Our house has three bedrooms, two
bathrooms, a living room and a family room, and a large
kitchen and dining area. We also have a large backyard
and a small garden. We are very happy to own our own
home, and I hope that we will live there for several years.
Coherence in a Paragraph

 Stick to the point: The ideas have a

clear and logical relation to each other.
 Put details or examples or incidents in
logical order.

chronological 4
in relation to each other 2
in order of importance
Connecting Sentences
Within the Paragraph
Transition words

chronological objects in relation to in order of

order one another importance
first next to however
meanwhile in front of furthermore
later beside as a result
afterwards between in fact
finally behind yet
Types of Paragraphs

 The narrative paragraph

 tells a story
 The persuasive paragraph.
 tries to convince the audience
 The descriptive paragraph
 describes something
 The expository or explanatory
 gives information or explains something
Don't Forget
to reference......

Why reference?

 To avoid plagiarism
 To acknowledge direct quotes
 To provide evidence to support arguments
 So that readers can check how much
preparation has gone into your work and
can find extra information
In-Text References
 These appear in the main body of the text to
indicate the source of your information
 Use in-text references whenever you mention
facts written by someone else, or when
you include someone else’s ideas
 Write the surname of the author and the
date of publication, in brackets e.g. (Greaves,
 Use letters after the date to distinguish
between books by the same author published
in the same year (Greaves, 2004a)
In-Text References
 Include a reference at the end of a
sentence. (Greaves, 2004)
 Greaves (2004) says that references can be
written in the middle of a sentence.
 “For direct quotes, use speech marks and
state the page number of the source in the
reference.” (Greaves, 2004, p.72)
 Remember that what you put in the in-text
reference must direct the reader to the
correct reference in the end list.
End List References / Bibliography
 The end list is a list of sources that you have
either quoted directly or used arguments from,
listed in alphabetical order by author (or editor)
 Be consistent with formats – capitals & italics
should be used in the same way throughout
 You should also include a bibliography of items
consulted but not cited in your work
1 way citing--author
 Direct quote example
Cowie (1996, p. 91) argues that ‘socialism
rejected the liberal ideals of individualism
and competition’.

 Paraphrase example
Cowie (1996) suggests that unlike
capitalism, socialism promotes the good of
the whole before the good of the individual.
2 way citing---
 Direct quote example
It has been argued that ‘socialism
rejected the liberal ideals of individualism
and competition’ (Cowie, 1996, p. 91).

 Paraphrase example
Unlike capitalism, socialism promotes the
good of the whole before the good of the
individual (Cowie, 1996).