Fine tuning and editing


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Fine-tuning and editing of your academic writing.

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  • In academic essays we tend not to mix facts and opinions within one paragraph. The two are usually clearly separated into different paragraphs (e.g. the conclusion). or into different sections of a research paper (the Discussion section in the IMRD model)
    If you do, however, then you must use the kind of language that makes it absolutely clear to the reader which is which.
    Use phrases such as: in my opinion, this can be interpreted as, it is my understanding that.
    For expressing (un)certainty, cf. slides that go with chapter 5 about tentative language, also called “ hedging your claims” .
    Whole books have been written about critical thinking so it would be beyond the scope of this writing course to discuss it in more detail than this.
  • Listed here are some common pitfalls for beginning writers. The problem is, of course, that these statements seem true to most people so they do not critically assess them.
  • The Dutch especially find it difficult to get the commas right because in Dutch commas are used a lot more often than in English, but other nationalities struggle as well.
    Ask them: How many sisters have I got?
    In the first sentence, I have more than one sister. This is about the one who lives in London, but I have at least one other sister who obviously lives somewhere else.
    In the second sentence, the information is extra and not used to define which sister, so I have only one sister who happens to live in London.
    Notice also the difference in intonation and pausing when you read those sentences out loud.
    It is in the nature of academic papers to contain information which is essential, so as a rule-of-thumb you could say:
    When in doubt, leave them out. (i.e. the commas)
    This usually works out.
  • In defining clauses both which and that can be used, although which is considered to be more formal.In non-defining clauses, which is used.
    So all in all, in academic writing which is always correct, although Word will underline it with a green wriggly line so you may think there’s something wrong. There is not!
  • DON’t go to the next slide yet, but read out the first verse:
    I have a spelling checker.
    It came with my PC.
    It plane lee marks four my revue
    Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
    Ask if that made sense. Then go to the next slide: read out again and ask them to read along.
  • Jerrold H. Zar, but
    Graduate School
    Northern Illinois University
    DeKalb, IL 60115
    (Current mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, same university)
    Title suggested by Pamela Brown.
    Based on opening lines suggested by Mark Eckman.
    Published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, January/February 1994, page 13. Reprinted ("by popular demand") in the
    Journal of Irreproducible Results, Vol. 45, No. 5/6, 2000, page 20.
    Journal of Irreproducible Results, Box 234, Chicago Heights IL 60411 USA.
    Phone 708-747-3717; Fax: 708-727-3657; e-mail:; Web site:
    There are 9 verses. By the author's count, 123 of the 225 words are incorrect (although all words are correctly spelled).
    This is based on homophones in English.
    Homophone = two or more words that sound the same but differ in meaning / origin. In this poem, the authors managed to collect an impressive number of these words indeed, and also managed to put them into a poem that actually makes sense as long as you don’t try to read along.
    The poem neatly illustrated the issue in a very funny way: spell checkers can be useful, but don’t rely on them exclusively: you as a writer are the best person to check the spellling in a paper! Proofread yourself, as spelling checkers do not pick out everything: they don’t “understand” what you want to say and are therefore unable to deal with these homophones.
  • Style sheet contains stipulations about the following things:
    See above
  • In journalism, catchy headlines are very important as they may increase the sale of a newspaper or magazine. The Economist excels at witty headlines. A word such as Grexit was actually coined by them the beginning of June 2012, and everybody immediately started using it. Sure enough, a week later there was a letter to the Editor stating that as it was an Aegean affair it should actually be called Grexodus.
    While I am in no way suggesting that students should come up with catchy headlines a la Economist, the example above does illustrate the importance of titles and headlines.
    Up until now students may have had just a working title, but it is often easier to think of a good title once you are finished than when you start out, so they may need to rethink their title at this stage.
  • Kaplan pg 12 top
    Linguistic criteria: we can see this when looking at the language itself, when we compare, for example, a sentence such as “This book is blue” in different languages:
    Dit boek is blauw
    Cette livre est bleu (Fr)
    Buku ini biru (Ind)
    Evident that these sentences, which refer to the same blue item, have different forms in different languages.
  • American philosopher Peirce: If Aristotle had been Mexican, his logic would have been different
  • Kaplan pg 13-14
  • Kaplan pg 13
  • Kaplan pg 15-16: Examples can be found in the Old Testament. Paragraphs are developed by series of parallel constructions, in which the first and the second part have a particular relation to one another. They may be separated by a conjunction.
    First: synonyms: second part of the statement puts the first part in balance, coordinating conjunction used
    Second: idea in first part is emphasised by a contracting ideas in the second part.
    These are coordinated, while in English academic writing subordination is more often used, giving rise to a more linear structure.
    Oriental writing (discuss before going to next slide)
    Central idea in paragraph described in circles, becoming wider.
    Gives English readers a sense of indirection.
  • Kaplan pg 17.
    First definition of college
    Then different direction, culture and education
    Then moving further away from main point, connects civilization to education
    Then final sentence which seems more like a topic sentence. The concept of college education still has not been defined. Throws an English reader.
    Silva (pg 18): Chinese students place their topic sentences at the end of the paragraph, moving from cause to effect. (Students study hard, so they get high grades (TS)
    English paragraphs go the other way around, from effect (Many students obtain high grades for their essays (TS)) to cause (this is because they study hard.
    This is an essentially different structure.
  • Kaplan pg 19-20
    Digressions give English reader the idea that some ideas are irrelevant.
    Often the ideas in the digressions are relevant to the central idea, but only indirectly, not in a direct sense.
  • Fine tuning and editing

    1. 1. Academic Writing for Graduate Students Tutorial 6
    2. 2. Structure of this tutorial - Fine tuning your work - Editing - Academic Writing and Culture
    3. 3. Fine-tuning Academic Language Centre
    4. 4. Fine-tuning This tutorial concentrates on: -The consistency of your line of argument -The support for your claims -The logic behind your arguments -Improving clarity and flow -Writing more concise sentences Academic Language Centre
    5. 5. Supporting claims Evidence that supports your claims should be: Clear Accurate Relevant Credible Significant
    6. 6. Critical thinking: Make sure that you clearly distinguish between - facts and opinions - certainties and uncertainties both while you are reading and when you are writing. Academic Language Centre
    7. 7. Logical fallacies: • Hasty generalisation (jumping to a conclusion, claim based on too little evidence): • Commercials in favour of unhealthy food should be forbidden,  because they lead to a consumption-oriented society and subsequently to overweight . • Oversimplification (linking 2 events as if one caused the other directly, whereas the causes may be more complex): • Obesity leads to people becoming depressed.   • Inappropriate appeal to the reader / inappropriate tone • Obesity costs an unnecessary amount of valuable health care time, time  that could be better spent on curing other diseases. Academic Language Centre
    8. 8. Relative clauses: There are two types of relative clauses: 1.Defining relative clauses, in which the information that you give is essential 2.Non-defining relative clauses, in which the information that you give is extra. Compare: My sister who lives in London is a musician. My sister, who lives in London, is a musician. Academic Language Centre
    9. 9. Relative clauses: - Defining: By 4.30, there was only one painting which /that hadn’t been sold. (essential, no comma) - Non-defining: The train, which was already an hour late, broke down again. (extra, commas used) Academic Language Centre
    10. 10. Being concise: Concise: short and clear, expressing what needs to be said without unnecessary words (Advanced Learners’ Dictionary) Typical examples of unnecessary words: • • • • • really quite basically totally completely Academic Language Centre
    11. 11. Editing Academic Language Centre
    12. 12. editing Final check before submitting the paper: -Think of a good title -Argumentation check -Vocabulary check (formal English) -Grammar and spelling check (not everything is picked up by a computer!) -Bibliography -Consistent lay-out Academic Language Centre
    13. 13. Spelling checkers - “Can we use a spelling checker?” - Yes, however……….
    14. 14. Candidate for a Pullet Surprise by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar (1992) (also known as “Ode to a spell checker”) “I have a spelling checker. It came with my PC. It plane lee marks four my revue Miss steaks aye can knot sea…..
    15. 15. Candidate for a Pullet Surprise (continued) …….Eye ran this poem threw it, Your sure reel glad two no. Its vary polished inn it's weigh. My checker tolled me sew…….
    16. 16. Candidate for a Pullet Surprise (continued) …..A checker is a bless sing, It freeze yew lodes of thyme. It helps me right awl stiles two reed, And aides me when eye rime…………….”
    17. 17. Style Sheet (on BB-site) -Font and font size. -The line spacing -The margins -paragraphing -Use of page numbers -Personal details, name of tutor, word count etc. -Title, footnotes, style of referencing Bibliography.
    18. 18. The title: Titles often contain one or more of the following elements: -a reference to the main topic -a reference to the aim of the author -a reference to the conclusion -the main topic as a question -a general statement which is then refined Academic Language Centre
    19. 19. nominalisation Academic writers frequently use the noun forms of verbs; rather than focusing on the action (verb) they focus on the concept (noun). Water hyacinths are rapidly spreading into drainage systems and are restricting the rate at which the water flows.(=verb) The rapid spread of water hyacinths into drainage systems is causing restrictions in the rate of water flows.(=noun) Academic Language Centre
    20. 20. Academic Writing and Culture - Paragraph Structure - Plagiarism in a cultural context
    21. 21. Linguistic differences Languages differ in: • Vocabulary • Syntax • Grammar These are linguistic criteria
    22. 22. Rhetorical differences - Sociologists and anthropologists: logic is a cultural phenomenon - Diversity in culture leads to diversity in logic - Logic is not a universal phenomenon - Logic is the basis of rhetoric, so rhetoric is not universal either
    23. 23. Rhetoric and academic writing - English: thought patterns evolved from Platonic Aristotelian thought (ancient Greece) - Thought patterns are linear: - Paragraph starts with a topic sentence; - Subdivisions of topic statement; - Each subdivision supported by examples/illustrations; - Goal: to develop idea in topic statement, then relate that to rest of essay.
    24. 24. “Foreign” writing - Feedback students receive: - Information is there but paragraph lacks structure - Paragraph lacks cohesion Problem: writing by foreign students often violates the expectations of the native reader.
    25. 25. Arabic (Semitic) languages Old Testament: (1) His descendants will be mighty in the land and The generation of the upright will be blessed (2) For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the wicked shall perish
    26. 26. Oriental writing Definition of college education: ‘Colleges are institutions of education that give degrees. We need culture and education in life. While animals have remained as they were, man has made progress because he has learned about civilization. To improve our high civilization, we need education. Therefore college education is important and we don’t need to question it.’ (Based on Kaplan 2001:17)
    27. 27. Romance and Russian writing - Digressions away from topic sentence - Sometimes very long sentences
    28. 28. Figures (1) English Semitic Oriental
    29. 29. Figures (2) Romance Russian