Academic Writing: A Brief Overview Bonnie Stewart University of Prince Edward Island July 11 th & 13 th 2011
WORKSHOP THEMES: July 11 th – STRUCTURE & ARGUMENT The Art of Formal Academic Persuasion July 13 th – MEMOIR & THEORY The Art of The Personal and The Theoretical
Structure & Argument: what goes where? http://www.flickr.com/photos/44523343@N00/474411578/
All Writing is Cultural Code http://www.flickr.com/photos/alookaskance/12350096
ENGLISH ACADEMIC WRITING <ul><li>Organizational structure is like grammar for ideas </li></ul><ul><li>Linearity not circularity </li></ul><ul><li>Directness </li></ul><ul><li>Individualized Voice, with right and obligation to voice judgement </li></ul><ul><li>Acceptance of that which has been previously written/published as valid </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge is power </li></ul>
Knowledge is powerful in all cultures, but expressions are different. Photo courtesy of Jamie Taipana & Lucy Taipana, via Facebook
To break the rules, you need to know the rules.
English Academic Structure <ul><li>Moves in a straight line through beginning, middle & end. </li></ul><ul><li>Identifies its topic clearly at the outset. </li></ul><ul><li>Develops and supports its position in the middle, with evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>Reviews main points at close, without introducing anything new. </li></ul>
http://www.flickr.com/photos/totoro_friend/3995684894/sizes/z/in/photostream/ THE SECRET: Writing is Shaped Like a Sandwich
THE PARAGRAPH = Base Unit of English Writing Proper academic paragraphs focus on ONE TOPIC, or main idea. The main idea is introduced in the first sentence, called the topic sentence . The body of the paragraph consists of sentences that explain or support the topic sentence. These supporting sentences can be examples of how or why the topic sentence is true, or can offer further information related to the main idea of the paragraph. The final sentence of an academic paragraph reminds the reader of the main idea by restating it in new words. This is called the conclusion .
YOUR WORK Pick a paragraph from your draft essay. Share it with a partner or your small group. ASK: 1. How many ideas does this paragraph try to explain? 2. What is the main point or idea of this paragraph? 3. What evidence is given as support for these ideas? 4. IS THIS PARAGRAPH A SANDWICH?
THE ESSAY – Objective of English Academic Writing http://www.flickr.com/photos/claramichelle/5841275812
PERSUASION An argumentative (sometimes called persuasive) essay is a piece of writing that sets out to convince readers to accept a position or take a particular action , or both. The persuasiveness of an essay is based on two factors: the effectiveness of its rhetoric , or language usage and structure, and the sophistication with which it incorporates accepted theories and sources and builds upon them.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING The first paragraph in an essay is called the introductory paragraph . This is the ONE paragraph in an academic essay which is NOT shaped like a sandwich. An introductory paragraph is an inverted triangle, moving from general ideas to very specific. The thesis statement is the most important sentence in an essay, because it contains the main idea for the whole essay.
MAKE YOUR THESIS SPECIFIC & PERSUASIVE: A good thesis makes a specific argument for which evidence can be provided. It is the foundation of your essay.
Watching television is an experience shared by most adults and children. It is cheap, appealing, and within the reach of the general public. In this way, TV has become an important mass media around the world. Sadly, this resource isn’t used in a way that people could get the best possible benefits from it. The purpose of this essay is to persuade the reader that people shouldn’t watch too much television because the content of many TV programs is not educational; it makes people waste time that could be used in more beneficial activities; and it negatively affects people’s mental development . SAMPLE
WRITING YOUR THESIS: Identify & Refine your Main Ideas
YOUR WORK What is your paper's main idea? What is your current thesis statement? How can you improve it?
THE HOOK: Introducing your thesis The first sentence or two of an introductory paragraph is usually called the hook . It does NOT refer to the specific essay subject, but is a general statement addressing a broader idea than the thesis. The hook is generally stated in one of four forms: a rhetorical question, a statistic, a quotation, or a statement of general fact. For example, a quotation hooking readers into an essay about new laws on downloading music could be "Change brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth." After the hook, at least a sentence (or two) focusing and narrowing readers' attention is needed. Focus statements usually direct readers to the main idea of the essay, by providing keywords that will show up again in the thesis statement.
BODY PARAGRAPHS: Support & Evidence <ul><li>Every body paragraph = a sandwich: </li></ul><ul><li>one main idea stated in a topic sentence </li></ul><ul><li>at least two or three supporting statements with clear factual, theoretical or (sometimes) personal evidence </li></ul><ul><li>a conclusion. </li></ul>http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudzilla/2931400196
SAMPLE The first reason why people shouldn’t watch too much television is because the content of many TV programs is not educational. Nowadays, we can see movies, series, and shows that present scenes of violence, sex, and drugs. This has established wrong concepts among the audience that influence them into having a negative behavior. Moreover, the impact this tendency has on children is worse because they grow up with the idea of a world where women must be slender and blonde to stand out, where problems can only be solved with money and violence, and where wars are inevitable. The second reason why people shouldn’t watch too much television is because it makes people waste time that could be used in more beneficial activities. The time we spend watching TV could be applied to useful activities like exercise, reading, interacting with friends and family, activities that are a crucial for a healthy lifestyle. The third reason why people shouldn’t watch too much television is because it negatively affects people’s mental development. According to several scientific studies, watching TV for prolonged periods of time has a negative effect over the intellectual development of children and leads to deterioration of the mental capacity in older people by causing both attention and memory problems in the long term.
Show the structure of your argument and connections between points Evidence: authority, anecdote, analogy http://www.flickr.com/photos/franklumix/134418430/
CONCLUSIONS <ul><li>The conclusion is a forceful and persuasive restatement of your main idea and key evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>No new ideas or evidence are introduced in the conclusion. </li></ul><ul><li>The goal of the conclusion is to tie the essay together as a whole. </li></ul>
SAMPLE In conclusion, people shouldn’t watch too much television because the content of many TV programs is not educational; it makes people waste time that could be used in more beneficial activities; and it affects people’s mental development. However, this doesn’t mean that we should ban TV, but if we are going to watch it, we should do it with moderation. Television is a resource that we should learn to use through the right selection of programs by taking an active and critical attitude towards it.
YOUR WORK: OUTLINES Organizing Ideas & Evidence 1. If you have a draft, switch papers with a partner. Read your partner's essay: make a note of each point and piece of evidence your partner has written. 2. If you don't have a draft, consider your main points, theories, and the experiential evidence you will want to use to write your essay. Note these in linear order on your outline. Does the order of ideas you have chosen make sense? Are there any obvious gaps in your argument?
Goals for an Academic Essay Support your argument with facts & evidence Clarify values: state your perspective and locatedness, do not assume shared values Prioritize key points Sequence facts and evidence in linear order Lead to conclusions and state conclusions explicitly Persuade your audience that your conclusions are based upon the agreed-upon facts and shared values Edit: check your grammar and ideas for flaws, gaps, and mistakes