Introduc)on Writing for Canadian University courses may be diﬀerent from the kind of writing you have done before. This presentation will talk about the types of writing assignments you will get and where you can go for help with these assignments.
Types of writing assignments In university, you will encounter a variety of writing assignments: Essays / Term Papers Research Papers Lab Reports Science Posters Business Reports, Letters, Memos, E-‐mails Tests, Exams, Take-‐Homes Applications Job Application Letters and Resumes (CVs)
Rules vary Each of these types of writing will follow diﬀerent rules about layout, organization, and style. The same types of assignment may also follow diﬀerent rules in diﬀerent disciplines. How do you ﬁnd out what these rules are?
Figuring out the rules Read the assignment instructions carefully. Ask your professor/ TA if you are unsure about any of the requirements. Read published papers in your ﬁeld and pay close attention to the way they are written. Talk to other students in your class. Go to the Dalhousie Writing Centre.
Academic writing conventions According to data collected by Rosenfeld, Leung & Oltman (2001), these are the most important features of academic writing. The paper Is organized into major and supporting ideas Uses relevant reasons to support ideas/position Uses appropriate vocabulary Shows a good command of English Paraphrases/summarizes others’ ideas Stays on topic Demonstrates audience awareness Uses transitions to connect ideas.
Understanding the assignmentEnsure that you understand the key words in the assignment and seek help if you are unclear. Also consider the following questions: Can I use the ﬁrst person (I)? What referencing style should I use (MLA/ APA)? Should I use external sources or only my own ideas? How much discipline-‐speciﬁc language (jargon) should I use? Can I use the passive voice? Should this paper have a formal or informal writing style?
Understanding the assignment Determine the audience for the assignment (for example, instructors familiar with the material, a business, fellow students, etc.). Determine the type of writing you are expected to do (an essay, a research paper, a proposal, etc.). Consider both the standards of the form (for example, the use of headings, referencing style, etc.) as well as any particular requirements your instructor may have (for example, requirements regarding format, number of sources, word limit). Determine the types of evidence necessary to complete the task. Will you need secondary source material? Lab results? Primary source material?
Understanding the assignment: Key terms Identify the verbs in the assignment and determine their meaning. The following list includes the four verbs most often used in academic assignments: Analyze To break a topic into parts, categorize these elements, and determine how they relate to the whole. To analyze is to demonstrate critical thinking. For example, Analyze the use of images in Shakespeare s Sonnet 73 . In this case the student would record the images, decide how these images might be grouped thematically, and determine what these groupings reveal.
Understanding the assignment: Key terms (cont.) Apply To use a theory, concept, or data set to inform your understanding of the topic. For example, Apply Maslow s hierarchy of needs to the employee issues at XYZ Corp. Argue To defend a point of view persuasively. For example, Determine key features of the organization s culture and present a paper in which you argue which features must change to enhance production. Discuss To address the main issues. Most instructors will expect the discussion to include some evaluation of the key ideas rather than a simple description. For example, Discuss the use of child labour in India.
Understanding the assignment Circle the key words. For example, Discuss the sequence of imagery in Shakespeare s Sonnet 73 . How do these images relate to one another? Is the order of sequence important? What are the diﬀerences between them, and what do these diﬀerences suggest? Ask questions about each of these key words as you begin the pursuit of the topic. For example, What is the sequence of events in the poem? What images appear in the poem? What is the order of the images? In what ways are the images diﬀerent? Why does Shakespeare select this order?
Example papers This Writing Centre guide has a section on Writing in the Disciplines. On the page for your discipline you will ﬁnd example papers with notes explaining the important features useful links presentations
Intellectual property issues As a Canadian university student, you are expected to participate in the academic community. In this community we credit the work of others and distinguish this work from our own. There are heavy penalties for plagiarism Acknowledge the work of others – both direct quotations and paraphrases Use the appropriate citation (documentation) style Use the style consistently and accurately
People that can help you Your professors The teaching assistants (TAs) for your courses Your international student advisor (ISA) Your subject librarian The Writing Centre tutors
The Dalhousie Writing Centre What is the Writing Centre? A free writing tutoring service for students Why should I go there? The friendly tutors will help you to improve your writing Where is the Dalhousie Writing Centre? The Killam Library Learning Commons – G40M
How can I use this centre? Drop in to G40M and ask a quick question E-‐mail or phone to ask a question firstname.lastname@example.org 494-‐1963 Book a free one-‐on-‐one appointment Take a non-‐credit ESL course Take a free non-‐credit seminar Visit the Website: http://writingcentre.dal.ca
ESL Course & Seminars ESL course – classes are one evening a week for ten weeks. There is a small fee. Check the website for details http://writingcentre.dal.ca/esl/ Seminar Series – regularly scheduled seminars on a range of academic writing topics See http://writingcentre.dal.ca/services/seminars for dates and times
References Rosenfeld, M., Leung, S. & Oltman, P. (2001). The reading, writing, and listening tasks important for academic success at the undergraduate and graduate levels. TOEFL Monograph Series, 21. Educational Testing Service.