You ’ re now at university and most programs will require you to complete written assignments. Many programs will require essays and research papers. Some programs will assign written reports such as business or lab reports. Even programs such as engineering will have written assignments. For the most part, these assignments are rather formal demanding good reading and academic writing skills. Often you will research a topic and then develop a thesis (a perspective, a point of view). This thesis will be backed up with evidence from peer-reviewed resources or primary sources (e.g. a novel). You will be expected to engage the reader in your discussion. In this session, we will review: (1) the steps in the writing process (they are recursive and not linear) (2) the way you write a research paper including looking at the structure and the process (3) common errors or mistakes in academic writing and finally (4) referencing issues.
What does it mean to plan and write a paper? Often writing specialists will talk about the writing process. It is a series of steps that most writers follow. However, it is not a step-by-step process; rather, it is very individualized and very recursive. We start one step and decide that we need to go back to an earlier step. For example, you could be drafting your paper and realize that you need additional research. You may decide temporarily to leave that area blank, finish your draft, and then return to the sub-topic that needed more research. The steps in the writing process are often described in the following way: 1. Planning the paper (understand the assignment, use time management skills) 2. Deciding on a topic (think of the qualities of a good topic such as it is specific, limited in scope, arguable, and so on) 3. Making an outline 4. Researching the topic 5. Drafting the paper 6. Revising (re-seeing the whole paper, checking surface issues, referencing and seeing a writing tutor for additional comments)
An academic paper is a work that shows your originality. That seems like a strange description when you think of the outside sources that you are expected to use. However, the way that you ’ll take that information and use it to support your thesis (your main focus) is really very individualistic and very original. It is also something that synthesizes your ideas – you have an opportunity to offer your own reflections (in some fields) and think through a problem or an argument. An academic paper is a document that uses the work of others (sources). You have the chance to see what has been written previously on the topic that interests you! However, an academic paper isn ’t … A summary, or merely a repetition of other people ’s ideas, a series of quotes, or even an expression of your own ideas only. It is much more.
1. Planning the paper – understand the topic Clarify length, scope, format, and style Determine the point of view Identify the type of resources available Investigate penalties (for being late) 2. Making a time line (see library site = Assignment Calculator feature) – don ’t procrastinate! http://www.library.dal.ca/how/calculator/
10 minutes – let the group choose a preferred topic from previous group work – do it on the board – outline the topic with the whole group
Go back to the second slide and round-out the session. Any questions.
1. The Process of Writing a Paper: Writing Concerns The Dalhousie Writing Centre
2. Planning & Writing PapersSteps in the writing process 1. Planning the paper 2. Deciding on a topic 3. Making an outline 4. Researching the topic 5. Drafting the paper 6. RevisingRemember that these steps do not have to go in this order. The writing process is usually messy and recursive rather than organized and linear.
3. What is an academic paper? An academic paper is…• A work that shows your originality• Something that synthesizes your ideas• A document that uses the work of others (sources)It is not …• A summary, a repetition of other people’s ideas, a series of quotes, or an expression of your own ideas only, etc.
4. Steps to writing a research paper1. Planning the paper – understand the topic • Clarify length, scope, format, and style • Determine the point of view • Identify the type of resources available • Investigate penalties (for being late)2. Making a time line • Don’t procrastinate! • Use the assignment calculator http://www.library.dal.ca/how/calculator/
5. Making an outline (a plan of action)" Make a plan – very early" Use the plan to know what to research for" Change the plan (modify) it if you find the research pushes you in another direction" Use the plan to keep the elements on your topic" Not everybody needs an outline – at this stage
6. Researching the topic" This entails: " Locating sources – books and data bases " Evaluating those sources – date, credibility, peer reviewed, etc. " Selecting relevant information – skimming & scanning material, deciding if the info supports your topic " Making notes – carefully
7. Writing the draft" There’s no getting around it: this is the hard part." Set aside the time. Don’t let things or people interfere." Write in any sequence that you would like." Some people suspend their spell and grammar checkers." Some people “talk out” their ideas on paper." Use “Insert/Comment” to keep track of source information.
8. Revising the paper" Re-read the assignment’s directions" Read your topic sentence again" Start to read through the paper looking for 1. organization and transitions 2. overall impression (Is it convincing?) 3. surface correctness (grammar, mechanics, punctuation) Read it aloud!!! Make an appointment at the Writing Centre (494-1963)
9. Things that drive markers crazy1. Introductions and thesis statements: No real thesis, a too-broad thesis, or a good thesis that doesn’t get discussed in the paper2. Body text 1. Poor evidence – not from the field, too general, not discussed enough in your own words, not cited properly, unrelated to the thesis 2. No coherence or flow – ideas seem to be dropped into the discussion, no argument (just ideas), no attempt at linking things (transitions), etc.
10. Other things that drive them crazy…1. No effort to be concise – (saying something using too many words)2. No effort to proofread or edit work – use grammar and spell checkers, read your work aloud, read it to somebody3. No sensitivity to wording – poor word choices4. Little attempt to integrate source material in a way that emphasizes your knowledge or your ideas5. Wrong tone – too informal or too formal6. Weak conclusions – fade into black
11. Referencing: avoiding plagiarism" Know which style your professor prefers – use it! (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)" Use your reference book (library site, too)" http://plagiarism.dal.ca/" Footnotes/endnotes or in-text referencing" Quotations: use quotation marks and reference" Indirect quotations/paraphrases – no marks, but must be referenced" Works cited, references, bibliography
12. ResourcesProfessors, teaching assistants, and librariansWriting Centre – G40C in the Killam Learning Commons • Call 494-1963 or firstname.lastname@example.orgInternet information/guides e.g. • http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/ #effectiveHandbooks: • Instant Access • A Canadian Writer’s Reference • Fit to Print • The Canadian Style