Writing Descriptively In academic writing many different genres exist. Depending on the subject you are studying you could be asked to write:• an essay• a lab report• a case study• a book review• a research proposal• etc.
Introduction All genres can be constructed from these text types.• Descriptions• Reports• Explanations• Arguments
Introduction• Descriptions - this can include defining a topic, describing an object, system, or a process. It also includes categorizing and classifying.• Reports - this is a description of a past activity, something you did or something that happened.• Explanations - this is why or how something happens or happened. It includes giving reasons and explanations and writing about cause and effect.
Introduction• Arguments - this includes giving opinions or holding positions for or against an issue or advantages and disadvantages. It involves evidence to support an argument as well as making decisions or recommendations and justifying the action.
Introduction Evaluate possible solutions to the problem of international brand management. If you were asked to write an essay to answer the above- mentioned question you could answer it in the following way:• You could start by defining brand management,saying what it is and giving an example.• You might then explain why international brand management is a problem in business today, and support your explanation by evidence from your reading.
Introduction• After that you would describe some possible solutions to the problem of brand management, again supporting your suggestions with evidence from your reading.• Next you would evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possible solutions.• Finally, you would decide which solution you would prefer and give reasons.
Introduction So in order to answer the essay question you need to be able to write texts that do the following:• define• give an example• explain why• support your explanation with evidence• describe a solution• describe advantages and disadvantages• evaluate• choose
Introduction Again, for everything you needed to do to be able to answer the before-mentioned essay question, you used one of these text types.• Descriptions• Reports• Explanations• Arguments
DefiningIn academic writing it is usually necessary to defineyour terms. Many words have several differentmeanings and in your subject they may be used invery specific ways. It is important to show that youunderstand the terms that you are using and exactlythe sense in which you are using them.
DefiningIn the following text ‘advertising’ is beingdefined. Notice how the definition isorganized and what language is used.Advertising is defined as any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goodsor services through mass media such as newspapers,magazines, television or radio by an identifiedsponsor.
DefiningHere ‘mortgage’ is defined.A mortgage is a form of loan that is secured on anasset, typically land. Financial institutions such asbanks, insurance businesses and pension funds areoften prepared to lend to businesses on this basis.The mortgage may be over a long period.
DefiningTwo typical ways of writing definitions that you mightlike to uses are:A mortgage is a form of loan that is secured on anasset.orA form of loan that is secured on an asset is called amortgage.
DefiningYou will notice that these sentences were written inthe form:X is a Y that ...AY that ... X.
DefiningOther language that you’ll find useful in writingdefinitions is:X is ...X is called ...X is known as ...X may be defined as ...X is a type of Y that/which ...A type of Y is ... X.
DefiningNote:Make sure that you define rather than just describe orgive examples. For example, in the following text, thewriter has failed to define and is simply giving anexample of what a mentor does.The mentor supports and helps you with any schoolbased problems.
DefiningSometimes definition sentences are followed by moredetail. In these cases. the short definitions often formtopic sentences and are often followed by moredescriptive detail, as in the following example:
DefiningHire purchase is a form of credit that is used toacquire an asset. Under the terms of a hire purchaseagreement a customer pays for an asset ininstallments over an agreed period. Normally, thecustomer will pay an initial deposit (downpayment)and then make installment payments at regularintervals (perhaps monthly) until the balanceoutstanding has been paid. The customer willusually take possession of the asset after payment ofthe initial deposit, although legal ownership of theasset will not be transferred until the finalinstallment has been paid.
Describing ThingsIn your writing , you will often have to describesomething: an object, a system, an organization or aprocess.Read a description of the brain from a psychologytextbook. Notice the way the description is organizedand the language that is used. You will see that if youwere writing about the brain, you could describe:
Describing Things• what a brain looks like• how much it weighs• how important it is• what it consists of
Describing ThingsThe brain looks like a lump of porridge and has theconsistency of blancmange. This organ, weighing anaverage 1400g in an adult human, is the mostimportant part of the body. It contains an estimated10 to 100 billion nerve cells and about as manysupporting cells, which take care of importantsupport and ‘housekeeping functions. The braincontains many different types of nerve cell whichdiffer in shape, size and the kind of chemicals theyproduce.
Describing ThingsThe following text continues describing the brain bydescribing its function, what it does. You would startby describing the number of functions it has and thengive some detail about each function.
Describing ThingsThe brain has two roles: controlling the movementsof the muscles and regulating the physiologicalfunctions of the body. The first role looks outwardstowards the environments and the second looksinwards. The outward-looking role includes severalfunctions: perceiving events in the environment,learning about them, making plans, and acting. Theinward-looking role requires the brain to measureand regulate internal characteristics such as bodytemperature, blood pressure and nutrient levels.
Describing ThingsIf you are writing a description of an object,you might include for example:
Describing Things If you are writing a description of an object, you might include for example:• physical description • material• weight • shape• size • properties• color • functions• structure
Describing Things As well as describing simple objects, you may need to describe an organization or a system. The following description of the European commission, from a law textbook, gives you an example of how you could do this. Notice that the paragraph describes:• how the commission is made up• what its function is
Describing ThingsThe commission is composed of 27 members, calledcommissioners, who are each appointed by the memberstates for five years. The must be nationals of a memberstate, and in practice there tend to be two each from thelargest states- France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK- and one each from the rest. However the commissionersdo not represent their own countries: they areindependent, and their role is to represent the interests ofthe EU overall. The idea is that the commissioner’scommitment to furthering the EU interests balances therole of the counsel, whose members represents nationalinterests.
Describing ThingsIn addition to its part in making EU legislation, thecommission is responsible for ensuring that themember states uphold EU law, and has powers toinvestigate breachers by member states and, wherenecessary, bring them before the Court of Justice. Italso plays an important role in the relationship ofthe EU with the rest of the world, negotiating tradeagreements and the accession of new members, anddraws up the annual draft budget for the EU. It isassisted in all these functions by an administrativestaff, which has a similar role to that of the civilservice in the UK.
Describing Things So when you are describing objects, systems or organizations, you might want to describe physical characteristics, such as:• position• structure• size and weight• shape• function
Describing ThingsPositionA is opposite B. on the right of diagonally above vertically belowA is between B and C. equidistant fromThe pivot is vertically above the base.
Describing ThingsStructureX is connected to Y by Z.X consists of Y and Z.X contains Y and Z. includesThe brain contains many different types ofnerve cells.
Describing ThingsSize and weightX is 6cm long. high. wide. in length. in height.The voltmeter is 4 cm wide and 12 cmlong.
Describing ThingsSize and weightX weighs 6 cm has a weight of long. high. wide. in length. in height.The adult brain weighs approximately 1400grams.
Describing ThingsShapeX is square in shape. semi-circular hexagonal ellipticalThe brain is roughly elliptical in shape.
Describing Things FunctionThe function of the thermo is measure theA purpose meter temperature.One aim tripod hold the beaker. objective brain role
Describing ProcessesIt’s often necessary to describe processes: how thingsare done or made. These could be products or laws,for example. On the following slides is a descriptionof the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) problem-solvingcycle. The PDCA cycle is a problem-solving techniqueoften used in quality control. Notice that as the text isabout the cycle and how it works, when you writeabout processes in this way the passive form of theverb (are solved, is consolidated) is used. This isbecause in this type of writing, the focus is usually onthe process rather than on the people doing the work.In this case, the present tense is used as theprocedure is still commonly made use of.
Describing Processes Plan Go Control Define Improve Measure Act Check AnalyzeFigure 7.3 (a) the plan-d0-check-act or ‘Deming’ improvement cycle, and (b) the define-measure-analyse-improve-control or DMAIC Six sigma improvement cycle
Describing ProcessesThe PDCA cycle model is shown in figure [7.3]. Itstarts with the P (for plan) stage, which involves anexamination of the current method or the problemarea being studied. This involves collecting andanalyzing data so as to formulate a plan or actionwhich is intended to improve performance. Once theplan for improvement had been agreed, the next step is the D (for do) stage. This is the implementationstage during which the plan is tried out in theoperation. This stage may involve a mini-PDCAcycle as the problems of implementation areresolved.
Describing ProcessesNext comes the C (for check) stage, where the newimplemented solution is evaluated to see whether ithas resulted in the expected performanceimprovement. Finally, at least for this cycle, comesthe A (for act) stage. During this stage the change isconsolidated or standardized if it has beensuccessful. Alternatively, if the change has not beensuccessful, the lessons learned from the ‘trial’ areformalized before the trial starts again.
Describing ProcessesThe cycle consists of four clear stages, which areexplicitly referred to with the following phrases:It starts with ...The next step ...Next ...Finally...
Describing ProcessesThe stages are also connected with linking words orphrases, which you can make use of, such as:Once a plan for improvement has been agreed, ...This is the implementation stage during which ...During this stage, ... .
Describing Processes Also, make sure that you make the time sequenceclear with words such as:firstlynextsubsequently
Describing ProcessesInstructionsMake sure you describe how the process works ratherthan just give instructions. As a student, you willoften need to read and understand instructions - forexample in a laboratory manual or an assignmentbriefing sheet - but you will probably not need towrite them very often. So make sure you distinguishbetween them in your writing. Instructions are tellingsomeone how to do something and descriptions aredescribing how something happens or happened.
Describing Processes Instructions can be given in many ways. A numberedlist with the imperative form of the verb is onecommon way. Continuous text using the passive formof the verb with should is also common. Look at thefollowing example of one method of givinginstructions. Notice the highlighted language items:
Describing Processes Cleaning The following steps should be followed when cleaning objects in a hospital.1. Rinse the article with cold water to remove organic material. Hot water coagulates the protein of organic material and tends to make it adhere. Examples of organic material are blood and pus.2. Wash the article in hot water and soap. The emulsifying action of soap reduces surface tension and facilitates the removal of substances. Washing dislodges the emulsified substances.
Describing Processes3. Use an abrasive, such as a stiff-bristled brush, to clean equipment with grooves and corners. Friction helps dislodge foreign material.4. Rinse the article well with warm or hot water.5. Dry the article; it is now considered clean.6. Clean the brush and sink. These are considered soiled until they are cleaned appropriately, usually with a disinfectant.
Describing ProcessesTIP:Make sure you describe when you should bedescribing. Do not just give instructions
Describing ProcessesSequenceSequence, or order, is important in describingprocesses. The following table shows some commonexpressions that you can use to indicate sequences.
Describing ProcessesFirst, The first step is ...To begin with, .. begins with ...Initially, ... commences with ...Beforehand, Before this,At the same time, During...Secondly, Thirdly, etc. After this,Next, The next step is to ...Subsequently, In the following stage,Later, Following this,Lastly, ... finishes with ...Finally, ... concludes with ...In the last stage The last step is to ...
Describing ProcessesFor example:The company first gains a full understanding of themarketplace. It subsequently designs a customer-driven marketing strategy.
Describing ProcessesYou may also want to explain how something is done:... slowly/carefully... with care/precision... in a careful way/manner... by researching ...
Describing ProcessesFor example:The company first gains full understanding of themarketplace by researching customer needs andmanaging marketing information.TIP:Always check that your sequence of actions isclear.
Including charts and diagramsIt is often useful when you are describing objects,systems or processes to include reference to tablesand charts.Look at the following text. Notice how Figure 7.5 isexplicitly referred to in the written text and alsonotice the language that is used there. For example,Figure 7.5 shows ...
Including charts and diagramsFigure 7.5 Sales of notebook computers per year
Including charts and diagramsFig 7.5 shows sales of notebook computers permonth. As can be seen, it covers the years between1998 and 2008 and shows that the sales of notebookcomputers increased steadily in the first two years,then remained steady from 2000 until 2004. Thesales then rose steeply, throughout 2005 and 2006,with a rapid increase at the end of 2007, andreached a peak of 8000 in January 2007. A Sharpfall followed in the first half of 2007 but sales leveledoff at about 7000 per month in the middle of theyear.
Including charts and diagramsSales fluctuated slightly through the second half of2007 and are now increasing again. The figuresstrongly indicate that we have recovered from theproblems in early 2007 and are on target to improveon our 2007 peak by the end 0f 2008.
Including charts and diagrams In such cases, you do not simply add the visual to the text: you usually include some kind of comment or analyses as shown in the text. Typically, when you are referring to charts and diagrams, you will:• make an explicit reference to the diagram or chart• draw the readers attention to important features and describe them
Including charts and diagramsHere is some language that you might find usefulwhen you are referring to charts and diagrams.
Including charts and diagramsAdd some kind of comment which will depend onyour purpose in including the diagram in yourwriting.As can be seen from table 1, … in figure 2, graph 3,
Including charts and diagramsIt can be seen from table 1, …We can see in figure 2, graph 3,As can be seen from figure 7.5, the sales of notebookcomputers increased steadily in the first two years.
Including charts and diagramsFrom table 1 it can be seen … figure 2 may concluded shown estimated calculated inferred
Including charts and diagramsFrom the figure it can be seen … chart may concluded diagram shown estimated calculated inferredFrom Figure 7.5, it can be seen that the sales ofnotebook computers increased steadily in the firsttwo years.
Including charts and diagramsThe shows …graphFigure 1Figure 7.5 shows sales of notebook computers permonth.
Including charts and diagramsIf you want to comment on trends anddevelopments shown in graphs, thefollowing phrases may also be of use:There was a (very) slight rise. steady increase. dramatic steep
Including charts and diagramsThere was a (very) slight Fluctuation. steady dramatic steepThere was a (very) slight decline. steady reduction. dramatic drop. steep
Including charts and diagramsSales increased slightly.Price grew gradually.Exports rose steadily.etc. markedly. dramatically. sharply. suddenly.
Including charts and diagramsSales declined slightly.Price dropped gradually.Exports fell steadily.etc. markedly. dramatically. sharply. suddenly.
Including charts and diagramsTIP:Do not forget to label your diagramsand make sure your refer to themclearly in your own text.
Classifying/categorizing When you classify, you arrange things into groups according to certain criteria. For example, if you take the following list: Physics Chemistry Biology English History Art It is quite clear that all the words are school subjects but some are science subjects and some are arts subjects. As there are only arts subjects and science subjects it is simple to divide the list into two:Physics, Chemistry Biology and English, History and Art.
Classifying/categorizingWhen you are classifying, you need to explain whatyou are classifying and on what basis you are makingyour classification - your criterion or criteria. In thiscase the school subjects according to whether or notthey are science subjects or arts subjects.
Classifying/categorizingThe following text is classifying the different powersin governments. Notice how the powers are classifiedinto three types, depending on who holds the power.The different powers are then described.
Classifying/categorizingThe separation of powersOne of the fundamental principles underlying ourconstitution is that of the separation of powers.According to this principle, developed by theeighteenth-century French philosopher Montesquieu,all state power can be divided into three types:executive, legislative and judicial. The executiverepresents what we would call the Government andits servants, such as the police and civil servants;legislative power is Parliament; and judicialauthority is exercised by the judges.
Classifying/categorizingIn the next example, financial assets are divided intotwo groups, depending on whether they are shortterm or long term.The classification of assetsAssets may be categorized as being either current ornon-current....
Classifying/categorizingCurrent assets are basically assets that are held forthe short term....Non-current assets (also called fixed assets) aresimply assets that do not meet the definition ofcurrent assets. Generally speaking, they are held forlong term operations.
Classifying/categorizingTIP:Make sure the basis of your qualification isalways clear, i.e. your criteria are clearlystated.
Classifying/categorizingThe table below show some of the most common languagethat you can use in text which have classification as theirpurpose.There are two types of assets :current and non- kinds current. classes categories . These are current sorts and non-current. varieties
Classifying/categorizingThe table below show some of the most common languagethat you can use in text which have classification as theirpurpose.The two types of assets are current and kinds non-current. classes categories sorts varietiesYou can then follow this sentence with a description of thedifferent groups.
ReportingIn any writing you do, you might also have to report onhow something came into being or how something wasdone. Read the following text, from a law textbook, andnotice how the text is organized and the language that isused. You will notice that the text starts with a one-sentence introduction to put the narrative in context. Itthen provides a chronological (time-order) history of theformation of the European Union. It finishes with aprediction about the future.
ReportingBefore discussing the role of the EU in European law, thetext provides a short history of the EU. The European Union(EU) currently comprises 27 western European countries.The original members - France, Germany, Belgium,Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands - laid thefoundations in 1951, when they created the European Coaland Steel Community (ECSC). Six years later, they signedthe treaty of Rome, creating the European EconomicCommunity (EEC) and the European Atomic EnergyCommunity (Euratom). The original six were joined
Reportingby the UK, Ireland and Denmark in 1973, Greece in 1981and Spain and Portugal in 1986 and, in the same year, themember countries signed the Single European Act, whichdeveloped the free movement of goods and people withinthe community (the single market), and greater politicalunity. Finland, Austria and Sweden joined in 1995.Following the Nice summit in 2004, the EU increased itsmembership from 15 to 27 in 3004 with most of the newmembers coming from eastern Europe. In 1993 theMaastricht Treaty renamed the European EconomicCommunity the European community and the EuropeanEconomic Treaty was renamed the European Treaty.
ReportingIt also created the European Union (EU), which is likely tobecome the most important body in Europe and so will bethe label that we will refer to in this book.When you write such a report you will normally organizeyour text chronologically and use the past tense (laid,created, signed, ...). When you are writing about past eventsin this way, it is necessary the be explicit about the order inwhich things happened. To make the order clear, you shouldmention dates and times, and also use various links andconnections.
ReportingHere are some phrases you can use to refer to time:In 1981, ...During the 20th century, ...Yesterday, ...Twenty five years ago, ...
ReportingHere are some phrases you can use to make your sequenceclear:Before this, ...For the previous X years, ...Prior to this, ...Previously, ...X years previously, ...
ReportingWhen ..., ...As soon as ..., ...For the following X years, ...While ..., ...During this period, ...Throughout this period ...
ReportingX years later, ...After ...Following this , ...Subsequently, ...Soon/shortly/immediately afterwards, ...As with describing processes, make sure you distinguishbetween giving instructions - that is, telling someone how todo something - and reporting - that is describing what youdid or how something happened.
ReportingThe methods section of an experimental report typically usesthe passive voice (were taught, were selected, were excluded)as in the example below.MethodTwo groups of students in Higher Education on a one-yearPre-Masters English for Academic Purposes course, eachcomprising 50 students, were taught academic writing bydifferent methods and compared. In each group there were
Reporting50 students from 5 different academic departments -computer science, business, engineering, life science andlaw - and four different countries - China, Japan, Koreaand Thailand. The subjects were selected from the secondsemester of the University of Herfordshire Pre-MastersProgram in the 2007-2008 academic year.The subjects were selected from the 250 students on the Pre-Masters Program on the basis of performance at asatisfactory level in the Semester A examination. Studentswho had performed below the minimum level on theSemester A examination were excluded. This criterion was
Reportingemployed to ensure competent understanding of the tasksand adequate motivation.One group - Group A - studied English writing in thetraditional way in class with a teacher. This class met 2hours each week in a classroom for 12 weeks and wassupplemented with written homework assignments givenby the teacher each week. The second group - Group B - mettogether in a class with a teacher for one hour per week for12 weeks and were assigned a homework task of spendingone hour per week doing exercises from a website.
ReportingBoth groups A and B were given the same writtenexamination at the end of the semester. The students tookthe examination under standard university examinationconditions as part of their end of semester examination. Thetests were marked using the following categories: taskachievement, communicative quality, organization, ideas,content and relevance and grammar and vocabulary, bytwo experienced writing examiners and moderated in thestandard way to ensure reliability. In this way it waspossible to see the relationship between students’ mainacademic subjects, and the improvement in their writingability depending on the teaching method.
ReportingTIP:Make sure your sequence is clear and that you arereporting, not giving instructions.