Academic Writing


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This presentation addresses the essentials of academic essay composition as well as the incorporation of a literature review.

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Academic Writing

  1. 1. The Dalhousie University Writing Centre<br />Academic writing: Composing an analytical essay that incorporates a literature review<br />
  2. 2. Overview<br />Introduction to the Writing Centre<br />The Elements of a Good Paper<br />Key Features of Academic Writing<br />Content<br />Thesis Statement<br />Literature Review<br />Form<br />Essay Structure<br />Paragraphs (topic sentences and transitional statements)<br />Sentencing<br />APA<br />Additional Resources<br />
  3. 3. The Dalhousie Writing CentreKillam Library Learning Commons, G40CContact 494-1963 or<br />All students, regardless of year of study or writing experience, are welcome at the centre.<br />We can help with<br /><ul><li>Any piece of writing (essays, lab reports, proposals, etc.)
  4. 4. Any phase of the writing process (brainstorming, developing thesis statements, crafting the final draft, revising)
  5. 5. Organization and structure of your writing
  6. 6. Referencing.</li></ul>Appointments are 30 or 60 minutes. <br /><ul><li>You will be asked to bring a hard copy of your writing.
  7. 7. You will be asked to describe your assignment and identify the aspect of your writing you would like to address.
  8. 8. The tutor will provide feedback and offer suggestions for improvement (but will not edit) and may refer you to other writing resources or university services.</li></li></ul><li>The Elements of a Good Paper<br />The type of academic paper you write will inform both the content and form of your work.<br /><ul><li>Carefully read the assignment criteria and ask for clarification if necessary.
  9. 9. For many assignments, you will be using the course material as well as other secondary sources to analyze a topic. You therefore need to
  10. 10. 1) have a clear sense of the readings;
  11. 11. 2) synthesize the readings;
  12. 12. 3) apply the readings to your topic
  13. 13. 4) articulate the significance of this application.</li></li></ul><li>Key Features of Academic Writing<br />Several key features distinguish academic writing. These features, adapted from Gillet (2011), include<br />Accuracy– Vocabulary, facts, and figures are used accurately and are consistent with the standards of your field.<br />Explicitness– The relationship between ideas is clarified through the use of signaling words and transitions.<br />Complexity– Academic writing incorporates language particular to your audience and field and addresses more intricate issues than other types of texts. <br />Formality– Academic writing should be free of contractions, slang, and abbreviations.<br />Responsibility– You are responsible for the claims you make and for understanding the sources from which you draw. These sources should be reputable. You are also responsible to the people whose work you draw on to make your claims. This responsibility is reflected in proper in-text citations and proper reference list form.<br />Objectivity-- The emphasis of the writing is on the information you are conveying or the argument you are making rather than on you.<br />
  14. 14. The Elements of a Good PaperContent and Form<br />Content includes the context, ideas, concepts, theories, analysis, and evidence that you present.<br /><ul><li>Adhering to the key features of academic writing, your arguments should be made clearly and linearly, the links should be made explicit, and the language should be formal and accurate.
  15. 15. Use your own words. Avoid excessive reliance on direct quotations. Quotations are useful elements for support of your assertions; they should not speak for you.
  16. 16. Cite properly and include a reference list.</li></ul>Form refers to the structure and organization of your paper– how your paper flows from one idea to the next, one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next, and one section to the next. <br />The form (organization + flow) should enhance your content.<br /><ul><li>Create grammatically correct sentences. </li></ul> Enhance flow through the use of transitional words and phrases.<br /><ul><li>Clearly establish the purpose of each paragraph (introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion).</li></ul> Enhance flow through topic sentences (the frame of each paragraph) and transitional phrases (phrases that summarize and link to the next paragraph).<br />
  17. 17. The Elements of a Good PaperContent: The Thesis Statement<br />The thesis statement offers the point of argument or purpose.<br />The thesis statement must be arguable. It is not simply an observation; it is not a question; it is not simply an announcement of the topic.<br />For example, <br />I think that universal health care is important. (This statement is a statement of opinion and it can not, therefore, be argued.)<br />Currently there is no federally funded universal health care program that includes subsidized day care. (This statement is a fact and is therefore not arguable. It may, however, be the problem; the proposed solution would be the thesis.) <br />To redress inequality between men and women, the federal government should develop and implement a universal health care program that includes subsidized day care. (This statement can be debated and is, therefore, an appropriate thesis statement.)<br />
  18. 18. Content: Literature Review<br />Literature reviews provide an analytical synthesis of key issues and themes on a topic. They are not summaries; rather, literature reviews offer an overview of the themes, approaches, perspectives, and conclusions of the literature on a subject.<br />Literature reviews enable us to <br /> demonstrate familiarity with an area of study;<br /> participate in the ongoing academic dialogue;<br /> establish the relationships between ideas;<br /> identify points of tension in the academic dialogue;<br /> identify gaps in current knowledge;<br /> establish the need for further research.<br />
  19. 19. Content: Literature Review<br />Your literature review should include the following elements:<br />An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review; <br />Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative theses entirely);<br />Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others; <br />Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research. (<br />
  20. 20. Content: Steps in Creating a Literature Review<br />1. Define your topic and create a thesis statement.<br />2. Identify your sources.<br />3. For each of your books and/or articles, take note of the<br />Keywords/concepts (how is the subject described),<br />Themes (what is the author saying about the subject), <br />Approaches (method of research), <br />Perspectives (the theory used to understand the subject),<br />Findings/conclusions (results of the research). <br />
  21. 21. Content: Steps in Creating a Literature Review<br />4. Consider how your sources relate to each other and to your thesis. Look for similarities, identify differences, and note omissions.<br />5. Structure your literature review around the themes that emerge rather than the individual sources (synthesize the material).<br />What emerges in the literature on unaccompanied and separated children in Canada are three themes. These themes include the trauma of flight and separation from family, the challenges of resettlement and integration, and the lack of a cohesive federal policy directing intervention.<br />
  22. 22. Steps in Creating a Literature Review <br />6. Clearly express similarities and differences by incorporating synthesizing phrases.<br />UnlikeSmith (2003), Jones (2005) suggests that poverty is a result of systemic failures related to the uneven distribution of wealth.<br />Althoughtheir perspectives differ, Stone (1998) and Goldberg (2006) conclude that poverty is best redressed through increasing minimum wage.<br />Both Morse (1998) and Stone (1998) attribute poverty to personal short-comings of individuals.<br />
  23. 23. The Elements of a Good PaperForm: Essay Structure<br />The introduction must accomplish three tasks. It must<br />show the reader that there is a problem or explain the context for an issue;<br />state the thesis (point of argument or purpose) and emphasize the implications of this claim;<br />and state your intended route or "roadmap“ (the elements of your analysis in the order you develop them).<br />The body paragraphs develop and support your thesis. Each paragraph<br />has a specific purpose in developing the thesis, a purpose that is presented in the topic sentence,<br />offers evidence from primary and/or secondary sources;<br />fits logically within the flow of the argument.<br />The conclusion<br />reaffirms your paper’s position;<br />draws together the main points;<br />emphasizes the implications of your analysis and findings, making clear your contribution to our understanding of the topic.<br />
  24. 24. Form: Paragraphs<br />UNITY<br /><ul><li>Good body paragraphs are explicitly linked to one another and to the thesis.
  25. 25. Each paragraph should offer an idea or point that supports your thesis.
  26. 26. Each paragraph should contain one central idea (expressed in the topic sentence) and multiple elements (description, factual details, and analysis) to support the central theme of the paragraph and the thesis statement.</li></ul>COHERENCE<br /><ul><li>Each paragraph should flow logically from the preceding paragraph.
  27. 27. The relationship between the elements that make up the paragraph should be explicit.
  28. 28. Sentences should flow logically.
  29. 29. Transitional words and phrases should be used.</li></li></ul><li>Form: Transitions<br />Transitions establish the logical connections between ideas, create smooth flow, and reinforce the organizational structure. Transition words and phrases<br /><ul><li>link paragraphs to the thesis statement </li></ul>To better understand the systemic failures related to the uneven distribution of wealth, the demographic distribution of wealth must first be understood.<br /><ul><li>continue an idea or emphasize similarity (additionally, also, and, because, furthermore, in the same way, then, therefore)</li></ul>Smith (2005) also addresses the psycho-social outcomes of unaccompanied and separated children in Canada.<br /><ul><li>indicate a point of contrast (but, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, yet); </li></ul>The argument made by Bryan (2008) for long-term supportive services is very similar to Smith’s (2009); however, Smith offers a much more convincing argument by drawing on the direct experiences of unaccompanied and separated children.<br />
  30. 30. Form: Transitions (cont.)<br /><ul><li>summarize (finally, lastly)
  31. 31. create links in a chain of points (first, second, third; first, furthermore, finally; basically, similarly, as well; generally, however, therefore)
  32. 32. establish order sequentially or chronologically (after, at first, before, finallyfirst...second...third, later, meanwhile, next, then)
  33. 33. establish purpose </li></ul>In order to better understand this occurrence, the historical context must first be addressed.<br />Before addressing the key issues, it is necessary to define…<br />For lists of transition words and their uses, see<br />
  34. 34. Revision<br />Look at what you have written from the perspective of someone reading it for the first time and answering the following questions:<br />What is the occasion for writing or the problem the paper seeks to address?<br />What sentence contains the thesis?<br />What sentence(s) in the introduction indicates the projected organization?<br />How is the essay organized? Are transitions in place throughout the paper to facilitate the flow of the argument?<br />Is the information from secondary sources synthesized and effectively used to develop the paper’s thesis? (Conversely, are the sources allowed to dominate the discussion and minimize the author’s voice?)<br />Are there errors in the paper that inhibit the flow of the argument or limit the effectiveness of the content?<br />Does each paragraph, each sentence, each word have a clear purpose?<br />Does the conclusion effectively summarize the key findings, reaffirm the thesis, and emphasize the implications?<br />
  35. 35. APA Referencing<br />Use of secondary sources with proper citations and referencing demonstrates academic integrity and successful engagement in the profession.<br />Use proper author/date in-text citation with page numbers for direct quotations.<br />Alphabetize the reference list and use hanging indents.<br />Follow the guidelines for APA 6th edition: <br /><br />
  36. 36. References and Additional Resources<br />Gillet, A. (2011). Features of academic writing. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from<br />Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2011). Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue/owl/<br />Taylor, D. (n.d.). The literature review: A few tips on conducting it. Retrieved from<br />Transition words. (n.d.). Retrieved from<br />Write a literature review. (2011). Retrieved from<br />