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Tips for Effective Academic Writing


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  • Good advice for graduate students and academics
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Tips for Effective Academic Writing

  1. 1. Tips for Effective Academic Writing
  2. 2. General Advice <ul><li>Begin Early </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I’m too busy now, and I’ll start later when I have more time . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Select an Appropriate Topic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contribution to the field (a niche) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Resources available </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Gathering Resource Materials <ul><li>Sources: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The references, footnotes of books & journal articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Library research: lib catalogues, electronic resources, lib stacks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>References of conference papers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal communication with experts </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remember to record the sources, using the assigned format. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Reading and Writing <ul><li>Browse to get general understanding, take notes (key words). </li></ul><ul><li>Always have something available for a quick read. Sift and save the best. </li></ul><ul><li>Form a thesis statement. </li></ul><ul><li>Create two files: the main text and references. </li></ul><ul><li>Read the selected references in depth. Annotate your bibliography entries. Type the quotes, your comments regarding the topic. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Overview of the Research Paper: IMRD <ul><li>Introduction (I): General to specific. Cite and comment. </li></ul><ul><li>Methods & Materials (M): High in using passive voice. </li></ul><ul><li>Results (R): Findings </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion (D): Specific to general, high in citation, discussion, and qualifications. </li></ul><ul><li>Tense? </li></ul><ul><li>Which part should you start when you write? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Results Sections (Past Tense) <ul><li>Judging the right strength of the claim (Hypotheses supported? To what extent? ) </li></ul><ul><li>Highlighting key findings from the data. </li></ul><ul><li>Making generalized comparisons </li></ul><ul><li>One emerging pattern </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Procedure/justification (optional) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Location statement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statement of general finding (Hypotheses supported?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More specific statements to interpret the results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Example/case/commentary (optional) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Moves in Writing Introduction <ul><li>Move 1. Establishing a research territory </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A. By showing its importance, centrality, problematic or relevant in some way (optional) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>B. By reviewing items of previous research in the area (obligatory=ob) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Move 2 Establishing a niche </li></ul><ul><li>A. Indicating a gap in previous knowledge (ob) </li></ul><ul><li>Move 3 Occupying the niche </li></ul><ul><li>A. By outlining purposes or stating the nature of the present research (ob) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Move 1-A: Language Focus: Claiming Centrality <ul><li>Recently, there has been growing interest in … </li></ul><ul><li>The possibility of . . . has generated wide interest in. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The development of . . . is a classic problem in. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The development of . . . has led to the hope that. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The . . . has become a favorite topic for analysis. . . </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge of . . . has a great importance for . . . </li></ul><ul><li>The study of . . . has become an important aspect of . . . </li></ul>
  9. 9. Move 2: Establishing a Niche <ul><li>A mini-critique to indicate the gap of knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Language Focus: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Little (Uncountable) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>However, little information/work/data/research . .. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Few (Countable) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>However, few studies/investigations/ researchers/attempts. . . </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid using a full negative like “no studies” </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Establishing a Niche—Negative Statements (Using Verbs) <ul><li>However, previous research in this field has_____________ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>concentrated on </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>disregarded </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>failed to consider </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ignored/neglected to consider </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>been limited to/been restricted to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>overestimated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>overlooked/suffered from/underestimated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>misinterpreted </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Establishing a Niche—Negative Statements (Using Adjectives) <ul><li>Nevertheless, these attempts to establish a link between dental fillings and disease are at present ___________ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>controversial/incomplete/inconclusive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>misguided/questionable/unconvincing/ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unsatisfactory </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. *Establishing a Niche—Using Contrastive statements <ul><li>However, it remains unclear whether… </li></ul><ul><li>It would thus be of interest to learn how… </li></ul><ul><li>If these results could b confirmed, they would provide strong evidence for… </li></ul>
  13. 13. Move 3 Occupying the Niche <ul><li>Two variations in occupying the niche: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Purposive (P): The author(s) indicate their main purpose or purposes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., The aim of this paper is to give… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2. Descriptive (D): The author(s) describe the main feature of their research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g., This paper reports on the results obtained… </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Move 3 Occupying the Niche <ul><li>Try to identify the following statements: </li></ul><ul><li>_____In this paper we give preliminary results for. . . </li></ul><ul><li>_____This study was designed to evaluate… </li></ul><ul><li>_____Our primary objective in this paper is to provide . . . </li></ul><ul><li>_____ We now report the interaction between . . . </li></ul>
  15. 15. Tense and Purpose Statements <ul><li>Use present tense when referring to the type of text—paper, article, thesis, report, research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The aim of this paper is to . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use present or past tense when referring to investigation—experiment, investigation, study, survey, etc. To be safe, use present tense. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This type of investigation was/is carried out in order to . . . </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. zLoc Location of the Purpose Statement <ul><li>In longer research papers, the thesis (purpose) statement is usually at the end of an introduction: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The purpose of this paper is to . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This paper describes and analyzes. . . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>My aim in this paper is to . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In this paper, we report on . . . </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Move 3 Occupying the Niche, in addition to purpose statement, also <ul><li>By listing research Qs or Hypotheses </li></ul><ul><li>By announcing principle findings </li></ul><ul><li>By stating the value of the present research (use qualifications: 1. ___ may be due to…, 2. ____ can be attributed to…3. ____ would seem to stem from ____) </li></ul><ul><li>By indicating the structure of the research paper (The plan of this paper is…Section II describes…In Section III, a …is constructed…. ___ is tested in Section IV. Finally, Section V…) </li></ul>
  18. 18. Discussion Sections <ul><li>Length of Discussion: In life sciences, it is believed that a long Discussion implied weak methods and results, while social scientists and humanities may well believe the opposite </li></ul><ul><li>Results deal with facts--descriptive; Discussions deal with points--interpretive. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Discussion Sections <ul><li>Should be more than summaries of the results. </li></ul><ul><li>Should be more theoretical or </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More abstract </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More general </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More integrated with the field </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More connected to the real world </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More concerned with implications or applications </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Language for Discussion <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><li>In this paper we have investigated. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The main purpose of this paper has been to. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The survey reported on in this study has produced a wealth of data </li></ul>
  21. 21. Discussion Moves <ul><li>Move 1. Points to consolidate your research space (obligatory) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Highlight intelligently the strengths (more) … </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Move 2. Points to indicate the limitations of your study (optional) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>highlighting intelligently its weaknesses (less) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Move 3. Points to recommend action or to identify useful areas of further research (optional) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Move 1 in Writing Results: Consolidate Your Research Space <ul><li>1a. Report your accomplishments by highlighting major findings </li></ul><ul><li>1b. Relate and evaluate your data in the light of previous research. </li></ul><ul><li>1c. Interpret your data by making suggestions as to why the results are the way they are. </li></ul><ul><li>1d. Anticipate and deal with potential criticism </li></ul>
  23. 23. Language Focus: Generalization in Discussion Sections <ul><li>Specific: As we can see in Table 1, 84% of the students. . . </li></ul><ul><li>High level of generality: The results indicate that the students performed above the 12th grade level. </li></ul><ul><li>Phrases of generality: Overall, . . . In general, . . . On the whole. . . </li></ul><ul><li>With . . . exception(s), </li></ul><ul><li>The overall results indicate. . . </li></ul>
  24. 24. Expressions of Limitation <ul><li>It should be noted that this study has been primarily concerned with. . . </li></ul><ul><li>This analysis has concentrated on . . . </li></ul><ul><li>This findings of this study are restricted to . . . </li></ul><ul><li>This study has addressed only the question of. . . </li></ul><ul><li>The limitations of this study are clear. . . </li></ul><ul><li>We would like to point out that we have not. . . </li></ul>
  25. 25. Conclusions Limitations <ul><li>State that certain conclusions should not be drawn (Swales & Feak, 2004, p. 276) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>However, the findings do not imply . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The results of this study cannot be taken as evidence for . . . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The lack of . . . Means that we cannot be certain . . . </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Reconfirming the Value of Your Study <ul><li>Notwithstanding its limitations, this study does suggest . . . </li></ul><ul><li>Despite its preliminary character, the research reported here would seem to indicate . . . . </li></ul><ul><li>However exploratory, this study may offer some insight into . . . </li></ul>
  27. 27. Abstract <ul><li>Two major approaches: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Result-driven: findings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>RP summary </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Structured Abstract: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aim </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Method </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. What Have We Learned? <ul><li>Start _________. Don’t wait until the last minute. </li></ul><ul><li>Find an __________ topic. (Niche) </li></ul><ul><li>A RP should include 4 sections: IMRD </li></ul><ul><li>Start writing with the ______ section. </li></ul><ul><li>Medical papers usually use ______ tense. </li></ul><ul><li>Explain the contributions of your paper (longer). State its limitations (shorter). </li></ul><ul><li>Make claims cautiously. </li></ul><ul><li>_____your paper before you submit for publication. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Last Step: Editing <ul><li>Put your writing away for a period of time and read it with fresh eyes. </li></ul><ul><li>Ask colleagues to read and give feedback. </li></ul><ul><li>Have the paper go through a final English reviewer by a professional editor. </li></ul>