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Hacks for academic writing

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This presentation showcases innovative hacks that
undergraduates, postgraduates and professors can harness to solve or ameliorate common problems.
These hacks have been tried and tested by hundreds of students and researchers in Hong Kong,
Thailand and Japan.

Published in: Education
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Hacks for academic writing

  1. 1. John Blake Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Hacks for academic writing
  2. 2. Overview 02 Introduction • Context, difficulties • Academic discourse Hacks • Ten hacks
  3. 3. Context 03 Institution • 30% PhD / 70% MS • 750/150 students; • 70/30 balance (cn. vn. th. in.) • Bi(part)lingual environment Center • 4 full-time faculty
  4. 4. Difficulties identified 04 Key issues • Accuracy • Brevity • Clarity • Objectivity • Formality Copying and pasting • Justifiable text recycling • Plagiarism & patch writing
  5. 5. Academic discourse 05 Community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) • Periphery to core • Rules – overt and covert • Rejection & rewrites • Mentorless meandering Computer literacy • Text editor functionality • Online assistance
  6. 6. 1. Templates and versions 06 • Save as different versions – e.g. v01. v02, v15 submitted, v18 shortened lit rev • Use template – Often provided by target publication – Create your own template in your preferred text editor • Structure by percentage and words – Overwriting vs underwriting – Sections, sub-sections, – paragraphs, sentences (topic, citation, explanation)
  7. 7. 2. Spell and grammar checkers 07 • Use spell and grammar checkers • Be aware of false positives – Grammarly (free version) • 5-page short paper; 40/280 errors = FP – MS Word users • Ensure all document set in eng on jp OS. • Tweak settings (F7 options/proofing/settings) – users • Add module or check on terminal or copypaste to MS and ignore noise
  8. 8. Grammarly 08
  9. 9. Corpus-based error detector 09 Current url http://www.jaist.ac.jp/~johnb/ErrorDetector.html From October 2016 http://www.u-aizu.ac.jp/~blake
  10. 10. 10
  11. 11. 3. Harnessing functionality 11 MS Word • Use style tab – e.g. normal, heading 1, etc. – auto-formatting features, e.g. Table of contents, list of figures – especially for long documents, e.g. dissertations • Track changes (ctrl + shift + e) – Change tracking options • Insert comment (ctrl + alt + m) Web-based editing, e.g. Google docs • Real time but fewer features
  12. 12. Track changes 12
  13. 13. Comments 13
  14. 14. 4. Colour text 14 Undergraduate essays – Structure focus • Blue – topic sentence • Red – citation • Black – elaboration Undergraduate essays – Citation focus • Black – own text • Red – long and short quotations • Blue – paraphrases and summaries Graduate academic papers, e.g. • Red – conclusions • Blue – premises • Black – other
  15. 15. Colour-coded essay 15 The objective of time management is to use our limited time in a more effective and efficiency way in order to achieve our goal. As ‘Mindtools’ (no date) states, one of the main characteristic of time management is to “concentrate on results, not on being busy.” Some people, who have not well managed their time, spend their all day time and work very hard to do just a little and irrelevant things. It may be due to lack of a well planning and schedules. However, …
  16. 16. 5. Google Translate 16 en-de similar languages – high accuracy en-jp dissimilar languages – low accuracy Use statistical machine translation wisely • phrases/clauses/sentences • Back-translate to check accuracy Use exact match Google search to validate accuracy and suitability of translated text
  17. 17. 6. Building better sentences • Step-by-step – I mixed A with B in C. • Predictive text (statistical probability of next word) • Wildcard missing word search “This is * a banana”  not, what, simply, me eating, just, how • Thesaurus synonyms (shift + F7) – activate receptive vocabulary 17
  18. 18. Sentence build 18 1. I mixed chemical A with chemical B. 2. I mixed chemical A with chemical B in a XXXX. 3. Chemical A was mixed with chemical B in a XXXX. 4. Chemical A was mixed with chemical B in a XXXX using a XXXXX 5. 60ml of chemical A was mixed with 40ml of chemical B in a XXXXX using a XXXXX 6. 60ml of XXXXX was mixed with 40ml of XXXXX for 60 seconds in a XXXXX using a XXXXX 7. 60ml of XXXXX was mixed with 40ml of XXXXX at a temperature of 45 degrees celcius for 60 seconds in a XXXXX using a XXXXX.
  19. 19. Wildcard search 19 Search in Google “This is * a banana” Results “This is not a banana” “This is what a banana” “This is simply a banana” “This is me eating a banana” “This is just a banana” “This is how a banana”
  20. 20. 7. Abstraction • Maximum meaning in fewest words • Focus on processes and results not doers • Temporarily relocate replaced text to footnote Paragraph Sentence Phrase 20
  21. 21. 8. Generic integrity • Check balance of word types – Lexical profiler, e.g. lextutor.ca (Cobb, 1999-2016) • e.g. General 65%, Academic 10%, off-list 25% cf. General 88%, Academic 2%, off-list 10% • Check readability • Check thematic development – Bananas are a type of fruit. A banana is a popular.. – The banana is sweet. The sweetness stems from… 21
  22. 22. Lexical profile via Lextutor.ca 22
  23. 23. 9. Citations Quote Paraphrase Summary 23 • Consider using software, e.g. Endnote • Insert hyperlink to electronic source (e.g. as footnote) while working on paper • Use colour to help remember the stage of citation
  24. 24. 10. Proofreading • Plagiarism checker – iThenticate, Turnitin, etc. • Recruit lay reader – Put ? if something is hard to understand • Systematic error checking – e.g. VAT for verbs. (voice, agreement, tense) – e.g. Use find function for is & are to check S-V agreement • Sleep-spaced reading – Write  Sleep  Re-read – If time is pressured, try biphasic or polyphasic sleep. • Proof-listening – Use text-to-speech engine to avoid screen-memory confusion 24
  25. 25. Any questions, comments or suggestions? johnb@jaist.ac.jp

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