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ACADEMIC WRITING

USEFUL WRITING STRATEGIES

Think of writing as a process. Let’s divide it into a three stage process. Prewriting, Writing and Re writing. Prewriting can be thought of as the stage during which you preview your text by planning and organizing what you will write. Writing is the stage when you view your text and compose your ideas. Rewriting involves reshaping, editing and revising the ideas and grammar in your text. Each stage during the writing process is connected to the other and recursive in nature. Think of writing as a connected circle.

The Writing Process

How you prepare yourself before you write influences how effective your writing will be There are three stages in the writing process:

  1. pre-writing;
  2. writing;
  3. and rewriting.

PRE-WRITING

Below are some useful strategies to help you express you ideas before you begin the write your assignment.

Note taking- see ‘Note taking’ section

Reading - see ‘Reading for Academic Success’ section

Free writing: write as much as you can on the topic without stopping or considering the arrangement of the information

Semantic mapping: create a web or map of your topic, working from the main idea in the centre to the supporting topics on extending branches

Brainstorming (discussion, debate) producing words, phrases and idea: list all the ideas that you want to include in your paper

Planning: determine the order of information and what content to include

Organising: group all related ideas together

Ordering: arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete

Outlining: see ‘Making and Essay plan’ section.

Planning: ask yourself questions; What does the reader want or need to know? Who is my audience?

Peer interviewing: interview a fellow student to exchange ideas about the writing assignment

 

Outlining:

  • A way of planning and inventing
  • A logical, general description
  • A summary of your plans
  • An organizational pattern
  • A visual and conceptual arrangement of your writing
  • It is used to show a relationship between ideas and can look like this:
    1. Major topic
      1. Division of major topic
        1. detail concerning division A
        2. second detail
      2. Second division of major topic
    2. Second major topic
      1. Division of second major topic
        1. detail concerning division B
        2. second detail
Example: Thesis: Although various methods for limiting or disposing of nuclear waste have been proposed, each has serious drawbacks.
  1. The process of limiting nuclear waste through partititioning and transmutation has serious drawbacks.
    1. The process is complex and costly.
    2. Nuclear workers' exposure to radiation would increase.
  2. Antarctic ice sheet disposal is problematic for scientific and legal reasons.
    1. Our understanding of the behaviour of ice sheets is too limited.
    2. An international treaty prohibits disposal in Antarctica.
  3. Space disposal is unthinkable.
    1. The risk of an accident and resulting worldwide disaster is great.
    2. The cost is prohibitive.
  4. Seabed disposal is unwise because we do not know enough about the procedure or its impact.
    1. Scientists have not yet solved technical difficulties.
    2. We do not fully understand the impact of such disposal on the ocean's ecology.
  5. Conclusion
Drafting: writing a first copy of your plans and outline and making meaningful connections among your ideas and information

Organising: arranging and sequencing the information to be included in your paper in a logical and coherent manner

Paragraphing: using indentation signals to the reader the start of a new paragraph and helps section your paper into units of information that are unified in topic and focus

Coherence: When sentences, ideas and details fit together clearly and logically, readers can follow the text more easily. Linking words behave like glue, connecting all the parts of a piece of text together smoothly. Here are some of the methods for achieving coherence in your writing:

  • Repetition of key terms or phrases- to avoid confusion, writers often repeat words and phrases.

    Example: The problem with contemporary art is that it is not easily understood by most people. Modern art is deliberately abstract, and that means that contemporary art leaves the viewer wondering what she is looking at.

  • Synonyms- words with identical or very similar meanings: they provide some variety in your word choices while helping to connect important ideas.

    Example: Myths narrate sacred history and explain sacred origins. These traditional narratives are, in short, a set of beliefs that are a very real force in the lives of people who tell them.

  • Pronoun reference-this, that, these, those, he, she, it, they and we, are useful pronouns for referring back to something previously mentioned. Be sure that what you are referring to is clear.

    Example: When scientific experiments do not work out as expected, they are often considered failures until some other scientist tries them again.

  • Transitional words - are connecting words that serve as a bridge, connecting one paragraph, sentence, clause, or word with another and signal the relationships between sentences and ideas in a piece of writing.

Transitional words and expressions Purpose
Also, too, in addition, furthermore, Moreover, and, besides, in fact to add an idea or example
For example, for instance, such as, including to supply an example to support a
First, next, last, before, after, earlier subsequently, later, while, until, initially, to indicate order in which events occur or ideas are presented
Because, since, for the reason is that to indicate the cause or reason for something
Therefore, so, thus, as a result, so that, consequently, accordingly to indicate the effect or result
But, however, nevertheless, on the contrary although, unlike, whereas, while, in contrast despite, yet, on the other hand to indicate that one thing is different from or contrasts with another thing
Similarly, likewise, in the same manner, in the same way, along the same lin es as, like to indicate that one thing is similar to something already mentioned
unless, if, even if, or, provided that, as long as to indicate a condition
still to indicate that something continues
in other words, that is, that is to say to indicate that something will be restated for clarity
finally, at last, after all, in conclusion, to conclude, to sum up to indicate the end of a thought or list

INDICATORS FOR WRITING
Arguments Indicators Premise Indicators Conclusion Indicators
should since therefore
must because hence
ought for thus
necessarily as inasmuch as for the reason that first... so consequently it follows that one may infer

  • Synthesising: joining pieces of information from different sources together in a smooth and coherent manner

  • Revising: the process of modifying and reshaping the ideas in your writing in order to convey your message in the most reader friendly way. Try the following:
    • Time: let some time go by between the drafting stage and the revising stage. This can help you distance yourself from the draft and see it in new ways
    • Peer review: show your work-in-progress to one or two readers to get feedback on your writing
    • Checklists: construct a checklist for revising and check your draft against the established criteria

  • Editing: is the final process of preparing a piece of writing for an audience. Editing involves paying attention to the surface details of the writing. At this point you should look at:
    • word choice

      Example: (I've, I have) always felt that science and the military (are obligated to, should, have to) work together.

    • sentence structure (avoid sentence fragments) see sentence and grammar errors

      Example: Or how to ride a bicycle.

    • Grammar (make sure subject and verb agree) see sentence and grammar errors

      Example: The Prime Minister make important foreign policy decisions.

    • Spelling: don't worry about spelling during the planning , drafting and revising stages, wait until you have complete your revising before checking your spelling

      Example: controversy (correct) versus contraversy

  • Mechanics:
    • use standard and commonly accepted abbreviations,
    • spell out numbers of one or two words, or those that begin a sentence
    • italics and underlining should be used for titles of books; plays; films; long poems; works of visual art; magazines; newspapers; pamphlets; and radio and television programs; aircraft; ships; and trains; foreign words; .
  • punctuation:
    • consult the dictionary to determine whether the compound word requires a hyphen,
    • capitalize the beginning of every new sentence; the names of specific people; places; groups; businesses; events; people's titles and their abbreviations; specific course; religions; languages; organisations; and titles of works.

    Errors in these areas may violate our standards for academic writing

    Here are some useful strategies:

    • Read aloud: reading aloud forces you to read it slowly and allows you to experience your words through your eyes, ears and mouth
    • Read backward: this strategy separates words from their usual contexts and allows the writer to examine each word carefully for spelling errors and typing mistakes
    • Circle verbs: one way to revisit sentence structure is to look at the verbs you have chosen. Good writing often depends on strong verbs and reexamining the verb choices you have made can ensure that you have expressed your ideas strongly
    • Reading sentences out of context: reading out of context helps to determine whether the sentences are complete or fragments
    • Keep a log of the feedback you receive to see if there are any patterns to your errors
 



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