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Learning Skills Workshop: Academic Writing


ESSAYS are widely used by academics because they: ... ESSAYS ... The thesis statement is the most important sentence in the essay. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Learning Skills Workshop: Academic Writing

Learning Skills Workshop Academic Writing
  • Jessamyn Clarke Henk Huijser
  • (with contributions from Ann Firth)
  • Learning and Teaching Support Unit, S Block

  • Knowledge at university
  • Written assessments
  • Reports
  • Essays
  • Constructing an argument
  • Thesis statements
  • Paragraphs
  • Academic writing style features
  • Referencing

Knowledge at university
  • Universities are research institutions
    responsible for questioning existing knowledge
    and producing new knowledge.
  • Knowledge at university is considered in terms of
    the particular discipline concerned.
  • What is valued as knowledge at university differs
    in significant ways from everyday knowledge or
    what is valued as knowledge in schools.
  • As professional researchers, academics are
    engaged in a continual process of argument,
    contest and debate about the findings of their

  • Accordingly, as an undergraduate you will be
    exposed to
  • - new emerging theories
  • - changing theories
  • - conflicting ideas
  • - apparently contradictory data, etc
  • and you will need to deal with this.

What is Knowledge at University?
  • the main purpose of study at high school is
    to learn what our society knows about all sorts
    of areas or at least what its picked out as
    most important.
  • The main purpose of university study is to learn
    how that knowledge is made

  • Chanock (2004)

So, how can it be your own work?
  • The fact that you use other peoples ideas
    extensively does not mean that your work is not
    your own.
  • What makes your response to the task/ question
    unique is
  • The particular ideas you select from your
    research of the literature
  • The degree of importance you attach to different
  • Which commentators you find more useful and why
  • The way you put the ideas together in response to
    the task/question

Forms of written assessment
  • Essays
  • Reports
  • Case studies
  • Literature reviews
  • Reflective journals
  • Electronic writing
  • and, depending on the discipline, there will
    be variations even among these forms ?

eg. Report types
  • Laboratory/scientific focus on purpose,
    methodology, results eg. Sciences, Social
  • Field reporting on-site observations
  • eg. Education, Law, Nursing
  • Business/technical analysing a case study or
    problem eg. Commerce, IT, Engineering

  • ESSAYS are widely used by academics because they
  • Are research based requiring students to
    construct an argument based on credible research.
  • Allow students to demonstrate an understanding of
    the material they have been taught.
  • Require the ability to
  • See relationships between concepts (i.e. abstract
    ideas, such as unemployment, literacy,
    globalization, sustainable development, economic
    growth, pollution, etc).
  • Examine how different writers use concepts.
  • Make an intellectual judgement about the
    different views of the same thing and decide
    which view/s you agree with most.

A critical, analytical response requires (?or ?)
  • Questioning ideas
  • Describing text contents
  • Evaluating making judgements
  • Producing unsupported views
  • Comparing or making connections between ideas
  • Collecting others data/material

  • Require students to impose a logical/typical
    structure (i.e. the essay structure) on
    material gathered from a range of sources.
  • Are a good way of assessing students thinking
    skills, and in particular, what is called higher
    order or critical thinking skills such as the
    ability to construct an argument one that is
    based on credible research, is logical and
    unified, and demonstrates that the writers (i.e.
    your) position is tenable.

Constructing an Argument 1
  • To construct an argument at university means you
    have to
  • state your position in response to the
    task/question, and then
  • build up a set of points to convince the reader
    that your position can be supported from research
    (ie. is tenable).
  • To construct an argument at university you have
    to do more than say what the different writers
    say. You have to make a judgement about where you
    stand in a debate, and then provide points to
    back up your judgement/viewpoint.
  • describe c/- discuss

Constructing an Argument 2
  • An academic argument is made up of two parts
  • a thesis statement, and
  • a set of main points.

Thesis Statements
  • The thesis statement is the most important
    sentence in the essay. It tells the reader the
    position you will take in response to the
  • The thesis statement can be introduced simply
    with the words, This essay will argue
  • A thesis statement always asserts something. It
    is more than just a description of what the essay
    will do (i.e. task restatement), or a question,
    or a heading.

  • Assignment task
  • Assess the effectiveness of equal opportunity
    legislation in Australia in the period 1984-1996.
  • Thesis statement
  • Equal opportunity legislation in Australia
    between 1984-1996 has done little to prevent
    discrimination in the workplace.

  • Thesis statements or not? (?or x)
  • This essay will outline the major factors
    responsible for unemployment in contemporary
  • This essay will argue that government policy is
    the major cause of unemployment in contemporary
  • This essay will discuss sustainable development.
  • Sustainable development does provide a practical
    framework for government policy.

Standard Box Structurefor Paragraphs
  • The main idea of the paragraph is expressed as a
  • The main point is elaborated and its meaning
  • The main point is supported, or illustrated by
    example, data or quote.

Sample paragraph
  • Economic inequality is pervasive and
    deeply entrenched in Australian society.
    Familiar generalisations about Australias
    unique egalitarianism do not match with the
    factual picture. The social dynamics
    at work, and the levels of inequality resulting,
    are much the same as are found in North America,
    Western Europe, and middle ranking capitalist
    economies elsewhere. For example,
    studies of income and wealth distribution show
    that the top 20 of Australians hold an
    inequitable 72 of the wealth (Dilnot 1990,
  • Note also how this paragraph moves from the
    general to the specific

  • Example of a paragraph that moves from the
    general to the specific
  • Obesity is an increasing problem among
    Australian school aged children. A major cause of
    obesity is the adoption of a sedentary lifestyle.
    In Australia today, only a minority of children
    walk or cycle to school, and many spend their
    leisure time sitting at computers or in front of
  • TASK
  • Think of an issue or concept in your discipline.
    Now write three sentences about this that move
    from general to specific.

  • The four basic functions of a good introductory
    paragraph are
  • Engaging the readers interest
  • Outlining any limitations to the scope of the
    topic (if needed)
  • Outlining briefly the main points which will be
    used to support the argument
  • Providing a thesis statement

  • The concluding paragraph to an essay performs
    the following functions
  • Restates the thesis
  • Summarises the most important main points
  • Draws the essay to a firm close
  • Does NOT introduce new information

Academic Writing Style
  • Coherence in academic writing is achieved by
    linking your evidence / paragraphs so that Your
    argument flows well.
  • Four basic ways to link information together
  • Addition and, in addition, another, also/as
    well, firstly finally, furthermore, moreover
  • Time at the start, then, later, during,
    subsequently, as soon as
  • Cause and effect as a result, so, therefore,
    consequently, since, because
  • Comparison / contrast similar, more, however,
    the opposite, resemble, better/worse

  • Avoid using
  • Tautologies
  • - unfilled vacancy x vacancy v
  • - true fact x fact v
  • - forward planning x planning v
  • Colloquialisms, clichés, proverbs
  • - at the end of the day x
  • - crack troops x
  • - in hot water x
  • Contracted forms
  • - dont x do not v
  • - its x it is v
  • Abbreviations
  • - eg. x for example v

  • Try to be
  • Concise
  • - At this point in time x Now v
  • - In the event that x If v
  • Objective (not emotive)
  • - Our environment x The environment v
  • - I think the argument is sound x The
    argument appears sound. v
  • - We need to / We must x
  • Use tentative terms
  • This indicates that you understand that other
    interpretations of the data and new knowledge
    could affect the validity of your conclusions.
  • Rather than this shows, proves, is/are,
  • Use seem/appear to, likely to, perhaps, may,
    could, indicate, suggests,

Quoting and Paraphrasing
  • All direct quotes must be acknowledged through
    appropriate referencing.
  • Paraphrasing involves indirect quotes, that is,
    where something is restated or expressed using
    different words. Original ideas or information
    still need to be appropriately acknowledged by
    referencing the source.
  • Plagiarism
  • http//www.usq.edu.au/plagiarism/
  • Referencing guides
  • http//www.usq.edu.au/library/help/ehelp/ref_guide

  • University work is about making intellectual
    judgements about different views of the same
    thing (Firth 2003, p.1).
  • Direct quote
  • At university, students are expected to make
    intellectual judgements (Firth 2003, p.1)
    concerning the differing positions that can exist
    about an issue.
  • Using a specific term
  • At university, intellectual judgements concerning
    the varying positions that can exist about an
    issue, is expected by students (Firth 2003).
  • Indirect quote (paraphrase)

  • and
  • An expectation of students at university is to
    make intellectual judgements about different
    views of the same thing (Firth 2003, p.1) and to
    form their own position on the issue.
  • Insertion within a sentence
  • Students should expect that University work
    will require making intellectual judgements
    about different views of the same thing (Firth
    2003, p.1).
  • Grammatical adjustment of
  • sentence structure in quote

Online Support
  • http//www.usq.edu.au/ltsu/alsonline/default.htm
  • http//www.usq.edu.au/library/
  • http//grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
  • http//www.usq.edu.au/b-cap/dswmedia/content/
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