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Research Methodology: Academic Writing


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Title: Research Methodology: Academic Writing

Research MethodologyAcademic Writing
  • Íde OSullivan, Lawrence Cleary
  • Regional Writing Centre

Freewriting/Writing to prompts
  • Strategies that might help boost my academic
    writing skills
  • Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes.
  • Write in sentences.
  • Do not edit or censor your writing.
  • Discuss what you have written in pairs.

Workshop outline
  • Workplan
  • Presentation
  • Structure
  • Overall structure
  • Paragraph structure
  • Sentence structure
  • Academic writing style
  • Strategies to develop writing

Key stages in the process
  • Planning
  • Drafting
  • Revision
  • Editing and Proofreading

The rhetorical situation
  • Occasion
  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Writer

Organising principles
  • Thesis
  • Questions
  • Hypothesis

Organising principles
  • Unity
  • Coherence
  • Cohesion

Key tasks for academic writers
  • Participating in academic conversations
  • Developing and advancing balanced arguments
  • Exploring your personal writing process
  • Developing strategies that work for you

  • Understanding the assignment
  • Formulating the question/hypothesis
  • Brainstorming (mind-mapping)
  • Research (note-taking)
  • Planning and organising your research
  • Structuring your research
  • Developing and sustaining your argument
  • Drafting and redrafting your work
  • Editing and proofreading your work

Presentation and layout
  • Font
  • Margins
  • Line spacing
  • Pagination
  • Headings
  • Numbering systems
  • Table of contents

Presentation and layout
  • A major report
  • or thesis is
  • generally
  • divided into
  • three parts.

Structuring the main text
  • Introduction
  • Chapters / Sections that inform the reader of the
    context for the arguments posed, explain the
    methods of inquiry and the procedure used to
    gather data or evidence, present the findings,
    discuss the findings, draw conclusions from the
    findings, and develop the argument.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 1- Introduction
  • Chapter 2 - Background and literature review
  • Chapter 3 Research design and methodology
  • Chapter 4 - Data analysis / results and
  • Chapter 5 Conclusion

Structuring the main text
  • Keep in mind the assignment question, any
    questions you need to answer in order to answer
    the assignment question, and the instruction word
    as you plan your essay/dissertation.
  • From beginning to end, the point of order is the
    initial question, claim or hypothesis.
  • Do not write down all you know about

Structuring the main text
  • Organise the essay/dissertation so that the
    argument unfolds in a clearly stated, detailed,
    logical, linear progression and arrangement of
  • Introduction present the thesis, hypothesis, or
    question that you will try to defend, prove or
    disprove, or answer.
  • Sections to support the thesis
  • Conclusions

The introduction
  • In academic writing, an introduction, or opening,
    has four purposes
  • To introduce the topic of the essay/dissertation
  • To indicate the context of the conversation
    through background information
  • To give some indication of the overall plan of
    the essay
  • To catch the readers attention, usually by
    convincing the reader of its relevance.

The introduction
  • The introductory paragraph is funnel-shaped
  • It begins with broad statements.
  • The statements become more and more specific as
    the writer narrows the scope of the topic, until
  • The topic is narrowed to a point that can be
    handled in an essay. This is your thesis

The introduction
  • Introduction to area to be researched (context)
  • Research question/problem (objectives)
  • Rationale/relevance of the topic
  • Hypothesis/es
  • Brief outline of methodology (including statement
    on ethics)
  • Assumptions
  • Delimitations
  • Chapter outline (plan)

CARS model
  • Establishing a territory
  • Claiming centrality
  • Reviewing items of previous research
  • Establishing a niche
  • Counter-claiming
  • Identifying a gap
  • Question-raising
  • Occupying the niche
  • Outlining purpose
  • Swales (1990141)

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 2 - Background and Literature Review
  • Introduction What does Chapter 2 consist of?
    What is its unifying point of order?
  • Sections on each of the main areas of literature
    you will review
  • Definition of terms
  • Conclusion/s based on Chapter 2
  • Aim reveal the current state of knowledge/state
    of the art on a selected topic

Structuring the main text
  • Make sure
  • that the literature reviewed is relevant (do not
    write down all you know about), and
  • that the discussion of the literature is not too
    long - there must be a balance between this
    section and the remaining sections.

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 3 Research design and methodology
  • Introduction What does Chapter 3 consist of?
  • Research methodology
  • Data collection (steps you took, methodology)
  • Data analysis
  • Conclusions based on Chapter 3

Structuring the main text
  • Make Sure
  • that the methodology addresses both the procedure
    for the collection of your data and the one for
    your analysis.
  • that you section the analysis so that the
    argument unfolds in a clearly stated, detailed,
    logical progression.
  • that you view the data objectively. Dont ignore
    data that disproves the hypothesis or claim.

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 4 - Data analysis / results and
  • The results section must not only present the
    results it must make the results meaningful for
    the reader.
  • The discussion should not simply provide more
    detail about the results it should interpret and
    explain the results.
  • Methods of organising the results and discussion.

Discussion (Swales, 1990 172/3)
  • Background information
  • Statement of results
  • (Un)expected results
  • Reference to previous research
  • Explanation
  • Exemplification
  • Deduction and hypothesis
  • Recommendation

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 5 Conclusion (Seminar 2)
  • To what extend have the aims of the study been
  • How has your primary and secondary research
    (Chapters 2 and 3) helped answer the research
    questions you had in Chapter 1?
  • Have your hypotheses been proved/disproved/partial
    ly proved?

Structuring the main text
  • Chapter 5 (continued)
  • Discuss the Implications.
  • Did the study raise any further questions?
  • Any recommendations for future research?

  • A conclusion should
  • Remind the reader of the main points of your
  • Bring closure to the interpretation of the data
    (Leedy, 2001 291)
  • Be clear
  • Be logical
  • Be credible

  • A good conclusion
  • Demonstrates an awareness of the limitations
  • Discusses the implications of the findings
  • Offers suggestions for future developments
    Remember A summary alone of what you have done
    is a weak conclusion
  • Ends on a positive note final sentence should
    be strong and positive

End matter
  • The End Matter generally consists of
  • a References page and/or a Bibliography,
  • Appendices, and
  • in some technical reports, a Glossary might be
    found at the end of this section.

  • The dissertation should not be a Magical
    Mystery Tour!
  • The dissertation has a clear structure.
  • From beginning to end, the point of order is the
    initial question, claim or hypothesis.
  • Chapter and section headings announce the
    organisation with a logical, linear, progressive
    arrangement of ideas.

  • At its simplest, the structure
  • contains an introductory chapter
  • provides context (relevant theoretical,
    historical background)
  • includes a study / analysis of its subject data
    (1 or 2 chapters)
  • comes to a conclusion and, perhaps, recommends
    future research.

Paragraph structure
  • Essays are divided into paragraphs in a
    meaningful way.
  • What is a paragraph?
  • Series of sentences (related to each other in a
    meaningful way)
  • Coherent (introduction, middle, end)
  • Common theme
  • Every sentence in a paragraph develops one topic
    or idea, and each paragraph in an argumentative
    essay, likewise, develops the line of argument
    that supports the thesis statement.

Paragraph structure
  • Paragraphs signal the logically organised
    progression of ideas.
  • When organising paragraphs, the main idea in one
    paragraph should flow logically into the next.
  • The flow of information should be organised
    around themes and comments.
  • Shifts in the argument or changes in direction
    should be accurately signalled using appropriate
    adverbials, conjunctions, and prepositions.

Paragraph structure
  • Just as an essay is guided by a thesis statement,
    a paragraph is organised around its topic
  • A topic sentence informs the reader of the topic
    to be discussed.
  • A topic sentence contains controlling ideas which
    limit the scope of the discussion to ideas that
    are manageable in a paragraph.

Paragraph structure
  • Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two
    important characteristics (Oshima and Hogue,
    1999 17).
  • The topic - What is it?
  • The controlling idea - What is it?
  • The method of development - What is it?

Paragraph structure Supporting sentences
  • The sentences that follow expand upon the topic,
    using controlling ideas to limit the discussion.
    The main idea is supported by
  • Evidence in the form of facts, statistics,
    theoretical probabilities, reputable, educated
  • Illustrations in the form of examples and
    extended examples, and
  • Argumentation based on the evidence presented.
  • Qualifying statements indicate the limitations of
    the support or argument.

Paragraph structure Concluding sentences
  • Concluding sentences can either comment on the
    information in the text, or
  • They can paraphrase the topic sentence, or
  • They can transition into the topic or aspect of
    the topic to be discussed in the paragraph that
  • Not every paragraph needs a concluding sentence.

Paragraph structure Unity
  • Paragraphs should be unified.
  • Unity means that only one main idea is discussed
    in a paragraph. The main idea is stated in the
    topic sentence, and then each and every
    supporting sentence develops that idea (Oshima
    and Hogue, 1999 18).

Paragraph structure Coherence
  • Coherence means that your paragraph is easy to
    read and understand because
  • your supporting sentences are in some kind of
    logical order
  • your ideas are connected by the use of
    appropriate transition signals
  • your pronoun references clearly point to the
    intended antecedent and is consistent
  • you have repeated or substituted key nouns.
  • (Oshima and Hogue, 2006 22)

Cohesive devices
  • References
  • Backwards (pronouns, demonstratives , definite
  • Forwards (the following, as follows,
  • Substitution (so, one, ones)
  • Ellipsis (the remainder, another part)
  • Conjunction (however, for example, furthermore,
  • Lexical cohesion (Repetition, Synonyms)
  • Anaphoric nouns (this problem, this situation,
    this view, this process)

Examples Gillett (2005)
  • Some of the water which falls as rain flows on
    the surface as streams. Another part is
    evaporated. The remainder sinks into the ground
    and is known as ground water.
  • Ellipsis
  • Genetics deals with how genes are passed on from
    parents to their offspring. A great deal is known
    about the mechanisms governing this process.
  • Anaphoric nouns

Examples Gillett (2005)
  • This first example illustrates an impulsive
    overdose taken by a woman who had experienced a
    recent loss and had been unable to discuss her
    problems with her family. During the relatively
    short treatment, the therapist helped the patient
    to begin discussing her feelings with her
  • Lexical cohesion

Paragraph structure Transition signals
  • Transition signals do exactly what it says on the
    tin they signal. They can signal relationships
    between sentences, just as they can signal
    relationships between paragraphs.
  • Example Finally, there have been numerous women
    altogether outside the profession, who were
    reformers dedicated to creating alternatives
    (Gillett, 2005 Online).
  • The signal indicates the final point in a series
    of points.

  • If people stopped drinking, they might be able
    to prevent liver cirrhosis. However, governments
    permit the production and sale of alcohol. So,
    the government should help in preventing this
    disease. Nevertheless, government resources are
  • University of Melbourne, Language and Learning
    Skills Unit http//

Paragraph structure
  • Dos and Donts
  • Do not use pronouns to refer to an antecedent in
    the previous paragraph.
  • Lengthy paragraphs indicate a lack of structure.
  • Short paragraphs indicate a lack of detail or
    evidence to support the argument.
  • Do not end a paragraph with a quotation.
  • Use a variety of sentence patterns and lengths to
    give your paragraph a lively rhythm.
  • Signpost your paragraph organisation.

Sentence structure
  • Vary your rhythm by using a variety of sentence
    types and patterns. Use a combination of
  • Simple sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Compound-Complex sentences
  • Do not limit yourself to simple sentences or
    linking sentences using and/but.

Academic Writing Style
Stylistic differences that markacademic writing
  • Complexity
  • Formality
  • Objectivity
  • Explicitness
  • Hedging
  • Responsibility

Persuasion and truth in academic writing
  • Because they are argumentative, academic writing
    tends to be persuasive.
  • An argument should be persuasive, but dont
    sacrifice truth in favour of persuasion.
  • Academic inquiry is a truth-seeking pursuit.
  • facts are distinguished from opinions.
  • relative truths are distinguished from absolute
  • The integrity of the conclusions reached in an
    academic essay or report is based on its honest
    pursuit of truth.

Academic writing style
  • Hedge. Distinguish between absolutes and
    probabilities. Absolutes are 100 certain.
    Probabilities are less than 100 certain.
  • Be responsible. Provide traceable evidence and
    justifications for any claims you make or any
    opinions you have formed as a result of your

Strategies to Develop Writing
Cracking the codes
  • Analysing the genre/text and modelling
  • Generate a list of
  • The most important features of academic writing
  • Criteria to make your writing-strategies more
  • The important conventions in your discipline
  • What is/is not acceptable in your discipline
  • Student handbooks and guides for written

Getting started
  • Create time and space for writing
  • Freewriting
  • Writing to prompts
  • What writing have you done for this assignment,
    what writing would you like to do
  • The aim of this assignment
  • Experiment with different types of writing

Other types of writing
  • Keep a learning diary (Moore and Murphy, 200561)
    / writing diary / process journal (Elbow and
    Belanoff, 200319).
  • When do you feel most/least motivated to write?
  • What strategies have/have not worked in the past?
  • Write a little bit every day (Moore and Murphy,
  • we learn to write through writing (Hyland,
  • Keep a notebook with you to record ideas when
    they come to mind (Moore and Murphy, (2005).

Writing time
  • Dealing with issues of time
  • Setting goals
  • Binge and snack writing (Murray, 2005)
  • Do I need a big block of time to write
  • Short bursts of productive writing (Murray and
    Moore, 200617)
  • Outlining (Murray, 2005)

Other strategies
  • The importance of reading
  • Modelling
  • Images and diagrams
  • Mind mapping
  • Writing dictionaries

Dialogue as a social strategy
  • Peer-review
  • Generative writing
  • The writing sandwich (Murray, 200585)
    writing, talking, writing
  • Writing buddies (Murray and Moore, 2006102)
  • Engaging in critiques of one anothers work
    allows you to become effective critics of your
    own work.

Regional Writing Centre
Strategies that work for you
  • Writing is a personal process
  • Learning diary (Moore and Murphy, 200561)
  • Process journal (Elbow and Belanoff, 200319)
  • When do you feel most/least motivated to write?
  • What strategies have/have not worked in the past?

  • Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre, UL
  • Using English for Academic Purposes
  • The Writers Garden http//www.
  • The OWL at Purdue http//
  • The Writing Center at the University of North
    Carolina at Chapel Hill http//

Reference List
  • Elbow, P. (1998) Writing without Teachers (2nd
    edition). New York Oxford University Press.
  • Elbow, P. and Belanoff, P. (2003) Being a Writer
    A Community of Writers Revisited. New York
  • Hyland, K. (2002) Teaching and Researching
    Writing. London Pearson Education Ltd.
  • Moore, S. and Murphy, M. (2005) How to be a
    Student 100 Great Ideas and Practical Hints for
    Students Everywhere. UK Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. (2005) Writing for Academic Journals.
    UK Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. and Moore, S. (2006) The Handbook of
    Academic Writing A Fresh Approach. Berkshire,
    UK Open University Press.