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Academic writing for reports


Academic writing for reports Dr Michelle Reid Study Adviser, University of Reading ... I think this is obviously because the police are totally untrustworthy. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Academic writing for reports

Academic writing for reports
  • Dr Michelle Reid
  • Study Adviser, University of Reading

Overview of the workshop
  • What is academic writing?
  • Writing objectively, concisely, accurately and
  • Using the first person
  • A few words about grammar and punctuation
  • Proofreading

To start you thinking about audiences
  • In groups of three
  • Give each person in the group a number 1,2, or 3
  • Consider this story
  • The government is planning to raise fees for
    university students.
  • Write the story in the style of
  • 1. A tabloid headline
  • 2. An academic report
  • 3. A text message to a friend

What is academic writing?
  • Writing academically means writing in such a way
    that your information sounds credible and
  • It does not mean
  • Using long words
  • Writing complicated sentences with lots of
    semi-colons and colons
  • Finding more academic sounding words in a

When writing academically for reports
  • Have one main point per paragraph
  • Use shorter sentences
  • Write in the past tense you are describing
    research that has taken place
  • Avoid using phrases that sound clichéd or like
    informal speech
  • Write words out in full, for instance use 'do
    not' instead of 'don't
  • Do use appropriate technical terms, but try to
    avoid unnecessary jargon

Be accurate
  • Give clear, non-subjective descriptions
  • Use definite and precise measurements
  • Avoid vague and ambiguous terms like for a
    little while

Worked example
  • The mixture went light purple-ish like parma
    violet sweets. Some of it was tipped away and the
    rest was put on the heat for a little while.
  • How might this extract be improved?

Be objective
  • Report what the evidence tells you, even if it
    was not what you hoped to find
  • Be careful when interpreting what results show
    what evidence is there to support your
  • Do not present unsupported or personal opinions
  • Take a balanced view

Worked example
  • The results showed that 75 of students surveyed
    would not call the police if their bike was
    stolen on campus. I think this is obviously
    because the police are totally untrustworthy.
    They all suspect us of sponging off the state, so
    they dont make much effort to help students.
  • What is the main problem with this extract?

Be concise
  • Include sufficient description so someone else
    could repeat your research
  • Avoid including unnecessary small details (e.g.
    His mother called on the phone)
  • Write things once, clearly and simply no need
    to repeat information in many different ways

Worked example
  • The focus groups were carried out in the
    library, which provided a central meeting place,
    and is commonly known to all students, so this
    suggested they could find it easily. The
    researchers disputed how to recruit people and
    after long arguments, settled on using email and
    an advert on the university noticeboard. At the
    first group, 5 students attended. One of the
    students kept receiving calls from his mother on
    his mobile, and this disturbed the group as he
    kept leaving the room to answer the phone.
  • How could this extract be improved?

Be direct
  • Write to express, not to impress
  • Use simple, clear words, rather than hunting in a
  • Think about your audience can they understand
    what you mean?

Worked example
  • The results of the aforementioned experiment
    were collated in a systemized manner with all due
    care and attention. Once the results had been
    collected and processed with the appropriate
    process, it was necessary to perform the analysis
    upon them which was conducted using the computer
    statistical package previously mentioned in the
  • Is this a good writing style for a report?

Activity Summarising information
  • Working in small groups
  • Look at your report extract and summarise it in 1
    or 2 sentences
  • We will then link all the summaries together
    does this give an accurate description of the
    whole report?

Using the first person
  • Check with your dept whether writing in the first
    person is acceptable
  • It may be acceptable to use I when reporting on
    observations / work placements (e.g. PGCE, Social
    Work) and writing reflectively
  • Use the first person I sparingly and only if
  • Most scientific reports are not reflective
    accounts, so no need to describe how well you
    felt you personally did the experiment

Worked example
  • I conducted the experiment with the piglets, but
    felt that I could have done better. This was the
    first time I have worked with animals and I found
    it hard to get them to hold still while I took
    the measurements.
  • Its this extract suitable for a report?

A few words about punctuation and grammar
  • The following resources can help you develop
  • Internet Grammar of English
  • An online course in English grammar, free to
    those accessing it from a computer on a
    university domain.
  • Academic writing guides (University of Reading)
  • Short and easy to follow guides on grammar,
    punctuation, writing style, and proofreading.

  • Top tip - DO IT!
  • Proofreading makes the difference between
  • - A professional, accurate report
  • and
  • - A sloppy, error-ridden report

  • Leave the report for a few days come to it with
    a fresh perspective
  • Read it aloud
  • Beware of curse of spell check will not
    distinguish between pubic / public!
  • Look over past reports make a note of your
    common mistakes to look out for.
  • Can get a friend to look over it, but
    proofreading is a valuable skill to develop
    yourself too.

Further resources
  • LearnHigher report writing webpages
  • Guides and exercises on all aspects of reports.
  • Academic Phrasebank (Manchester)
  • A bank of phrases appropriate for use in academic
    writing. Good when you're not sure how to start,
    or when you want to develop your academic writing

  • Any questions?
  • Thank you and good luck with your report writing!