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Great Beginnings and Endings in Academic Writing


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Title: Great Beginnings and Endings in Academic Writing

Great Beginnings and Endings in Academic Writing
  • Graduate Centre of Business, Lecture Series in
    Research Methodology - Spring 2010

  • Lawrence Cleary and Dr. íde OSullivan
  • Research Officers,
  • Regional Writing Centre, UL, C1065/66, Main

  • Teleology is at the heart of Aristotle's his
    theory of causes.
  • Material cause
  • Formal cause
  • Efficient or moving cause
  • Final cause
  • It is the study of purposiveness, or the study of
    objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or
  • What motivates our dissertation? What determines
    its form? What motivates it? What purpose is
    revealed from its realisation?

Dancing the Dance
  • Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
  • Dance to the song theyre playin on the radio
  • Sway through the crowd to an empty space
  • Let's dance for fear your grace should fallfor
    fear tonight is all
  • Because my love for you would break my heart in
    two if you should fallinto my armsand tremble
    like a flower
  • Sway under the moonlight, the serious moonlight

Research/Writing Process
  • Prewriting
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing and Proofreading

The Rhetorical Situation
  • The context into which you write
  • Occasion
  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Writer

Strategy Development
  • Cognitive
  • Metacognitive
  • Affective
  • Social

Where are you in the terms of the dance?
  • Prewriting?
  • Drafting?
  • Revising?
  • Editing and Proofreading?

Where are you?
  • How much of your thesis is already written, and
    how much writing would you like to do in the
    long, medium and short term?
  • 5 minutes writing
  • Write complete sentences
  • Dont edit
  • Private writing
  • Discussion in pairs/groups to follow

Put on your red shoes
  • There are all kinds of things that you have to do
    before you start writing.
  • The most difficult part is getting started.
  • The most important thing is to start dancing now.

  • Planning
  • Evaluating the rhetorical situation, or context,
    into which you write
  • Choosing and focusing your topic
  • Establishing an organizing principle
  • Gathering information
  • Entering the Discourse on your Topic
  • Taking notes as a Strategy to Avoid Charges of
  • Evaluating sources

Assessing your writing situation
  • Your writing process
  • The rhetorical situation or context
  • Your own writing strategies

The music theyre playing on the radio
  • Entering the discourse communities
  • Reporting on what they are saying, on where they
    agree and where they disagree, and on how this
    pertains to you and your topic.

Lets Dance
  • What do you already know about your topic and the
    specific aspect of the topic are you going to
    discuss? What do you still need to pt A topic in
    business that I would like to research is
  • Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes.
  • Write in sentences.
  • Do not edit or censor your writing.
  • Discuss what you have written in pairs.

  • Writer-based Writing (Writing to gather your
    thoughts and to explain it all to yourself so
    that you can, later, explain it to everyone
  • Dont worry about order or grammar
  • At some point, stop to assess what was written
  • Look for patterns or indications of direction, a
    path into a discourse
  • Get your thoughts down on paper

Sway through the crowd to an empty space
  • In the literature, identify
  • Poorly supported conclusions
  • Contested stances
  • Gaps in the research

Points of Order
  • Research papers are organized around the problem,
    not the topic per se.
  • The problem, in a sense, is the topic.
  • Problems, however, exist in contexts, as do

Whats your problem?
  • Logical denoument
  • Question ? Answer
  • Problem ? Solution
  • Hypothesis ? Test (affirmation/negation)
  • Claim ? Defence
  • When we talk about Aristotles formal cause
  • Not all questions are answered in the same way
  • How will your questions be answered?
  • Your problems solved/hypotheses tested?
  • Your claims defended?

Rowena Murrays page-98 paper
  • My research question is (50 words)
  • Researchers who have looked at this subject are
    (50 words)
  • They argue that (25 words)
  • Debate centres on the issue of (25 words)
  • There is work to be done on (25 words)
  • My research is closest to that of X in that (50
  • My contribution will be (50 words)
  • Murray, R. (2006) How to Write a Thesis, 2nd ed.
    Maidenhead, England Open University Press.

Dissertation Structure
  • Preliminaries
  • Main Body
  • Introduction, Lit. Review, Methodology,
    Presentation of Data, Analysis of Data,
    Conclusions and Recommendations
  • End Matter

Drafting your Dissertation or Thesis
  • Try to visualize your dissertation or thesis.
    Work toward that vision.
  • Begin to structure itestablish your section
    headings give them titles. These do not have to
    be permanent.
  • Examine the logical order of ideas reflected in
    those titles.
  • Do not get hung up on details elements of the
    draft are subject to change in the revision
  • Start to write the sections that you are ready to
    write. Dont try to write the Introduction merely
    because it comes first.

Writing Prompt
  • What question will I try to answer / problem will
    I try to solve / hypothesis will I try to affirm
    / claim will I try to defend?
  • What do I need to know in order to answer that
    question? Defend the claim? Test the hypothesis?
  • Layers What other questions do I need to answer?
    Claims to defend? Hunches to test?

Arguments Logic
  • A good argument will have, at the very least
  • a thesis that declares the writer's position on
    the problem at hand
  • an acknowledgment of the opposition that nods to,
    or quibbles with other points of view
  • a set of clearly defined premises that illustrate
    the argument's line of reasoning
  • evidence that validates the argument's premises
  • a conclusion that convinces the reader that the
    argument has been soundly and persuasively made.
  • (Dartmouth Writing Program 2005)

Literature Review Logic
  • The Lit. Review that you wrote for your proposal
    will not necessarily be the same review that you
    submit as part of your dissertation.
  • Think in terms of your argument and the support
    that you provided for claims
  • Include a review of all the literature that you
    read to learn about your topic and the
    particular aspect of your topic that you focus
  • Include a review of the literature on the
    methodologies that you used.

Pints of Porter
  • The literature that you read informs both the
    immediate context of the problem and the larger
    context of which it is a part.
  • The methodology you choose determines the data
    you get, as does your analytical methodology
    determine what you get from that data.

Writing the Literature Review
  • What is it?
  • What is its purpose?
  • To guide and inform your process
  • To identify the discourse(s) into which you write
  • To locate your position within the
    discourse/knowledge field
  • To inform your audience about the credibility and
    value of your conclusions

Issues of Credibility
  • Definition from Merriam-Webster an
    interpretation and synthesis of published
    research (Merriam qtd in Murray 2006 108).
  • Choices speak to your understanding of the puddle.

  • How will I organize my literature review?
  • Can I classify or categorize the stuff Ive read
    so far?
  • Can I say how each piece of literature has helped
    to inform my over-riding questions and/or

Writing Prompt
  • What do I know about my research topic?
  • What I am looking for in the literature is...
  • What are the schools of thought in the
  • The great debates in my area are...

Questions Your Lit Review Should Answer (Murray
2006 115)
  • Why is this subject important?
  • Who else thinks its important?
  • Who has worked on this subject before?
  • Who has done something similar to what I am
  • What can be adapted to my own study?

Questions Your Lit Review Should Answer (Murray
2006 115) (Cont)
  • What are the gaps in the research?
  • Who is going to use my material?
  • What use will my project be?
  • What will my contribution be?
  • What specific question will I answer?
  • What specific questions will my research not be
    able to address?

Writing Prompt
  • If we can frame the main question in a hierarchy,
    below which are framed the sub-questions, and we
    can put these frames in a larger frame called the
    Literature Review, what frames are you ready to
    fill in?
  • If you do not organize your literature around
    your question and sub-questions, how else will
    you categorize the literature in order to
    organize your discussion?

Organizing the Methodology Section(s)
  • How will you organize your text in each section?
  • How would you logically organize the information
    in this section?
  • Will you organize the methods around the
    questions? Or around the methodological type?

Writing Prompt
  • If you were to think about your main question and
    your sub-questions, what methods will you employ
    to answer each question?
  • If you havent figured out what questions you are
    asking, do some backward engineering.

The Methodology Section
  • A thesis focuses on a central question and is
    unified by that focus (Murray 2006 123).
  • In the methodology section, we have two kinds of
  • The methods used to gather data
  • The methods used to analyze the data

The Methodology Section
  • Ultimately, your methodology section(s) will
  • Define and explain your method, your theoretical
    approach, naming your instrument (e.g. Case
    study, interview, etc.)
  • Show links between your method and the methods
    used by others

The Methodology Section
  • Ultimately, your methodology section(s) should
  • Justify your choice of methods
  • Report what you plan to do
  • Show how you will select and analyse the data and
    how you will document it
  • Say what you expect to find

Some Questions Your Methodolgy Section Should
  • Why will the data be admissible?
  • Why is your choice of measuring instrument
    appropriate to your context / to the data you are
    aiming to retrieve?
  • By what criteria will you measure the validity of
    your measuring instruments?
  • How do we know that your method will yield
    reliable data?

Valid, reliable information
  • Sometimes there is universal agreement that a
    particular instrument provides a valid instrument
    for measuring a particular characteristic. We
    could all agree that a ruler measures length, a
    thermometer measures temperature, and a barometer
    measures air pressure. But whenever we do not
    have such universal agreement, we must provide
    evidence that an instrument we are using has
    validity for our purpose (Leedy and Ormrod,
    2005 92).

Sometimes the Tail Wags the Dog
  • Research methods affect
  • data the researcher records about the phenomenon
  • the sorts of phenomena that can be studied
  • the sorts of understanding of the phenomenon that
    the researcher is likely to arrive at
  • the sorts of knowledge claims they will be able
    to sustain
  • (Guba Lincoln 1994 in Nandhakumar 2003)
  • Sometimes form follows content Sway to the

Content and Form
  • Understanding organisational behaviour has never
    been more important for managers (Robbins,
  • Explain why this is the case, outlining in your
    answer the challenges and opportunities faced by
    managers, and the value of understanding
    organisational behaviour to a practicing manager.

Writing in Layers (Murray 2006 125-27)
  • Outline the structure write your chapter or
    section headings.
  • Write a sentence or two on the contents of each
  • List out sub-headings for each section.
  • Write an introductory paragraph for each section.
  • At the top of each section, write the word count
    requirement, draft number and date.

  • As you write, your organization may change.
  • Many things determine order
  • Arguments have a logical order, as do
    comparisons, cause/effect relationships, temporal
    or spatial descriptions, etc.
  • However, dissertations are thesis driven. Your
    question, and what you need to know, strongly
    influences the organization of your final product.

Dont Forget
  • Logical Choices and Unity of Purpose
  • Methodologies Logic
  • Methodologies Credibility
  • Unity and Coherence
  • Writing Strategies

Logical Choices and Unity of Purpose
  • Every choice serves to defend a claim, answer a
    question, or confirm a hypothesis
  • Word, phrase, sentence-structure
  • Does the choice satisfy audience expectations?
  • Does it speak to your authorial credibility?
  • Does it further your argument, analysis?

Methodologies Logic
  • When you know what you need to know in order to
    answer a question, then it is logical to choose
    methods of inquiry that will supply the reliable
    verifiable data that you need in order to answer
    the question.
  • Dont forget to qualify your datawhat does it
    tell you and what is it unable to tell you?

Methodologies Credibility
  • All data has to be analyzed. You need a
    methodology for analyses as well.
  • Quantitative data can it be generalized?
  • Qualitative data what criteria will be used to
    establish its value?
  • Do not overstate your results. An honest, quality
    analysis will speak volumes about your
    credibility, regardless of the quality of the

Unity and Coherence
  • If information included in your dissertation does
    not contribute to an understanding of the value
    of your conclusions and recommendations, then it
    only serves to befuddle the logic of your piece.
  • A unified text is a more coherent text.

Writing Strategies
  • Map your paper
  • What sections or subsections are completed
    (keeping in mind you still have to revise),
  • Pick one or two of the holes in your paper that
    you would feel comfortable filling,
  • Assess the reasons for any anxiety you have over
    the unfinished parts that cause you anxiety
  • Do you need to read more?
  • Do you need to rethink your paper?

Writing Strategies
  • Outline your paper
  • Devise headings and subheadings for uncompleted
  • This helps you see the logical progression (or
    lack of it) of your ideas
  • It identifies the main ideas
  • It helps detect omissions

Writing Strategies
  • Write about why you are having difficulty making
    advances in your paper
  • It gets the fingers tapping and the cerebral
    juices flowing
  • An awareness of fears and anxieties helps you to
    develop strategies to overcome those emotional
  • You may discover that the reason that you are
    having difficulty is that there is some chink in
    the logic of your argument that you must either
    fill or that requires a major rethinking of the
    line of reasoning.

Writing Strategies
  • Dont allow yourself to freeze up. When you are
    feeling overwhelmed
  • Satisfy yourself with small advances until you
    feel more confident and unstuck
  • Free-write or write to prompts.
  • Seek help. Talk to friends. Talk about how you
    feel, but talk about your ideas as well.
  • Eat lots of ice cream and candy.

  • Bowie, D. 1983 Lets Dance online, available
    at http//
    cs/let_s-dance-lyrics.html accessed 08 Feb.
  • Leedy, P.D. and Ormrod, J.E. 2005 Practical
    Research Planning and Design, 8th ed. Upper
    Saddle River, N.J. Pearson
  • Murray, R. 2006 How to Write a Thesis, 2nd ed.
    Maidenhead, England Open University Press.
  • Nandhakumar, J. 2003 Interpreting Information
    Systems A reflexive account of grounded theory
    analysis ppt. online, available
    material/Nandhakumar_slides.pdf accessed 15 Aug
  • 2008 Writing Rhetorical Functions,
    Comparing and Contrasting Exercise 2 online,
    available http//
    unction/compcon2.htm accessed Aug 16 2008.