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Academic Writing

Essay by   •  September 7, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  5,656 Words (23 Pages)  •  1,551 Views

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Introduction

Academic writing takes a variety of forms ranging from research proposals and grant applications, journal articles, theses, published books and book chapters, conference papers and other presentations. This resource will focus on the basic writing conventions that cross different kinds of academic texts.

In a way, academic writing is like a conversation. When contributing to a good conversation, the aim is to articulate a specific idea, or to report a specific piece of information about the subject of discussion in order to further the understanding of all participants. Effective academic writing, like good conversation, depends upon participants making relevant, direct, concise and respectful contributions.

This can be accomplished by attending to writing structure and academic convention.

A good structure is accomplished by providing:

an introduction with a clear statement of the idea that will be contributed to the discussion;

an introduction that provides a clear statement of the order of the points to be discussed as part of the development of this idea;

evidence, reasoned debate, data or reflective commentary to support your point;

opening and closing paragraphs, and first and last sentences within paragraphs, which carry the main points;

signposting and transition sentences that lead the reader from idea to idea;

consistent topic order and phrasing that lead the reader from point to point.

This resource will outline the structural aspects of academic writing. It will also discuss some basic academic writing conventions to assist you to achieve a direct and assertive style of writing.

The structure of an academic text

In order to ensure the reader can follow the key idea within a typically lengthy and complex text, academic writers clearly articulate the central point or finding in the first page or two of their writing. The content in the main body then relates directly to this central point. Diversions from the key point are avoided.

Evidence that will support the main idea is organised into unified sections, which are then discussed in a logical order in the main body. The most important information is always presented first, followed by the next most important, and so on to the least important. Each section is summarised in a key point, which is often stated in the introduction.

Each segment of evidence is then taken up in turn in a separate section in the main body of the text in the order in which it was introduced. Within each section, the main point is introduced and concluded in turn in the first and last sentences and paragraphs of the section.

Introductions and conclusions of all kinds can be thought about as 'power positions' because they carry the main points. Power positions include the main introduction and conclusion, and the introductions and conclusions within the sections and sub-sections of a document, including the first and last sentences of paragraphs. When constructing a text, it is important to avoid delaying the main point beyond the introductory section, or trailing off at the end of a section without drawing together the main message of that section.

This way of structuring an academic text is represented below.

Introduction

Statement of the overall main point or take home message (in addition to rationale, justification, contextualisation, key definitions)

Introduction of main content areas that will support the main message

- Content 1

- Content 2

- Content 3

Section 1, Content area 1

First paragraph provides the main idea of content area 1

Main body comprises evidence, data, reflective commentary for content area 1

Last sentence provides summary statement for content area 1 and links to content area 2

Section 2, Content area 2

First paragraph states the main point of content area 2

Main body comprises evidence, data, reflective commentary for content area 2

Last sentence provides summary statement for content area 2 and links to content area 3

Section 3, Content area 3

First paragraph states the main point of content area 3

Main body comprises evidence, data, reflective commentary for content area 3

Last sentence provides summary statement for content area 3

Conclusion

First sentences summarise main points 1, 2, and 3

Main body of conclusion comprises discussion of implications of conclusions 1, 2 and 3

Last sentence provides summative statement of the implications of the main point or take home message.

Paragraphs and topic sentences

Blocks of text within the sections and sub-sections of the main body of the text are called paragraphs. A paragraph has one main point. In order to avoid losing or confusing the main point of the paragraph, you can provide an overview sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. This is called a topic sentence. This sentence is followed with further explication of the topic of the paragraph. In effect the topic sentence creates a sense of expectation which is fulfilled in the main body of the paragraph. The direction of well written papers can then be gleaned from reading the first sentence of each paragraph.

Signposting and transition sentences

Academic writing is much like leading the reader through a maze by signposting which direction will be taken at the beginning of new turns in the discussion, and summarising what has been covered at the end of a section of writing. For the most part, signposting sentences and transition sentences appear at the beginning and ending of texts, or of the sections within them. Their function is to signal a shift in the direction of ideas, to establish logical connections and conclusions, or the relationships between ideas.

Signposting and

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