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Academic Writing for Graduate Students

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Almost every English boy can be taught to write clearly, so far at least as clearness depends upon the arrangement of words. Force, elegance, and variety of style are more difficult to teach, and far more difficult to learn; but clear writing can be reduced to rules.

Abbott , preface. Writing the academic paper should be easy. Unlike novelists, academics do not need to worry about character development, description, dialogue, back story, and symbolism. All academics need to worry about is writing clearly — and according to the Reverend Abbott, this merely requires the mechanical application of a set of simple rules.

This perspective on academic writing may sound too good to be true. Graduate students generally struggle for years to overcome their writing problems — can this learning process really be accelerated by the application of a set of simple rules? My experience in teaching graduate students suggests that it can: Academic writing skills can be tremendously improved with only a little instruction. This is hardly surprising when one considers that most students — and, in my experience, most tenured professors — have learned about academic writing only through trial and error , a method of learning that is often painfully slow and inefficient.

To illustrate how instruction can help students write more clearly, the next section lists 10 guidelines, all of which are motivated by a single underlying principle: In order to write clearly, academics should make the life of their readers as easy as possible.

In their first papers, graduate students are likely to violate several of the guidelines outlined below. A good writing course makes students aware of these guidelines, and lets students experience how they can use these guidelines to write more clearly. For the writing course at the University of Amsterdam developed in association with Jos van Berkum , my feedback for students generally falls into the following categories:. State the goal of your paper explicitly, and state it early. Do not test the patience of your academic readers by letting them know what you are up to only at the very end of the introduction.

Students tend to write lengthy introductions in which they summarize all of the literature that is remotely relevant. This is bad form, but boredom quickly turns into annoyance when the writer altogether forgets to state whether the paper contains experiments, a literature review, a formal model, a new statistical method, or some combination of the above. To resolve the conflict experienced in this paradigm, the powerful tendency to read the word must be overcome in favor of responding to the color dimension.

In general, abstract theoretical concepts need to be clarified with concrete examples. Concrete examples work well in every section of a paper — they can be used to clarify the introduction, the method section, and the discussion section. Specifically, it has been hypothesized that affect and creativity correlate positively. Integrate the presentation of your results and their interpretation. Students often use the result section to summarize their findings i.

These students postpone the interpretation of their findings until the discussion section. Although this procedure may appear to be objective and scientific, it does not help the reader. The reader wants to know what the results mean. The reader does not want to be forced to work hard and come up with his or her own interpretation which might furthermore be mistaken or irrelevant within the context of your work. Try to integrate your results and their interpretation as much as possible, providing maximum guidance for the reader.

Use the discussion section to summarize what you have found, deal with alternative explanations, and transition to the next experiment. Add structure through consistent constructions. When you state in the abstract that you will discuss topics A, B, and C, retain this order throughout the entire paper.

Do not set up false expectations. Add structure through subheadings. Graduate students are often hesitant to add subheadings in their introductions, results sections, and discussion sections. Yet, few revisions add clarity as effectively as informative subheadings e. Add structure through transitional phrases. Academics use these transitional phrases much more than novelists do. Lazy readers will be on the lookout for a transitional phrase all the time. Do not express more than one or two ideas in a single sentence.

Sentences can be too long because they are wordy, or they can be too long because the writer wanted to express multiple ideas in a single sentence. Consider the following example: Accordingly, one could rewrite the example sentence as follows: Instead, practice leads to a bias that speeds up processing in some dimensions e.

Admittedly, some writers produce long sentences and still write clearly. Others do well to use considerably more than 24 sentences for their papers. Start sentences with old information, and end with new information. When a sequence of sentences has flow, one sentence seamlessly transitions to the next. A text that has flow makes life easy for the reader — each sentence provides information that the next sentence elaborates on, so that the reader is never confronted with unexpected changes in topic or emphasis.

In order to achieve flow, the main rule is to start sentences with old information, and end with new information. Consider the following example, taken from Williams , pp.

A black hole is created by the collapse of a dead star into a point perhaps no larger than a marble. So much matter compressed into so little volume changes the fabric of space around it in puzzling ways. Note that the sentence in bold is in the passive tense.

Rewriting it in the active tense generally a good idea yields. The collapse of a dead star into a point perhaps no larger than a marble creates a black hole.

It is evident that the second fragment lacks flow, because the information is presented in exactly the wrong order. Present the information in the right order: It is evident that graduate students can greatly benefit from taking a class on academic writing. But considerable benefits await you, the teacher, as well. First, students are easily convinced that your course enhances their chances of academic survival, and this tends to increase their motivation. Second, students will start to notice improvements in their writing almost immediately, and this shows them that your course is worthwhile.

Also shop in Also shop in. Photo of actual book. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills: Great condition for a used book! Shipped to over one million happy customers. Academic Writing for Graduate Students Commentary: Used - Good A sound copy with only light wear. Overall a solid copy at a great price! Title Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Author John M Swales.

Academic Writing For Graduate Students. Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 3rd Edition: Essential Tasks and Skil Commentary for Academic Writing for Graduate Students: The format for each unit includes a summary of the main points of the unit along with a list of topics covered.

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Like its predecessor, the third edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students explains understanding the intended audience, the purpose of the paper, and academic genres; includes the use of task-based methodology, analytic group discussion, and genre consciousness-raising; shows how to write summaries and critiques; features "language focus".

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siderations involved in successful academic writing, with a deliber- 4 / Academic Writing for Graduate Students ate stress on early exposure to the concept of positioning.

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I've been using the 2nd edition of this Academic Writing for Graduate Students in a writing class for international graduate students for several years/5(). Like its predecessor, this edition of Academic Writing for Graduate Students. " explains understanding the intended audience, the purpose of the paper, and academic genres. " includes the use of task-based methodology, analytic group discussion, and genre consciousness-raising/5.

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