Visual and written texts

One thing that you might have noticed when you were doing your web searches was the way in which web pages make use of a combination of visual and written material in order to present their message. This is obviously one important way in which web pages differ from more traditional published texts, which often rely rather heavily on the written word. When you come to write your assignments you may also find yourself using a combination of text and visual elements. Look back to the example of...

Activity Eighteen Thinking about your central idea

Take an assignment that you are working on or one that you have completed. Write down one or two sentences about what you consider to be the central idea. Write down the topics you will bring in to support your themes. Identify some of the themes that you may write about as part of your argument. You can save time in organizing and shaping your work by using headings for an outline plan. If you attempt to make an outline plan early on in writing the assignment, then it is useful to make theme...

Activity Eleven Thinking about reading

Think about what kinds of things you normally read (novels, reports, newspapers, magazines). First, choose a type of reading that is most familiar to you. Second, choose a book or article that you are having to read at the moment for your studies. You are going to think about the contrast between these two pieces of text. Take a blank piece of A4 paper and divide it in half. On one side of the paper put the title of the familiar kind of reading, for example a novel on the other side of the...

Activity Fiftysix Writing and the learning cycle

Take each of the stages in the learning cycle and write in a different way for each, using an example of practice from your course. In these notes we will assume that it is an interview you had to carry out, but you could adapt this for other activities. Write in the following different ways, taking not more than five to ten minutes for each stage. Write a short account of the event as if you are 'in' the experience what happened and what it felt like. You will need to write this as 'personal...

Activity Fiftythree Writing a journal entry

Learning journals usually begin with an account of the student's expectations of a course. Read the following extract from one student's first entry for a course about political theory. Note how the student writes about what she hopes to learn on the course and how she relates this to her own background -her arguments with her brother I am looking forward to this course because I feel power and politics are central issues to social interaction and the way society functions. Whilst studying for...

Activity Fiftytwo Thinking about diaries

There are many different kinds of learning journal but they can all be compared to a personal diary. Most people who have kept a personal diary find that a learning journal is different, because the subject matter and situation is different, but there are also similarities. Have you ever kept a diary of any kind Make notes on what it was, why you kept it, who was the intended reader and what you gained from it. Many students find that keeping some kind of learning journal helps their study, and...

Activity Fortyseven Comparing writing

Now we are going to build upon our student's experiences in order to think about these issues in terms of your own writing. As always it is more productive if you can do this exercise with a colleague. Collect together a number of pieces of your own assessed writing. These do not have to be from your university studies they may be from school, college or a previous course you have done. Now make a list of what you see as some of the similarities and differences between them. You may want to...

Activity Fortysix Different subjects and different writing

Think about the kind of degree you are taking Is it a single-subject degree Do you study modules in more than one subject Is it an interdisciplinary degree in which the things you study come from a number of different disciplines Is it primarily a vocational degree which prepares you for a particular career Do you have to do different kinds of writing in the courses that make up your degree Make a list of the kinds of writing you have to do for your studies. You will remember that right at the...

Activity Fourteen Trying out different reading strategies

Choose something that you need to read for one of your assignments. Work through the questions above for 'fitting together' reading and 'analytic' reading. Can you identify which kind of reading seems most useful for you at this stage of writing your assignment You might find that they are equally important. As we said before, the important thing to remember about reading is that you, the reader, are active in making meaning from what you read. Making sense of what you read is your...

Activity Thirty

During the 1930s and 1940s Benjamin Whorf wrote various papers about the connection between the structure of individual languages and their speakers' perception of reality. He suggested that the way in which humans view the world is constrained by the language available to them. In this way measurable differences in world view could be discerned between speakers of different languages. This view of the connection between language structure and social reality is called 'linguistic determinism'...

Activity Thirtyfive Your place in an assignment

Think back to the assignment you chose to think about in Activity Thirty-one. Have you anything to add about your relationship to the assignment, about your use of 'I' and the use of your own thinking Think again Why did you choose this assignment In this chapter we have been saying that you get a sense of ownership of your academic assignment by engaging with it, by your motivation for studying a subject, your choice of topic and material, and your work in organizing your ideas into an...

Activity Thirtythree Writing from a personal perspective

Identify an event in your childhood that was important to you. When you have decided on this, write one or two paragraphs about it, indicating what happened and how it was important. Imagine that you are writing for a friendly fellow student or tutor. Note that we are asking you to write briefly on a subject that could be a lengthy piece of work tackled in many different ways. If you can, carry out this activity with another student and discuss each other's writing. When you have finished, read...

Activity Thirtytwo The use of I in course materials

Check some of the books or course materials you have to hand to see whether they use 'I', and, if so, where they use it and what the reason might be. Think about what effect the use or non-use of 'I' has on the relationship between reader and writer. The matter of using the first person in your assignments is difficult to address because conventions vary between subjects. In fact, in some subjects the use of ' I' is encouraged and in others it is actually 'forbidden'. This can also vary between...

Activity Twelve Global reading

Choose something that you need to read for your studies or for completing an assignment. If the text has headings then use these to guide you with your understanding. Read what feels to you a manageable chunk of text. This may be a headed section, a chapter or a complete article. Do not try to read more than you can easily manage at any one time. There is no point just going on and on reading, hoping that somehow the content will sink in. When reading an academic text you will often find that...

Activity Twentyfive Looking at your sources

Take an example of one or two of your own written assignments. (If this is your first term at university you may need to use something you wrote and had assessed before you came to university.) Now make a list of all the different types of resources you have used in these assignments. Do you know how to cite these different sources in your assignment writing These are some of the sources that we have seen students and academics using. How many of these have you listed Books Articles Book...

Activity Twentynine

How many writers can you identify in this text What is telling you who these different writers are Can you identify one or two examples of the 'voice' of the student who wrote this essay During the 1930s and 1940s Benjamin Whorf wrote various papers concerning the connection between the structure of individual languages and their speakers' perception of reality. He suggested that the way in which humans view the world is constrained by the language available to them. In this...

Activity Twentysix Learning about citation

Search the Internet for relevant websites which give guidance on citation and referencing for university writing. Choose three different websites. On each one follow the relevant links to find out about citing 'reports'. Compare the differences and similarities between the advice given on each different site. Now make a record of the key elements that you think should be present when citing reports and in what order they should generally appear. When we did this task we found the key elements,...

Activity Twentythree

Consider the following questions, which we discuss in our notes below. First note down your initial responses. For example What does it make you think or feel Do you feel engaged or not by it What does its central idea seem to be Is this actually expressed in one or two sentences Can you grasp this from the beginning Do you find yourself persuaded by the article What do you think the writer wants you to believe We have numbered the paragraphs of this article - some of...

Building on your central idea step by step

Here is a brief paragraph from the middle of an essay on domestic violence An alternative feminist approach suggests that women may stay in violent relationships even when they are not 'weak'. For these women a constituent of being a woman involves being there for their men and being able to maintain a relationship despite obstacles. These women tried to understand their violent partners and felt duty bound to cope the best way they could. For them, walking out would have been an admission of...

Can you be original in your university writing

University teachers sometimes seem to be asking for two contradictory things in their students' assignments. They say that they want to know what you are thinking, and, at the same time, insist that you make use of what academic writers have said. What they really mean is first you have to get into our way of looking at things and then you can begin to say it in your own way. This is not such a contradiction as it sounds, because, of course, all our ideas have 'come' from somewhere else. At...

Choosing your reading for an assignment

The initial stumbling block that most students face is choosing their reading. You will remember that this was one element of analysing the assignment. The first thing to do is to consult the reading list for books and articles that seem relevant to your particular assignment. Doing a library search, by keywords or subject, is also useful if the references on your reading list are already on loan from the library. Your tutor should also be able to advise you as to which are the most relevant...

Chronology writing

This structure follows time with a sense of the sequence of events, one following another. You relate or recount what happened. This may, naturally, often be used in history. Chronology can be expressed visually as a 'timeline' which shows the sequence of events during a certain period, as a calendar does. A similar structure may be used to tell the plot of a novel or film. There will often be occasions when you need to use this structure, but you will also need to do more than this and go on...

Cohesion

Cohesion is concerned with the way in which parts of written texts fit together to make a whole rather than a series of disconnected bits. This is particularly important when you are writing an assignment, and you need to pay attention to the connecting devices that you use. These devices connect the ideas in one sentence to the previous sentence and to the following sentence. They also connect the smaller parts of the sentence together, the phrases and clauses. In the same way, they connect...

Commentary on Passage

Passage 1 appears to be a personal' piece because it refers to the writer's own experience as a child and is written as a narrative - it recounts what happened to her and describes the effects on herself as a child, in the way that you might have done in the previous activity. The writer's place is indicated in her use of I'. However, note that the use of I' might not tell us as much about the writer as we might think. It could stand for a fictional character, invented by the writer....

Conducting a critical review

This complements approaches taken in Chapter 5 on reading but focuses specifically on a critical review of the literature you will use in your studies. It will also help you to write your own critical review and you can do this even if it is not a formal requirement for your assignment. The pages are provided by CAPLITS (Centre for Academic and Professional Literacies) at the Institute of Education, London.

Constructing your story

One way of thinking about developing an argument in your writing is to think of it as your 'story' What is your story Do you have a clear storyline or plot Using the notion of a story may not seem very academic, but we think that it gives a good indication of the 'feel' of developing an argument. It should help you to identify more clearly the process of construction that you have to go through to get to a written argument that feels complete for you. Your work as a student writer is to...

Developing a thesis statement

When you make an argument you are making a case for a particular point of view that you want your reader to accept. You are taking a particular stance on a subject and often make a claim about it. As we stressed in Chapter 6, and as your tutors will usually tell you, this involves formulating a central idea and organizing your material around this to support it, so that you can justify your claim. A common term for the 'central idea' is a 'thesis statement', which points more to developing an...

Developing your argument from topics and themes

We have talked about how an argument is frequently concerned with developing a central idea and the way in which all the different parts of your assignment will be related in some way to this central idea. In your writing you will be concerned with developing a number of themes which support your central idea and therefore provide evidence for the argument that you are making. One way of thinking about the central idea is that it is at the core of your argument. It is the core structure, and...

Different approaches to planning and organizing your writing

You may remember that in Chapter 3, we introduced the idea of 'building blocks' as a way of thinking about constructing a piece of writing. We can also compare the 'shaping' process with how a child makes a building with bricks. One child might have some idea of the overall structure she wants but she may have to try out different ways of getting there using different arrangements of bricks. She may start off with no idea at all, yet in the end she gets a building she likes. One child might...

Dissertations and projects

As you approach the end of your studies at university you may well be asked to prepare a long piece of written work such as a dissertation or project. The specific guidance you receive will help you to work out many of the formal features, as projects and dissertations vary according to the subject or discipline, and the two terms may be used interchangeably. In some disciplines a dissertation means a 'long essay', and the only thing that makes it distinctive is its length. You are also likely...

Editing your work as an outsider

Does the piece of work have a central idea Is this idea apparent for the reader or do you have to 'search' for it Is it clear enough for you to restate in a different way Does the piece of work raise any questions that it does not answer Is there a sense of an 'argument' developing Do points - both within and beyond paragraphs - seem to follow logically Does the whole piece hang together Why is a particular bit of information in the piece What work is it doing for expressing the ideas of the...

Evaluating writing

What is the value of this How is this important In evaluating writing you have to make some sort of a judgement, often about what other writers are saying. This is different from the kind of judgement you might make in daily life, for example, 'That was a good film'. You have to evaluate different positions, perspectives or points of view. You have to do more than say, for example, 'This is a false argument' or 'This is wrong' you have to give reasons for your judgement. Evaluating may involve...

Example A collaborative writing project

Boards of resistance skater-space and the spectacle of a subculture in Bristo Square Three of us did this project together. We took lots of photos because this helped us to visualize the space that we were writing about. We all found the collaborative writing difficult because we really wanted it to have one voice. Because there were three of us writing this we found it difficult to make it coherent. When you are writing on your own it's much easier to have a direct angle on something than when...

Example A practical report

Archaeology of early societies a practical report What the student said about this I'd never written anything like this archaeological report before I came to university, so I just had to try and make some sort of judgement about what was needed and follow that track. My tutor had some examples of past reports he showed us, and also we all discussed it together on our course. With this kind of report they always ask us to answer particular questions, and so I sort of got a feel for what they...

Example A review of an article

The transition between hunting and gathering and the specialized husbandry of resources a socio-ecological approach (Layton et al. 1991). When I did this review of an article I found that I partly summarized it and partly analysed it. I tried to put in what I thought were the important things that the authors were saying. It felt different from an essay because I didn't feel that I was trying to develop an argument. Extract from 'The transition between hunting and gathering and the specialised...

Example A tutorial presentation

When I have to give a tutorial presentation I always write it up beforehand. I wrote this in a very different way from other things I have to write. I tried to write it as if I was explaining something to people who knew nothing. With an essay I might say something in one or two sentences. But with a tutorial presentation you have to explain things a lot more and the same thing applies when you write it up so that you can hand it in. I tend to use the same explanation in the writing up as I do...

Example An essay based on an interview

This was like an essay but it was based on an actual interview I had carried out. What I did was use the things that Andrew had said in the interview and link these to the theoretical things we had been studying on the course. So there were bits of quotes from the interview and then references to reading I had done which seemed relevant to what Andrew had told me about himself and his family in the interview. Extract from an essay based on an interview 'We 're all that hotch-potch' Negotiating...

Fitting together reading

Approaching your reading so that everything that you are reading and studying fits together helps you to focus on your ideas, and both to synthesize and elaborate them. To help you with what we call 'fitting together' reading, try to answer the following questions as you both read and take notes for your reading How does this material relate to what I already know about the subject How does this material relate to other sources on the same subject What related arguments or theories does this...

Formulating your central idea

In trying to put together your argument it is important to work towards getting the central idea you wish to present. What do you want your reader to know or think by the end of your assignment What position are you presenting or arguing in this assignment Or, in the terms we have been considering above, what is your 'story' or storyline Here are some examples There are disadvantages and advantages to the 'care in the community' policy overall the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. This...

From journals to reflective essays

Sometimes a learning journal may be the basis for an essay. If you are doing a professional course - for example, in the area of health and social work - you will be required to write essays that bring together theory and practice to relate what you have learnt from experience in the field to theories that you have learnt on your university-based course. You will need to relate 'doing' to 'book learning'. This produces assignments that are different from the standard essay. The reflective essay...

From the personal to the academic

One way of thinking about the specificity of academic writing is to compare it with what we can broadly term 'personal' writing, where the writer is obviously at its centre and there seems to be a clear relationship between what is written and the writer. Then you can think of writing for university as a shift from a personal to an academic way of thinking and writing, involving shifts in the writer's sense of 'I' in their writing in specific ways. The following activity is linked to the work...

Getting started

Bridging a gap you and university study Practice writing Brainstorming Generating questions It's like learning a new language - you have to start from the beginning In this chapter we will assume that you are about to begin your university study (whether in an area which is new to you or not) and are asking questions about what you will have to do for writing at university. We will explore what is involved in university writing and will suggest some first steps that you can take towards...

Getting the assignment into shape

In this chapter we will be discussing the structure or shape of your assignment - how it is organized. We are assuming that you have already done a lot of work for your assignment. You have worked on the title and have begun to get a sense of where you will be going, and of your argument. You have gathered together a good deal of information from books, lectures and other relevant sources. You have done various kinds of preparatory writing. You may have made some kind of plan and have done...

Grammar and punctuation

Until now we have not made a specific point of talking about grammar and punctuation in your written work. In our experience academic staff sometimes focus too much on these particular concepts when they are talking about problems with writing, and students themselves often panic about their own feelings of insecurity in this area and lack confidence writing in formal written English styles. Consequently, we have waited until later in the book to start talking about checking your work for...

Handing in your assignment

We have now come to the end of the process of writing your assignment. This will be the point when you will present your assignment to your tutor - and when it is no longer yours. You hand it over and are ready to get on with the next piece of work. At this point you have to accept that you have done the best you can in the time and with the resources available to you. You might bear in mind a piece of advice an artist once gave his pupil 'Remember that the worst paintings of all are the ones...

Handwrite or wordprocess

Can you word-process a learning journal There is no reason why you should not. In fact, seeing what you have written immediately, on screen or printed out, can give you the sense that your ideas are forming very quickly. However, many people find that writing a journal is easier to do by hand - that pen or pencil to paper is a more direct' way of getting ideas down fast. Many students and their tutors find it practical to have a notebook to hand for all kinds of exploratory writing, including...

How can learning journals help you to learn

We have said that writing a learning journal is a good way of helping you to work through course material. Below we look at some of the ways that writing a journal can help you to learn, together with some written quotes from students on their experience. 'It is a good discipline it helped me to recall and clarify concerns.' First of all, keeping a learning journal helps to ensure that you keep up with the course timetable of reading and other activities, by processing one section before you...

How students define argument in their subjects

To find out more about how argument is seen in different subjects we asked some postgraduate students to write brief answers to the question, 'What does argument mean in your subject ' We asked these students because they are quite experienced writers in their subject, they have recently been undergraduates themselves, and are now thinking hard about what it means to become an authority in their subject. As you will see, their ideas and ways of writing about argument demonstrate how different...

Keeping records

One good way of recording your references as you go along is to use record cards. On these you can put the referencing information that you need about a book or article that you have read. You can also record brief notes on why you found it useful, you can refer to important page numbers and even record complete quotes if they seem relevant to you. Figure 5.3 shows an example of one such record card, compiled by a student. When she came to write she had much of the information she needed on...

Learning from feedback grades and tutors comments

You will get some kind of feedback on your work from your tutor, although how much and in what form will vary enormously. In some cases, you will just get a grade or a percentage mark. This is most likely to be the case when your writing has been done at the end of a course or a unit. The grade may feel like the most important kind of feedback you could get it gives you a point of comparison with other students and it tells you if you have passed this stage. It validates you as a student. It...

Learning journals

Learning journals are more elaborate than most exploratory writing and are sometimes formally assessed, which may alter how you approach them. In this chapter we focus on the learning journal as a non-graded, exploratory kind of writing. Learning journals are a type of writing that give you an overview of a whole course, from beginning to end. If you have to write a learning journal for a number of courses, you will have a record of much of your learning at university, which will help you to...

Learning journals and reflective writing

Learning journals Reflecting on practical work From journals to reflective essays The 'learning cycle' and different kinds of writing A final reflection Journals make the learning process visible. It forced me to explore areas I would normally have shut away. It's good to have a section of work which takes a more relaxed and personal At the beginning of this book we stressed how writing and learning are part of the same process. Whenever you write you make new knowledge for yourself, which is...

Making an argument and persuading your reader

Your reader What does 'argument' mean How students define 'argument' in their subjects Developing a thesis statement Working from first thoughts Making an argument by anticipating questions and objections Making an argument by looking at two opposing versions Persuading the reader I can't do argument - I'm not the arguing type. They are always telling me I have to get an argument but they don't explain how to do it. What do they mean by an 'argument' anyway * This chapter draws on ideas and...

Making good use of your sources

Referencing systems Referencing websites Referencing other sources Recording references Referencing and plagiarism Thinking about plagiarism Using your sources creatively Do I need to reference it even if I heard it in one of my lectures I'm really scared about plagiarizing by mistake. Do you have to put in a date if you use something from the Internet In this chapter we look at the different resources that you might be using in your university writing. Whatever course you are studying and...

Making meaning through reading

It is you, the reader, who makes sense of what you read and the meaning that you will be able to make depends to some extent on how you are reading. We have already illustrated a method of 'global reading', and below we look at two more ways of 'making meaning through reading' and how you may use these when preparing for your assignments. There are likely to be different reasons for the reading you do for your studies at university. You may be reading as background to your course and seminars,...

One students dilemma

On the matter of getting himself into his assignment one student said this I try to stick as much to references as possible. I have to have the relevant data In the actual essay I don't interject myself I just go with everything that somebody can actually go back and check . . . because I'm not an authority. In other words, whenever I write something there must be an authority . . . The problem is when you are writing there is always a tendency to forget the academic side of it and you go and...

Persuading the reader

We have been suggesting throughout this chapter that making an argument is about having a position on a topic and engaging the reader - in the end, it is about persuading the reader to adopt your point of view or position. We have been looking at ways of making the argument with the reader in mind and in this final section we look in more detail at how the reader can be persuaded of the author's point of view. Interestingly, this piece of writing persuades not by imagining the reader as an...

Putting yourself into your academic writing

One student's dilemma 'Parrot writing' Can you be 'original' in your university writing Using 'I' in your assignments From the personal to the academic Is the tutor interested in my ideas Do I have to simply leave myself out of my university writing I came to university to explore my own ideas - but are they interested in what Can I use 'I' in my university writing In this chapter we take up work on the topic of the family begun in Chapter 2, to look again at the relationship between your own...

Recording references

It is very important that you keep a reliable record of your references as you come across them in preparation for your assignments. There are a range of bibliographic software packages available for this purpose but these tend to be quite complicated to use and probably only worth considering if you are undertaking postgraduate study. You may find it easier to record your references alphabetically and or by course using ordinary word processing software to build up a database of references....

Referencing websites

Although the academic community was one of the first to make extensive use of the Internet and is relying increasingly on online sources in building academic knowledge, this doesn't mean that you can be any less rigorous when citing online, web-based resources. There is generally less consistency when you are citing from websites but you must remember that you still need to reference them in your writing in the normal way. That is, you need to reference the web resources you have used in the...

Reflecting on practical work

A practical group project often requires students to keep a learning log or journal. This may have different sections, each written differently. In one example of a small fieldwork project, students first had to keep a record of their meetings and the decisions they made. They then had to write more personally about the experience of carrying out the study. Towards the end of the project they had to reflect on what they had learnt, in two ways first, on how their practical work had helped them...

Reorganizing your work an example

The following short assignment, set in a science foundation course, seemed a fairly simple task the title, 'The structure of the earth', indicated a description shape for the writing, and the student assumed that his main job was to collect, select and organize the information. He used three encyclopaedias. After he had drafted the piece on a computer, he printed it out and talked it over with a tutor and together they worked out how it could be organized a little differently to make the...

Reviewing your work redrafting and editing

We are linking the terms redrafting' and editing' in this chapter although, in practice, they are usually thought of as rather different activities. It is usually assumed that redrafting takes place at an earlier stage than editing and that it may involve a more comprehensive rewrite. A first draft could, for example, be a piece of non-stop practice writing in which you quickly write as much as you can of your whole assignment (see Chapter 2). You then rewrite it, and this may involve a lot of...

Reviewing your work what are you looking for

As we have emphasized before, all aspects of writing an assignment can take place at different points. This is equally true of reviewing it. You will certainly need to do this at the end of an assignment, but it is likely that you may well also do it before you reach this final stage. Writing takes place in a spiral mode where you keep going back almost to the same place. So, although we have said that 'reviewing' your work must take place towards the end of the process, in practice you will...

Sciences

Summarizing the diversity of corroborating or opposing theories or experimental data on a particular topic discussing which author agrees with who, and if they disagree, on what grounds - data or interpretation. You need to be as balanced as possible in your presentation of the two or more sides before probably summing up the essence of the argument (or main points of contention) and declaring which you find most convincing. In science, you need to be balanced but not in law. Note that this...

Some structures used in university writing

Now let us consider the shape of the work from a different angle by looking at some ways of organizing material into different kinds of structure that are commonly used in university writing. By 'structure' we mean both the way a piece of writing is organized and - more importantly - what work it is doing its function in the assignment. We are particularly interested in how the structure constructs the relationships between different ideas. Here are examples of some structures commonly used in...

Style Manuals and Writing Guides

Although you will be given guidance on referencing, if you are writing extended pieces of work such as dissertations, you need to make sure that you follow the accepted conventions for your subject area. This site from California State University, Los Angeles, explores some of these and complements our discussion on referencing in Chapter 8. It might be particularly useful if you are trying to find out about referencing less common citations such as official reports.

Summary writing

What does the writer say What is this idea about You will sometimes be asked to write a summary and to give the gist of what an article or book is about as an exercise in its own right. You may also have to write briefly about what someone says, or about a particular position or way of thinking as part of your assignment. This is necessary because a lot of university writing is specifically about discussing what other authors have said about a topic. In this case, you will need to refer to just...

Talking with a tutor

On some courses tutors offer tutorials to discuss students' assignments. It is up to you to make good use of these - for instance, by rereading your assignment before you see the tutor and by identifying any feedback or issue that you would like to have your tutor's opinion on. Tutors conduct these tutorials in their own way, but they too will find it easier if you are prepared and know what you want from them. Some tutors offer sessions, either individually or in groups, on assignment drafts...

The architect writer see Figure

First I wrote down some notes - ideas for headings. I used the space of a whole page so that I could space out my ideas in a diagram-like fashion. Sometimes I had a column on one side to note down ideas that I might use later on or for jobs I would need to do before I could begin writing the assignment. I kept this list to one side so that I could add to it as I was trying to develop my central overarching idea on the main part of the page. When I had finished I had some notes which all related...

The grand plan writer see Figure

I spend a great deal of time reading and making notes - I try to absorb it all thoroughly. I have to read much more than I need. Then I think about it a lot. I can think as I'm doing other things. Finally, I just sit down and write it out in longhand and it's as though it has all come together in my inner mind. Sometimes I add an introduction once I have finished and I will read the whole assignment through, but really I have never found I could write down a plan and my work hardly ever needs...

The learning cycle and different kinds of writing

Many professional courses make use of what is known as a 'learning cycle' (Kolb 1984). The idea is that on a professional course you can learn in different ways at different stages, through different kinds of activities that are designed to help you to integrate theory and practice. These stages comprise 1. An actual, concrete experience - for example, an interview you have carried out. 2. Your reflection on the experience, when you analyse and make sense of the activity for yourself, and think...

Thinking about plagiarism

In this section we are going to explore some of the more vexing questions around plagiarism including How might you plagiarize inadvertently Are there any situations in which you do not have to cite your sources When you hand in your assignment the tutor will make the assumption that this is your work. This might seem self-evident and you might even be required to sign a form for verification, particularly if this piece of work is going to count towards your degree. By identifying yourself as...

Thinking about the different texts

Of course the texts that you have chosen to look at will have different features and your list will not be the same, although there are likely to be some similarities with our example. However, whatever the kinds of text chosen, thinking about the differences that you have identified can help with your reading. If you can see why you find reading a particular article, chapter or book difficult -in other words, what it is about the text and your reading of it that makes it hard - then you are...

Understanding tutors written comments

The written feedback on your assignment should help you to understand why you got a particular grade and also help you to do better next time. Tutors vary enormously in how much feedback they give students, and written feedback can be quite individual. Increasingly courses use feedback sheets', pro formas with headings, to break down how you have done into different categories. If your course does not use one of these, then you need to attend carefully to the comments in the margin and at the...

Using a range of writing structures

As we have said, you may well employ more than one kind of writing structure in any one assignment. For example, in the course of writing an account of the causes of homelessness you may have to include a chronological historical account. An assignment about the chronological history of women's writing may also include some analysis of individual works by women writers. Let us take as an example the following assignment 'Parents have ultimate responsibility for their children's delinquent...

Using I in your assignments

Students are often puzzled as to whether they can use the first person in their university assignments. The tutors quoted in Chapter 3 indicate the range of views about this. The question is closely related to the larger question of your relationship to your material, and your sense of your identity as the writer of the assignment. There may be a wide range of reasons for the use of the first person in a piece of writing. For example, you might want to signal that the ideas you are presenting...

Using the Internet as a resource for writing

In Chapter 5 we talked about reading as part of writing. We concentrated on the traditional written texts that you are most likely to use for your studies books and journal articles. Increasingly, students are turning to the Internet as an additional resource for their studies, and so we approach this section on using the Internet in much the same way as we approached other kinds of reading - that is, in relation to your writing. When you use reading lists and the library to find the resources...

Using your sources creatively

In order to consider issues such as those raised in Activity Twenty-seven in more depth, in this section we are going to spend some more time thinking about how you might use your different sources in order to integrate the 'voices' of all the different authors and writers that you are drawing on when composing your own writing. As you will see from the extracts from a student essay that we examine in Activity Twenty-nine below, attributing your sources correctly is the way in which you as the...

What does argument mean

'Argument' is quite a difficult term when applied to student writing because it is used in many different ways, which we explore below. Sometimes a 'good argument' and a 'good structure' mean the same thing. On the other hand, you can have a good structure in a piece of writing without it strictly being an argument. For example, a large part of a report is exactly that, essentially reporting on something that has been done, or has been found out. Often you may be required to explain rather than...

What if your learning journal is assessed

Although we are looking at learning journals as a form of exploratory writing, they are sometimes used as an assessed part of a course and will therefore be graded. In this case, you also have to think of the journal as a final product, and the guidelines for it will be more detailed and prescriptive than for a journal written primarily for yourself as a learning tool. Students can find writing a journal for grading causes problems because it is difficult to be genuinely exploratory in your own...

What is a learning journal like

Although there are many different kinds of learning journal, they all have features in common. A learning journal is written regularly. Most journals are written at least once a week and often more frequently. The regularity is what makes it a 'journal', so that you have a record of what you have been doing and thinking on a course, which you can look back on to see the progress you have made. A journal will rarely be written in note form and is not a substitute for making notes. You may,...

Who is your journal for

As we have said, the reader you might have in mind for a learning journal may well be yourself. In fact, some people always use a learning journal just for themselves, perhaps drawing on it for more public writing or using it as a place for ' first thoughts'. You may also have in mind a fellow student or tutor, who in this case is concerned with your progress and interested in your ideas, rather than with judging your work. One student said that writing journals is like ' having a conversation...

Why was Socrates put on trial

The official charges on which Socrates was tried were impiety and corrupting the youth. Meletus, his chief accuser, claimed that Socrates was subversive, undermining the authority of the state and its Gods with his unorthodox philosophizing. Furthermore, he encouraged other young citizens to follow his example with disrespectful questioning of established truths and figures. Reader You say 'official' charges. I suppose that this means there were 'unofficial' reasons that you will tell us about...

Working from first thoughts

Making an argument means, at some point, and in some way, you have something to say that you want to put over to your reader. You arrive at the position of taking your own stance and putting forward your point of view about a subject. In academic writing this is normally based on evidence or reasoning, including your own use of relevant and appropriate sources. This is something we discuss in the next chapter. Often issues are not clear-cut and you will have to acknowledge this. However, most...

Writing a research paper

This complements the short discussion in Chapter 10 about doing longer project work and writing dissertations. In this instance the focus is on the research paper. These web pages are just a very small part of a much wider, comprehensive and very useful website, from the OWL (Online Writing Lab), Purdue University, USA, dealing with many issues around writing assignments.

Writing at University

Open University Press McGraw-Hill Education McGraw-Hill House Shoppenhangers Road Maidenhead Berkshire England SL6 2QL email enquiries openup.co.uk world wide web www.openup.co.uk and Two Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121-2289, USA Copyright Phyllis Creme and Mary R. Lea 2008 All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any...

Writing for different courses

Ways of writing Different perspectives Unpacking assignments Key elements of university writing Different ways of knowing Structure and argument The traditional essay format approach to writing The 'building blocks' approach to writing The thing I've learnt now on this course is that it's all about for or against, and criticizing one argument with another. In management science students are encouraged to include examples from their own experience and are less oriented towards textbook theory...

Writing the introduction

In university writing you will be expected to provide some kind of introduction to your assignment. It may seem strange to tackle the introduction at such a late stage. The reason for including it here is that in practice you can only finalize the introduction once you have written the whole assignment and, except for a final review, have got it into a shape that you find acceptable. This will be obvious if you accept that you may not know what you think until you have written it down. It is...

You and university writing

Why a book on university writing Working with others You as a writer Different types of writing Talking for writing Getting started, keeping going and dealing with writing blocks Getting help A note on word processing A tour through the rest of the book Writing here seems completely different to anything I've done before. The thought of writing assignments just makes me panic. This book is about writing university assignments at degree level. Some parts will also be relevant to students taking...

Your reader

Throughout this book we have thought about your 'reader' as the actual person who will be reading your work usually your tutor but sometimes another student. Your tutor is usually the person who will be marking your work and who also helps you to develop your ideas and improve your writing, and your fellow student is someone who will be helping you to make your work clearer. Both of these readers should be interested in what you have to say. In addition, we also talk about you yourself as the...

Writing the conclusion

The conclusion of a piece of writing is your last opportunity to bring together what you have been saying in a form that will tell your reader, 'This is really where all that I have been saying has been leading this is what I want you, the reader, to think at the end of my essay'. This final statement must arise out of the piece of writing itself. One piece of advice that writing advisers give is that you don't introduce new information in the conclusion. However, one exception to this is that...

Email

One of the ways in which you are likely to be communicating with your tutors and lecturers and with other students studying your courses is through email. Your tutor may set up email lists so that they can communicate with all their students on one course at the same time. They may also set up an email list for students to discuss course issues together. You can use these environments to explore your ideas and get feedback from others. They can help you to develop your thinking in much the same...

The patchwork writer see Figure

When I write I try to get down some headings that seem to relate to the question. At least they give me an idea of what topics and divisions my writing will have. But I am not yet sure exactly if I have an argument. I start to write what I can under these headings and as I go I am trying to find a way of making these fit together. When I have got my first draft like this I will go back and put in bits that will show the links between the different parts. I may have to move around some material....

Using written feedback

If your assignment is returned to you, it is a very good idea to review your work at that point. You may not feel like doing this because it now feels as if it is all in the past, but it is a good way to develop and build on what you have done. If you have not managed to talk with a fellow student before, try to do so now. Read each other's assignments and compare and discuss any comments you have received. This is also useful because it is not always easy to know what a tutor means. In order...

Punctuation

When we speak we can help the listener to understand through the use of gestures, facial expressions and body language. We can also use pauses, hesitations and repetitions to add to the force of what we are saying and to make sure that the listener has understood what we are trying to communicate. When we are writing we have to use different mechanisms to do the same work. This is where punctuation comes in. It allows us to divide up our ideas into manageable chunks so that the reader...

Example A seminar paper

Roman historiography problems and preconditions What the student said about this We were given the questions for this seminar paper. We had to address these in the actual seminar presentation and then hand in our written version at the end. Extract from seminar paper 'Roman historiography problems and preconditions' Were there clear rules for writing history When do they seem to have first appeared The sources appear to imply that there was, by the time of Cicero, a generally accepted way of...

Reading as part of writing

Approaching reading Choosing your reading for an assignment Working with your reading Thinking about the different texts Reading and note taking Making mind maps from reading Keeping records Making meaning through reading Reading your own and other students' work I've done some reading but it doesn't seem to be very related to this assignment. I take copious notes from all these books and then don't really know what to do with them for my essay. Students don't seem to use the reading lists they...

Parrot writing

We explored in Chapter 5 how, as you find out more about your assignment topic from more sources, you always need to be processing for yourself the material you use, formulating and putting together your ideas in writing, and incorporating them into your own thinking. You need to negotiate and work with the demands of university writing, not just try to adopt them wholesale this produces 'imitation' writing, which is neither convincing to the tutor nor in the long run satisfying to you, the...

Beginning with

Keywords Disadvantages of just looking for keywords Analysing the assignment I can't answer this. I don't understand the question. Students often don't answer the question that has been set. I can't answer this, I don't know anything about it. We saw in the previous chapter how you are likely to find it necessary to write in different ways for different courses during your time at university. This chapter will look at ways of developing strategies to analyse and work with your assignments,...