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 Fifty Identifying components of your dissertation or project

A familiar dissertation or project outline in social sciences might look like this Abstract Introduction Literature review Research questions Methodology (including methods of data collection and analysis) Now make a similar list of what you see as the key components of a dissertation or project that you have been asked to write. A longer piece of writing can give you much more opportunity to put yourself into your work, and to bring together things in new ways which have not been possible in...

Activity Fiftyseven Reflecting on your experience of this book

Take a few moments to think back over this book. It is unlikely that you have simply read it through from beginning to end, so you may want to choose one particular topic, chapter or approach. Write about your thoughts on what you have chosen, as if writing an entry for a learning journal. Now read over what you have written. Underline three or four words or phrases that seem significant to you. Write about each of these in turn for a few minutes. Now look over what you have written and try to...

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 Forty Checking for development of an argument in an assignment

Take each paragraph in turn (if the paragraphs are short it might be best to group two or three together) and write down the main point of each in a list. The final list should look like an outline for the whole piece of work. If you are doing this for yourself it allows you to check your final piece against your initial plan, to see if you have left anything out or put something in the wrong place. However, please note that it might be the initial plan that was wrong not...

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 Fortythree Checking connections and reference

Look at the extract from the student essay below. Can you pick out any connecting devices, words, topics and themes Can you pick out any referring words Do the same exercise on a piece of your own work. Many arguments have been put forward suggesting that violence is an innate quality in human beings a state of nature which cannot be avoided. Sahlins argued that violence occurs in an absence of the state to which the tribe was seen as a forerunner (Harrison 1989). In contrast, he made parallels...

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 Sixteen What kind of a shaper are you How do you plan your writing

Reread the above descriptions of writers planning their writing. Note down your answers to the following questions What do you think might be the advantages and disadvantages of these different ways of organizing writing Which way of planning and shaping is most like your own approach How do you think your way may be different from any of these Now try to describe how you plan and organize your work. Of course, you may not always adopt just one way of planning and shaping writing. You may in...

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 Thirtyeight Investigating conclusions

Look for some conclusions in your own work or in any reading you are doing. Check them against the above list. What are these conclusions doing Do they work well to sum up for the reader the message of the text Sometimes conclusions show what the author considers is important, but you need to have read the whole of the essay to understand this. This is why students sometimes think that the conclusion is the place where the writer can express their own opinion. Beware of this idea, however,...

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 Thirtyfour The writers place in personal and academic writing

Read the following three passages and check them against the list of 'personal' and 'academic' features in the table above. Answer the questions below about each of them. Does the passage tell us anything about the writer Where does the information come from Does the writer present any of her own opinions Remember that we are asking you to think about these passages in order to think about what you are doing when you write yourself. When I was 9 years old my parents split up and I went to live...

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 Twentyeight How to introduce your sources

Look at an example of one of your own assignments. Make a list of some of the words and phrases you have used which signal the shift back and forth between your words and the words of your source author. Now take an article you have read or one you need to read for a forthcoming assignment. Use words and phrases the author has used to add to your original list. These are some of the ones on our list In order to help you to think a little more about the integration of sources and the different...

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 Twentyseven Which of the following would you regard as plagiarism

Using a direct quote without making the source clear. Paraphrasing or summarizing what you have read and not indicating the citation to the original source of your ideas. Cutting from a source document and pasting it into your own work without making citation to the original source. Changing a few words around in the original source and then using it in your work without indicating where the idea came from. As you have probably guessed all these would be regarded as plagiarism because in all...

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...

Analytic reading

This is less concerned with reading to fit together with what you know already than with analysing what you are reading as you go along. Again, this is an integral part of the strategy that you will need to adopt to read successfully for your writing. To make the most of analytic reading, these are the sorts of question that you will need to be asking How does the author introduce the text Does she spell out what she is going to talk about What do you think that this author is saying Is the...

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...

Causeeffect writing

Why did something happen What were the consequences In practice you will not get far in recounting what happened without bringing in cause and effect, which relate events to each other. Take a simple example the king died the people rejoiced. For this to make sense we need to know why the people rejoiced (maybe he was a tyrant). However, the idea of a straight correlation between two events - that something is caused by something else -is often seen as a bit simplistic. All the same, cause and...

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...

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....

Comparecontrast writing

How are two things different from and like each other This is a very common structure. It shows the similarities and differences between two things and, in the process, it tells you more about each of them. One common feature of university writing is that the 'things' may well be quite abstract or intangible - for example, two different social policies or two different psychological theories. You can handle the compare contrast structure by moving back and forth between both 'things' or by...

Computer conferencing

You may find that your tutor uses computer conferencing as a way of encouraging you and fellow students to work together in groups. This is particularly likely if you are studying at a distance, and do not have the opportunity to meet your fellow students face to face. However, increasingly tutors are also using computer conferencing in face-to-face institutions. It is often set up so that students can work together on a joint project or activity. Computer conferencing is similar to email but...

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.

Considering your argument working out your story and getting your central idea

One important element of shaping your writing is concerned with developing your argument. An 'argument' is one of the things tutors are most often looking for when they set written assignments, and they often criticize an assignment on the grounds that it does not have an 'argument'. However, in practice, the term often means different things in different subjects and even to different tutors, as we saw in Chapter 3. It certainly doesn't mean a 'quarrel' (although as a matter of fact academics...

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...

Description writing

What is something - or someone - like What are its characteristics or what are the different parts that make it up Description usually needs to be followed by or linked to explanation. The visual way to represent description may be as a diagram, with labelled parts, as in biology. However, if we are describing something more abstract - for example, the characteristics of the twentieth-century family - then a spider diagram may be a good way to build up our thinking on what it is like, as we...

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 for the reader

It is important to take account of the reader of your work. The main readers of your assignment will be your tutor and perhaps a second marker' and an external examiner. Sometimes students are asked to write as if' for a specialist external reader, particularly on professional courses, but even these are usually simulated, rarely for real'. This means that writing assignments for university is a strange kind of communication. Although she is your reader, your tutor does not strictly need' your...

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 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...

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...

History

The idea of argument or thesis is quite central to my subject's rationale for its own evidence interpretation and engagement with the work of others is widely viewed as the heart of the distinction between 'history' and 'antiquarianism'. Most historians would say that a work's argument should be explicit and should have a central thread upon which the rest of the content should hang, although how often they follow this instruction is perhaps open to question. Notice this writer's uncertainty...

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 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...

Psychology two students

I mostly think of argument when I write essays with the word 'discuss' in it. Then we are expected to take one side of the argument and provide relevant evidence and then take the other side of the argument. We are discouraged from writing about arguments in lab reports because it becomes too opinionated and it is merely meant to be a report and study of a specific experiment. This student points out that 'argument' is only relevant in some situations. In others, it is a question of just...

Putting it together

Writing the introduction Writing the conclusion Reviewing your work redrafting and editing Editing for the reader Reviewing your work what are you looking for Reorganizing your work an example What am I supposed to do about the introduction and conclusion I don't need to know what you are going to say. Do tell your reader what you are going to say. I never really read my work through. In this chapter we come to the final stages of preparing your assignment, when you have it nearly complete but...

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...

Report writing

In this section we look in more depth at report writing. Imagine that your tutor has asked you to write a business report for your course. Obviously the only person who is going to read that report is going to be your tutor. In this case, the real purpose of the writing is not 'real' at all, since you are writing the report so that you can get a mark and pass the course. What you have to do in this case is to imagine an audience over and above your tutor. You have to imagine that you are...

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.

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 diver writer see Figure

For years I was confused about my writing because I simply could not carry out my teachers' instructions to 'make a plan' and they were always telling me that my essays should 'be more organized'. I found it very difficult to make an outline and then stick to it. My mind didn't seem to work that way. I always had to start writing and sometimes write quite a lot before I knew where I might be going. That meant I had to cut and do different drafts. Sometimes I would find that I had to start...

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...

Working with your reading

There seem to be two major difficulties that students have when they are reading academic books and materials. One is struggling with the ways in which things are written. The other is the length of time that things can take to read. Many students express surprise at the need to make repeated readings of the same material. We cannot stress enough that you are likely to find yourself having to read things more than once, and this is in no way to be seen as strange or unusual. Academics...

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...