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 look back at the examples that we used above and our comments on them. Now think about each piece of writing in terms of:

• Topic: what is this writing about?

• Audience: who is the reader, both real and imagined?

• Situation: what is the context in which you are writing this?

• Writer: how do you include yourself as the writer? Do you use 'I', 'we' or the third person? Do you use the passive voice (e.g. 'it is argued that')?

We are beginning to see how different kinds of writing are essentially different ways of getting things done. This might seem a strange way to think about writing, but all writing has a job of work to do. One of the problems with being a student writer is that there is often some confusion about the job of work that your writing is doing, and this makes writing at university more difficult than it might be in, for example, a work situation.

In Activity Forty-eight, we are concerned with issues of both form and layout. We ask you to think about these because they can tell us a lot about the purpose of the text and the context in which we might expect to find it. Some kinds of writing that you are asked to do at university have very formulaic structures. That is, the way in which they are laid out and the ways in which things are written are quite clearly determined by specific conventions, which should be described and explained by the guidance you receive from your tutor. You will need to check out the guidance that you receive about writing for any particular course. This is because, as we have said before, writing conventions may differ as you move between different disciplines and professions.

Activity Forty-eight: Looking at writing features

Now look at the examples of your own writing again.

Look at the kind of vocabulary that you have been using. Are similar words

and phrases being repeated in the different examples?

Do you use any graphs, tables, diagrams or symbols?

Do you use any other kinds of visuals (e.g. photographs, downloaded web


Do you use headings?

Do you use bullet points?

Do you use a question and answer format?

Do you use a personal or impersonal style?

Do you use the passive voice (e.g. 'different layers were laid down in differ

ent ways')?

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