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 student. As the English tutor quoted in Chapter 3 said, students begin to 'parrot these discourses' before they have really got inside them. This may not always be a bad way to begin to get hold of the subject, for imitating a writer you are reading can be a good way of getting the feel of what he or she is saying. It is certainly also useful to look closely at how writers write. However, in general, just trying to use a particular style or vocabulary is to try to imitate the surface features of a discipline, without really getting into its way of thinking, and in the end it does not work. Students who do this end up with strange and confused pieces of writing, rather like children trying to use unfamiliar, adult language. They do not feel confident and do not enjoy writing. We might compare this with playing a piece of music without understanding anything about rhythm. Individual notes may be right but they don't fit together into a recognizable piece of music. In the end, therefore, we are saying that you have to develop your own way of writing a subject, however modestly, and the activities we have provided in this book often ask you to start to get into university reading or writing by using your own words. Slowly your own way becomes related to your new role as a university student and you get a sense of yourself as the writer of your university assignments. You become confident that you are able to handle university writing, even though you will not always get it right at first; but then, neither do academics, who also have to struggle every time they write something new.
In the following activity about your relationship to your assignment, you need to write out your answers in your own, exploratory way. Such writing may serve as a personal record of your thinking, helping you progressively to clarify your thinking as you work. We will ask you to return to this activity at the end of the chapter.
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