Monday, 9 November 2020

Restarting with academic writing

I got asked by an older student returning to learning how they could learn to write academically. Such a good question to ask. After a bit of a think, I passed them a few blog posts to aid their understanding.

  1. I decided to start with structure. Being reminded of what the building blocks of writing are seemed like a logical place to start. This meant they needed to know how to approach and write paragraphs, so I directed them to a post I had written here.

    I also suggested that the following video could help here (English Lessons with Adam, 2013). I don't agree with the presenter that a paragraph can be a single sentence. It can't be in academic writing, as if you think about the 'rules' for constructing paragraphs (see item 1 above), then (a) context/directional statement to open, (b) a number of detail sentences to explain the idea, and (c) a closing statement to end; OR a bridging statement to lead the reader to the next paragraph means that you cannot have a paragraph of less than three sentences. My old Masters supervisor used to say that one sentence is a heading. In addition, the video talks about indenting OR a line space between paragraphs. Where I teach, we tend to use a line space between paragraphs.

  2. From there, I moved on to thinking about whether they understood what literature consisted of. Many of us don't stop to think about what literature may appear to be for a returning student. Do they think Harvard Business Review is literature? Do they think a blog post is literature? I suggested a post I had written containing a video on what scholarly literature consists of here.

  3. Ah: then the arcane art of citations. Having written many posts on this, I felt that this one was probably the easiest for a new returnee to assimilate here. I decided to skip quoting (I felt I would save this for a little bit later).

  4. While citations certainly make writing more academic, we hadn't even got to paraphrasing - that thing that takes up 90% of our academic writing - yet. I shared a post with them on how to paraphrase, here.

  5. Of course, none of this yet explains how we actually put it all together, how much we should quote, whether we should give our power away, and how to bend our sources to meet the needs of our writing. I suggested they read the item here

None of these elements are very large, or very complex. In an hour, most can get the basics, and start exploration from there. If you are a returning student, I hope that list may help you get started.


Sam

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