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Author Topic: Guide to Academic Writing  (Read 925 times)  Share 

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Guide to Academic Writing
« on: July 28, 2016, 10:53:45 pm »
Hi there. I am EEEEEEP. I am in my 3rd of uni and currently study at UTS.

This thread will cover:

> Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

> Grammar and Language

> Writing Structure

> Academic Sources

> Writing Effectiveness and verbosity
« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 03:59:19 pm by EEEEEEP »


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Re: Guide to Academic Writing
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2016, 11:00:07 pm »
Academic honesty and plagiarism

What is academic honesty?
Academic honesty expects that students submit work that is original and authentic to them.  Ideas, words, images and any other intellectual property of others that are used must be acknowledged (referenced and cited) in reports and essays etc.

It is important to know the citation method for each course / subject (e.g. MLA, Harvard) and what you need to do in order to reference properly (e.g. author’s name, year, title, edition, city etc).
Some consequences of breaking academic honesty in the mispresenting of others work or plagiarism are:

> Deductions in marks from the assessment
> No recognition of subject / course credits
> Suspension of your enrolment (if you are a repeated offender)
> Expulsion from your enrolment (if you are a repeated offender)

What to do if accused of being academically dishonest?
Respond in writing and attend university hearings with the university as soon as possible. Outline your version of events and detail some circumstances that you feel are important. Be as honest as you can and be more aware of academic policies in the future.

What is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s ideas or information without acknowledgement of the appropriate author/original owner.  This includes photos, articles, journals, reports, speeches and even videos can be plagiarized. The entire list even includes sounds, models etc. and can apply to print or electronic media.

Why is this such an important issue?
Plagiarism is essentially the fraud to stealing of others ideas and can ruin your own reputation, as well the university where you attend. Additionally, you are benefiting from others' ideas, when you should not be.  Lastly, a degree emphases that you as a student, has knowledge and abilities in certain areas. If you don’t and get a job based on that, it may put others at risk.

What constitutes plagiarism?
> Not using quotation marks when copying material
> Not giving references to material that you read or used
> Paraphrasing without acknowledgement
> Purchasing assessments or using others' assessments
> Paying someone else to write work for you and then submitting it
> Reusing old assessments/work and not citing it (self-plagiarism)
> Inappropriate citation – citing sources that you have not read
> Cheating in an exam

How is plagiarism detected?
Universities use a piece of software called “Turnitin”. This is a piece of software that finds similarities and matches between a student’s text/ texts and sources on the internet (as well as past academic submissions). This means news articles, all academic journals (from your university and others) and all sorts of websites (government, NGO’s etc.

It produces a report such as...
A high level of similarities indicates that:

> You have not paraphrased properly
> You copied too much text
> Someone used your ideas and academic work

The higher the similarity index, the worse your report is.

Plagiarism and group work?
In group work, you cannot:

> Copy from other members of a group, e.g. in a section that must be independently completed by all members, copying a whole paragraph from a friend also in your group.
> Claim an equal share of marks or worth if you contributed significantly less than that: e.g. if you did not contribute much to a report due to piggybacking, you should not claim that you did half the assessment.
> Copy work or parts of an individual’s work who WAS (keyword: was) part of your old group.

Quick checklist for plagiarism
> What sort of sources are you using?
> Have you rewritten things in your own words and phrases?
> Have you made references and cited the material which you used?
« Last Edit: July 29, 2016, 05:44:21 pm by heidiii »


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Re: Guide to Academic Writing
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2016, 11:14:00 pm »
Academic Writing Style

The style of writing required in university is different to high school and it sometimes catches people off guard.  The main features of academic styles of writing are:
> Passive voices
> Formal language
> No contractions
> No run on expressions
> Impersonal language
> Low to medium high modality
> Area/field specific language
> Nominalizations

Passive voice
The passive voice focuses on the person or object, rather than the action. This is because we want to focus things, people or issues to become the subject at hand.  To write in a passive manner, make the object or person the subject, e.g. “Our home” and “Plastics are”.  Notice that the home and the plastics are what we are talking about.

Active vs. Passive
'Water drenched our home' vs. 'Our home is drenched in water'
'One picture conveys a lot of meaning' vs. 'A lot of meaning is conveyed in one picture'
'Many methods are used to recycle plastics' vs. 'Plastics are recycled by using many methods

Formal language
Replace colloquial (day to day) language with formal expressions, and do not use slang words.

Colloquial vs. Formal
'Easier said than done' vs. 'More difficult in practice'
'Got out of control' vs. 'Was no longer under control'
'Stumbling block' vs. 'Point of contention'
'Other ways to' vs. 'Other alternatives to'
'TV and the movies got more and more dependent on each other' vs. 'The relationship between television and the cinema grew increasingly symbiotic'

Lack of contractions
Contractions are the combinations from two words, that are shortened.  Avoid these and write the full words out.

Contraction vs. Full words
don't vs. do not
can't vs. cannot
doesn't vs. does not

No run-on expressions
Run-on expressions are phrases that imply that there is more to be listed, used at the end of sentence, such as 'and so forth', 'and so on' or 'etc'.

Run-on expression: Public transport in Australia includes buses, trains and ferries etc.
Corrected expression: Public transport in Australia includes modes such as buses, trains and ferries.

Impersonal language
Impersonal language is where the language used sounds independent from writers and the readers.  It excludes:
> Personal pronouns – “I”, “you”, “we”
> Judgmental words – “be ashamed”, “disgraceful”
> Emotive words – “appalling”, “terrible”

These all must be avoided at all costs and it will cost you marks if you do so. The removal of personal language also makes the essay seem more objective and this is the appropriate feeling that the reader of the essay should get.

Personal: Only a few people have most of the money and power in Australia. I conclude that is not an egalitarian society. I think that most people end up staying in that class for the entirety of their life.
Impersonal: In Australia, the financial inequality between the wealth and the poor are indicators of the lack of egalitarianism.  In 1994, 10% of the population owned 75% of Australia’s wealth (Edge, 1999). Such a skew in the wealth distribution indicates that there is a class system.

Notice how the impersonal example, which communicates the same information, seems more professional and stronger in terms of the argument (rather than a rant).

Area/field specific language
These are terms that are specific to areas or fields, e.g. melanosomes, classical management style, tunnel vision and employer relations.

It is important to not use technical terminology JUST for the sake of it, you need to know what it means and where it should be used. To a marker, they will know if you just inserted technical words for the sake of it.  ADDITIONALLY, the sentence must make sense. Students sometimes make the mistake of using technical words, and the sentence grammar seems odd or the sentence does not make sense.

Modality means the level of certainly of your opinions or argument. 

There are three levels of modality, high, moderate and low. 
> Strong – Definitely certain, e.g. is, will, must, clearly
> Moderate – Somewhat certain, e.g. should, would, can, tends to, generally
> Low – Less certain, e.g. may, might, sometimes, seldom, uncertainly

It is recommended to be a little bit below and or above the moderate level of modality. This is because the writer needs to have a VOICE and it must be CLEAR, but it must not be overstated or overconfident.

Same statement, varying levels of confidence:
> STRONG – The experiments concluded that the previous study was false.
> MODERATE – The experiments appear to show that the previous study was false.
> LOW – The experiments did not show that the previous study was false.

Nominalizations are verbs that in the form of nouns, e.g. “the charity walk”, “the fundraiser”.  The nominalization process turns actions or events into things, concepts or people.

Verb vs. Nominalisation
'We ran two hours for charity' vs.  'The two-hour charity run...'
'Crime was increasing rapidly' vs. 'The rapid increase in crime...'
'Germany invaded Poland in 1939' vs. 'Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939...'

« Last Edit: July 29, 2016, 05:36:45 pm by heidiii »


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Re: Guide to Academic Writing
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2016, 11:17:10 pm »
Writing Structure

In academia, you are required to write reports or essays that vary from 1000 to a few thousand words. There are many types of reports or essays, which won’t be covered by in this post.  This post will cover introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions.

Introductions invite the reader to the question asked and answered, the point of view that is being argued and introduce the arguments that will be developed. A good introduction will leave the reader with the topic at hand, potential arguments and points of views.

The introduction should be one of the first things that should be written.   Introductions normally contain an:
> Orientation/context – Gives the reader some context and general background to the essay topic
> Aim/purpose – What the essay aims to achieve
> Thesis statement – The position that will be argued or what will be debated
> Overview – Order of discussion of the arguments

Acknowledgement of quotes and scope statements are optional.  All these parts do not need to be in separate sentences, but can be combined.


Paragraphs are sections of writing that deals with a single theme.  They are normally used when introducing a new argument or a new part of a current argument (especially in longer pieces).  Paragraphs also guide the reader as ideas are introduced, elaborated and synthesized.    


Paragraphs have their own framework/structure:
Topic sentence
> Introduces and clarifies the main idea/point that is being developed
> Links back to your thesis or the prior argument
> Foreshadows what information that the paragraph will have
> Elaborates on the point being discussed
> Includes analysis and evidence
Concluding sentence (sometimes optional)
> Link the current paragraph to the following planned one
> Summarise the points that have been made


Paragraph lengths
Paragraphs do not have a set number of lines or length, but they must be long enough to have the right information in an organised manner.  Some questions to ask are:
> Does the paragraph run into the next page?
> Do all the ideas in the paragraph relate to the same thing?
> Is there too much information for the reader to take in at once?
> Are ideas developed adequately within the paragraph?

Conclusions sum up the main points that have been made in the body of the essay.  They also concisely conveys the overall point of view and the arguments made to support it.  No new ideas should be introduced and it should leave the readers a clear message about your point of view.

Conclusions typically contain:
> Summary/overview of the main arguments/ points – summaries arguments
> Confirms/restates the thesis  - confirm position
> Qualification of thesis – Acknowledges that some evidence exists
> Rounding off statement – Closes the discussion and points at the future

Check that what you have written in the body paragraphs and introduction are consistent with what is said in the conclusion.  As with the introduction, some parts can be combined in one sentence.

« Last Edit: July 30, 2016, 11:05:00 am by heidiii »


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Re: Guide to Academic Writing
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2016, 11:22:27 pm »
Academic Sources


In university and academia, you are required to use information from experts and secondary resources as it is not enough to just make an opinion. You need facts to back up your statements. That brings us to assessment time, where we need to pick sources of information.  Garbage in, Garbage out: the quality of your report will depend on the quality of the evidence (source credibility) that you use. The evidence you use, comes from your sources.

Quality sources
Quality PRINT sources have:
> Reputable authors
> Comprehensive reference lists
> Background / contextual information
> Research methodologies
> Information that is still valid and relevant today

Quality electronic sources (e.g. on the web) are:
> Recommended by tutors or lecturers
> Associated with respectable organizations (e.g. Cancer Council)
> Non biased
> Use correct grammar and spelling
> Updated fairly recently

Types of sources
There are four main types of sources: primary, secondary, scholarly and non-scholarly.  While it is not important whether you use primary or secondary etc., just keep in mind the credibility of the source (addressed above).

Primary: Raw and original research. It is what researchers gathered and analyzed themselves, e.g. experiments, interviews, observations, reports, speeches and survey data.

Secondary: When someone makes comments on others’ ideas, e.g. If you use a journal article in your thesis and publish that thesis.  It is often better to use raw data, as it people may interpret it differently and may not understand the results, but it is not always possible.  It is permissible to use secondary sources like:
> Textbooks
> Scientific Journals / articles 
> Magazine or newspaper accounts
> Reviews in books
> Government documents

Scholarly: typically published in databases (PubMed, Scopus and EBM etc). An example is your typical academic journal.  Scholarly sources typically use field specific language, are written by experts (e.g. masters, doctorate), acknowledge many sources of data, are formal and use academic style of referencing.

Non-scholarly: when people (not experts) write about ideas or topics and do not base it on research, e.g. Time Magazine or The Economist.  They are typically very broad, published very often, informal, include few references and are visually exciting with no academic style of referencing.

The Internet
The Internet can be a good source of information but you must be very cautious. 
> Avoid sites with lots of advertisements (with exceptions to news sites, esp for journalism/arts)
> Consider hierarchy of domain names: organisation(.org), education(.edu) and academic(.ac) have high importance and integrity than commercial(.com), organisation(.org) and network(.net) sites
> Wikipedia is good for reading and understanding, but DO NOT ever cite it. Use the citations at the bottom and reference those. This is because it is not considered authoritative or credible as experts do not write the content.

> Scholarly articles are best
> Use websites that belong to organizations or governments
> Do not ever cite Wikipedia


Finding sources

University library site
Using your university library website, you can search for phrases or words, authors. Additionally, you can sort sources by date, title and relevance.  The level of functionality varies from university to university.

(Insert screenshots from here and here)

Dedicated journal databases
University websites provide free access to journal databases. It is easy to find the links to them.

*I use these two universities as an example*
http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/search~S30 >> A-Z eJournals and Databases
http://www.library.unsw.edu.au/HowDoI/databases.html >> click on databases

Once you enter a specified database, it should look something like this

Journal databases provide more functionality than the basic university library search. As you can see in the image, there are Boolean, smartText, document types that you can pick!

Keywords are words or phrases that help narrow down and drill down into the topic.  A few keywords should be fine.  For example if we are looking for Kantian ethics:
A simple search of 'ethics' yields:
> Environmental ethics and film
> Anthropological ethics in context: an ongoing dialogue
> Ethics in public policy and management
A more narrowed-down search of 'Kantian ethics' (more useful, esp for say psychology) yields:
> Kantian ethics: value, agency and obligation
> Kantian Ethics
> Kantian ethics almost without apology

Using sources
While academic papers may seem intimidating and difficult to use, it really isn’t if you know what you’re looking for and where.

In academic papers:
> Read the following sections:
   Abstract – Abstracts summarise very briefly what the report tried to test and find.
   Introduction – Introduction provide good context and background knowledge to help you understand the journal.
   Results – Presents key results
   Discussion – Interprets results in the context of the field of study. It discusses questions like “what was observed?”, “Why are such observations observed?” and “Were any relationships observable?”.
   Conclusions – Relates the data back to the questions being asked in a succinct manner.
> Ignore the following sections
   Statistical methodology (can be overly technical and hard to understand)
   references at the bottom – most of the times we don’t need those. The journal article is good enough
Let us use this paper as an example (if were to be writing a report on cyber-crime).  http://docdro.id/l8Jkbvc >> Highlighting of text which is useful

PART 3: HOW TO INTEGRATE SOURCES (quoting, paraphrasing and summarising)

At university, many of the reports and essays you produce will involve others ideas and knowledge as they are the experts in the area/field. They are allowed to be used, but it must be done so in the right manner. This right manner involves three ways (in combination with a referencing method):
> Quoting
> Paraphrasing
> Summarising

Why use quotations, paraphrases or summaries?
These allow you to:
> Add support for your argument
> Introduce the reader to some context or extra reading
> Provide examples of points/view on topics
> Adds more depth or detail to your produced writings
> Use sources ethically! (Use with acknowledgment)

***You MUST reference the original sources in each case.***

Quoting is where you use someone else’s written or spoken words in the same manner that they seem on the original sources.  Quotations are good for definitions, laws, terms, expressions and statements.  At the very least, there must be a single set of quotation marks. Do not quote extremely lengthy quotes (more than 30 words) and use them sparingly. If you overuse them, it means that you have not provided any analysis or links to your theory. Additionally, it is a sign of lazy writing and weak understanding of recommended materials.

Some ways of integrating direct quotes include:
> Warner describes x as “DIRECT QUOTE” (Warner, 2009, p.9).
> A variable cost is "DIRECT QUOTE" (Author, Year, Page no). (using the quote to smoothly continue part of your sentence)
> AUTHOR (Year, page no.) provides the following definition: “DIRECT QUOTE”. (putting the quote after a colon after a reporting verb)

* NB: the contents in brackets, e.g. (Warner, 2009, p.9), may change depending on what referencing style you use.

Paraphrasing is the act of including others' ideas and information but in your own words. Vocabulary and sentence structures must be different. The original ideas and meaning are still communicated.  It is good for showing the markers that you understand the work and can make a connection between evidence and theory.

To paraphrase:
1. Carefully read the text to make sure you understand it
2. Identify key words and main ideas
3. Consider some points
4. How does the author feel towards the issue? Supportive, certain, uncertain
5. Come up with words or phrases that mean the same >> Change verbs, adjectives, edit sentence structure


Original text: The development of successful marketing strategies depends to a large extent on the planner’s ability to segment markets. Unfortunately, this is not a simple process. Segmenting usually requires considerable management judgment and skill. Those marketers who have the necessary judgment and skill will have a real advantage over their competitors in finding profitable opportunities.

Paraphrase 1: Successful developing of marketing strategies is dependent to a great extent on the ability of the planner to segment markets. However, this process is difficult. Segmenting usually requires significant management judgment and skill. Only marketers who have the necessary judgment and skill will have a true advantage over their competitors in obtaining profitable opportunities
Paraphrase 2: According to McCarthy et al. (2000), the planner’s level of competence in the complex procedure of the segmentation of markets is a deciding factor in the success of market strategy development. Thus, high levels of management assessment and aptitude are necessary for marketers to truly gain a competitive advantage in procuring lucrative opportunities.

Notice how the first paraphrase is more of a direct quote, but the second paraphrase is not just a tiny tweak. It obtains ideas from the paragraph and analyses it.

Deconstructing the paraphrasing:
Original text vs. Paraphrase 2
'the planner’s ability to segment markets' vs. 'planner’s level of … of the segmentation of markets'
'Those marketers who have the necessary judgment' vs. 'high levels of... aptitude are necessary for marketers'
'this is not a simple process' vs. 'complex procedure'
Summarising is the reduction of author’s ideas in written or spoken texts to main key points. The general idea is to reduce unnecessary nitty-gritty details and examples. It is used if there are readings with similar sources, entire chapters / articles or work and one or more paragraphs.

How to summarise?
> Skim read information, find sub headings, first paragraphs and topic sentences
> Obtain key words and ideas
> Remove unnecessary detail

Original text (City of Sydney 2013, para 1): 62 words
The original Aboriginal inhabitants of the City of Sydney local area are the Gadigal people. The territory of the Gadigal people stretched along the southern side of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to around what is now known as Petersham...There are about 29 clan groups of the Sydney metropolitan area referred to collectively as the Eora Nation...'Eora' means 'here' or 'from this place'...

Summary: 30 words
The Gadigal people, the traditional owners of inner Sydney City, were one of the Eora, or the 29 groups occupying the Sydney City region (City of Sydney 2013, para. 1).
« Last Edit: July 30, 2016, 04:23:19 pm by heidiii »


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Re: Guide to Academic Writing
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2017, 03:58:16 pm »
Writing Effectiveness and Verbosity
This post is for those who struggle with academic writing  or are trying to improve their writing from an B to an  A.

While academic essays and reports require the use of more deep vocabulary, many people fall under the trap of becoming too verbose.

What is verbosity?
Verbosity means the extent to which something is excessive in writing. This is usually present in the sentence word counts and vocabulary. 
** Too much verbosity results in a sentence that is hard to understand, hard to follow and not smooth to read. **
** Too little verbosity results in a sentence that sounds like something that was written in the fifth grade and is lacking in complexity**

A simple demonstration would be in business contracts.
"In the event of any failure or malfunctioning of any component of the  apparatus which renders the appliance inoperative and necessitates repair before the appliance will work normally, the Board will, at the request of the consumer within a reasonable period and during normal working hours and subject to the conditions and exceptions set out in paragraphs two and three below, repair or replace such components free of charge. "

(( TLDR...... BASICALLY, if it breaks, we’ll fix it )) [/b]

A paragraph like this demonstrates some wisdom, complexity but is easy to understand.
"High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for the facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process."
(Although facilitation and enhancement can be replaced by “improvement”, it is a good sentence.)

A paragraph like this is barely digestible and loses its effectiveness.
"The candidate should know and understand…how to demonstrate understanding of, and facilitate at the tactical and operational level, continuous improvement and change management activities in the context of the organisation, its culture and individual and team activities."
A better paragraph would be….
"The candidate should understand how management works in an organisation. This includes knowledge of different levels in an organisation, change management , culture and teams." (Simple sentence, uses keywords and digestible)

In conclusion
- Sentences should not exceed 40 words.
- When there are many ideas in a sentence, split it.
- Use keywords in moderation.
- BALANCE BALANCE BALANCE! (reiterates the previous three points)

Good luck in future writing =)
« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 04:04:04 pm by EEEEEEP »