Academic Writing Skills Guide Essay
Academic Writing Skills Guide
Introduction Preface to the first edition (2002) We have written this guide for you to help you on the way to becoming proficient in your chosen field of economics or business administration. As you advance in your studies, you will demonstrate your proficiency through the essays, papers, case reports, and other texts that you write. Your writing is thus a marker of your relative expertise in your discipline. Yet, it is also a means in itself. Writing helps you organize your own ideas, discover the strengths and weaknesses in your thinking, and internalize the knowledge you construct.
We hope this guide will help you on your way. But like all guides, it does not contain everything. As Voltaire said, “ the best way to be boring is to leave nothing out” This guide acts as a starter – it is up to you to . go deeper. Just as you will find with your writing assignments, we too have gone through the writing process in the construction of this guide. We constructed a plan, consulted numerous sources and people, wrote the text, revised it, and edited it, all the time trying to keep it clear and simple.
In putting together this guide, we have aimed to follow Ernest Hemingway who said, “ My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way. ”We hope we have succeeded. Henri Mennens, MSc Robert Wilkinson, MSc Second edition (2010) The second edition of this guide to academic writing is a thorough revision of the first edition (2002). Apart from changes to chapter 2, we have significantly changed chapters 3 and 5. In addition, we have completely rewritten chapter 4 on citing and referencing in line with the current (2010) citation and reference norms of the American Psychological Association.
Major changes also entail the introduction of many more examples. In addition, the format requirements for submitting papers has changed. 2 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Introduction We have not included information on grammar and punctuation, since we expect students at the School of Business and Economics to have a good command of these aspects on entry. However, we are aware that many users of this guide will wish to seek reassurance in this respect. We recommend users to consult a good grammar book or one of the many good writing sites on the Internet.
Robert Wilkinson, MSc Jeannette Hommes, MA NOTE: the Guide is not presented in the format that you have to present your papers (see section 5). However, where extracts of student essays are given, these are in the required format. Acknowledgements We gratefully acknowledge the many people and sources we have consulted during the construction of this guide. In particular, we would like to express thanks to Henri Mennens for his work on the first edition, and Keith Campbell of the Language Centre who adapted the first edition of this guide in 2006.
We also thank the Academic Writing tutors of the Language Centre for their inputs and the many students who have made use of the first edition. Furthermore, we are indebted to Mike Hannay and Lachlan Mackenzie, whose book Effective writing in English: A resource guide (both the 1996 and 2002 editions) has been a major source of information for chapters 2 and 3. We acknowledge the American Psychological Association whose “ Publication manual” (American Psychological Association, 6th ed. , 2010) has been an excellent support in the construction of chapter 4 in this guide.
Finally, we are grateful to the Director of the School of Business and Economics for supporting the production of this second edition. 3 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Introduction 1. Introduction Academic writing covers the wide range of specific writing tasks that you are required to write during the course of your academic studies: papers, reports, literature reviews, projects, case studies, dissertations, theses, research papers, and articles. Some of these text types are quite rare outside the academic environment (papers, literature reviews, dissertations, theses); others (reports, projects, etc.) may well be aiming at a much broader public.
However, what they all have in common is a similar type of reader: a person educated in the specialist field (here economics or business studies), and usually acting as a professional in that field. These target readers represent the professional community of which you aim to become a member. To be accepted as member requires you to meet the norms and standards that the professional community expects. Thus with regard to writing, you are expected to adhere to the norms expected by the (international) academic community.
Compare this to a relay race in athletics. In the relay race, you run with three other runners. If you are one of the two middle runners, you have to collect the baton smoothly from the previous runner and pass it on to the next runner. In the relay race your team runs against other teams (your local community). All of you have to run according to the set of rules agreed by the sports governing body (the professional community). If you do not, your team may be disqualified. The rules set the framework for a potentially great race, and within the rules there is vast scope for individual flair and talent.
So with academic writing: you have to write according to the ‘ rules’ but to write well demands your own indi, vidual talent and enterprise. Just as a highly skilled athlete knows how to use the rules to his advantage, so an expert writer uses the norms and standards of professional academic writing to persuade readers of the power of his argument. We should not extend this athletics analogy too far: sports have clear sets of rules that everyone can read and study; academic writing does not. What a professional academic field has is a set of overt norms, such as a style guide.
This guide is based on the editorial style requirements described in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010). Alongside these is a set of covert norms that are just as powerful. Examples of the covert norms will be the nature of argumentation that is considered acceptable in the field. Covert norms are hidden and therefore take a long time to acquire. Most novice writers acquire them through extensive reading in the field, and by paying active attention to the way other writers use 4
Guide to Academic Writing Skills Introduction language. This process of acquisition demands close observation of how expert writers use words and expressions differently in different types of text, e. g. literature reviews or case studies in a single field (e. g. marketing). Academic papers (and most other forms of academic writing) are typically expository or argumentative. An expository or informative paper describes or explains a particular set of phenomena, and provides an account of why these phenomena are found in one or more specific situations or contexts.
The goal of the expository paper is also to acquaint the reader with a body of knowledge. An argumentative or persuasive paper must choose a side, make a case for it, consider and refute alternative arguments, and prove to the undecided reader that the opinion it presents is the best one. You must be aware of other sides and be fair to them; dismissing them completely will weaken your own argument. It is always best to take a side that you believe in, preferably with the most supporting evidence. To develop a good academic paper you should go through a number of stages, called the writing process.
The following seven stages can be distinguished: The writing process 1. Thinking stage 2. Research stage 3. Outline stage 4. Drafting stage 5. Revising stage 6. Editing stage 7. Final version stage } } Planning process Transfer in a first draft output Revising & editing Final output Figure 1. Stages of the writing process 1. Thinking stage In this stage you determine your topic area (which may of course already be given), brainstorm about ideas on the topic, select, reject and focus those ideas, before arriving at your final choice. 5 Guide to Academic Writing Skills.
Introduction 2. Research stage Here you search for and study background literature and other materials, analyse the results, draw your own conclusions and interpretations, etc. 3. Outline stage In this stage you draft an outline of the paper you intend to write, setting out your main aim or purpose in the paper (the purpose statement or thesis statement), sketch how you will develop the points that follow from the purpose, and indicate how you will conclude the paper. 4. Drafting stage Here you put down on screen successively improved versions of your paper.
5. Revising stage In this stage you scan your work on a macro level for logical coherence, checking whether you need to add or delete information, whether sections need rephrasing for clarification. 6. Editing stage Here you edit your text on a micro level, checking the grammar, spelling, punctuation, in-text citations, references and the layout. 7. Final version stage In this stage you set out the final paper neatly and clearly. Writing a paper is recursive: you do not start at the beginning, and work through straight to the end, and that is that.
At all times you will be ‘ backtracking’ ‘ or looping’so that as you are , writing your first draft, you may discover you need to add more information and have to return to the research stage. During the revising stage, you may discover that your original plan was too broad, and so decide to cut out a whole section. You may produce several revised versions of the paper before your final version. Do not forget to allow yourself plenty of time between writing your first draft and your final version. Figure 2 illustrates the three groups of actions in writing a paper, the planning process, the transfer, and revision and editing.
The figure emphasizes the recursive nature of writing a paper in that each action not only feeds into the next but feeds back into the previous actions, entailing revision of those actions. 6 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Introduction “ You may start with a plan, conduct some research (reading, library and/or Internet search), analyse and then synthesize the information you have acquired, construct a question or a statement that you will examine, draft an outline, write a rough draft of the introduction, start writing the body, then stop.
You go back, conduct some more research, adjust your outline, rewrite the body, write a bit more, adjust the introduction, perhaps adjust the statement of your purpose, then stop again. You conduct more research, rewrite the body again, draft a conclusion, go back to the introduction, adjust the purpose, rewrite the introduction, then stop. You let the paper ‘ simmer’for a while, then reread it, adjusting here and there for content accuracy, perhaps search or check for a contrary argument, throw out less relevant parts of the paper, check the logical development of your ideas and arguments, and wrap up the conclusion.
Then you check again for spelling (using the spellchecker, but also reading carefully word by word), check for grammar (using the grammar checkers wisely), check all punctuation, check the layout, check the citations and the references. You check too for sentence length (eliminate very long, rambling sentences), check paragraph structure (particularly if the topic of the paragraph changes in the paragraph – check the subjects of the main verbs), check the logical links between paragraphs and sections. And so on. ” Figure 2: The writing process and its recursive nature (Bruer, 1993).
This guide is organized as follows. Chapter 2 focuses on the planning process, describing the planning activities and the construction of an outline. Chapter 3 elaborates on the structuring of the paper, through a detailed discussion of the three parts of a paper, introduction, body, and conclusion. Moreover, structuring a paper effectively requires that you write wellconstructed paragraphs: this chapter also provides brief guidelines on paragraph organization. Chapter 4 explains the importance of citing sources and giving references, and provides guidelines how to put them in the paper in a correct way.
Chapter 5 concentrates on finalizing the paper. This chapter discusses the format requirements, text revision and the evaluation of the paper. To conclude, this guide helps you to master the process of academic writing, which you can apply to the specific writing assignments during the course of your academic studies. It specifies the elements necessary to a successful academic paper. But keep in mind two things. First, each assignment will be different and require a different organization. Second, writing is a skill;
7 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Introduction you only get better at a skill through regular practice. Regular practice leads to routine and expertise. The application of the principles of this guide can be of use until your last writing examination: the final thesis. However, this guide just contains a brief summary of the different topics discussed. For more information you should consult literature, especially the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010, 6th ed. , in the University Library), and the Internet. Besides, keep in mind that the writing process is not just simply following a set of rules.
Try to develop your own style, expertise and talent, in order to distinguish yourself. Good luck with your writing career! 8 Guide to Academic Writing Skills The planning process 2. The planning process In order to get a good start to writing your paper, it is important that you go successfully through the planning process. This chapter describes the different activities of the planning process. Then, section 2. 2 discusses the most important stage of the planning process: the construction of an outline. 2. 1. The planning activities.
During the planning process, according to Hannay and Mackenzie (2002), you are concerned with six major activities: 1 Generating ideas for the content. Ideas for content can come from several sources: from your own knowledge, from discussions with other people, and from various media sources (written texts, audio-visual media and electronic media). Brainstorming techniques help you to generate ideas in the first two categories. 2 Selecting and classifying points. Here you are concerned with ordering your ideas. Analyse them to determine the extent to which they are connected with each other.
Ideas and concepts that are highly connected are likely to form key points in your texts. Those which are less closely connected may form essential supporting topics, or may need to be abandoned. Some may require more development. Always be prepared to get rid of ideas that prove not to be relevant to your argument. 3 Establishing your perspective. In this activity you need to decide what angle you are going to take with your material. Are you taking a historical perspective, or only discussing the present situation? Are you taking an objective position, or are you bringing in your own personal standpoint?
Are you taking a general viewpoint, or only a specific case? Are you looking at the matter from your home country’ perspective? Are you discussing a general issue or only a nas tional situation? 9 Guide to Academic Writing Skills The planning process 4 Determining your intention. Now you need to consider what you want to do with the text. Do you want to present both sides of an argument equally, or do you want to present only one side? Do you need to give examples, or will your argumentation be sufficient on its own? Do you want to persuade the reader of your opinion, or are you only wishing to describe the matter?
Do you want just to present a problem, or do you want to offer solutions as well? What you are going to do with your text must become very clear to the reader in the thesis statement: this statement directs the readers to the purpose of the text. 5 Formulating a draft title, structuring the introduction and conclusion. Here you should set down a working title and devise a draft structure for the introduction and the conclusion. At this stage your drafting should only be provisional: you should write the actual version only after you have written the body of the paper.
This is because you do need to know what your introduction is indeed introducing, and you need to know what your conclusion is concluding. A useful rule of thumb is: Plan your introduction, then your conclusion, and then your body, but write your body, then your conclusion and then your introduction. 6 Drafting paragraph themes. At this stage, go back to the ideas (themes) you have selected and classified. Now you have to decide which will be suitable for your text. Each theme usually is the basis for a single paragraph.
Each theme too will require sufficient development; so do not try to include too many. As a rough guide, you probably cannot treat adequately more than about 4 themes in a 1000-word paper (roughly 3 pages), while a 2500-word paper (roughly 6 pages) will seem overwhelming if it includes more than 9 or 10 themes. Once you have selected your themes, list the points that you need to make to support the theme in the paragraph. 2. 2. The planning outline The goal of the planning outline is to help you organize your ideas, and present them in a logical order.
It serves to identify the relationships between the ideas: it allows you to see how related ideas can be grouped together, and which ideas you can cut out, and which ideas need more support. A good outline helps you to maintain the direction in your paper, and prevents you from getting distracted into irrelevant information. 10 Guide to Academic Writing Skills The planning process Figure 3 lists six steps that may be considered in the development of a planning outline. 1 Decide the purpose of your paper and the audience you are writing for. 2.
Develop a statement in which you define the goal or purpose of your paper (commonly called thesis statement). This clarifies what you are going to present or argue in the paper. At this stage you may not have a definitive version of this statement. 3 List all the important points you want to handle in the paper. These points have to be split in three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The points in the introduction include the items that lead to the purpose or thesis statement (so-called background information), and a statement of the purpose or goal that should now be defined precisely.
When you are planning your paper, you will group all your ideas around one central theme. This theme forms the core of your purpose or thesis statement or research question. The points in the body have to be logically organized so that they follow from your purpose and lead towards the conclusion. In a larger paper (for example a Master’ thesis), you usually develop a set of subquestions, covering the s points that lead to an answer to the research question. By answering step by step the different subquestions in the body, you can draw a structured and well-founded conclusion at the end.
The points in the conclusion include the summary of the facts that lead to an answer to the statement or question you started with and the answer itself. 4 Categorize the points in the body under general headings so that you can identify which points need more development (e. g. you have to do more reading) and which points are not useful or relevant (delete these). Choose precise, concrete words for the headings: avoid vague terms. Relate the headings to the purpose of your paper. If your paper is describing a situation, you are more likely to choose noun structures for headings (for example: Failure of Bretton Woods).
If your paper is oriented to action, you may choose verbal structures; typically -ing forms in English (for example: Reforming the auditor’ duties). s 5 Work out how one idea follows logically from the previous one. Note down how you will make the transitions from point to point. This is a key step, but one that is often underrated. Failure to think out the transitions in the planning stage can cost you more time in the revising stage. 6 Finally, look back at the whole outline, and check that you are satisfied that it all hangs together logically and conceptually. Now you are ready to start writing. Figure 3.
Six steps in the planning process. Outlines are generative. They are most useful if you modify them as you write in line with new thoughts or information. Some of you may find that a simple, less detailed written outline is sufficient – you may be very competent in holding the full structure in your mind – but you may add more detailed points to the outline as you progress. Most of you, however, find that a relatively detailed outline on paper is an effective reminder of what the goal of your paper is and of what you have selected from the literature, and an efficient guide to how far you have come.
11 Guide to Academic Writing Skills The planning process An outline as a simple list of points (see Figure 4, box a) may not help you organize and structure your paper. A more organized outline (see Figure 4, box b) will help you see how the different parts hang together and may facilitate the writing. Many American writing textbooks and websites provide detailed guidance on writing outlines. Under the American convention, outlines are structured using the following symbols (Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals).
This is only a convention used in the writing process: it is not part of APA style, and under no circumstances should it be used in the final paper (see for example Purdue University’ Online Writing Lab: http://owl. english. purdue. edu/owl/resource/544/03/). Box c (Figs ure 4) illustrates the framework using the American conventions. a Unhelpful outline Topic: The Struggle for the Mobile Phone Market 1. Description of the European mobile phone market. 2. Major players: Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens. 3. Focus of youth market. b Structured outline 4. Future trends in the market European Commission case on choline chloride cartel 1.
Introduction 1. 1. Background to case: choline chloride cartel 1. 2. Aim of paper (thesis): European Commission took the right decision to fine the firms, because they had formed a cartel, but the fines are not sufficient to discourage cartel forming in the future. Key economic issues 2. 1. Market description 2. 1. 1. Producers 2. 1. 2. Consumers 2. 2. Agreements 2. 2. 1. Price fixing 2. 2. 2. Market sharing Economic impact on competition 3. 1. Fixed prices raised income for producers 3. 2. Market sharing reduced competition 3. 3. Economic impact of cartel (Perloff) 3. 3. 1. Oligopoly 3. 3. 2.
Welfare analysis European Commission decision 4. 1. That the market is an oligopoly 4. 2. That the market is not competitive 4. 3. Punishment for firms 4. 3. 1. Fines 4. 3. 2. Leniency ruling Conclusions 5. 1. Summary 5. 2. Price setting agreements have a big impact on the market 5. 3. Fines based on gravity and duration of infringement 5. 4. Leniency: fines not high enough to discourage cartel formation in future. 2. 3. 4. 5. 12 Guide to Academic Writing Skills c Classic formal outline (American style) I. II. First item Second item A. sub-item B. sub-item 1. sub-sub-item 2. sub-sub-item Third item.
The planning process III. Figure 4. Examples of outlines. 13 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Structuring 3. Structuring On the basis of the outline, described in the previous chapter, it is now possible to continue with the structure of your paper. You started the structuring process already in steps three and four of the construction of an outline, described in section 2. 2. The structuring process continues by implementing these steps in the paper, starting with the introduction. Section 3. 1 discusses the structuring process of the introduction, section 3. 2. covers the middle part (or body), and section 3.
3. the discussion and conclusion. Structuring a paper effectively also requires that you write well-constructed paragraphs. This is discussed briefly in section 3. 4. 3. 1. The introduction The introduction has three functions, all of which must be present. First, it sets the context by introducing the topic of your paper. This is called the background information. This information leads to the second function: it specifies the purpose of the paper. Finally, the introduction contains a short outline of how you are going to handle the aspects of your topic in the rest of the paper.
Any introduction in which one of these functions is missing is necessarily incomplete. The length of the introduction varies from one paragraph to several pages, depending on the total length of the paper. Three other factors influence the length. First, how familiar are your readers with the context? If, for example, you are writing about small and medium-sized businesses in Nepal, you may have to explain much more of the Nepalese background for readers who are less familiar with that country, since the readers may wish to compare Nepalese SMEs with those in other developing countries.
Second, what the type of paper (or genre) are you writing? If, for example, you are writing a review of the academic literature on internet auction markets, your introduction might be quite short, since you will include the information from your review in the middle of your paper. Similarly, if you are examining a competition case from, say, the European Commission or the US Department of Justice, then you may not need much background information, for you can refer almost straightaway to the case.
On the other hand, in a paper in which you argue a point of view (e.g. the abolition of export subsidies), then you may need to present adequate background information before introducing your pur- 14 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Structuring pose. Third, what economics or business discipline are you addressing? The length of introductions may differ between econometrics, labour economics, marketing, strategic management, and so on. It is wise to check by reading relevant previous papers in the target discipline and the target genre, as well as taking the readers’ familiarity into account.
Nevertheless, as a useful rule of thumb, it is valuable to think of your introduction as being about one-eighth of the length of the text you are writing. Thus, the introduction to a 1000word paper would be about 125 words; the introduction to a 10,000-word dissertation would contain about 1250 words, and may well appear as a short chapter in its own right. So treat the one-eighth concept as a guideline, not as a straightjacket. Writing the introduction depends heavily on personal preference.
Some writers like to know exactly how they will begin before they start to elaborate the text they are aiming to write; other writers prefer to know what they have written first, and then write the introduction to fit it, so that it leads to the purpose statement. Yet, a good rule of thumb is to write a draft introduction that leads to your purpose statement, then write the whole text, right to the conclusion, progressively editing as you go along. Only then do you return to your introduction and adjust or rewrite it so that it does indeed fit your paper neatly and satisfyingly.
3. 1. 1. The background information The introduction prepares the readers for what follows. Thus, the introduction has an orientation function. Thus, it should therefore present enough background information so that the readers will recognize that the middle of your paper follows logically and coherently from the introduction – you need to pay attention to what the reader can be expected to know already and what will be new. Your introduction is more effective when it progresses from the known to the unknown (Figure 5). 15 Guide to Academic Writing Skills.
Structuring Prediction markets and their applicability for organizational decision making 1. Introduction Whether firms are successful or not depends to a great extent on their decisions about new products. Therefore, top management has large Background information (known less known) incentives to have as accurate information as possible on future demand and success of new products. Usual methods of gathering this information include customer surveys and expert opinions. Often, however, these approaches are very inaccurate and misleading.
In order to avoid problems linked to the two methods mentioned above, firms came to think about whether or not to make use of prediction markets as information gathering tools (Ho & Chen, 2007). New information (topic) Prediction markets, also known as information markets or future events (Wolfers & Zitzewitz, 2004), are markets in which price is used as an indicator of the probability that a certain event will occur in the future (Manski, 2006). Market participants buy and sell contracts of the particular event they think will be likely to take place and they receive money when they betted correctly (Wolfers & Zitzewitz, 2004).
This Purpose of paper paper investigates the question whether or not firms should engage in prediction markets to make informed decisions. Outline Firstly, it explains some general aspects of prediction markets. Secondly, it describes examples of this forecasting tool, focusing for illustration on the Iowa Electronic Market and finally it compares benefits and disadvantages of implementing prediction markets in businesses. Figure 5. Example of an introduction from a first-year business paper. 16 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Structuring 3. 1. 2.
The purpose statement The purpose statement is a vital component in academic papers. It marks the high point of the introduction. This statement is a clear expression of the purpose that your paper is expected to assert, explain, support, or defend (Fulwiler & Hayakawa, 2000). It summarizes the main idea of a paper and makes that idea explicit to the readers. The statement answers the questions the critical reader has: “ what? Why does this paper exist? What’ it all about? ” So s In the literature on academic writing, you will meet the term ‘ thesis statement’ This term cov.ers the statement that the writer is going to argue in his or her paper.
Strictly speaking, it is relevant to argumentative papers where you are advancing a claim (the thesis), and then in the paper you present the arguments (evidence) that demonstrates whether the claim holds. An example of an argumentative paper is a position paper in which you set out a particular theoretical position (opinion) based on arguments (evidence). Many papers that you write will not be essentially argumentative papers. You may often simply be explaining a phenomenon or showing and analysing data.
Sometimes, you may simply be answering an exploratory question. However, all papers do require a statement or question that neatly summarizes what you are going to do in your paper (see Table 1). Table 1. Types of papers and associated purpose statements*. Type of paper Argumentative paper Purpose as: expressed Explanation You argue a proposition (claim). You present the arguments (evidence) for and against the claim, and decide whether the claim is supported or not. You start with a question about a phenomenon, and devise one or more hypotheses that you will test in your research.
Your experimental paper reports the results. Example Government action to restrict the bonuses paid to investment bankers is unwise because it is harmful to the economy as a whole. Are poor people more generous than rich people? Poor people will give a larger percentage of a monetary gift to poor people than rich people will. Thesis statement Experimental per pa- Research question; hypothesis 17 Guide to Academic Writing Skills Structuring Exploratory analysis data Research question You conduct a survey or a series of interviews, for example, but do not have an explicit hypothesis before you start.
You have a research question, but do not know in advance what the answers may be. How much do students know about financing small and medium-sized businesses? Or: This paper explores the knowledge students have about the financing of … This paper reviews recent experimental research into the principal-agent relationship. This paper examines whether the economic grounds for approving the merger were sound. OR: Were the economic grounds for approving the merger sound? The European Commission was justified in fining the lift manufacturers as their cartel had distorted competition and reduced consumer welfare.
Subject: Thesis or dissertation,
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 23 September 2016
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