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Peer Academic Writing Mentor Team

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1 Peer Academic Writing Mentor Team
Structure Peer Academic Writing Mentor Team

2 Why Structure? You asked, here it is! Feedback from marked work
Tangible thing to fix

3 A tutor’s opinion... Structure is at a micro and a macro level. An essay needs an introduction and a conclusion, but also paragraphs that link together, so an argument is structured and therefore fluid. And appropriate structure within each paragraph; so, one idea - one paragraph. Sentences where they should be, those kinds of things. That kind of micro level structure I would also comment on if it were inappropriate, and I have seen people write one-sentence paragraphs - bad idea - and one page paragraphs, which every now and again might be appropriate, but that would be a huge idea and there’s probably a way to split that down and make that easier to read. Tutor, quoted in Writing Essays at University, 2009, p. 57.

4 Another tutor’s opinion...
Always keep the question in mind and think about what story you’re telling - make it logical and linear. If you go along a certain route make the conclusion logical to that route. It should work as a coherent essay, rather than ‘I know I need to throw in something about this and I need to include that’. And sometimes that happens half-way through - you’re reading an essay and it’s all going terribly well, and it’s like the student suddenly thought ‘oh no, I haven’t mentioned...’ and they just put things in. Tutor, quoted in Writing Essays at University, 2009, p. 58.

5 Areas to cover today: Planning your essays
Micro and Macro level structure : essay structure and paragraph structure Introductions and conclusions Linking paragraphs: ‘flow’ Planning afterwards (?) Structural pointers for different types of assignments: reports, presentations, etc.

6 A prefatory note These pointers concerning structure are based upon our experiences from working with students through the peer writing mentor service. It is always a good idea to check with your tutor, and consult your course handbook, if you are unsure and to see if the structure you have decided on is appropriate.

7 Do you plan your essays? ...

8 Some reasons to plan You are less likely to wander off the point…
You can make the topic more manageable for yourself. You are ensuring that you cover what you are supposed to cover.

9 Macro level structure Introduction Main Body Conclusion

10 Introductions The introduction is not just a paragraph at the start of your essay, it is an important framework which sets out (to the reader) the aims of your assignment and the arguments you will explore. Specifically: What does the reader need to know at the start of your essay to enable them to become interested in reading it and to enable them to follow your assignment. The introduction will give the reader an insight to the main body of the text.

11 3 key points to include within the introduction:
What the question is about – explain your interpretation of the question and what it is asking you to do. Why the question is important – put the question into context and identify the main issues that are raised by the question. How are you going to answer it – let the reader know what you are going to cover in your essay in order to answer the question.

12 Some problems when writing the introduction:
Your introduction might become too predictable and ‘formula-written’ – if this is the case, it will lack a sense of enthusiasm and commitment. Your introduction may become too lengthy in relation to the main body of the essay, a less concise instruction will take away too many words from the main body of your essay. Your introduction might become too ‘detailed’ – this may spoil what you wish to include in the main body.

13 Example of a typical introduction:
Over the past twenty five years, since Australia embraced multiculturalism as a policy, issues of intercultural communication have become more and more prominent in the workplace. However, until relatively recently, little had been written on these issues, and even now, many organisational managers have no training or knowledge of how to deal with communication problems, even though most workplaces are staffed by people of diverse cultures. Particular problem areas include the difficulties that some non-English speakers have in understanding safety instructions (figures produced by the ABS in 1997 show that migrant workers have a higher incidence of accidents at the workplace); an ignorance of the different forms of non-verbal communication used by other cultures (for example it is considered impolite in some societies for an employee to look directly at his or her employer), which can lead to misunderstandings and unpleasantness; and the lack of knowledge about differing expectations. Based on interviews with managers and staff in six organisations (public and commercial), this report examines these three problem areas, and shows that many of the difficulties faced by both natives and migrants in the workforce are caused by a lack of awareness of, and training in, intercultural communication.

14 Explanation The example provided on the previous slide would be suitable for a word assignment. It explains what the question is about. The example then puts the question into context. Finally, the writer explains how s/he is going to answer the question.

15 How to make the introduction more interesting:
The introduction is the first thing your reader will see. Your tutor has no choice whether or not to read your assignment or not, but s/he will not take kindly to being bored from the outset, so you might like to make your introduction more interesting by: Giving one or two examples of the kind of thing you are going to write about. Beginning with a relevant quotation. Making sure your grammar and word use are absolutely right.

16 Conclusions The purpose of the conclusion is to tie together the various issues covered in the main body of the assignment, and to make comments upon the meaning of it, including – implications resulting from your discussion of the topic, recommendations and the need for further research.

17 Key points to include within the conclusion:
A brief summary of the arguments presented in the main body and how these relate to the assignment question. A restatement of the main point/s of view presented in the introduction in response to the topic. The implications of this view or what might happen as a result.

18 What not to include within the conclusion.
An apology, or a sentence that dwells on the incompleteness of your argument. For example, avoid finishing your assignment with ‘if I had more time, I would also have covered…’ If you wish to raise some limitations, do this in the middle of the concluding paragraph end on a strong, positive sentence, such as ‘it has clearly been shown that…’ A rhetorical question – this leaves the reader unsatisfied, as they expect you to come up with an answer to the question that you have raised.

19 Example of a typical conclusion.
It is clear, therefore, that not only do employees have to be trained for working in the Australian multicultural workplace, but managers also need to be trained. Managers must ensure that effective in-house training programs are provided for migrant workers, so that they become more familiar with the English language, Australian communication norms and the Australian work culture. In addition, Australian native English speakers need to be made aware of the differing cultural values of their workmates; particularly the different forms of non-verbal communication used by other cultures. Furthermore, all employees must be provided with clear and detailed guidelines about company expectations. The interviews with managers and staff reveal that a majority of managers must also have training in cross cultural communication and in managing a culturally diverse workplace. Above all, in order to minimise communication problems and to maintain an atmosphere of tolerance, understanding and cooperation in the multicultural workplace, managers need to have an effective knowledge about their employees, to understand how their social conditioning affects their beliefs about work and to have the communication skills to develop confidence and self-esteem among diverse work groups. The culturally diverse Australian workplace may never be completely free of communication problems, however, further studies to identify potential problems and solutions, as well as better training in cross cultural communication for managers and employees, should result in a much more understanding and cooperative environment.

20 Writing an interesting and effective conclusion:
Recommend a specific course of action. Use an apt quotation or expert opinion to lend authority to the conclusion you have reached. Give a startling statistic, fact, or visual image to drive home the ultimate point of your paper. If your discipline encourages personal reflection, illustrate your concluding point with a relevant narrative drawn from your own life experiences. Return to an anecdote, example, or quotation that you introduced in your introduction, but add further insight that derives from the body of your essay. In a science or social science paper, mention worthwhile avenues for future research on your topic.

21 Micro level structure One point per paragraph PEEL

22 P Point 1 Point per paragraph E Evidence Quotation, case study... E Explanation How evidence relates L Link Back to Question AND into next paragraph

23 Retrospective Planning
Planning afterwards (?) Retrospective planning allows you to see what you have already written. Providing you with a removed perspective.

24 Process for retrospective planning
Number your paragraphs Brief (very brief) summary of what the paragraph contains (1 word, couple of words) If you cannot summarise the paragraph, perhaps there are too many ideas? Could you divide your paragraph into 2 or 3? Do all the paragraphs relate to the essay question? Are the paragraphs in the most logical order? Do you need to move any around?

25 Other types of assignment
The pointers made in this presentation about structure are relevant to many types of assignment, aside from essays. For example, an assignment such as a presentation or a critical review should still have a clearly identifiable structure. Assignments such as Scientific Reports should follow the structure indicated by the discipline (for example Abstract, Introduction, Objectives, Methodology, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, Appendices). Even in this more define structure type, the point concerning one point per paragraph is still central.

26 Some final pointers Make sure you understand the question before beginning to answer it; problems with structure often come from misunderstandings about what you are being asked to do. Allot time to check your structure. See structure as a tangible aspect of essay writing.

27 Resources Writing mentor resources for students
Manchester University Phrasebank Royal Literary Fund Writing Essays at University (PDF Guide)

28 Good luck! ☺ To book an appointment with us for personalised sessions, either: pick up a booking form from the library help point, or us at:

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