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‘Mastering Mastery’ Academic Skills at Masters Level Dr Kevin Watson Study Skills Adviser Student Skills Development

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1 ‘Mastering Mastery’ Academic Skills at Masters Level Dr Kevin Watson Study Skills Adviser Student Skills Development

2 Rivers may change course slightly but they have a single direction (towards the sea). The best essays travel, like a river, in a specific direction. They have a central theme that flows all the way through them.

3 In the metaphor of your essay as a river what do you see as: The Source The tributaries The Estuary The Sea

4 The Source Analysing the Question: What precisely are you being asked to do? What will you include and why? What will you not include and why?

5 The Tributaries Bringing together Information from: An appropriate breadth and depth of critical reading. Reflections upon critical theory and practice Bringing together different tributaries requires careful planning to ensure that your essay is: Not too descriptive Focused on the question Able to synthesise a variety of perspectives

6 dDo dDo

7 I can spend an hour reading and then realise I’ve not taken anything in. You probably need to be more active in your learning approach. You might experiment with trying to summarise each section in your own words to ensure you have really taken it in.

8 Even when I make notes as I read I do not seem to absorb the information. Do you know why you are reading? Make sure you have specific questions in mind.

9 I spend ages reading as much as possible but then I am not sure what to do with the information. Remember that you can’t possibly retain every piece of information. You are most interested in comparing the arguments of authors and practitioners.

10 I have always been slow at reading academic texts, so I do not read as widely as I should. As some of the following slides demonstrate it’s important to choose your reading carefully. If, however, you find reading very difficult, regularly suffer headaches as a result of reading or feel you have any Specific Learning Difficulty then click here.here

11 Experience of reading fiction means many of us have a tendency to want to read books from start to finish without looking ahead. We think we’ll spoil the ending if we do it differently. But would it really spoil the ending to look at the end of: Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy by Cooper and Mcleod?

12 The SQ3R Technique S For Survey What themes are you exploring? Which texts are relevant and which are not? Are the texts you choose up to date / valid? Are you engaging with a wide variety of perspectives or only those you like?

13 Two students of United States History are asked to write an essay on the extent to which slavery caused the American Civil War. Each student cited 6 sources (not because that is enough but because that is what will fit on these slides). Which student do you think wrote the best essay and why do you think their reading was more effective?

14 Student No. 1 consulted the following: Boyer P. (1999) The enduring vision: A history of the American people. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. Brogan, H. (1986). The Penguin history of the USA. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books. Edwards, J. (2010) Why and how Lincoln became a Shakespeare enthusiast. Retrieved from the American Civil War Round Table UK website: Jones, M. (1983) The limits of liberty: American history 1607 – Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. Watson K. (2005) Lecture 7: Causes of the American Civil War [Lecture Notes]. Retrieved from Wikipedia (n.d.) American Civil War. Accessed 7 November These 3 books are 1 volume history texts – not enough detail for this essay Irrelevant Lectures are meant to signpost you towards deeper reading. Citing the lectures on your course demonstrates that you haven’t read widely enough. Make sure websites resources are reputable and reliable. This isn’t.

15 Student No. 2 consulted the following: Bestor, A. (2010). The American Civil War as a constitutional crisis. In Journal of American History, 97(2) 325 – 90. doi: / Freehling, W. (1996). The re-integration of American history: slavery and the Civil War. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hamilton, H. and Holt, M. (2005). Prologue to conflict: the crisis and compromise of Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. McPherson, J. (1990). Battle cry of freedom. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books. Reidd, R. (1996). The origins of the American Civil War. London, United Kingdom. Stampp, K. (1965). The causes of the American Civil War. New York, NY: Prentice Hall. Electronic resources including journal articles will play a vital role in your work. The student probably started with these volumes which led to the discovery of slavery, constitutional crises and the Compromise of 1850 as causes of the war.

16 Q is for Question Should you read this particular book / article? Which sections should you read? What reading approach should you use?

17 Q is for Question Should you read this particular book / article? Which sections should you read? What reading approach should you use? } You will need to scan the book / article to answer these. Skim-readingSurface reading Deep reading

18 R is for reading critically. Skim read to get the purpose of a book or article. Read in detail the parts you need to. Make notes but keep in mind: 1.What the main argument is. 2.What questions you have. 3.Whether you think the arguments are convincing i.e. quality of evidence and counterarguments

19 R is for reviewing. This image is not an accurate depiction of the way we receive information when we read.

20 Part of the reading process involves reviewing and reflecting on what we have read. Ask yourself: What you have found out. How the new ideas you have explored fit with previous reading and experience. Have you made sufficient notes for your purposes?

21 R is for revision Once you have read something it is good practice to try to write down the main arguments in your own words from memory. This will help to store the arguments in your long-term memory and will ensure that you have properly understood the book / article and its significance to your work.

22 Phillips, C. D., Spry, K. M., Sloane, P. D., & Hawes, C. (2000). Use of physical restraints and psychotropic medications in Alzheimer special care units in nursing homes. American Journal of Public Health 90: 92‐6. Retrieved from hkp://www.ajph.org/ In this article, the authors question whether or not Alzheimer’s patients are less likely to be restrained or medicated as a result of residing in Special Care Units (SCU) in nursing homes. They found, however, that these patients were no less likely to be restrained and, in fact, they were more likely to receive psychotropic medication. This study looked at a large amount of data (1100 residents in 48 SCUs) from a small geographical area—only four U.S. states. The extent to which the findings of this study apply to Alberta are unclear, particularly since these standards vary considerably from state to state. Nevertheless, the authors speculate that SCUs led something of a revolution in Alzheimer’s patient care— these units demonstrated that the use of physical restraints could be avoided, and that may account for the similarity in use in both SCUs and regular units. An Annotated Bibliography Entry

23 Keeping an Annotated Bibliography allows you to: 1.Ensure that you have a clear understanding of each author’s arguments. 2.Compare and contrast the viewpoints of different authors at a glance. 3.Synthesize existing literature on a subject. 4.Identify how you might add to existing understanding.

24 Why planning is important  Helps you to answer the question given/ stay focused  Leads to a more logical & flowing structure  Breaks the task down into manageable chunks

25 How I Planned My Essay on Methodist History 1791 – Problems Involved in the Process: I only had 5,000 words to cover material that has been the subject of countless books. I needed my essay to engage with existing literature on the subject. I needed to say something reasonably original on the subject.

26 First of all I made lists of anything that might be relevant: Growth in Britain and US Camp Meeting revivals New Publishing Ventures Tensions between England and U.S.leaders. Slavery Black Methodist Experience Schism of 1844 True Wesleyans Black Methodist Churches Women in church Women as preachers Decline of women preachers Class: Methodism and Trade Unionism. Methodism as social control Methodism and the rise of Democracy (internal and external politics). Marxist perspective (E.P. Thompson and Methodism as social control). Semmel and Methodist Revolution

27 Then I started exploring the relationship between the lists: Growth in Britain and US Camp Meeting revivals New Publishing Ventures Tensions between England and U.S.leaders. Slavery Black Methodist Experience Schism of 1844 True Wesleyans Black Methodist Churches Women in church Women as preachers Decline of women preachers Class: Methodism and Trade Unionism. Methodism as social control Marxist perspective (E.P. Thompson and Methodism as social control). Semmel and Methodist Revolution

28 An important consideration was whether or not there was a theme that could link my lists together and provide a new way of understanding the material. The theme I came up with was the extent to which the story of nineteenth century Methodism was a story of ordinary people seeking and either finding or being denied their respectability.

29 I explored whether this theme would work with my existing lists. Growth in Britain and US Camp Meeting revivals New Publishing ventures Tensions between England and U.S.leaders. Slavery Black Methodist Experience Schism of 1844 True Wesleyans Black Methodist Churches Women in church Women as preachers Decline of women preachers Class: Methodism and Trade Unionism. Methodism as social control Methodism and the rise of Democracy. Camp Meeting Revivals Marxist perspective (E.P. Thompson and Methodism as social control). Semmel and Methodist Revolution √ √ √ √ √ X Mention in intro and also as democratic point i.e. splintering of movement as it grew for democratic reasons

30 I revisited my source material and analysed it with my core question (about the extent to which Methodism was about respectability) in mind. My original lists now became the basis of a plan. Intro: Meth growth made it significant. E.P. Thompson talked about class but maybe it is really all about desire of all people for respectability. Democracy of Methodism. However not working class movement. Development of camp meeting into something respectable. Early form too vulgar to last. Democracy and Church gov New Methodist movements and struggle for democracy really about desire of ordinary people to be respected citizens. Women preachers and the curse of respectability Least respected in many ways were blacks. Black churches arose out of refusal of whites to give blacks voting rights. White ME Church split in 2 over issue of slavery and desire of some whites to control blacks. Conclusion: Methodism gave people respectability but sometimes it undermined their respectability too as demonstrated by experience of women preachers and black Methodists.

31 It may be necessary to plan in great detail. In the example below a student intends to fill the table with very specific information about the format of the essay. They may even estimate the number of words used in each section. IntroductionWhat I am going to write about and why. How my essay is structured Notes: Evidence to use / works to cite Key point Key point Key point Key point Conclusion Summarise/highlight/noteworthy points/future research?

32 The Estuary Writing up Your Essay Are your points clear and do they flow logically? Have you backed up your points with a good range of evidence / literature? Have you referenced your work fully using the APA system? Have you checked your work to ensure there are no problems with grammar / punctuation / typing etc.? Is all the content relevant and focused on the question?

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35 The Estuary Writing up Your Essay Are your points clear and do they flow logically? Have you backed up your points with a good range of evidence / literature? Have you referenced your work fully using the APA system? Have you checked your work to ensure there are no problems with grammar / punctuation / typing etc.? Is all the content relevant and focused on the question?

36 Academic Writing

37 What is academic writing? Academic writing is formal and follows some standard conventions Each academic discipline has its own specialist vocabulary which you will be expected to learn and use in your own writing. Note: The following conventions are general guidelines for academic writing. Be sure to follow the specific requirements for each assignment.

38 What is the point of academic writing? The substance of academic writing must be based on solid evidence and logical analysis, and presented as a concise, accurate argument. Academic writing can allow you to present your argument and analysis accurately and concisely.

39 How is it done? Aim for precision. Don’t use unnecessary words or waffle. Get straight to the point. Make every word count. If there is any uncertainty about a particular point, use cautious language (such as ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘potentially’). Unless you are a confident writer, it is best to avoid over-long sentences and to aim for a mixture of long and short sentences for variation and rhythm. Avoid repeating the same words.

40 Avoid overly elaborate language When using words that are not technical or subject related, use simple words in place of obscure words that have the same meaning. Using overly elaborate language can make your writing seem pretentious.

41 Why is the following text not a good example of academic style? Today being fat is totally bad for your health. About 30,000 fat people die every year in the UK and loads more fat people die in the USA. By 2015 more people will die of being fat than smoking and it doesn’t have to be this way, this could easily be prevented, couldn't it?

42 Answer The number of deaths per year attributable to obesity is roughly 30,000 in the UK and ten times that in the USA, where obesity is set to overtake smoking in 2015 as the main preventable cause of illness and premature death.

43 Avoid abbreviations and contractions Abbreviations and contractions are informal, and are best avoided in academic writing. For example: ‘Department’ should be used instead of the abbreviation ‘dept’. ‘Is not’ should be used in place of the contraction ‘isn’t’.

44 Avoid conversational terms This totally changed people’s lives’ Why is ‘totally’ there? If it’s a ‘filler’ it can be omitted. If it’s used for emphasis, a more appropriate word could be used, for example ‘significantly’ or ‘fundamentally’

45 The amount of days taken off work shows there has been a blatant abuse of existing agreements. Problem: Use of ‘blatant abuse’ is emotive and does not give evidence to support the conclusion of the argument. “Evidence suggests existing agreements have not been adhered to…”

46 The managers have taken a sledgehammer to crack a nut in their approach to solving this problem. Problem: Use of colloquialisms “sledgehammer to crack a nut” “The managers have been unnecessarily rigid in their application of policy.”

47 The writers are wrong to conclude that a specific long-term sickness policy is always necessary. Problem: Not exercising caution in evaluation. “The conclusion that specific long term sickness policy is always necessary can be questioned. Evidence suggests that...”

48 The Sea By the end of your essay writing experience you should be able to answer (briefly) the ultimate academic question: So what? i.e. What was the main point(s) of your essay, why did it matter and how will the lessons you have learned from this experience affect your professional and / or academic practice.

49 What is critical thinking? Critical thinking is concerned with how we: understand other people’s work evaluate other people’s work put together our own claims link ideas in our argument

50 Photo exercise Discuss this photograph in small groups – What message does it convey? – Who is the perpetrator? – What does it infer? – Can you identify any implications?

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52 Academic argument Aim to: make a stand on an issue & provide evidence to back it up

53 Steps in developing critical thinking skills 1.Identifying an argument 2.Deconstructing an argument 3.Appraisal of strengths and weaknesses

54 Identifying an argument An argument has: a conclusion at least one reason and attempts to persuade the reader

55 Deconstructing an argument We must look at: the conclusion the reasoning the persuasion And assess whether the reasoning is: relevant adequate

56 Example The majority of people do not smoke. Passive smoking can cause ill health. Therefore people should not be allowed to smoke in public places.

57 Demonstrate Critical Analysis By: Considering an issue thoroughly, from different perspectives Evaluating the evidence put forward in support of the viewpoint Considering the implications: What conclusions would follow? Checking whether the conclusions are rational. If not, the viewpoint should be reconsidered.

58 Assumptions Check for any assumptions and question why they have been made, and how they affect the reliability of the conclusion.

59 Example The SATs results for High View Primary School are excellent. Therefore the standards of teaching must be very high.

60 Bias The difficulties associated with granting paternity leave, as identified by the directors of several large companies, suggests that this new employment right will damage the economy.

61 3. To strengthen an argument 1.Extend the range of reasoning 2.Limit the range of the conclusion

62 To weaken an argument 1.Produce evidence that supports an opposing conclusion 2.Identify irrelevance or inadequacy in the author’s reasoning

63 Content Analysis To determine the content analysis firstly note: Intended audience – general or specialist Objective reasoning – is information fact/opinion Coverage – does it update other sources

64 Arguments in Academic Writing The best essays usually have a main argument running through them.

65 Academic Argument Academic argument must be based on: – Factual information – Previous theoretical claims Critical thinking: – Not considering any view as ‘truth’ – Being objective – Asking questions

66 Steps in Critical Analysis What exactly is the author arguing? Is the argument logical? Are there alternative arguments of explanations that need considering? Does the evidence support the argument fully or partially? How strong is the evidence? How big is the sample? Is the source reputable & unbiased? Are there alternative arguments or explanations that the author hasn’t considered?

67 References Walker, D.; Gorsuch, R. and Tan, S. (2004). Therapists' integration of religion and spirituality in counseling: a meta-analysis. Counselling and Values, 49, p


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