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Academic Writing in English for Speakers of Other Languages

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1 Academic Writing in English for Speakers of Other Languages
Tips for improving academic writing in the English language for non-native speakers Academic Writing Centre, NUI Galway Compiled by Daniel wagner Information retrieved from The Mayfield Handbook for Technical and Scientific Writing & THE PURDUE OWL WEBSITE.

2 Contents Choosing the Right Word Avoiding Wordiness
Nouns, Articles, Verbs Avoiding Wordiness Word Order and Sentence Structure Coherence at the Sentence and Paragraph Level Developing an Appropriate Style Organization and Approach Documentation/Use of Research


4 Notice how the articles precede the nouns in the sentences!
EXAMPLES Definite Articles Example 1: Using the direct article “the” in reference to specific entities. The Academic Writing Centre in the James Hardiman Library provides support for students of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Example 2: Using the direct article “the” when intending a singular noun to refer to an entire class of items. The students of NUI Galway can refer to the resources provided online to enhance their academic writing. Indefinite Articles *Tip! Choosing between a or an: When the noun begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u), then you use “an”. When the noun begins with a consonant (all other letters), then you use “a”. Example 1: Using the direct article “a” for a noun beginning with a consonant. The Academic Writing Centre can be a great resource for a student seeking assistance in writing. Example 2: Using the direct article “an” for a noun beginning with a vowel. Revision is an important element in making sure an essay is of good quality. Articles There are 2 types of articles: definite and indefinite. Definite Articles (the) The noun the article supports is specific, not new to reader Used when intending a singular noun to refer to an entire class of items (See: “Examples” for common uses of definite articles!) Indefinite Articles (a, an) The noun the article supports is not unique, other examples exist Used when noun is new to reader or is an arbitrary example of the class the noun belongs to (See: “Examples” for common uses of indefinite articles!)

5 Nouns EXAMPLES Countable nouns Uncountable nouns Pronouns Proper nouns
BOLD underlines represent singular countable nouns. SLIM underlines represent plural countable nouns. Articles in italics! Nouns EXAMPLES Countable nouns Example: Using an article before a singular countable noun and not using one before a plural countable noun. (Also, adding –s or –es to plural nouns!) The Academic Writing Centre helps students of the National University of Ireland Galway with difficulties in writing. Uncountable nouns Example: The correct and incorrect usage of uncountable nouns. Incorrect: Good academic writing is important for students to develop throughout their years in the education. Correct: Good academic writing is important for students to develop throughout their years in education. Pronouns Example: The presence of pronouns in a sentence replacing the noun. Ciara was not confident with her writing, so she went to the Academic Writing Centre for help. James told Ciara he saw mistakes in her paper, but very few. Proper nouns Example: Some proper nouns require an article, some don’t. Here’s an example! The Academic Writing Centre at the James Hardiman Library is located in Ireland. A noun is a person, place or thing and is normally preceded by an article (a, an, the). Countable vs. Uncountable Countable: Nouns that are countable mean that they can exist as more than one and the endings –s or –es are added to the end to represent pulrality Uncountable: Nouns that refer to substances, concepts, or general terms for classes of items (See: “Examples” for common uses of each!) Pronouns Pronouns take the place of specific nouns Types of pronouns: I, me, he, she, herself, you, it, that, they, each, few, many, who, whoever, whose, someone, everybody… (See: “Examples” for common uses of pronouns!) Proper nouns Are capitalised and have special rules with article usage (See: “Examples” for these special uses!) BOLD underlines represent proper nouns requiring an article. SLIM underlines represent proper nouns that do not require an article. Articles in italics!

6 Verbs EXAMPLES Subject-verb agreement Tense Voice Mood Active
NOT ACCEPTABLE The college have the Academic Writing Centre to helps students with writing. ACCEPTABLE The college has the Academic Writing Centre to help students with writing. Tense Voice Verbs Verbs describe actions: what has happened, what is happening, or what will or might happen; or a condition. Subject-verb agreement Verb must agree with subject in: number & person Be careful of modifiers! Tense A verb places the event of the sentence in the past, present or future (whether the action happened, is happening, or will happen) Voice Two voices in English: active or passive (subject: doer or receiver of action expressed by verb) Mood Three types of mood: indicative, imperative or subjunctive (attitude of subject toward action/ certainty with which action is to take place? Past The Academic Writing Centre helped many students with academic writing last semester. Present The Academic Writing Centre helps many students with academic writing each semester. Future The Academic Writing Centre will help students with academic writing for many semesters to come. Active The Academic Writing Centre provides services in academic writing to the students of NUI Galway. Passive Services in academic writing are provided by the Academic Writing Centre to the students of NUI Galway.


8 General Tips on Wordiness
KISS – Keep It Simple, Sweetheart Say what needs to be said in as few words as possible BUT don’t sacrifice any vital information! Conciseness REMEMBER – Sometimes, less is more Don’t try to say too much in one sentence Breaking up a really long sentence into 2 smaller ones can make it easier on the reader to understand your idea Avoid repetition Repeating ideas can make the writing confusing Once you have made your point, back it up with research and move on to the next

9 Word Order Ordinary Word Order Inverted Word Order
Sentences usually follow this order: Subject Verb Direct and indirect objects (if present) Examples ACCEPTABLE The Academic Writing Centre helps students of NUI Galway. NOT ACCEPTABLE Students of NUI Galway the Academic Writing Centre helps. Certain sentences call for Inverted Word Order, in which the verb comes before the subject. Types of sentences which follow this model of word order include: Interrogative sentences (questions) Example: Do you use the Academic Writing Centre? Conditional clauses Example: Were he a more diligent student, he would use the AWC to make sure his academic writing is acceptable. Declarative sentences beginning with negative words, such as: never, rarely, scarcely, hardly, ever and not only. Example: Not only can the AWC provide with good academic writing tips, it helps to have another person look over your papers.

10 Sentence Structure EXAMPLES Commas Introductory Elements
Each day of the week, the Academic Writing Centre helps students with issues in academic writing. Coordinating Conjunctions As with anything else, academic writing requires practice, and can be mastered by anyone who practices their craft. Commas Commas should be used in the following situations: Introductory Elements A comma separates introduction of sentence to main point Coordinating conjunctions joining independent clauses A comma is placed before the coordinating conjunction which separates 2 clauses when necessary Elements in a series A comma distinguishes between all of the individual items in the series Coordinate modifiers Separate two or more modifiers of a word with a comma to indicate their distinctiveness from one another Non-restrictive modifiers Usually introduced by “which” Contain information that is not essential to establishing the meaning of what it modifies Elements in a Series Stages of writing include: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, and polishing. Coordinating Conjunctions As with anything else, academic writing requires practice, and can be mastered by anyone who practices their craft. Non-Restrictive Modifiers The Academic Writing Centre, which is located in the James Hardiman Library, is an open service to students of NUI Galway. The conjunction “and” needs to be preceded by a comma.

11 Sentence Structure: Colons vs. Semi-Colons
Use colons for the following purposes: to introduce and emphasize lists and certain appositional elements to set off and emphasize explanations and appositional elements to separate titles from subtitles Examples Example 1: Stages of writing include: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, and polishing. Example 2: When planning your writing, you must first ask yourself: What question am I trying to answer? Example 3: I am currently reading a book entitled Composition in Four Keys: Inquiring into the Field by Wiley, Gleason and Phelps to improve my academic writing. Use semicolons for the following purposes: to join two independent clauses to separate sentence elements with commas in them Examples Example 1: There are two ways to set up appointments at the Academic Writing Centre; one is by coming in for a one-on-one consultation in person, and the other is scheduling a one-on-one consultation over the phone with a tutor. Example 2: Italicize titles of journals, books, newsletters, and manuals; letters, words, terms, and equation symbols; foreign words; and names of specific things.

12 Other General Rules for Sentence Structure
Phrases and Clauses Always be aware of which part of the sentence is DEPENDENT on the other – there is no specific rule for order of clauses, but be sure to emphasise the importance of the dependence of one clause on the other. EXAMPLE: Since it is important to check your writing before submitting (DEPENDENT), having another person read over your essay draft is always a good idea (INDEPENDENT). Old Information Before New To avoid confusion for the reader, be sure to mention old information before new information so the reader can understand the flow of your writing in an easier way. BAD EXAMPLE: You can submit an essay to the Academic Writing Competition where the winning essay earns the writer an iPad [new] after the essays are judged by tutors at the Academic Writing Centre [old]. GOOD EXAMPLE: You can submit an essay to the Academic Writing Competition which will be judged by tutors at the Academic Writing Centre [old] and the winning essay will earn the writer an iPad [new]. Main Clause of the Sentence: Important information Put the most important information of the sentence (the information that the sentence is about) into the main clause. Put information that is less important (information that is included to provide background or tie together the ideas in a paragraph) into a dependent clause. EXAMPLE: Since academic writing can be difficult for some people, working with a tutor at the Academic Writing Centre can help students who struggle finding their strength with writing academic essays.

13 Overall Coherence Sentence Level Paragraph Level
Break up stringy sentences. Instead of combining a bunch of smaller clauses with commas, decide where to include a full stop[.] . This will break up the clauses from stringing along into one big, confusing sentence. Avoid “choppy” sentences – keep the essay flowing. The flow of one sentence into the next must feel natural and not disjointed. Sometimes, combining short, smaller sentences into one (IF IT WORKS!) will contribute to a more free-flowing string of sentences. Be careful with modifiers. Make sure your modifiers are properly connected to the words they modify. Add the noun or phrase that the modifier was intended to modify and rephrase the sentence accordingly. Maintain consistent tense, mood, person and voice among all sentences! Go back and review mentions of these terms further back in the PowerPoint for review. Shifting between different tenses, moods, etc. will make the essay seem disconnected and choppy. Coherent paragraphs have a beginning, a middle and an end. Elements contributing to coherent paragraphs: Topic Sentences State the central idea of a paragraph in a topic sentence. The other sentences should elaborate on the topic sentence with relevant information and evidence.  Transitional Devices, Words and Phrases Verbal "bridges" which link one idea to the next. Help to avoid choppyness! Common transitional words and phrases: See next slide for a comprehensive list of common transitional words and phrases! Overall Paragraph Unity Unify paragraphs by making every sentence contribute to one, central idea. This is usually stated in a topic sentence.

14 Common Transitions cause and effect: consequently, therefore, accordingly, as a result, because, for this reason, hence, thus sequence: furthermore, in addition, moreover, first, second, third, finally, again, also, and, besides, further, in the first place, last, likewise, next, then, too comparison or contrast: similarly, also, in the same way, likewise, although, at the same time, but, conversely, even so, however, in contrast, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, otherwise, still, yet example: for example, for instance, in fact, indeed, of course, specifically, that is, to illustrate purpose: for this purpose, for this reason, to this end, with this object time or location: nearby, above, adjacent to, below, beyond, farther on, here, opposite to, there, to the south, before, after, later, afterward, immediately, in the meantime, meanwhile, now, since, soon, then, while


16 Organization and Approach
Clarity Structural Clarity Makes it easy for the reader to understand the overall picture For longer theses or dissertations, using a Table of Contents, section titles, etc. helps the reader to understand the different sections they are reading in a long (and often overwhelming) document. Stylistic Clarity Be simple, direct and concise. Refer back to good word choice, avoiding wordiness and good sentence structure tips in order to master concise style! Contextual Clarity What is the purpose of your writing? What is/are the question(s) you are answering? This should be explicit for the reader as they should come to an understanding of your conclusions as they read through your essay. Conciseness At the level of the whole document, conciseness is helped most by focus, the narrowing of document scope to a manageable problem and response. Preparing a clear introduction and developing a detailed outline  are two strategies that give you control over document length and scope. Identify and eliminate material that is not necessary to support your claims. Organization The process of getting organized requires that you work out a schedule for your research and writing. Planning guides can be valuable tools for helping you produce work on a reasonable schedule. (This goes back to the stages of the writing process!) Outlines (a planning guide) help you work out both the general structure of your document and specific sections and topics. Organization is essential for coherence. A predictable and logical structure helps readers understand the information presented in your document. Introduction – body – conclusion is the typical, accepted format to follow for good organization.

17 Documentation and Use of Research
Language of Citing In-Text Direct Quotations A direct quotation is either enclosed in quotation marks or indented on the page. If you omit part of the wording, use an ellipsis (…) to indicate the missing part of the quotation.  Paraphrasing Restating an idea in an entirely new form that is original in both sentence structure and word choice from that of the original author. BE CAREFUL!: Taking the basic structure from a source and substituting a few words is an unacceptable paraphrase and may be construed as plagiarism. Creating a new sentence by merging the wording of two or more sources is also plagiarism. EXAMPLES Direct Quotation: William Zinsser has said ‘writing and learning and thinking are the same process’. Paraphrase: There is a synthesis between writing, learning and thinking as they occur simultaneously among each other, which William Zinsser has suggested. Language of Bibliography There are a number of different styles to be aware of for bibliographies, or works cited pages! APA Style MLA Style Chicago Manual Style Each of these styles are outlined and explained on the PURDUE OWL website. If you click on their logo on the bottom of the ‘Language of Citing In-Text’ section, it will bring you to the home page, where you can find information on structuring a bibliography or works cited page for your academic essay! REMEMBER: This section of your essay is very technical and needs to be followed correctly to avoid plagiarism, which is very important! Purdue OWL is the BEST online resource for helping with research and citations!

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