Paragraphs Paragraphs ‘break up’ the information you want to present to your reader, structuring it in such a way that guides the reader through a series of related ideas. They follow a ‘general-to-specific’ sequence: a.Topic sentence b.Explanatory sentence or controlling idea c.Supporting sentences d.Transition sentence
At the beginning of semester, college students need to register for their classes. However, this can be a frustrating experience for new students who do not understand the current registration system. For example the results of a national youth survey aimed at understanding the challenges in making the transition from high school to college show that 65% of new students have difficulty in navigating complex registration procedures (Harris & Jones 2006). Data from our own research with administrative staff at Newman College confirms these findings. For instance the manager of student services remarked that ‘the procedures we currently have in place to register students are confusing because the course code don’t resemble the course title’. Whilst it is clear that the practice of using course codes is making registration problematic for some students, is it the primary reason for their difficulties?
Topic sentence Explanatory sentence or controlling idea 1. Supporting sentence 2. Supporting sentence 3. Supporting sentence Summarising Transition sentence Topic sentence Explanatory sentence or controlling idea 1. Supporting sentence 2. Supporting sentence 3. Supporting sentence Summarising Transition sentence
Hint… a.Read each paragraph carefully. In the margin alongside each one, write a brief note of the main point. When you have done this for the whole section, these notes should be a coherent summary of the whole story for that section. This is a good test for fluency. b.If you are not able to identify the main point of a paragraph, you may have two or more paragraphs mixed together. Separate them so that each paragraph contains only one main point. This means that all the sentences in that paragraph relate to that point.
Sentences a.The rule of thumb is to keep most sentences short;12-24 words maximum. b.Use simple sentences that have no more than two dependent clauses. c.One sentence should convey one clear message. If you have two things to say, control yourself. Say one first and then the other. d.use an economy of words; ‘write to express not to impress’.
The dog + barked The standard sentence consists of one main clause (or one idea) consisting of a subject and a predicate The dog barked because it heard the rattle of the postman’s bicycle. Standard sentence with dependent clause linked by a coordinating conjunction (such as and; but; nor; for; yet; because) On hearing the rattle of the bicycle, the vicious dog barked before biting the postman on the leg. Independent clause and two dependent clauses linked by a comma and then a coordinating conjunction (before)
Try not to construct sentences with more than two dependent clauses. Otherwise, the sentence becomes too dense and it will be difficult for the reader to absorb the volume of information you are trying to communicate. Sentences to avoid: a.Choppy sentences b.Stringy sentences c.Run-on sentences d.Sentence fragments
Hint… a.It is important to repeat, or be consistent in your use of, keywords and concepts. b.Use variety in the transition words, ie do not over-use the same ones, because it is irritating. (Thus, therefore, accordingly, consequently, so, it follows……). c.Whilst you can (carefully) use pronouns; for example it; they and adjectives this; these as long as the subject is 100% clear. Take care to (re)establish the subject at regular intervals. d.Avoid the use of cliché, undefined technical jargon, archaic and/or poetic words, sexist language, figures of speech.
Parallelism a.Parallel sentences occur when each item in a list or comparison follows the same grammatical pattern b.For instance if you are writing a list and the first item in your list is a noun, write all the following items as nouns. c.If the first verb is an –ing word, make all the others –ing words.
Examples Not parallel My English conversation class is made up of Chinese, Spaniards, and some are from Bosnia. My parents taught me such things as honesty, faith, to be fair and having patience. (Noun, noun, infinitive, participle) The children were laughing, squealing, and danced. Parallel My English conversation class is made up of Chinese, Spaniards, and Bosnians. (The items are now all nouns) My parents taught me such things as honesty, faith, fairness and patience. (The items are now all nouns) The children were laughing, squealing and dancing.
Active & Passive Voice A sentence is passive when the target (or object) of the verb appears in front of the verb, for example: The newspaper + was read + by Chris OBJECT VERB AGENT A sentence is active when the agent (or doer) of the action appears in front of the verb, for example: Chris + read + the newspaper AGENTVERBTARGET
Advantages of using active voice? a.It conveys a more natural order in which events take place b.It is more concise (overall you use fewer words) OR c.It allows for the use of powerful verbs d.It will inspire in the reader greater confidence in your work OR
Be concise… a.Academic writing is expository writing – writing that tries to explain something rather than entertain. b.Empty (redundant) words are everywhere in our writing – part of the point of editing is to find and eliminate them. c.Do not qualify absolutes! Some examples: very delicious, absolutely essential, [N]o, I won’t do it, critically important. d.Avoid distinctions without difference (two words that basically mean the same thing): ‘They conducted research which was both insightful and penetrating’. e.Avoid tautologies (the repetition of a meaning already expressed): ‘It had a sweet, sugary taste’.
Be precise… a.Precision relates to the choice of words that best allows you to communicate your meaning to the reader. b.Avoid using ‘utility words’ (words which do not convey to a reader one specific meaning, especially if the context does not clarify the full meaning). This includes words such as: situation, factor, nature, peculiar. …both [countries] share the experience of having had their indigenous populations almost entirely exterminated before the arrival of the French colonisers. a.Always state precise dates rather than ‘currently’, ‘recently’, ‘in the last fifteen years’ or ‘two decades ago’. Utility word = vagueness
Sign posting (and satisfying readers’ expectations)… a.Readers actively seek a basis for predicting what will come next. b.Readers become confused and irritated when their predictions are not fulfilled.
Using predictive statements Predictive statements and organisers are statements or words that help a reader to predict the content and organisation of the information that will follow. There are two kinds of predictive statements: Explicit: This paper will firstly present the key features of the PhD programme, secondly examine the value of a PhD degree, and finally outline some strategies for students preparing to start a PhD. Implicit: There are four main issues to consider when commencing a PhD: choosing a supervisor; choosing a topic; becoming an independent researcher; and preparing a PhD thesis.
Other ways to fulfill reader expectation: a.Sub-headings b.Transition signals Unifiers (words that signal continuity of the topic) Furthermore, In addition, For example Dividers (words that signal a change in the discussion/topic) In contrast, On the other hand, However
Tense In general, use either: The present tense or present perfect tense (these two tenses are interchangeable – Smith argues or Smith has argued….. OR The past tense – Smith argued * Whilst the selection of tense may be governed by disciplinary practice, consistency in use remains most important
Guidelines… At all costs keep the tenses of sentence clauses consistent. For example: She laughed, and I asked her what she new about him. She laughs again, this time much louder. * The above demonstrates an illogical sequence of tenses, past in the first sentence and present in the second.
Possible use of future tense… a.In your introduction when you are stating the aims of your research. b.In literature review where you are outlining the ‘narrative’ of your research. c.In your conclusion when you are making suggestions for possible future research.
Marking up your work… Mark your draft with the following (or similar) symbols to help in the process of editing: (?) Lack of clarity (is the sentence, paragraph, argument clear?) (X) Material that can be deleted (is material redundant?) ® Repetitive (have I already established this point?) (E) Evidence required (have I adequately substantiated this point?) @ Check accuracy of this point (am I sure about what I am saying?) (i) Interpretive/analytical weakness (have I considered any possible objections to my assertions?)