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Approaches to critical reading and writing

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1 Approaches to critical reading and writing
Dr Marco Angelini, UCL Transition Programme With thanks to Dr Colleen McKenna for kind permission in reproducing her material in this presentation

2 Outline for today Introduction Considering your writing practices
Reading as part of writing Writing as part of thinking Planning Organising written work Looking at text Finding time to write

3 What type of writer are you?

4 The diver

5 The patchworker

6 The architect

7 The grand planner

8 Identifying your writing style

9 Previous writing experiences …

10 Reading as part of writing

11 Critical reading (and how it benefits your writing)
Helps you determine what is and what is not a robust piece of research and writing in your field Helps you identify where existing research has left a gap that your work could fill Attention you pay to writing of others helps you become more self-aware of your own written work: Sufficient evidence to back up claims; argumentation/reasoning; becoming alert to your assumptions and how they affect your claims Wallace and Wray, 2006 Why pay attention to critical reading… The more you read critically, the more refined your frame of reference is for your thinking. For next few minutes, we’ll think quite practically about what people do in terms of their academic reading, and we’ll look at one of the texts for today. Then – we’ll think a bit deeper about what it means to engage critically with reading and Anne will take you further through a step-by-step exercise in developing a critical engagement with a piece of writing.

12 Critical reading? Get some views from participants You sit down with an academic text… what do you do? How do you go about reading an academic text in your field?

13 Critical reading? Some possible approaches
How do you go about reading an academic text? Use parts of the text: abstract, contents, index, sub-headings, graphs, tables, introduction and conclusion Skim to get the gist of the argument Read with questions in mind Get some views from participants

14 Critical reading? Some possible approaches
Make notes/mind map/ use highlighter Write a summary in your own words Write a brief critical response Keep note of bibliographic details Get some views from participants

15 Critical reading/ critical writing
Handout – p Wallace and Wray

16 As a critical reader, one evaluates the attempts of others to communicate with and convince their target audience by means of developing an argument; As a writer, one develops one's own argument, making it as strong and as clear as possible, so as to communicate with and convince one's target audience. Wallace and Wray, 2006

17 Free writing Way of using writing as a tool for thinking
Allows you to write without constraints. To do it – Write continuously, in complete sentences, anything that occurs to you.

18 Free writing Please write down EITHER 1. An idea / theme from your field OR 2. Use the topic: ‘what I enjoy about writing…’ Use a free writing technique to write anything at all that occurs to you about this topic. This writing will not be shown to anyone else. Go to handout?

19 Planning (Sharples) Plans should be flexible
Through the writing process a deeper understanding of topic is gained – thus, planning is increasingly out of step as writing develops: “The act of writing brings into being ideas and intentions that the writer never had at the start of the task or that could not be expressed in any detail.” . So you’ve analysed the question, done your reading and now you want to start planning – Go thru slide – What planning techniques to people use? Go to next slide and talk thru Sharples handout

20 Plans Free writing Notes/sketches Idea lists Mind map
Ideas on post-it notes Mind map Skeleton paper with sub-headings Outline Draft text Adapted from Sharples, 1999 Sharples has range from the loosest to the most detailed approaches to planning and you may wish to use a range of these. (I’ve added free writing.) - list - v. good starting point, but usually is not sufficient to give shape to the writing; in particular prevents from making multiple associations… only one ordering of ideas. - mind mapping - anyone use? - I don’t use it as a matter of course, but I do use it if I get stuck with a particular structure while I’m writing (feel bogged down, lost in my argument). Do a mind map just to see if I can visually plot the points and their relationship to ea. Other. As MS points out, not enough space for writing notes and can be difficult to reorganise the map as a text structure. Notes network - asks you to think about content and rhetoric ; shows up any holes in argument - next stage of writing draft would be difficult; nonetheless, having put this much thought into the relationships between points you should be able to really control the argument Almost the reverse process is to have some idea of a template and then fit your points into it. Finally Outline. Look at Coffin here - handout ; 38-9 Point out research that says that no positive correlation between planning and final text. Suggests planning for ideas and outlining in tandem; thus spending more time on topic improves quality of writing.


22 What techniques do you use to develop ideas in your writing and/or signpost an argument?

23 Developing/sustaining argument
‘proving’ the thesis statement or controlling argument Signposting argument (Giving the reader cues; anticipating/referring back) Using words which signal transition or development – “However”, “Nevertheless”, “Thus”, “Therefore”, “Despite” Illustrating theoretical positions with concrete examples Generalising from a particular set of findings if possible Using subheadings Using/responding to counterarguments and examples Anticipate next paragraph at end of previous one

24 Signposting and making transitions
Links between paragraphs – pick up point from the end of a paragraph at the start of next one.   Conjunctions to express different kinds of meaning relations Temporal: when, while, after, before, then Causative: because, if, although, so that, therefore Adversative: however, alternatively, although, nevertheless, while Additive: and, or, similarly, incidentally Signposting through pronouns - this, these, those, that, they, it, them Adverbs: Firstly, secondly, etc Illustrative: For example, in illustration, that is to say,

25 Signalling conclusions

26 Citation

27 Bibliographies Alberts, Bray, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts & Walter. Essential Cell Biology, 1st Edition, Garland, 1998 Dickson, B (2002) Molecular Mechanisms of Axon Guidance. Science [1]

28 Writing tips Write a sentence for each paragraph you want to write – you can then move them about easily to form thread of argument Index tag the main points you want to use in your references, so they can be found easily while writing Write the introduction last Write the conclusion first Read what you have written aloud to see if it sounds right Find best environment for you – when and where do you work best Take a break before trying to do your final check Use a writing checklist

29 Making time for writing
Write throughout the course Do free writing as frequently as possible Snack and binge writing (Rowena Murray) Writing groups Don’t wait until you feel ‘ready’ to write…

30 Writing for learning Finally, here are some general suggestions about writing for learning and professional development. Read regularly in the field. Find writers whose work you admire and study what and how they do things. View writing as part of a process rather than a product Find models of good writing in your discipline – analyse it; ask what works and what doesn’t; consider writing style; vocabulary; techniques – metaphor; explanation; signposting Reflect on your own writing practices Keep a notebook or learning journal Explore free writing

31 To sum up… 1. Asked ‘what type of writer are you’? What are your writing practices? 2. What are your approaches to reading? How might you link reading and writing? 3. Free writing as a means of generating ideas 4. Thought about structure of the essay at the paragraph level and the overall level 5. Tried to relate these ideas back to the outline.

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