Presentation on theme: "UAB UNIVERSITY WRITING CENTER Improving Sentence Structures for Academic Writing."— Presentation transcript:
UAB UNIVERSITY WRITING CENTER Improving Sentence Structures for Academic Writing
Basic Features of Strong Sentence Structures Clarity – the meaning of the sentence is clear, not ambiguous Concise – each word in the sentence has purpose and power; no unnecessary words Coherent – each sentence is clearly connected within its phrase, sentence, and paragraph Emphasis – each word is situated within the sentence in a way that clearly indicates its degree of emphasis in the sentence
Academic Sentence Structures Use few prepositional phrases Use few relative pronouns (who, whom, whose, which, that) Focus on Action; use of passive voice is selective Use positive structures, instead of negative ones Employ parallel structures for related ideas Often employ very straightforward Subject/Verb syntax Rarely, if ever, use fragments
Reduce prepositional phrases Due to the subject matter of the lengthy report on biofuels by James Randolph written in 2009 in a journal about environmental issues, the study on the local attempts to improve the industry of agriculture was delayed even more. (9 prepositional phrases) James Randolph’s groundbreaking biofuel report (2009) prompted us to delay our local agricultural study. (0 prepositional phrases!)
Reduce the number of relative pronouns Studies that are focused on individuals who often use the internet for recreation have revealed an increase in the use of social networking sites which has reduced productivity at work. Studies on recreational internet use reveal a corresponding increase in social networking and a decrease in work-related productivity.
Active vs. Passive Voice Passive voice is appropriate… When the focus is intentionally on the object of the action, not the agent of the action For surveys, experiments, studies, and other objective scientific writing Active voice is preferred because… Active voice verbs are stronger than weak, linking/being verbs Puts the agent of the action in the strong subject position of the sentence Active verbs are usually more powerful and engaging that passive verbs
Using Positive Sentence Structures Positive sentence structures are usually clearer and less wordy than those written with negative structures. Ex. (negative) The studies were not lacking in relevancy; rather, they were not recent enough to sustain my biofuels proposal.(18 wds) Ex. (positive) Although the studies had some relevancy, they were conducted five years before biofuels were developed. (15 wds)
Employ Parallel Structures Parallelism: Related ideas or ideas joined in a list should be presented in the same grammatical structure (i.e. nouns, phrases, clauses) Not parallel: The study participants were asked about how much weight they had gained recently, exercising habits, current health status and history, and if they had seen a medical doctor recently. Parallel: The study participants were questioned about current weight fluctuations, exercise habits, health status, health history, and recent doctor visits.
Discipline-specific Syntax Read and observe the common syntax (word order) style of discipline-specific writing: journal articles, abstracts, reports, etc. Scientific writing is often very straightforward: subject – verb – object. Ex. We tested the participants for…. Or passive: Object – passive voice – description Ex. The study was conducted in order to determine….
Learn the discourse of your writing community Each community of writers/scholars has a unique discourse or way of communicating. Like learning a new language, one must “immerse” one’s self in that discourse to become “fluent” in it. Start by reading articles in the peer-reviewed journals of that discipline/community Beyond the discipline-specific terminology, note the length and style of sentences, the frequency of phrasing, and the common forms of expressing concepts important to that community.