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The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8

Are the points concisely but clearly explained and supported by relevant evidence? Writing on a word processor makes it easier to rewrite and rearrange sections or paragraphs in your first draft. If you write your first draft by hand, try writing each section on a separate piece of paper to make redrafting easier. Once you are satisfied with the content and structure of your redrafted report, you can turn your attention to the presentation. Check that you have adhered to the instructions in your report brief regarding format and presentation.

Check for consistency in numbering of chapters, sections and appendices. Make sure that all your sources are acknowledged and correctly referenced. You will need to proof read your report for errors of spelling or grammar. If time allows, proof read more than once. Errors in presentation or expression create a poor impression and can make the report difficult to read.

Any feedback from tutors on returned work can be used to create a checklist of key points to consider for your next report. Identify priority areas for attention and seek out further information and advice. Speak to your tutor or an adviser from the Student Learning Centre.

Used in this way, feedback from tutors can provide a useful tool for developing and improving your writing skills. It aims to help you develop a clear sense of direction early on in the project, and to support you in organising, planning, and monitoring your project. A dissertation is a particular kind of academic task. You will usually be asked to generate a topic for yourself; to plan and execute a project investigating that topic; and to write-up what you did and what your findings were.

Important stages in the dissertation process include:. While some students come to their research project with a clear research question to address, many others arrive at this point with several ideas, but with no specific research question. In view of the pressure to get started fairly quickly, this can cause anxiety and even panic. It is, however, a common situation to be in. There are several ways forward:.

This list is not exhaustive, and you need to check whether your department has a preference for particular kinds of research study. Discuss your proposed topic with a member of academic staff who you think might be appropriate to supervise the project. Provided they feel that they know enough about the subject to supervise it, and provided that it can be interpreted as falling within the broad fields of your degree subject, academic staff are generally open to suggestions. For example, a project on coal mining may require you to visit a Records Office, or to interview coal miners from the region.

Is this something that you are prepared and able to do? If the practical considerations associated with your research ideas are unrealistic, you need to consider whether you are willing to modify or reconsider your project. Once your topic has been accepted by your department, you need to begin the process of refining the topic and turning it into something that is focused enough to guide your project. Try describing it as a research problem that sets out:. It is important that you establish a research problem at, or close to the start of, your project.

It is one of the key tools you have, to ensure that your project keeps going in the right direction. You should be willing to revise your research problem as you find out more about your topic. You may, for example, discover that the data you were hoping to analyse is not available, or you may encounter a new piece of information or a new concept while undertaking a literature search, that makes you rethink the basis of your research problem. You should always talk to your supervisor before you make any substantial revision to your plans, and explain why you think you need to make the change.

This sets out your research field but does not frame a research problem because it is too general. You do not have time to study everything about a topic, so you should focus on an aspect that you are interested in. This is a much better research problem as it establishes an argument existence of public transport may have some influence on new housing development.

However, it is still quite general and could be improved by further focus. This is better still. It shows the limits of the project. You will be investigating a complex subject public transport in Scotland , but will be focusing on only one aspect of it possible influence on new housing development. You will make this large subject manageable by focusing on a limited period of time onwards , and limited sources. A research proposal is a more detailed description of the project you are going to undertake.

Some departments require you to submit a research proposal as part of the assessment of your dissertation, but it is worth preparing one even if it is not a formal requirement of your course. It should build on the thinking that you have done in defining your research problem; on the discussions that you have had with your supervisor; and on early reading that you have done on the topic. A comprehensive research proposal will make you think through exactly what it is that you are going to do, and will help you when you start to write up the project.

These might include You may find that some of these headings are difficult to fill in right at the start of your project. However, you can use the gaps to help identify where you need to begin work. If, for example, you are unsure about the limitations of your methodology you should talk to your supervisor and read a bit more about that methodology before you start. A dissertation is an extended project that asks you to manage your time and undertake a variety of tasks. Some courses schedule the dissertation at the end, while others have it running along concurrently with other modules.

Whichever way your course is organised, it is essential that you create a plan that helps you allocate enough time to each task you have to complete. It is useful to work out how many weeks you have until you need to submit your completed dissertation, and draw a chart showing these weeks. Block out the weeks when you know you will be unable to work, and mark in other main commitments you have that will take time during this period.

Then allocate research tasks to the remaining time. It is very important to be realistic about how long each task is likely to take. Some focused thought at the beginning, then at the planning stage of each phase, could save hours later on. Write down the resources needed for each stage. It could be time in the library; the resource of your working hours; or the use of equipment or room space that needs to be booked in advance.

Some people find that they procrastinate more than they would like. This is a common problem, so it is probably best to be well-prepared to identify it and deal with it if it does start to happen. People procrastinate for various reasons for example:. Early identification of the signs of procrastination will give you the best chance of minimising any negative effects. Once you suspect that you are procrastinating, it can be helpful to review what you are expecting of yourself, and check that those expectations are realistic. This is where planning is vital.

Your research plan should also include information about what equipment you will need to complete your project, and any travel costs or other expenses that you are likely to incur through the pursuit of your research. You should also think about whether you are dependent on any one else to complete your project, and think about what you are going to do if they are unable to help you.

Once you have created your plan it is a good idea to show it to someone else. Ideally you will be able to show it to a member of academic staff or take it to your Student Learning Centre, but talking it over with a friend may also help you to spot anything that you have forgotten or anywhere that you have been unrealistic in your planning.

Although a dissertation is an opportunity for you to work independently, you will usually be allocated a member of academic staff as a supervisor. Supervisors are there to help you shape your ideas and give you advice on how to conduct the research for your dissertation. They are not there to teach you the topic you have chosen to investigate: this is your project.

They are, however, one of the resources that you can call on during your research. Academics are busy people, so to get the most out of your supervisor you will need to be organised and to take responsibility for the relationship. To ensure that you get the most out of your supervisor you need to:. If you are not happy with the way you are being supervised, explain why to your supervisor or discuss the issue with your personal tutor.

Regardless of whether you have been given a dissertation topic or you have developed your own ideas, you will need to be able to demonstrate the rationale for your research, and to describe how it fits within the wider research context in your area. To support you in doing this you will need to undertake a literature review, which is a review of material that has already been published, either in hard copy or electronically, that may be relevant for your research project.

Key tools that are available to help you, include:. It is a good idea to make an appointment to see the librarian specialising in your subject. An information librarian should be able to give you advice on your literature search, and on how to manage the information that you generate. You will probably generate more references than you can read. Use the titles and abstracts to decide whether the reference is worth reading in detail. Be selective by concentrating on references that:. Once you start reading, ensure that you think about what you are trying to get out of each article or book that you read.

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Your notes should enable you to write up your literature search without returning to the books you have read. For most research projects the data collection phase feels like the most important part. However, you should avoid jumping straight into this phase until you have adequately defined your research problem, and the extent and limitations of your research. If you are too hasty you risk collecting data that you will not be able to use. Consider how you are going to store and retrieve your data.

You should set up a system that allows you to:. There are many systems that support effective data collection and retrieval. These range from card indexes and cross-referenced exercise books, through electronic tools like spreadsheets, databases and bibliographic software, to discipline-specific tools.

You should talk about how you plan to store your data with your supervisor, an information librarian, or a study adviser in your Student Learning Centre. As you undertake your research you are likely to come up with lots of ideas.

Using essay plans

It can be valuable to keep a record of these ideas on index cards, in a dedicated notebook, or in an electronic file. They may be useful as ideas in themselves, and may be useful as a record of how your thinking developed through the research process. A pilot study involves preliminary data collection, using your planned methods, but with a very small sample. It aims to test out your approach, and identify any details that need to be addressed before the main data collection goes ahead.

For example, you could get a small group to fill in your questionnaire, perform a single experiment, or analyse a single novel or document. When you complete your pilot study you should be cautious about reading too much into the results that you have generated although these can sometimes be interesting.

The real value of your pilot study is what it tells you about your method. Spend time reflecting on the implications that your pilot study might have for your research project, and make the necessary adjustment to your plan. Even if you do not have the time or opportunity to run a formal pilot study, you should try and reflect on your methods after you have started to generate some data.

Once you start to generate data you may find that the research project is not developing as you had hoped. Do not be upset that you have encountered a problem. Research is, by its nature, unpredictable. Analyse the situation. Think about what the problem is and how it arose. Is it possible that going back a few steps may resolve it? Or is it something more fundamental?

If so, estimate how significant the problem is to answering your research question, and try to calculate what it will take to resolve the situation. Changing the title is not normally the answer, although modification of some kind may be useful. If a problem is intractable you should arrange to meet your supervisor as soon as possible. Give him or her a detailed analysis of the problem, and always value their recommendations.

The chances are they have been through a similar experience and can give you valuable advice. Never try to ignore a problem, or hope that it will go away. Finally, it is worth remembering that every problem you encounter, and successfully solve, is potentially useful information in writing up your research. Rather, flag up these problems and show your examiners how you overcame them. As you conduct research, you are likely to realise that the topic that you have focused on is more complex than you realised when you first defined your research question. The research is still valid even though you are now aware of the greater size and complexity of the problem.

A crucial skill of the researcher is to define clearly the boundaries of their research and to stick to them. You may need to refer to wider concerns; to a related field of literature; or to alternative methodology; but you must not be diverted into spending too much time investigating relevant, related, but distinctly separate fields. Starting to write up your research can be intimidating, but it is essential that you ensure that you have enough time not only to write up your research, but also to review it critically, then spend time editing and improving it. The following tips should help you to make the transition from research to writing:.

Remember that you cannot achieve everything in your dissertation. The craft of research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. These files must be downloaded and unpacked unzipped before they can be used effectively. Personal tools Web Editor Log in. Search Site only in current section.

Full table of contents

Advanced Search…. Search Site. Essay terms explained Introduction To write a good essay, you firstly need to have a clear understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do. Essay term Definition Analyse Break an issue into its constituent parts. Assess Weigh up to what extent something is true. Clarify Literally make something clearer and, where appropriate, simplify it. Comment upon Pick out the main points on a subject and give your opinion, reinforcing your point of view using logic and reference to relevant evidence, including any wider reading you have done.

Compare Identify the similarities and differences between two or more phenomena. Consider Say what you think and have observed about something. Contrast Similar to compare but concentrate on the dissimilarities between two or more phenomena, or what sets them apart. Critically evaluate Give your verdict as to what extent a statement or findings within a piece of research are true, or to what extent you agree with them. Define To give in precise terms the meaning of something.

Demonstrate Show how, with examples to illustrate. Describe Provide a detailed explanation as to how and why something happens. Discuss Essentially this is a written debate where you are using your skill at reasoning, backed up by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of a given context. Elaborate To give in more detail, provide more information on. Examine Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding a topic.

Explain Clarify a topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurs, or what is meant by the use of this term in a particular context. Explore Adopt a questioning approach and consider a variety of different viewpoints. Give an account of Means give a detailed description of something. Identify Determine what are the key points to be addressed and implications thereof. Interpret Demonstrate your understanding of an issue or topic. Justify Make a case by providing a body of evidence to support your ideas and points of view. Outline Convey the main points placing emphasis on global structures and interrelationships rather than minute detail.

Review Look thoroughly into a subject. Show how Present, in a logical order, and with reference to relevant evidence the stages and combination of factors that give rise to something. State To specify in clear terms the key aspects pertaining to a topic without being overly descriptive. Summarise Give a condensed version drawing out the main facts and omit superfluous information. To what extent Evokes a similar response to questions containing 'How far References Dhann, S. Before you begin Planning ahead Analysing the question Selecting the material Organising your material Find your preferred style Summary Introduction A good essay plan makes the most of your essay material by helping you to organise the content of the essay before you begin writing.

Using essay plans Being organised before you begin writing your essay will make the writing process quicker and easier. This guide presents four main steps to planning your essay: planning ahead; analysing the question; selecting material; organising your material. Why an essay? Essay writing gives you a chance to: explore a specific subject area in depth; select relevant material; explain theories and concepts; evaluate arguments; express and support your own views and opinions.

Before you begin Check your university or department's guidelines. There may be information about: how long the essay should be; what the deadline is; relevant assessment criteria; requirements for presentation, referencing and bibliographies. Planning ahead Choose your title as soon a possible. Make an action plan or 'to do list' for: finding relevant resources; reading and making notes from articles on short loan; obtaining items through inter-library loan; using computer facilities. Analysing the question Before you can begin to select material for your essay, you need to make sure that you understand the exact requirements of the question.

Analysing an essay title Selecting the material Use your analysis of the question as a focus for the selection of materials. Begin with the basic reading: lecture notes; handouts; relevant chapters in core texts. Be selective and identify relevant material for your essay. Use the essay question as a focus for note taking. Be sure to record only information that is directly relevant to your essay question. This will save you time and make your notes easier to organise in an essay plan. Organising your material All essays need a structure that is logical and coherent.

An example of a linear essay plan using key words and phrases Index cards can be useful in essay planning. You may wish to use diagrams for essay planning. An example of a non-linear essay plan using key words and phrases Find your preferred style Experiment with different styles of planning essays and use the method that you find most useful. Summary Make an action plan or 'to do list' as early as possible.

Analyse the essay question before you begin making notes. Be selective in your reading. Record only information that is directly relevant to your essay question. Use essay plans to create a clear and logical sequence for your material before you begin to write. Referencing and bibliographies This brief study guide aims to help you to understand why you should include references to the information sources that you use to underpin your writing. Why reference? Referencing your work allows the reader: to distinguish your own ideas and findings from those you have drawn from the work of others; to follow up in more detail the ideas or facts that you have referred to.

Before you write Whenever you read or research material for your writing, make sure that you include in your notes, or on any photocopied material, the full publication details of each relevant text that you read. When to use references Your source should be acknowledged every time the point that you make, or the data or other information that you use, is substantially that of another writer and not your own. Referencing styles There are many different referencing conventions in common use.

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How to reference using the 'author, date' system In the 'author, date' system often referred to as the 'Harvard' system very brief details of the source from which a discussion point or piece of factual information is drawn are included in the text. Citing your source within the text As the name suggests, the citation in the text normally includes the name s surname only of the author s and the date of the publication. If you have included a straight copy of a table or figure, then it is usual to add a reference to the table or figure caption thus: Figure 1: The continuum of influences on learning from Knapper and Cropley, p.

Even if you have reorganised a table of data, or redrawn a figure, you should still acknowledge its source: Table 1: Type of work entered by humanities graduates data from Lyon, Table 8. Recent research on the origins of early man has challenged the views expressed in many of the standard textbooks Barker, The experience of the Student Learning Centre at Leicester is that many students are anxious to improve their writing skills, and are keen to seek help and guidance Maria Lorenzini, pers.

Book references The simplest format, for a book reference, is given first; it is the full reference for one of the works quoted in the examples above. Knapper, C. London: Croom Helm. The reference above includes: the surnames and forenames or initials of both the authors; the date of publication; the book title; the place of publication; the name of the publisher.

Papers or articles within an edited book A reference to a paper or article within an edited book should in addition include: the editor and the title of the book; the first and last page numbers of the article or paper. Lyon, E. Eggins ed. London: The Falmer Press, pp. Journal articles Journal articles must also include: the name and volume number of the journal; the first and last page numbers of the article. The publisher and place of publication are not normally required for journals.

Pask, G. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, pp. Other types of publications The three examples above cover the most common publication types. Referencing web pages The internet is increasingly used as a source of information and it is just as important to reference internet sources as it is to reference printed sources. University of Leicester. Formatting references If you look carefully at all the examples of full references given above, you will see that there is a consistency in the ways in which punctuation and capitalisation have been used.

How to reference using footnotes or endnotes Some academic disciplines prefer to use footnotes notes at the foot of the page or endnotes notes at the end of the work to reference their writing. Employers are not just looking for high academic achievement and have identified competencies that distinguish the high performers from the average graduate. Moore, K. Kelsall, R.

Kelsall et al. Further reading More detailed discussion of referencing conventions is to be found in the following publications: Berry, R. London and New York: Routledge. Gash, S. Aldershot: Gower. Gibaldi, J. Watson, G. London: Longman. The art of editing Contents Introduction What is editing?

Positive and negative feelings about editing Where to work? Recording your critique Overall editing plan Draft 1: Editing for academic rigour Draft 2: Reducing redundancy; simplifying and shortening Draft 3: Editing for consistency Draft 4: Signposting and linking Editing to increase the number of words Editing fatigue Draft 5: Proof reading References Guidance This Study Guide addresses the process of editing an extended document such as a dissertation or a thesis.

Introduction When you start to produce a piece of written work, you are likely to be aware of various targets and standards that you need to work to, such as: the stipulated word limit; the required level of academic writing; the need to present material in a clear and logical order; and the necessary high standards in spelling, referencing, and grammar.

Writing may involve Editing may involve creating critiquing including adding and removing presenting improving recording reviewing feeling closely involved feeling fairly objective an immediate, but naive product a subsequent, refined product making a mess tidying it up late What is editing? Positive and negative feelings about editing Students can experience a range of feelings as they approach the task of editing their thesis. Perhaps you are tired of looking at your writing, and the thought of studying it again closely for the editing process makes you want to run away.

Some positive points about editing are: If you are thinking about editing your work, it means that you must already have written something reasonably substantial. Editing tends to be a highly constructive process. Every single useful change you make is a guaranteed step towards improving the quality of your thesis. It tends to be much easier to criticise and improve on your writing, than it was to produce the writing in the first place.

It can therefore be relatively quick to produce significant improvements within the editing stage. Where to work? Recording your critique When you are editing away from the computer, it is important to make full notes of any improvements that occur to you. Overall editing plan Effective editing will invariably require a number of sweeps through the work, and a series of drafts. Draft 1: Editing for academic rigour This relates to the essence of academic writing. What did I try to do and did I do it?

What am I trying to say, and do I say it? An effective way to do this is to explain aloud, to a friend, or alone but using a tape recorder, in as logical and clear a way as possible: the overall reason for your research; what you did; and what you found. Long version Col 11 Shorter version on a regular basis regularly if at all possible if possible during the month of April in April an increased appetite was manifested by all the rats all the rats ate more during the time that while conduct an investigation into investigate has an ability to can on two separate occasions twice which goes under the name of is called it may well be that perhaps take into consideration consider it was observed in the course of the demonstration that we observed that Another way to reduce redundancy, and to increase clarity, is to write in the active rather than the passive tense e.

Similarly: It was decided that the order in which the questions were asked should be changed could become I decided to change the order of the questions a reduction from 15 to 9; and an increase in clarity. However, it is more acceptable to write about specific decisions in the first person e. Draft 3: Editing for consistency A thesis is a large document, written over time, so it is almost inevitable that problems may occur with consistency. The kinds of elements to review for consistency are: consistent use of the third person rather than the first person, except in places where you have specifically decided to use a different voice; consistent use of one tense throughout a section, unless there is a specific reason to change; consistent use and formatting of headings and sub-headings; a reasonable not necessarily equal balance in the lengths of sections; consistent use of either bullet points or numbering for lists; consistency in referencing style; consistency in labelling and numbering appendices, tables, diagrams, figures, photos, and other items.

Draft 4: Signposting and linking Signposting and linking are particularly important in a long document such as a thesis. Typical wording for signposting: In this chapter, the method will be described in detail. The chapter ends with a description of … Signposting is helpful in the Introduction and at the beginning of chapters.

Typical wording for links: In the previous chapter I described ….

Table of contents

In this chapter I will … The argument just presented is the main one used by theorists in this field. The next sections describe three other related arguments that could be used to extend it. This is the background as far as the providers were concerned. Editing to increase the number of words In the editing process you may identify certain sections of your writing that are relatively brief and superficial, and which you consider need to be extended.

Editing fatigue There may come a point at which you feel that you have lost the critical eye you need to review your writing. Draft 5: Proof reading Proof reading is the last stage in the editing process. Take a structured approach: focus in turn on specific potential problems, rather than trying to identify everything at one go. Make your proof reading relevant to your own writing. Look through some previous writing that has been marked, and make a list of your own typical errors, then use this to form the basis of your proof reading strategy.

Examples of common problems are: faulty abbreviations duplication of words spelling errors too much space between two words missing or misplaced apostrophes inappropriate changes of tense singular and plural mixed up inaccurate cross-referencing of pages leaving a reference in the list, when it has been removed from the text Check referencing format in detail: it must be appropriate, accurate, and consistent.

Final check of tables; figures; diagrams; page numbering; contents list; appendices; and all the references to any of these within the text. References Barrass R. Brookes I. Chambers: Edinburgh. Wolcott H. Sage: Thousand Oaks. Critical reading Critical reading is an important precursor to critical writing. What is critical reading? Why do we need to take a critical approach to reading?

Critical reading does not have to be all negative The aim of critical reading is not to find fault, but to assess the strength of the evidence and the argument. Evidence Depending on the kind of writing it is, and the discipline in which it sits, different kinds of evidence will be presented for you to examine. This encompasses: the report of the context within which the data were collected or created; the choice of the method for data collection or selection; the audit trail for the analysis of the data i.

Linking evidence to argument On its own, evidence cannot contribute to academic debate. It will explain for example: why the authors considered that what they did was worth doing; why it was worth doing in that particular way; why the data collected, or the material selected, were the most appropriate; how the conclusions drawn link to the wider context of their enquiry. For example, you could ask: Why did the writer select that particular topic of enquiry in the first place?

Why did the writer decide to use that particular methodology, choose that specific method, and conduct the work in that way? Why did the writer select that particular process of analysis? Note taking As you read, it can be helpful to use a table to record the information that you know you will need later.

Two important points about using such tables are: it is essential that you devise your own list of information to collect from each source, based on what you know you will need to comment upon; and realistically, it is probably best not to try to collect this information from every single source you use, only from those you decide to refer to in your report or assignment.

Otherwise it could really slow down your background reading, and result in the collection of a mass of material that you never use. Descriptive details you may want to record about sources Setting Type of data Sample size Use of theory Sample profile Equipment Follow up Style of writing Statistics used Measurements Methods Sources of bias Questions raised Limitations Main arguments Intended audience Some interpretative questions you may need to ask about sources These are questions that need more input from you as the critical reader.

How well-developed are the themes or arguments? Did the theoretical perspective used introduce any potential bias? Are you convinced by the interpretations presented? Are the conclusions supported firmly by the preceding argument? How appropriate are the comparisons that are used? Did the response options, or measurement categories or techniques used affect the data that were collected? Have any ethical considerations been adequately addressed? Helpful guidance from other sources There are many sources of guidance on how to engage in critical reading: some are in books on general study skills; others are on the internet.

The following questions are based on material from that chapter: Does the writing assume a causal connection when there may not be one? There is also the trap that it can be easy to use many, many words from your word limit, simply providing description. In providing only description, you are presenting but not transforming information; you are reporting ideas but not taking them forward in any way. An assignment using only descriptive writing would therefore gain few marks. With critical writing you are participating in the academic debate. This is more challenging and risky.

You need to weigh up the evidence and arguments of others, and to contribute your own. You will need to:. A much higher level of skill is clearly needed for critical writing than for descriptive writing, and this is reflected in the higher marks it is given. When you engage in critical writing you are developing your own academic voice within your subject.

Wellington et al. They suggest that the academic voice will involve:. Wellington J. Succeeding with your doctorate. London: Sage. Try to get into the habit of writing critically, by making sure that you read critically, and that you include critique in your writing. It can be tempting to string together quotes to support an argument, feeling that the more quotes you include, the stronger your argument. It is important, however, to remember that you also need to interpret the quotes to the reader, and to explain their relevance, discuss their validity, and show how they relate to other evidence.

You can use paragraphs to make a clear and visual separation between descriptive writing and critical analysis, by switching to a new paragraph when you move from description to critical writing, and vice versa. This can help in:. A paragraph break can provide a brief pause for your readers within a longer argument; giving them the opportunity to make sure they are keeping up with your reasoning. Paragraphs that are overly long can require readers to hold too much in their mind at once, resulting in their having to re-read the material until they can identify the point you are making.

You can also use paragraphs to push yourself to include critical writing alongside descriptive writing or referencing, by considering each paragraph almost as an essay in miniature. Within each paragraph you would:. A certain amount of descriptive writing is essential, particularly in the earlier parts of the essay or assignment or dissertation. Beyond that, however, there is a danger that too much descriptive writing will use up valuable words from your word limit, and reduce the space you have for the critical writing that will get you higher marks.

A useful habit to get into is to make sure that, if you describe some evidence relevant to your argument, you need then to explain to the reader why it is relevant. The logic of your explanation contributes to the critical component of your writing. So, a sentence or two might describe and reference the evidence, but this is not enough in itself. The next few sentences need to explain what this evidence contributes to the argument you are making. This may feel like duplication at first, or that you are explaining something that is obvious, but it is your responsibility to ensure that the relevance of the evidence is explained to the reader; you should not simply assume that the reader will be following the same logic as you, or will just work out the relevance of the quote or data you have described.

So far this Study Guide has considered the detail of what you write. The other key element in critical writing is the overall structure of your piece of writing. For maximum effectiveness, your writing needs to have a line, or lines of argument running through it from the Introduction to the Conclusion. Just as you have used paragraphs on a micro scale to present your critical writing, so you need to consider the ordering of those paragraphs within the overall structure. The aim is to lead your readers carefully through the thread of your argument, to a well-supported conclusion. The author refers to the available evidence, but also evaluates the validity of that evidence, and assesses what contribution it can realistically make to the debate.

There are a number of inherent methodological difficulties in evaluating treatment efficacy in this area, and this has contributed to controversy within the research literature surrounding treatment outcomes for this group of offenders Marshall, Firstly, while there is no doubt that the primary criterion of treatment success is a reduction in the rate of re-offending Marshall et al.

It is well established that there is a discrepancy between re-offending and reconviction rates: the latter underestimating the number of offences committed Grubin, Indeed, a significant proportion of offences committed by offenders are either unreported, or do not result in the offender being convicted Abel et al. You can see how the author is considering the available evidence, but also the limitations on that evidence, and will be taking all of this into account in drawing conclusions.

It is always worth taking a critical look at your own writing before submitting it for assessment. The kinds of questions that might be useful to ask at that stage are:. While a certain amount of description is necessary to set the context for your analysis, the main characteristic of academic writing is its critical element. A useful way to check this balance in your own writing is to use two coloured pens and to mark in the margin whether the lines are descriptive or critical. The balance will change at different points, but you need to make sure there is enough of the colour that represents critical writing.

A critical read through your own writing may reveal gaps in your logic, which you can rectify before you submit it for the critique of others. Check out the conclusions that you have drawn, then locate and check the supporting evidence you provide earlier on. It is also a way of checking that, when your reader comes to the end of your writing, the conclusions make sense, rather than being a surprise, or an unconvincing leap of logic.

Sometimes a generalised, sweeping statement can slip through: the kind of statement that might be acceptable on conversation, but not in academic writing. There are three main ways of dealing with such statements:. Essays are a particular form of writing, with their own structure and conventions. This guide explains the conventions of the essay and shows you how to write clear, well structured essays that communicate effectively with the reader.

Other useful guides: Writing Essays ; Referencing and bibliographies ; Avoiding plagiarism. A good essay takes the reader into account by clearly presenting material in a way that is logical, coherent and easy to follow. Before you begin to write your essay, you need to select and order your material in the form of an essay plan. Refer to the guide Writing Essays for information on preparation and planning. When you have an effective essay plan you are free to concentrate on the expression of your ideas and information. You can learn to guide your reader by being aware of how to use the key elements of an essay.

This guide shows you how to make the best use of:. Examine and compare the nature and development of the tragic figures of Macbeth and Dr Faustus in their respective plays. The introduction is a signpost for your reader, showing how you intend to answer the question. You will need to show your understanding of the key issues and indicate the main areas your essay will cover. One possible structure for an introduction is shown below. Your essay plan should show clearly what the main sections of your essay will be and which points will be including in each section. Ordering your points in each section should also take place at the planning stage.

You now need to use paragraphs to take your reader step by step through each section. Each paragraph you write should express clearly one point or one aspect of a point. Your paragraphs should link together to provide the reader with a sense of logical progression. The example below shows how a paragraph can have its own internal structure which:. You should use evidence to illustrate and support your points.

Evidence may be the opinion of an expert or the results of a study or experiment. It may be written or in diagram format. Use the evidence to:. Whenever you refer to someone else's ideas or opinion you must acknowledge your source through referencing. It may be in the form of a quotation:. Gardner believes that Faustus' inability to change is, "a human representation of the inability of the fallen angels to turn back from their damnation. Faustus' inability to change can be seen as the same inability that the fallen angels have, but represented in human terms Gardner, At the end of your essay you must include a bibliography which lists all the books you have consulted in writing your essay, whether or not you have referred to them in your essay.

A bibliography should include the details of author, title, date, place or publication, publisher and edition for each book. Most departments have their own preferred style of referencing and bibliographies. Check your department handbook for details. For further guidance, refer to the. The characters of Macbeth and Faustus are very similar in many respects; they both willingly follow a path that leads to their damnation, for example. The differences lie in the development of the characters in what are essentially two different types of plays.

As has been shown, the character of Macbeth has a nadir from which he ascends at the conclusion of the play. This is in keeping with Aristotle's definition of tragedy. For Faustus however, there is no such ascension. This fits the style of the morality play: the erring Faustus must be seen to be humbled at his end for the morality to be effective. Planning your material before you begin writing should reduce the need for drafting. Whether or not your department requires all essays to be word processed, learning to write essays on a computer has many advantages.

It enables you to easily make amendments and changes to your work without the need to rewrite whole parts of the essay. If you find it necessary to make a first draft by hand, then write each section on a separate piece of paper, so that changes can be made easily. Don't try to make significant changes to the sequence of your material through redrafting. Go right back to the planning stages and revise your original essay plan or make a new one. Remember that just as the essay question should be your focus in the planning stages, you can regularly refer to the question in the writing of your essay.

Use the essay question to check that you are keeping to the point and that all your material is relevant to answering the question. It is often difficult to edit your own writing. Read your work aloud, carefully adhering to the pauses of the punctuation you have used. This will help you identify problems with clarity of expression or sentence structure. Spell checks on computers are useful, but be aware that they don't identify an inappropriate use of a correctly spelt word. Have a break from your essay preferably overnight to make the final check more effective. Your department will have its own guidelines for the presentation of essays which may include word-processing.

Check your departmental handbook for details. The Computer Centre and the University book shop have written guides on using the University's word-processing packages. The feedback and comments you receive with your marked work are an invaluable aid to identifying the strengths and weaknesses in your written work. By rereading your essay in the light of this feedback you can see the areas you want to develop and then decide on a strategy for improvement. To develop your writing skills further you can:. This study guide offers you some strategies for making your scientific writing more effective, helping you to write with accuracy and clarity.

Other useful guides: Writing essays. Writing is a very important part of science; it is used to document and communicate ideas, activities and findings to others. Scientific writing can take many forms from a lab notebook to a project report, or from a paper in an academic journal to an article in a scientific magazine. This guide focuses on scientific writing for academic course work, much of which is devoted to describing and explaining. To reflect the characteristics of good scientific writing in your own work, you need to think about the way that you write and the language that you use.

A good scientific author will have given consideration to the following choices in writing, making decisions that improve the effectiveness of the writing. To make your writing clear, accurate and concise you should consider carefully the words that you use, and the ways in which you use them. In most scientific writing you will need to use some scientific or technical terms in order to be clear and unambiguous. However, use such terms only when you need to do so and do not try to impress the reader by using unnecessary technical jargon or lengthy words.

Abbreviations can be a very useful way of saving time and avoiding repetition, but they can be confusing and might not be understood by everyone. Use standard abbreviations where these exist, and reduce your use of abbreviations to an absolute minimum; they are rarely essential. Objective language is language that is impartial and states a fact or process; subjective language is open to question or interpretation as it implies personal thought or belief.

For example:. Always use language that is concrete and specific rather than vague and personal. Scientific writers have a tendency to use passive rather than active expressions; stating that a was affected by b uses the passive voice while stating that b did something to a uses the active voice. The following example shows a sentence written in both the passive and active voices. In general, the active voice is clearer, more direct and easier to read, but the passive voice can be more appropriate in particular circumstances.

What is most important is for you to be aware of how you are writing, and how the voice that you choose affects the tone and the meaning of your words. Scientific writers often try to avoid the use of personal expressions or statements in order to make their writing seem more impartial and formal. The following sentence has been written with both personal and impersonal expressions to highlight the contrast between the two writing styles.

However, used indiscriminately, writing impersonally can result in clumsy statements through an excessive use of the passive voice. This can lead to ambiguity or inaccuracy in your written work, for example:. It was decided that the temperature should be raised gives no informationabout the identity of the people who made the decision.

We decided that the temperature should be raised avoids ambiguity and makes the sentence sound more direct, but uses the personal and rather informal we. Think carefully about your use of impersonal and personal expressions, taking care to ensure that your writing is always clear and unambiguous. Scientific writing frequently uses the past tense, particularly when the main focus of the writing is to describe experiments or observations that took place prior to the time of writing, for example:.

However, the past tense may not be appropriate for everything that you write and sometimes you will need to combine different tenses in the same piece of writing. For example, the use of different tenses can help to clarify what happened or what you did in the past past tense , what you conclude present tense and what will be an issue for the future future tense.

The following sentences show how different tenses can be used to achieve clarity in your written work. The experiment was carried out in a sterile environment past tense for a statement of what happened. It is particularly important to avoid contamination present tense for a statement that is a general 'truth'.

It will be necessary to ensure that the same conditions are replicated in future experiments future tense for a recommendation for the future. An appropriate use of past, present and future tenses can contribute to a clear and unambiguous writing style. Sentences that are too short and poorly connected can be irritating to read. Conversely, sentences that are too long and rambling are difficult to follow and are likely to be confusing. Use a sentence length that allows your thoughts to flow clearly. As a general rule there should be no more than words in any one sentence. You may be able to reduce your sentence length by:.

If a breakdown occurs it is important that alternative supplies are available and the way that this is done is for the power stations to be linked through the high voltage transmission lines so that all of them contribute to the total supply of energy and an unexpectedly large demand can be handled.

If a breakdown occurs it is important that alternative supplies are available; this is done by linking power stations through the high voltage transmission lines. All of them thus contribute to the total supply of energy and an unexpectedly large demand can be handled. Writing well requires as much care and thought as the experiments or research that are written about. This study guide has defined a number of characteristics of good writing, and has highlighted some of the key choices that scientific authors must make if they are to write with accuracy and clarity.

If you require further help in the development of your writing, please contact the Student Learning Centre in College House. This guide has been written to provide a general introduction to writing reports. It outlines the typical structure of a report and provides a step by step guide to producing reports that are clear and well structured. A report is written for a clear purpose and to a particular audience. Specific information and evidence are presented, analysed and applied to a particular problem or issue.

The information is presented in a clearly structured format making use of sections and headings so that the information is easy to locate and follow. When you are asked to write a report you will usually be given a report brief which provides you with instructions and guidelines. The report brief may outline the purpose, audience and problem or issue that your report must address, together with any specific requirements for format or structure.

This guide offers a general introduction to report writing; be sure also to take account of specific instructions provided by your department. An effective report presents and analyses facts and evidence that are relevant to the specific problem or issue of the report brief.

The style of writing in a report is usually less discursive than in an essay, with a more direct and economic use of language. A well written report will demonstrate your ability to:. The main features of a report are described below to provide a general guide. These should be used in conjunction with the instructions or guidelines provided by your department. This should briefly but explicitly describe the purpose of the report if this is not obvious from the title of the work.

Other details you may include could be your name, the date and for whom the report is written. Under this heading you could include a brief explanation of who will read the report audience why it was written purpose and how it was written methods. It may be in the form of a subtitle or a single paragraph. The summary should briefly describe the content of the report. It should cover the aims of the report, what was found and what, if any, action is called for. Remember that the summary is the first thing that is read.

It should provide the reader with a clear, helpful overview of the content of the report. Exposure of rocks belonging to the Charnian Supergroup late Precambrian were examined in the area around Beacon Hill, north Leicestershire. This report aims to provide details of the stratigraphy at three sites - Copt Oak, Mount St. Bernard Abbey and Oaks in Charnwood. It was observed that at each of these sites, the Charnian Supergroup consists mainly of volcaniclastic sediments air-fall and ash-flow tuffs interbedded with mudstones and siltstones.

These rocks show features that are characteristic of deposition in shallow water on the flanks of a volcano e. Further studies are required to understand depositional mechanisms and to evaluate the present-day thickness of individual rock units. Your contents page should be presented in such a way that the reader can quickly scan the list of headings and locate a particular part of the report. You may want to number chapter headings and subheadings in addition to providing page references.

Whatever numbering system you use, be sure that it is clear and consistent throughout. The introduction sets the scene for the main body of the report. The aims and objectives of the report should be explained in detail. Any problems or limitations in the scope of the report should be identified, and a description of research methods, the parameters of the research and any necessary background history should be included. In some reports, particularly in science subjects, separate headings for Methods and Results are used prior to the main body Discussion of the report as described below.

Information under this heading may include: a list of equipment used; explanations of procedures followed; relevant information on materials used, including sources of materials and details of any necessary preparation; reference to any problems encountered and subsequent changes in procedure. This section should include a summary of the results of the investigation or experiment together with any necessary diagrams, graphs or tables of gathered data that support your results. Present your results in a logical order without comment.

Discussion of your results should take place in the main body Discussion of the report. The main body of the report is where you discuss your material. The facts and evidence you have gathered should be analysed and discussed with specific reference to the problem or issue. If your discussion section is lengthy you might divide it into section headings.


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Your points should be grouped and arranged in an order that is logical and easy to follow. Use headings and subheadings to create a clear structure for your material. Use bullet points to present a series of points in an easy-to-follow list.


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  6. As with the whole report, all sources used should be acknowledged and correctly referenced. For further guidance check your departmental handbook and the Student Learning Centre guide: Referencing and Bibliographies. In the conclusion you should show the overall significance of what has been covered. You may want to remind the reader of the most important points that have been made in the report or highlight what you consider to be the most central issues or findings.

    However, no new material should be introduced in the conclusion. Under this heading you should include all the supporting information you have used that is not published. This might include tables, graphs, questionnaires, surveys or transcripts. Refer to the appendices in the body of your report. In order to assess the popularity of this change, a questionnaire Appendix 2 was distributed to 60 employees. The results Appendix 3 suggest the change is well received by the majority of employees. Your bibliography should list, in alphabetical order by author, all published sources referred to in your report.

    There are different styles of using references and bibliographies. Refer to the study guide Referencing and Bibliographies and check your departmental handbook for guidelines. Texts which you consulted but did not refer to directly could be grouped under a separate heading such as 'Background Reading' and listed in alphabetical order using the same format as in your bibliography. Where appropriate you may wish to acknowledge the assistance of particular organisations or individuals who provided information, advice or help. It is useful to provide an alphabetical list of technical terms with a brief, clear description of each term.

    You can also include in this section explanations of the acronyms, abbreviations or standard units used in your report. You will not necessarily be required to use all of the headings described above, nor will they necessarily be in the order given here. Check your departmental guidelines or instructions. All reports need to be clear, concise and well structured. The key to writing an effective report is to allocate time for planning and preparation.

    With careful planning, the writing of a report will be made much easier. The essential stages of successful report writing are described below. Consider how long each stage is likely to take and divide the time before the deadline between the different stages. Be sure to leave time for final proof reading and checking. This first stage is the most important. You need to be confident that you understand the purpose of your report as described in your report brief or instructions. Consider who the report is for and why it is being written. Check that you understand all the instructions or requirements, and ask your tutor if anything is unclear.

    Once you are clear about the purpose of your report, you need to begin to gather relevant information. Your information may come from a variety of sources, but how much information you will need will depend on how much detail is required in the report. You may want to begin by reading relevant literature to widen your understanding of the topic or issue before you go on to look at other forms of information such as questionnaires, surveys etc. As you read and gather information you need to assess its relevance to your report and select accordingly.

    Keep referring to your report brief to help you decide what is relevant information. Once you have gathered information you need to decide what will be included and in what sequence it should be presented. Begin by grouping together points that are related. These may form sections or chapters. Remember to keep referring to the report brief and be prepared to cut any information that is not directly relevant to the report. Choose an order for your material that is logical and easy to follow. Before you begin to write your first draft of the report, take time to consider and make notes on the points you will make using the facts and evidence you have gathered.

    What conclusions can be drawn from the material? What are the limitations or flaws in the evidence? Do certain pieces of evidence conflict with one another? It is not enough to simply present the information you have gathered; you must relate it to the problem or issue described in the report brief. Having organised your material into appropriate sections and headings you can begin to write the first draft of your report.

    You may find it easier to write the summary and contents page at the end when you know exactly what will be included. Aim for a writing style that is direct and precise. Avoid waffle and make your points clearly and concisely. Chapters, sections and even individual paragraphs should be written with a clear structure. The structure described below can be adapted and applied to chapters, sections and even paragraphs.

    Ideally, you should leave time to take a break before you review your first draft. Be prepared to rearrange or rewrite sections in the light of your review. Try to read the draft from the perspective of the reader. Is it easy to follow with a clear structure that makes sense? Are the points concisely but clearly explained and supported by relevant evidence? Writing on a word processor makes it easier to rewrite and rearrange sections or paragraphs in your first draft. If you write your first draft by hand, try writing each section on a separate piece of paper to make redrafting easier.

    Once you are satisfied with the content and structure of your redrafted report, you can turn your attention to the presentation. Check that you have adhered to the instructions in your report brief regarding format and presentation. Check for consistency in numbering of chapters, sections and appendices. Make sure that all your sources are acknowledged and correctly referenced. You will need to proof read your report for errors of spelling or grammar. If time allows, proof read more than once. Errors in presentation or expression create a poor impression and can make the report difficult to read.

    Any feedback from tutors on returned work can be used to create a checklist of key points to consider for your next report. Identify priority areas for attention and seek out further information and advice. Speak to your tutor or an adviser from the Student Learning Centre. Used in this way, feedback from tutors can provide a useful tool for developing and improving your writing skills. It aims to help you develop a clear sense of direction early on in the project, and to support you in organising, planning, and monitoring your project. A dissertation is a particular kind of academic task.

    You will usually be asked to generate a topic for yourself; to plan and execute a project investigating that topic; and to write-up what you did and what your findings were. Important stages in the dissertation process include:. While some students come to their research project with a clear research question to address, many others arrive at this point with several ideas, but with no specific research question.

    In view of the pressure to get started fairly quickly, this can cause anxiety and even panic. It is, however, a common situation to be in. There are several ways forward:. This list is not exhaustive, and you need to check whether your department has a preference for particular kinds of research study. Discuss your proposed topic with a member of academic staff who you think might be appropriate to supervise the project. Provided they feel that they know enough about the subject to supervise it, and provided that it can be interpreted as falling within the broad fields of your degree subject, academic staff are generally open to suggestions.

    For example, a project on coal mining may require you to visit a Records Office, or to interview coal miners from the region. Is this something that you are prepared and able to do? If the practical considerations associated with your research ideas are unrealistic, you need to consider whether you are willing to modify or reconsider your project.

    Once your topic has been accepted by your department, you need to begin the process of refining the topic and turning it into something that is focused enough to guide your project. Try describing it as a research problem that sets out:. It is important that you establish a research problem at, or close to the start of, your project. It is one of the key tools you have, to ensure that your project keeps going in the right direction.

    You should be willing to revise your research problem as you find out more about your topic. You may, for example, discover that the data you were hoping to analyse is not available, or you may encounter a new piece of information or a new concept while undertaking a literature search, that makes you rethink the basis of your research problem. You should always talk to your supervisor before you make any substantial revision to your plans, and explain why you think you need to make the change. This sets out your research field but does not frame a research problem because it is too general.

    You do not have time to study everything about a topic, so you should focus on an aspect that you are interested in. This is a much better research problem as it establishes an argument existence of public transport may have some influence on new housing development. However, it is still quite general and could be improved by further focus. This is better still. It shows the limits of the project.

    You will be investigating a complex subject public transport in Scotland , but will be focusing on only one aspect of it possible influence on new housing development. You will make this large subject manageable by focusing on a limited period of time onwards , and limited sources. A research proposal is a more detailed description of the project you are going to undertake. Some departments require you to submit a research proposal as part of the assessment of your dissertation, but it is worth preparing one even if it is not a formal requirement of your course. July jumble jumbled jumbo jump jumper jumper cable jump rope jump-start jumpsuit jumpy Jun.

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