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Main source: Craswell, G. & Poore, M. (2012) Writing for Academic Success. London: Sage

This workshop, like the others, will be treated mostly as a general chat, so bring along your problems and questions, challenges, confusions, whatever so we can discuss them.


NOTE: I am mainly using this page as a 'dump space' where I can make a note on the common errors I see in students' writing.

Mechanics: grammar, punctuation, consistency, common errors, style

  • Use spelling and grammar checkers, but don't rely on them
  • Make sure you know how to use punctuation marks properly. Pay particular attention to commas, semi-colons, hyphens, and colons.
  • There are four main uses for commas: listing, joining, gapping, and bracketing
  • Consistency is key: dates, numbers, percentages, spelling, non-English terms, bibliography and citation, hyphenation, capitalisation, heading levels, fonts, etc.
  • Finalise formatting and typography before you start writing
  • Make sure your paragraphs are unified (i.e., on the one topic, which is usually laid out in the topic sentence), coherent (i.e., the sentences link together conceptually, and in order), and developed (i.e., the content moves the work forward).
  • Use first person plural ('we') carefully. [more to come]
  • Use appropriate terminology: 'examine' instead of 'look at'; 'such as' instead of 'like'; 'describes' instead of 'is about'
  • Don't be overly 'declarative' about your contribution, e.g., don't write, INCORRECT: 'The significance of my contribution is that ...'. Try to be a bit more subtle ;)
  • Awkward: "This problem can happen when ..." Better: "This problem can occur when ..."
  • "To discuss" not "to discuss about"
  • "To mention" not "to mention about"
  • "Investigate" not "to investigate about"
  • "To explain" not "to explain about"
  • "In contrast" not "contrastingly"
  • "To emphasise" or "to place an emphasis on" not "to emphasise on"
  • "To investigate" not " to investigate on"
  • "Society" not "the society" (usually ...). "Society" is a non-count noun (usually ...).
  • "Research," "evidence," "literature" and "staff" are almost always used as non-count nouns in English. So, you can't say, for example, 'these researches' or 'many staffs.'
    You can, however, have a 'body of research' (but never a 'body of researches').
  • As a second-language speaker, "although" is often not your friend.
  • Don't put figures or tables in your introduction.
  • Don't start a sentence with the word, "Then" when you mean either, "Next" or "As a result".
  • Punctuation of "however": "However," or "; however,".
  • "To view" is a transitive verb.
  • "To consider" is a transitive verb.

How to use the term, 'the literature':
  • As kind of a count noun: "a piece of literature," "the body of literature"
  • As a non-count noun: "in the literature," "the literature states"

Referencing and plagiarism

The causes of plagiarism can be complex, and not just explained by outright cheating:
  1. Poor time management
  2. Insufficient understanding of conventional practices governing the use of source material in academic writing
  3. Insufficient understanding of the task-specific uses to which source material will be put
  4. Failing to distinguish when you are drawing on source material and when you are interpolating your own comments

You must cite source material and include page numbers when you quote directly from another author; when you paraphrase what an author has said; when you summarise or refer to another's ideas, theories, models, arguments, results, interpretations, data, etc.

How to plagiarise by mistake
  • When discussing a scholar's work, do not objectify the paper, e.g., INCORRECT: 'This is discussed in Smith and Brown (2012)'. Instead, write, CORRECT: 'Smith and Brown (2012) discuss this matter.'

Your readers

Always remember that you are writing for someone. Your ideas and insights will be lost if your readers cannot understand what you are doing and why, or if they cannot follow where you are going. So:
  • Assume the reader is a disciplinary practioner who has certain expectations around style, structure, treatment of subject matter, etc.
  • The reader may be a subject specialist, but this does not mean you should skimp on textual explanation, the development of ideas, definitions, and background.
  • Make sure you signpost or signal your intentions.
  • Establish things, don't just state them

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