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About this book

Reading is part and parcel of academic writing, and knowing which sources to include in assignments and how to go about this process can be challenging. That's where this handy guide comes in. With over twenty years' experience in the field, Jeanne Godfrey is no stranger to essay writing. Taking students step-by-step through the process, from choosing their sources to checking their work, she helps students to develop the skills and confidence they need to use their reading effectively in their essays and get the best marks possible for their work. Concise and practical, it breaks down the 'why' and 'how' of using reading in academic writing and contains valuable guidance on paraphrasing, comparing the views of different authors and commenting on sources.
This book is ideal for students of all disciplines, and can be used by college students, undergraduates and postgraduates.

Table of Contents

Introduction

A fundamental part of academic study is reading the work of other people and using their ideas to develop your own. This book takes you through the process of using your reading (your source material) in your own essays, from deciding what to read to checking your work for mistakes. How to Use your Reading in your Essays explains things simply and clearly, gives you key points and practice activities, and uses real sources and student writing.
Jeanne Godfrey

Understanding your reading

Frontmatter

A1. How do you decide what to read?

You will often have a reading list and guidance from your tutors on which sources are most relevant for your course assignments, but you will also be expected to find material independently. This chapter looks firstly at the terminology tutors use when they talk about sources, and secondly gives you advice on thinking about, finding and selecting material effectively. Primary material is that which conveys an idea or information for the first time. Primary material can take any form: a laboratory experiment report, a survey, a letter, a YouTube video, a book or an academic article. Secondary material is that which uses, reports or discusses ideas or information already conceived of and communicated by its originator (the primary source).
Jeanne Godfrey

A2. How do you understand what you read?

By the time you have checked the reliability, relevance and purpose of a text, you will have a general idea of its content. The next step is to sit down and read in order to gain an accurate understanding of the material at both the surface level (words on the page) and the deeper, critical level. To do this you need to read in an active and questioning manner and to become really familiar with the text. This chapter deals with understanding the words on the page, how to focus and how to know when you have read enough, and Chapter A3 looks at reading critically. Note that this division between surface and deep-level reading is somewhat artificial, and that in reality you will probably be reading at both levels simultaneously.
Jeanne Godfrey

A3. How do you question what you read?

To analyse means to break down, examine and question something (also referred to as deconstructing, unpacking and examining), with the aim of then using the results of this analysis to evaluate it. You should identify and then unpack the key terms, concepts and arguments of each author and text, and then also examine the relationships between different sources. Analysis can be hard work because it is not something we do naturally; we tend to skip straight to evaluating (judging and forming an opinion). However, analysis is the foundation on which evaluation should be built; incomplete or poor analysis is a common reason for low marks in assignments.
Jeanne Godfrey

A4. How do you decide what to read?

The whole point of taking a critical approach to reading is to use your analysis and evaluation of different authors‘ ideas to produce your own way of seeing the issue. This means that in addition to analysing each text separately, you will also need to analyse the relationships between texts, sometimes referred to as ‘synthesising sources’. By examining the relationships between different texts and ideas you will make your own connections and see your own patterns, and so develop your own insights. ‘To synthesise’ means to combine two or more things in order to create something new, and putting your synthesis of sources together with your own ideas is also generally referred to as ‘synthesis’ and ‘writing a synthesis essay’.
Jeanne Godfrey

A5. Writing to understand your reading

The essay writing process is not a linear sequence of reading then thinking then writing. On the contrary, you should be thinking as you read, and doing such things as building up an annotated list of sources, making reflective notes during and after reading, scribbling down new ideas, and doing more reading after writing the first draft of your essay. Importantly, you will develop new thoughts and ways of expressing them even as you write your essay, and will probably still be developing your ideas after you have handed it in.
Jeanne Godfrey

Using your reading in your essay

Frontmatter

B1. Why and how should you quote?

In the extract below notice that for the first quotation the student uses parentheses only for the year of publication and page number, because they are using the authors as the subject of their introductory sentence. For the second quotation, however, the student does not use the authors as part of their sentence and so puts both the names and year of publication in parentheses at the end. Shaw and Barry (2007) define business ethics as ‘the study of what constitutes right and wrong (or good and bad) human conduct in a business context’ (p.25). Another definition describes business ethics as the ‘principles and standards that guide behaviour in the world of business’
Jeanne Godfrey

B2. Why and how should you paraphrase?

Paraphrasing is when you restate source material using your own words and style. The term paraphrasing is commonly used to refer to the rewriting of a specific idea or piece of information contained in a short section of text, although summarising a source is also a form of paraphrase. In your writing you will often need to paraphrase, but it is a complex skill that takes time and practice to acquire. Importantly, in order to paraphrase effectively you need to have a good understanding of your source material.
Jeanne Godfrey

B3. Why and how should you summarise?

Summarising a text means reporting its main points in your own way, using your own words and style. Summarising is a type of paraphrasing, but the term paraphrase is commonly used to refer to the process of re-expressing a specific point contained in a short piece of source text, whereas a summary gives only the main points from a much larger section or from the whole text.
Jeanne Godfrey

B4. What will make your essay original?

The originality of your essay will depend not just on which sources or how many you use, but on how and why you use them. Two essays addressing the same title and using the same sources can still differ greatly because of the way each one has used the source material to develop and reach a unique perspective and conclusion.As an example of thinking about source types before searching for material, the student decided to look first for textbooks that would give definitions of business ethics. They also realised that they would need some relevant journal articles by key authors for views on the importance of business ethics.
Jeanne Godfrey

B5. Putting it all together in your essay

A reflective piece is different from other types of assignment in that you are reflecting on something you have done, rather than putting forward a persuasive argument or trying to find a solution. In a reflective assignment, therefore, you will probably want to use less source material than in a discursive essay. However, some reflective assignments require that you both reflect on your own practice and appraise it in relation to theory, and so in this case you will be using sources for the specific purpose of reflecting on this link. If and when you use and integrate sources into a reflective essay, you should do so in the same way as for other types of academic writing.
Jeanne Godfrey

Useful words and phrases

Frontmatter

C1. Using verbs precisely and powerfully

Parts A and B of this book have looked at the different ways you can write about and integrate your reading into your essays, including how to show clearly the difference between your ideas and those of your sources. Using verbs in an appropriate and precise way is essential for doing these things effectively, and this chapter gives you information and examples to help you do so.When you are reading, try to notice which structures and words are used with verbs, and you can also use an online dictionary to help you identify the correct grammatical structure/s for particular verbs.
Jeanne Godfrey

C2. Discussing authors’ views and position

This chapter gives you example essay sentences containing words and phrases for writing about different viewpoints and positions of source authors. (See also Chapter C3 for words to describe converging and diverging viewpoints.) The words and phrases are underlined, with words that have similar meanings separated by /. Words that have different meanings but which can be used in similar sentence structures are separated by //. Note that where a sentence contains a reference with no year of publication it is because the year has already been given earlier in the essay from which the sentence comes.
Jeanne Godfrey

C3. Comparing and connecting different authors

This chapter gives you example essay sentences containing words and phrases for comparing and connecting different sources, and for showing the relationships between them (see also Chapter C2). The words and phrases are underlined, with words that have similar meanings separated by /. Words that have different meanings but which can be used in similar sentence structures are separated by //. Note that where a sentence contains a reference with no year of publication, it is because this has already been given earlier in the essay from which the sentence comes.
Jeanne Godfrey

C4. Making positive comments

This chapter gives you example essay sentences containing words and phrases for evaluating a source positively, and for showing how the author’s views support your own argument. The words and phrases are underlined, with words that have similar meanings separated by /. Words that have different meanings but which can be used in similar sentence structures are separated by //. Note that where a sentence contains a reference but no year of publication, it is because this has already been given earlier in the essay from which the sentence comes.
Jeanne Godfrey

C5. Making negative comments

This chapter gives you example essay sentences containing words and phrases for introducing, describing and evaluating a source negatively. An important part of developing your argument is to present opposing arguments, and to show why they are not as convincing as your own. The words and phrases are underlined, with words that have similar meanings separated by /. Words that have different meanings but that can be used in similar sentence structures are separated by //. Note that where a sentence contains a reference but no year of publication, it is because this has already been given earlier in the essay from which the sentence comes.
Jeanne Godfrey

Checking and correcting your work

Frontmatter

D1. Being clear and precise

To write successfully you need to be able to communicate complex ideas precisely; vague or incorrect language will lessen the clarity and credibility of your work. In Part C we looked at useful vocabulary to use when you integrate, describe and discuss your reading in your essays. Part D of this book looks at useful language points that will help you write in a formal style that is also clear, precise and to the point. Students are often concerned about how formal their writing needs to be. The appropriate level of formality will vary slightly according to your discipline, writing aims and reader audience, but in general, producing good academic writing does not mean using as many long words as possible. If a book or academic article you read is written in a style so complex and wordy that it is difficult to make sense of, it is probably poorly written. Your academic writing should be clear and succinct, and you should never use a word you don’t understand. Your tutors would much rather have you explain things well in clear, simple words and sentences than try to explain things poorly in more complex language
Jeanne Godfrey

D2. Re-expressing and referencing your reading

As we saw in Chapters B1–3, when re-expressing source material you should not try simply to ‘translate’ it by taking each word, phrase or sentence in turn and replacing them with your own. This will result in a poor paraphrase that not only lacks flow and integration into your own essay, but is also a form of plagiarism because you will only have changed the words, not the sentence pattern and overall information structure. In order to avoid this trap you need to be familiar with what your source says, to the extent that you can put it away and write your own independent re-expression of the ideas it contains; when you do this you will naturally use language structures that are different from the source text. However, it is also useful to be aware of techniques you can use, and this chapter looks at some ways you can use vocabulary, grammar and structure to help you re-express your source material in your own way
Jeanne Godfrey

D3. Checking your referencing

The two most important aspects of using source material are firstly, to use it in an intelligent, critical and fair manner, and secondly, to make it easy for your reader to see when you are using it. In-text references and reference reminder phrases that show clearly all the switches between you and your source material are vital, and we have looked at how to do this in Part B of this book. The smaller more ‘surface’ aspects of referencing (such as punctuation and font type) are much less important, and getting these right does not necessarily mean that you are referencing effectively. However, you might still lose a few marks if you make a lot of mistakes with referencing technicalities, and so this chapter contains examples of student writing that contain such errors, to help you develop your awareness and skill in checking and correcting your own work.
Jeanne Godfrey

D4. Checking your grammar

You will almost certainly need to make revisions to the content and organisation of your draft essay. You will also need to improve the organisation and style to suit your reader, a process referred to as editing. Once you have done this, you will probably need to read your draft essay again to check that each sentence makes sense, and to correct smaller points of grammar and punctuation; in other words, to proofread your work. The occasional grammatical error will not matter too much, but making lots of mistakes will reduce the clarity and overall standard of your writing. If you find you are making mistakes in only a few grammatical areas but doing so repeatedly, it’s probably worth revising the rules for these points so that you can get them right and improve the general accuracy of your language.
Jeanne Godfrey
Additional information