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About this book

This hands-on book introduces students to the demands of university study in a clear and accessible way and helps them to understand what is expected of them. It helps students to develop the core skills they need to succeed at university, and gives guidance on the key forms of academic writing, including essays, reports, reflective assignments and exam papers. It shows students how to recognise opinions, positions and bias in academic texts from a range of genres, develop their own 'voice' and refer to others' ideas in an appropriate way. It also features authentic examples of academic texts and engaging activities throughout to aid understanding.
Packed with practical guidance and self-study activities, this book will be an essential resource for all students new to university-level study.

Table of Contents

Introduction to University Study

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. What’s different about academic communication?

Abstract
You probably realised that the first was written to a family member and the second to a business associate, but how did you know? Did you notice the informal tone of the first, which uses contractions (shouldve instead of should have) to make the email sound like speech, colloquial language (I guess, awesome) and non-standard capitalisation and punctuation (I is not capitalised and apostrophes are omitted from abbreviations, such as its rather than it’s and Ive instead of I’ve). The language is also vague—see you soon, rather than setting a specific time. The second email, in contrast, is more formal. It opens with a general pleasantry then tells the reader what the email is about. The language is not colloquial; it is polite, everyday language, and the grammar and punctuation are standard—I is capitalised and apostrophes are included, the writer using I’m rather than Im.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 2. Students and lecturers

Abstract
We have examined some of the concepts that describe approaches to knowledge and learning in many universities in English-speaking cultures. The question now is how do these concepts influence the role of lecturers? We also need to explore what lecturers expect of students. But first we need to understand the titles that lecturers have, and this means that we also have to understand how universities are organised. Most universities are organised into a number of colleges, faculties and/or schools—different universities use different names and may have a different number of levels of organisation. A faculty or school groups together a number of departments. Your university may use different terms, but the general principle is the same. Each department or school involves one or more disciplines. An outline of the structure of a university with three levels of organisation would look something like Figure 2.1. So, for example, your university may have a College of Humanities and Social Sciences that includes the School of Business, within which sits the Department of Accounting. Alternatively, it may have fewer organisational levels and thus have a Faculty of Economics that includes departments of Accounting, Marketing, International Business and so on.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 3. Independent learning

Abstract
If you ask lecturers what qualities they expect from their students, they usually mention the ability to learn independently. What do they mean by this and why do they expect it?. Fundamentally, independent learning involves taking responsibility for your own learning. Before we explore more fully what ‘taking responsibility for your own learning’ involves, we need to discuss two key expectations that underlie the notion of responsibility. These relate to the concepts of the student as an individual and as an independent adult. Most English-speaking cultures stress the role of the individual in society. This means that people in English-speaking cultures tend to see society as composed of separate individuals each of whom has their own unique interests and talents. They believe that one of the major features of a healthy society is that it allows each member to develop their talents and interests as fully as possible. This attitude is reflected in the education system.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Taking Part in University Learning

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Academic listening

Abstract
Many new students ask why they are expected to read so much in their university courses. ‘Isn’t it enough,’ they ask, ‘just to read a textbook?’ To understand why the textbook is not enough, we need to ask questions about the purpose of reading at university. The first question is: Why read?—and there are several answers to this question. If you have read the preceding chapters you will understand that we develop academic knowledge through debate. Scholars take part in this debate by writing journal articles, research reports, books and so on. One of the aims of university study is to give you the skills and knowledge to join the debate yourself, so when you read academic writing, you are taking the first step in this direction. Textbooks can give you a basic understanding of the major issues in a particular field, but they cannot give in-depth coverage of specific topics. They also cannot tell you about the most recent developments, which are usually found in journal articles. Most importantly, however, they do not provide you with the opportunity to join in the world of academic debate. You can compare reading a textbook to reading a short account of a football game in a newspaper a week after the game. On the other hand, reading a journal article is like being in the stands watching the game.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 5. Academic reading

Abstract
Many new students ask why they are expected to read so much in their university courses. ‘Isn’t it enough,’ they ask, ‘just to read a textbook?’ To understand why the textbook is not enough, we need to ask questions about the purpose of reading at university. The first question is: Why read?—and there are several answers to this question. If you have read the preceding chapters you will understand that we develop academic knowledge through debate. Scholars take part in this debate by writing journal articles, research reports, books and so on. One of the aims of university study is to give you the skills and knowledge to join the debate yourself, so when you read academic writing, you are taking the first step in this direction. Textbooks can give you a basic understanding of the major issues in a particular field, but they cannot give in-depth coverage of specific topics. They also cannot tell you about the most recent developments, which are usually found in journal articles. Most importantly, however, they do not provide you with the opportunity to join in the world of academic debate. You can compare reading a textbook to reading a short account of a football game in a newspaper a week after the game. On the other hand, reading a journal article is like being in the stands watching the game.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 6. Taking part in tutorials and seminars

Abstract
Many students find that taking part in tutorials and seminars is one of the most difficult and confusing things they have to do at university. They find it difficult because they don’t like speaking in front of other people. They find it confusing because, as one student said, ‘I’m a student. The lecturer knows much more than me, so why do I have to give the paper? Isn’t that the lecturer’s job?’ So, why are tutorials and seminars so important in university study? And how can you participate in them successfully? Before we discuss the purpose of tutorials, it is important to understand that what you do in tutorials depends on the subject you are studying.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 7. Doing group assignments

Abstract
In recent years, many subjects have introduced group work as an important means of assessing students. In this chapter, we will look at why group work is used and at how to participate in a group project effectively. Many students complain bitterly about group work. They say it is much easier just to do the work themselves, and that usually one or two people do all the work for the group. Others point out that if one person doesn’t pull his or her weight, it can result in a reduced mark for everyone. It is true that getting several busy people together for meetings can take a lot of time and effort. It is also true that some people don’t work well in groups for a number of reasons, only one of which is laziness. So why work in groups?.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Becoming Critical

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Opinions, positions and bias

Abstract
I remember being approached by a very distressed first-year student who had just failed an essay, despite having put a great deal of effort into writing it. His lecturer had stressed the importance of presenting his own ideas and opinions and that is what the student had done. He felt therefore that the lecturer had failed him because he did not agree with what the student had to say. As I talked to this student I realised that he and his lecturer understood the word ‘opinion’ in different ways. In everyday life, we take it for granted that everyone is entitled to their own opinion on any topic. If you want to believe that the world is flat, or that the pyramids were built by aliens from another galaxy, you may do so. You may have excellent evidence to support your opinion or you may have none at all—it doesn’t matter. You are entitled to your opinion, no matter how strange that opinion is.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 9. Critical thinking, problem-solving and description

Abstract
You have probably heard the term ‘critical thinking’ before. You may also have heard the terms ‘analysis’ or ‘critical analysis’, which refer to the same thing. Together with its close relative ‘problem-solving’, critical or analytical thinking is found high on the list of the abilities or qualities that universities want to develop in their students. More and more, your future prospective employers are listing ‘critical thinking’ as an important skill for employability. So what is involved in critical thinking and problem-solving? Perhaps the easiest way to understand what critical thinking is, is to consider what a critical thinker does.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 10. Sources of academic knowledge

Abstract
In today’s world, we are surrounded by information. At the click of a mouse, we can access thousands of web pages, many containing what looks like useful information. There are also thousands of books, journals, magazines and other printed sources that present information on every possible subject. Unfortunately, much of that information is not reliable in academic terms. Information that is not reliable cannot be used as evidence in an academic discussion. To decide whether information is academically reliable, we need to ask five questions.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Expressing Your Voice and Referring to the Voices of Others

Frontmatter

Chapter 11. Voices in academic texts

Abstract
We know that knowledge develops through discussion and debate. When academics write articles as part of this debate, they not only present their own ideas but also refer to the ideas of other academics. This means that they need a way to distinguish between their own ideas and the ideas of other people. They need to express their own voice and to refer to the voices of others. When an academic refers to the ideas of another person, we call that person a source. Text 22 is a short example of academic writing introducing a discussion on the definition of critical thinking. How many voices can you identify?.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 12. Expressing your own voice

Abstract
Why do lecturers ask their students to write essays? When I ask students this question, many of them say that it allows the lecturer to check that they understand what is being taught. This is true, but it does not go far enough. The purpose of an essay is to present a clear position and defend it. To defend it, you need evidence to support your position. This evidence is usually supplied by the voices of other scholars. You may also have to present concepts or evidence that do not support your position and show why you do not consider these to be useful or appropriate.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 13. Avoiding plagiarism

Abstract
You have probably already heard the word ‘plagiarism’ many times. It is often talked about in universities because it involves behaviour that is considered to be unacceptable. In fact, plagiarism refers to several different types of behaviour, so we will investigate each in turn. Text 28 is a paragraph from the essay that we looked at in the last chapter, but with one important change. What is this change?.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 14. Voices in different types of text

Abstract
You have to read many different types of text while you are at university. Here is a list of some of the most common. Which ones do you use most often? Can you add any to the list?. You may have noticed that different types of text use voices in different ways. Some texts use only the writer’s voice, while others use the voices of many different writers. The way voices are used depends on two factors.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 15. Creating an identity in different types of text: pronouns, hedges, boosters, attitude markers, questions and commands

Abstract
We have examined how voice is used in different types of text, and we focused on how you express your own voice. However, there is another aspect of expressing your voice that we need to consider. This is the way that you present yourself to your readers. The writers of this text are presenting themselves as teachers: they have knowledge that they wish to pass on to students. What is it that tells us this? In order to answer this question, let’s look at another text (Text 39).
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Writing Academic Texts

Frontmatter

Chapter 16. Writing in the university

Abstract
So far in this book, we have considered what the university expects from its students in terms of critical thinking, independent learning and the roles of students and lecturers. We have looked at how lectures and reading contribute to your research, and discussed the use of group work and oral presentations in academic study. Most importantly, perhaps, we have considered how you express an academic identity and voice of your own, and how you relate to the voices of others. All this feeds in to the final section of this book, which deals with academic writing. Academic writing is a central concern for all students because academic knowledge is primarily written knowledge. While oral presentations in tutorials and seminars, and later at conferences, are very important, it is generally when it is written down that this knowledge becomes available for discussion and debate by academics everywhere. In other words, writing is central to the development of knowledge through debate and discussion that we have been talking about throughout this book.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 17. Making your argument flow

Abstract
Students often complain about the difficulty of making their writing flow. Perhaps you have experienced the same thing. You can see very clearly what you are trying to say, but your reader can’t. Maybe your lecturer writes comments such as, ‘Your argument doesn’t hang together’ or ‘Your argument jumps about’ or ‘Your poor paragraph structure makes it hard to follow your argument’. They may even say that they can’t follow the argument at all. When you get comments like this, one of the first things that you should check are your topic sentences. The topic sentence is the sentence in the paragraph that tells the reader what the paragraph is about. In most academic writing, it’s the first sentence of the paragraph, but it may come later, especially if the first sentence is used to link a new section of the argument to the preceding section. It may be helpful for you to think about the topic sentence as a signpost that signals for your reader what the rest of the paragraph will be about.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 18. Writing essays: general–specific texts

Abstract
The types of text that you read at university and the types that you are expected to write are often very different. Why? Because as a student, your purpose for writing is usually different from the purpose of many of the texts that you read. For example, as a student, you are not likely to write a textbook. Whatever type of text you are asked to write, you need to ask yourself: In this chapter we will examine the features of an essay. We will use Text 26—the essay on the causes of the worldwide water crisis that we looked at in Chapter 12. The essay argues that the major causes of the crisis are the mismanagement and wasteful use of water, and the pollution of water sources.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 19. Writing reports: problem–solution texts

Abstract
In some disciplines, especially those oriented towards the world of work, you are likely to find yourself writing reports more often than you write essays. This is especially so in courses such as business, accounting, engineering and information technology. Professionals working in these areas spend a significant amount of time writing reports, and so the assignments that you complete while studying give you the opportunity to practise report-writing skills. As with an essay, when you write a report you need to ask yourself.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 20. Writing research reports

Abstract
As well as expecting you to write essays and general reports, many courses require you to write research reports. Although both are called reports, general reports and research reports are different types of text with different purposes, audiences and structures. As you can probably guess from its name, the purpose of a research report is to inform academics and specialists in a particular field about a piece of research and to discuss the results that were obtained. The research is carried out by the writer of the report and usually involves observation and experimentation.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 21. Writing reflective texts

Abstract
It is hard to imagine a time when we only discussed things with people in person or over the telephone, and when people had to read a book or go to a library to access information. Today, we can interact in real time without needing to be in the same place or use a telephone, and we can access enormous amounts of information from anywhere with an internet connection. Access to the internet has changed many aspects of academic culture. University staff and students can communicate over the internet using email or discussion forums. Students are also often asked to create texts such as blogs that exist only in online environments. Quite often those assessments are submitted and marked online as well. This means that the modern academic culture exists as much online as it does offline.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 22. Writing electronic texts: emails, discussion forum posts and blogs

Abstract
A reflection is an active process that involves you thinking about your learning. Consciously making time to think about what you have been reading, hearing and doing helps you to deepen your understanding of important ideas. Ultimately, reflecting also helps you to make links between what you are learning at university and your experiences outside of university. A reflective text is one where you express in writing, or sometimes through video, your thoughts and reactions to some aspect of your learning. Of course, thinking about your learning is always helpful. But the process of writing or otherwise representing your reflection helps you to sift through your ideas, thoughts and reactions to focus on a specific aspect of your learning. Through this, you begin to see more clearly what you have learned, where you might have gaps in your learning and how what you have learned might be applied in your future career.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke

Chapter 23. Writing in exams

Abstract
Exams can be a particularly daunting experience for university students. This is especially so for those who need to complete a written exam. However, given you are reading this book, you already have the skills to write a good exam! Remember that writing in your exams does not need to be an insurmountable task. The following chapter will discuss how to plan for and write exams. Many students identify exams as one of the most stressful aspects of university study. This is because they are usually conducted in controlled environments that limit access to resources and materials. Exams are often handwritten rather than typed, which can add to the pressure students feel, particularly if they are more accustomed to typing than writing by hand. Students also face limits on the amount of time they have available to complete their exams. Time restrictions mean that students often feel that they do not have the space to produce an adequate response to the question. However, with careful analysis of the question, and a well-structured plan, you can produce a good response in the time you have available.
Jean Brick, Nick Wilson, Deanna Wong, Maria Herke
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