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About this book

This concise and practical guide takes students step-by-step through the writing process, and covers core aspects of academic writing, from understanding the task and researching the topic through to composing a draft, editing copy and responding to feedback. Chapters feature numerous self-study activities, top tips and opportunities for reflection, alongside examples of good writing from a range of disciplines. By engaging with the text, students will develop confidence, technique and clarity as writers in their discipline, as well as transferable skills that are highly valued by employers.

This book will be an invaluable source of guidance for students of all disciplines and levels who are required to write essays, reports, papers or dissertations as part of their studies.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Nature and Process of Academic Writing

Abstract
Whatever programme of study you are taking at university, at some point you will need to put words on paper or enter them in an electronic file. You might wish to make notes from a lecture you’ve attended, a book chapter you’ve read, a professional organisation’s website you’ve visited, or an academic paper you’ve studied. And then there are the assignments you need to complete. These might be essays, practical reports, slide presentations, a review of an article, webpages you’re designing – the list could be long. Each kind of communication you create has its own particular cluster of features. It is written for a particular audience with a certain purpose in mind. For example, in a social sciences, humanities or arts discipline you might be asked to write an essay. In a science or engineering discipline, you might be required to submit a report on a laboratory investigation you’d just completed. In completing either writing task, you would need to follow certain conventions.
Trevor Day

Chapter 2. Understanding the Nature of an Assignment

Abstract
The most common kinds of assignment you are likely to meet on an undergraduate or taught postgraduate degree course include essays, technical reports, practical reports, literature reviews, research papers, presentations and dissertations. Each kind of assignment has its particular purposes and conventions (Chapters 3 and 6). Academic writing almost always takes place within a disciplinary context. Through understanding the conventions and practices of the discipline, you can develop confidence in writing within it and can ultimately develop your own ‘voice’. In this chapter you are introduced to the IPACE model: identity, purpose, audience, code and experience. This model helps you plan an assignment, with rigour. For example, it is through understanding disciplinary identity, clarifying the purpose of an assignment, and really knowing your audience (readership) that you come to know what kinds of writing style and document structures to use. The most common kinds of assignment you are likely to meet on an undergraduate or taught postgraduate degree course include essays, technical reports, practical reports, literature reviews, research papers, presentations and dissertations. Each kind of assignment has its particular purposes and conventions (Chapters 3 and 6).
Trevor Day

Chapter 3. Two Popular Types of Assignment

Abstract
Within the realm of academic writing there are many kinds of writing assignment, such as essays, reports, projects and dissertations, each tempered by their particular disciplinary context. Across this range of documents, with different purposes and audiences, I have chosen two styles of writing for this chapter. Essays are common assignments in social science, arts and humanities disciplines, while writing reports of laboratory investigations are frequent in science and engineering disciplines. Other kinds of assignment, including business style reports and critical reflective accounts, are considered in Chapter 6. It is important at this stage to be familiar with the structure and style of at least one kind of academic writing before progressing to researching literature and reading source material, which are explored in Chapters 4 and 5.
Trevor Day

Chapter 4. Researching an Assignment

Abstract
There is no single way to research an assignment. It depends on the nature of the assignment. But a wise researcher knows where to look, asks for help when they need it and then knows when to stop. Researching, like writing, is not about reaching perfection (although we might strive for it). When researching and writing in some professions, such as law and medicine, the consequences of inaccuracy or miscommunication could result in miscarriages of justice and even be life threatening. Nevertheless, whether you are a professional working in the discipline, or a student on the way to becoming such a professional, researching, reading and writing concerns doing the best job you can with the time and resources available. When researching the literature for an assignment, following the guidance in this chapter should save you time and focus your attention on gathering high-quality material that is most relevant to your task.
Trevor Day

Chapter 5. Being a Purposeful Reader and Note-taker

Abstract
You might read many kinds of text on an academic programme – webpages, newspaper and magazine articles, academic journal papers, textbooks and source documents, for example. How you read this material depends on your purpose. There are, of course, many kinds of reading, including reading solely for pleasure. When checking your own academic writing you may review your work in different ways prior to developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading (Chapter 10). This chapter places emphasis on reading as a forerunner to academic writing (see Table 5.1). By its very nature, reading for academic purposes normally requires in-depth knowledge and understanding of the material you read. This may only come about through several rereadings over days, weeks, months and even years. What I seek to do in this chapter is bring together flexible, holistic approaches to reading. Practise only half of the ideas presented here and you could radically transform your reading, saving a great deal of time and effort in the long run, and freeing up your time to be more creative and productive.
Trevor Day

Chapter 6. Planning and Structuring More Assignments

Abstract
As we have seen, researching your assignment, and carrying out the reading required for it, are part of an iterative process. You learn as you go along. You find out about the literature that exists – and that you can gain access to – and this shapes your further searching. You read the best and most appropriate material that you find for your assignment, and annotate and make notes on what you find, and doing so shapes your further searching and reading. All this can be a delightful exploration of a topic, but you don’t have unlimited time. And even while you are carrying out your searches, and reading, annotating and note-taking, you need to be thinking about the structure for the assignment you are going to write and begin writing it.
Trevor Day

Chapter 7. Composing

Abstract
In non-fiction writing, composing is the act of writing in complete sentences that build into paragraphs. In most forms of academic writing, there comes a time when you have to move from planning, researching, reading and note-taking to writing flowing sentences (Figure 7.1). In writing workshops and seminars, when I ask students which part of the overall writing process they find most challenging, typically slightly more than half say it is composing. This often applies irrespective of whether I am working with science, engineering, humanities, social science or arts students. It also seems to apply whether working with undergraduates or postgraduates.
Trevor Day

Chapter 8. Words and Images

Abstract
Although this book is about writing, it is also about images. There are at least 25 figures and 15 tables in this book, and the book’s overall design and visual appearance adds to its interest and accessibility. And so it is with many of the documents you will produce during your time at university. Increasingly in our digital age, words come with associated images. The online world is replete with images. In human history, drawn images came well before written words. Australian rock paintings, and French and Spanish cave art, pre-date Mesopotamian cuneiform writing by at least 30,000 years. Images can express more elegantly, more coherently and more completely what words may stumble to express. What can take thousands of words to describe inadequately, a single image may capture in an instant.
Trevor Day

Chapter 9. Citing, Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism

Abstract
The argument in this chapter is that citing and referencing are key to academic integrity (intellectual honesty). By full and correct acknowledgment of the sources of facts, ideas and arguments, the author’s contribution and the contributions of others’ work that has informed the author are made apparent to the reader. You are a member of an academic community. By knowing the sources you have used in completing an assignment, and that you have used them appropriately, an assessor can determine the strength of your argument. He or she can also establish the extent of your contribution to that argument. Academic integrity is also the starting point for considering plagiarism – the act of taking others’ ideas, arguments, data, tables or figures and passing them off as your own in writing, whether accidentally or intentionally. Plagiarism, by a strict definition, is ‘literary theft’ but it can also apply to other elements integrated with the text.
Trevor Day

Chapter 10. Reviewing and Editing Your Work

Abstract
For most of us, reviewing and editing our work is essential, and greatly improves the final result. Many professional writers review and edit their work three times, often more, at different stages in the writing process. So should you. In book publishing, reviewing and editing occurs in three phases and it is useful to check your own work in a similar manner. This involves moving from the general to the specific. This is logical. It means that you are less likely to spend time working on fine detail only to discover later that the effort has been wasted as you remove this material because it no longer serves your purpose. As we have seen in Chapter 1, it is common to consider the process of revising your work in three stages: developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading (Figure 10.1). These steps may not be as distinct as Figure 10.1 suggests, although there is clear progression from the general to the specific. Changing one aspect of the work, e.g. moving a table or figure, has ‘knock on’ effects on other aspects, which will need checking.
Trevor Day

Chapter 11. Using Technology to Help You

Abstract
Technology (usually in the form of computer software) can be used at all stages of the writing process; from generating ideas, to planning, literature searching, through composing, and on to reviewing and editing, and then preparing the final communication. Technologies to assist in these processes are rapidly changing. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised access to the kinds of software applications only previously available on larger computers. Nevertheless, most students still complete their university assignments using a desktop or laptop computer, and that is what I assume in this chapter. A danger lies in this chapter rapidly becoming out of date. To avoid this, I discuss general strategies rather than focusing on specific software applications in detail. Using computer software and online technologies can help you better manage the various stages of the writing process, but their use needs to be tempered with caution. Learning to use them can be a distraction from the creative process of writing. On the other hand, they can save a great deal of time and effort once mastered.
Trevor Day

Chapter 12. Building on Success

Abstract
For several decades now, those with a particular interest in the processes of learning have developed various models for how people learn from experience. Many are variations on a theme based on the work of Kolb (1984), who likened learning from experience to the way scientists learn when they carry out experiments. Seen this way, each assignment you write is an experiment. Indeed, each assignment can be a series of smaller experiments. At several points in this book I have suggested that you reflect on how well you have carried out a task. I offered three prompt questions.
Trevor Day
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