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Academic Writing

Whenever you incorporate outside sources into your own writing, you must provide both in-text citations (within the body of the paper) and full citations (in the works cited page). The in-text citations point your reader toward the full citations in the works cited page.

That's why the first bit of information in your in-text citation (generally, the author's name; if no name is provided, the title of the article/book/webpage) should directly match up with the beginning of your works cited entry for that source.

In what ways does your opening engage your reader?

Writers who produce engaging openings keep their audience in mind from the very first sentence. They consider the tone, pace, delivery of information, and strategies for getting the reader’s attention. Many teachers generally recommend that students write their introductions last, because oftentimes introductions are the hardest paragraphs to write.

They’re difficult to write first because you have to consider what the reader needs to know about your topic before getting to the thesis.

By reading and discussing literature, we expand our imagination, our sense of what is possible, and our ability to empathize with others. Improve your ability to read critically and interpret texts while gaining appreciation for different literary genres and theories of interpretation. Read samples of literary interpretation. Write a critique of a literary work.

Texts that interpret literary works are usually persuasive texts. Literary critics may conduct a close reading of a literary work, critique a literary work from the stance of a particular literary theory, or debate the soundness of other critics' interpretations.

Solving Problems by Negotiating Differences 

How many times have you been in an argument that you knew you couldn't win? Are you reluctant to change your mind about certain social, political, or personal issues? Do you have an unshakable faith in a particular religion or philosophy? For example, are you absolutely certain that abortion is immoral under all circumstances? Are you categorically against animal experimentation for advancements in medicine? Do you believe that criminals who have tortured and killed people should receive the death penalty? Do you believe that parents should have no more than two children because of the world population problem? Do you believe it is your patriotic duty to buy solely American products?

In what manner have you reiterated your ideas? What have you left your reader to think about at the end of your paper? How does your paper answer the “So what?” question?

As the last part of the paper, conclusions often get the short shrift. We instructors know (not that we condone it)—many students devote a lot less attention to the writing of the conclusion. Some students might even finish their conclusion thirty minutes before they have to turn in their papers. But even if you’re practicing desperation writing, don’t neglect your conclusion; it’s a very integral part of your paper.

Writing Processes

Based on scholarship and research in the field of Writing Studies, the term "writing process" refers to a suite of attitudes about composition and literacy practices. Based on this body of work, faculty assume writing processes may differ from person to person and that different projects may affect which composing strategies are employed. Since the early 1980s, writing instructors have tended to restructure their courses so that students have greater opportunities to revise their work in response to instructor and/or peer feedback. Despite this emphasis on "process writing," research in Writing Studies suggests students often submit early drafts for grading.

Enhance the likelihood that readers will respond favorably to your document by projecting an effective voice, tone, and persona.Voice, Tone, and Persona are slippery terms/concepts. In some instances, these terms can be used interchangeably, yet important differences do exist.

Voice

The term voice may be used to define a writer's stance toward his subject or readers.

Effective paragraph transitions signal to readers how two consecutive paragraphs relate to each other. The transition signals the relationship between the “new information” and the “old information.”

For example, the new paragraph might

  • elaborate on the idea presented in the preceding paragraph
  • introduce a related idea
  • continue a chronological narrative
  • describe a problem with the idea presented in the preceding paragraph
  • describe an exception to the idea presented in the preceding paragraph
  • describe a consequence or implication of the idea presented in the preceding paragraph        

You need a good thesis statement for your essay but are having trouble getting started. You may have heard that your thesis needs to be specific and arguable, but still wonder what this really means.

Let’s look at some examples. Imagine you’re writing about John Hughes’s film Sixteen Candles (1984).

You take a first pass at writing a thesis:

Sixteen Candles is a romantic comedy about high school cliques.

Two Types of Essays

Your composition professor has given you an assignment, requiring you to write an essay in which you identify your favorite book and explain why you like it best. Later she assigns an essay in which you take a stand either for or against homeschooling.

Both assignments require you to write a paper, yet the essays called for are in two different genres. Thus, you will need to present your views in two different ways.

1. Is the heading in the upper left-hand corner of the first page? 

2. Does the heading include:

  • Your name?
  • Your Instructor's name?
  • The course name?
  • The date?

3. Does the paper have an original title (other than something like "Final Paper")?

"Why are things like this? What is the effect, or result, of this?" and "What causes this?"--These questions guide authors as they analyze or argue about causal relationships, such as "What is the effect of a college education on income?" View fascinating reports on various cause/effect topics and then explore your own causal relationship. Improve your critical thinking skills.

Unlike explanations of processes, which follow a chronological order of events, cause and effect texts are deeply speculative and tentative, relying on causal reasoning and argument. Your purpose is to answer

Understand how to make and refute arguments. Learn how to analyze a Web site from a rhetorical perspective. Identify a place to publish your work online.

Appeals to persona, appeals to emotions, and appeals to logic--these three appeals, as outlined by Aristotle and described below, are used with varying degrees of success and emphasis to persuade people. Persuasive arguments targeting critical readers tend to be thoroughly grounded in logic.

Writing, thinking, creating — these acts are bounded by two contrary processes: believing and ;doubting. For many student writers — for many people, in fact — being critical and judgmental can come easily. Hence, the truism "it's easier to critique them to create" (Alcott). Yet it is especially important, especially in the early stages of a writing project, for writers to put doubt and criticism aside.

Learn how to play the believing game. Rather than being hypercritical of your work. Energize your work by focusing on more positive messages.

Thanks to ever emerging new technologies, writers can collaborate in exciting new ways. Using tools such as Google Docs, writers can work on texts synchronously even when they are separated by continents and oceans. Using discussion forums, musicians can exchange and remix chords with other artists from around the world. Via Skype, writers can talk with one another as they collaborate in a shared white space. Not to mention Wikipedia. Clearly, good collaboration skills are more important now than ever before.

Understand the role of revision in the lives of successful writers.

Our fast-paced, consumer-driven society is geared to offer a remarkable number of choices in nanoseconds. If the fast-food chain doesn't deliver lunch within sixty seconds, it's free. With a push of a button, people who live in large metropolitan areas can run through as many as 100 different channels on cable television.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Don’t say the old lady screamed—bring her on and let her scream.”  What he was trying to convey is the power of storytelling, or narration, in a piece of writing.  Many times it is more effective to tell a story, to let the old lady scream, than to just state facts or state an argument—that is, to say the old lady screamed.  Narrative essays are essays that enable you to tell a story (or stories) to make a point.

A well-chosen and well-told story will capture and hold your readers’ attention, arousing their curiosity or sympathy, and making your ideas more thought-provoking and memorable.

While playing the believing game–setting aside doubt and overly critical comments–is crucial during the writing process, playing the doubting game is equally important, especially during the latter stages of the writing process.   Successful writing partially rests on being critical and reflective about your rhetorical situation, the quality of your evidence, and the best way to organize a document for reader. Other doubting game activities include: OrganizeFocusInventFormatEditRevise, and Publish.

Although individual writing processes are vastly different, composition scholarship provides evidence of patterns across disparate writing methodologies. This section identifies and explains some of the most notable patterns of successful compositionists. We suggest that successful compositionist practice some of the following strategies: Return, Revise, Risk, Reject. 

Learn the beliefs that empower successful academic authors.

To become a competent, confident writer, you may find it useful to analyze your attitudes about writing. After all, your assumptions about how writers work can limit your imagination and the quality of your finished product. You can debunk a truckload of myths about writing by analyzing how you write, how your peers write, and how professional writers write.

The phrase, "Oh, that's academic!" tends to mean "Forget about it!  That's boring and unimportant!"  Yet that isn't what teachers mean when they ask for "academic writing."  Instead, professors tend to define academic writing as research-based, objective and formal in style and tone, thesis-driven, and deductively organized (that is, where your introduction presents your argument or interpretation and forecasts the organization for the paper).