PLANNING AND STRUCTURING ASSIGNMENTS
Taking a critical attitude towards knowledge is the key to success at university
It is essential to apply this critical attitude to academic reading to be able to construct and defend your own ideas
Today we will consider how to organise those ideas and structure them into an argument
Next week we will explore the practice of academic writing
The purpose of academic writing
Responding to assessment questions
Constructing thesis statements
Organising and planning these arguments
Academic writing isâ€Ś
â€Ś a critical response to an academic debate
Academic debates and you
Academic debates are never finally settled
Assignment questions and research problems are always based on these debates
Academic writing requires you to make a critical intervention into these discussions
Creating an Intervention 1.
Identify the issue you are responding to and the parameters for responding to it
Know your intervention into the issue through critical analysis of research
Organise your ideas and plan the defence of this position
Write concise and structured drafts of this defence
Actively edit and proof-read your writing
KEY TIP #1 BEING CRITICAL IS THE KEY TO ACADEMIC WRITING
What do I have to work with?
What is the deadline? What else do I have on? What is my process? Can I produce a timeline?
How much is it worth?
What is the word count?
How much do I already know?
Laying the Groundwork
What does your maker want? What
is the assessment criteria?
there been any extra hints?
do I need to focus on?
Decode the assignment question Break it down.... Most essay questions have… A topic (the general subject matter) A focus (the defined scope or direction from which you answer
A command (what you actually do – usually a question word)
Look out for limits
Using at least two examples…
Discussing no more than three theoretical frameworks…
One or two aspects of your choice…
Interpreting the Question Critically discuss the future impacts of increases in university fees upon class stratification and social exclusion in Britain.
Critically evaluate the impact of transnational media corporations on global cultural diversity
KEY TIP #2
DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD!
Establishing the Field
Once you have analysed the question, you are in a position to plan your research
are the key terms I need to investigate? Have they been discussed in lectures or in the textbook? Are any of the assigned readings applicable? What extra research do I need to do?
From their ideas to yours ď‚¨
Academic texts and research are the resources with which you will respond to the issue
We are not reading to report what others have said, but to establish the authority to make our arguments
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton
READ AND REFLECT
The process of translating reading into writing can be one of the most difficult aspects of research
There are three particularly effective techniques for easing this transition: Reflective
research Mind-mapping Free-writing
Writing is a translation of thought
Build upon your reflections as you are reading, merging together the reading and writing process in an informal way
Develop extended notes that could potentially be used in your assessed writing
Be sure to organise your notes for later use
Mind-maps can also be used to create ideas and establish the key elements of your projects
Mind-maps also allow you to identify the connections between ideas and to synthesise key elements of the research
They are particularly effective for visual thinkers or when you are trying to bring together a range of ideas
Intervening in debates
Once your ideas are organised, search for conflict and contradictions between them
Where do you find yourself naturally directed?
Are you able to create a synthesis from these ideas in order to respond to the assigned issue?
Free writing is an excellent technique for capturing your thoughts and working out where you might be stuck. Free writing: Helps
to overcome writer’s block and gets you in the habit of writing regularly
you to reflect upon your writing – What point have you reached?
The Postcard Statement
KEY TIP #3
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE ARGUING
Finding your intervention ď‚¨
Your intervention into the debate takes the form of an argument
Arguments go beyond opinions: they are a claim or position developed with rhetoric and evidence
Your argument is established at the beginning of your writing: take a position and defend it!
Your argument is previewed at the beginning of your work: the thesis statement
Thesis statements contain your justified response to the assignment question
Thesis statements contain a claim, a justification and are often supplemented by a qualifying statement. “This essay argues that…”
‘Macro’ level structure Context Preview
Introduction Remember: Don’t just tell them what you’re going to say – tell them why they should care.
Argument Review Consequences
Conclusion Remember: No new evidence, but do push beyond the bounds of the essay.
Question: Critically evaluate the impact of fee increases on student satisfaction in higher education Thesis: (this essay argues thatâ€Ś) as fees rise, studentsâ€™ satisfaction is likely to decrease as they demand stronger services from universities that have not been provided with extra funding to offer that support. Conversely, there may be other approaches, such as an increased focus on teaching standards, to maintain satisfaction levels without extra funding.
KEY TIP #4
WRITE A THESIS STATEMENT
Make a Thesis Question: To what extent does having a ‘sign-in’ sheet influence lecture attendance? Write a thesis statement Make
a claim (This essay argues…) Justify it (, because…) Provide a qualification (Although, however, conversely)
Arguments are not just a single answer
An academic argument has to defend this answer through rhetoric and evidence
It is also necessary to respond to ‘counter-arguments’
Explain why you are not persuaded, remembering to include evidence and rhetoric
Valuable points should be acknowledged in order to create a synthesis
The Classical Argument Initial position Alternative Position
Planning your Argument ď‚¨
It is vital to organise the defence of your thesis statement
This defence can be organised into an writing plan
Structuring your Writing Every essay requires: Introduction/Preview (5-10%)
1,000 words 100
Making plans What is the issue (question/problem)?
Identify your response: the thesis statement
What are the main elements of this position?
Divide these elements into sections (with word counts), including counter arguments Divide these sections into paragraphs Identify key points of transition Include key evidence for each point
Planning a defence
Pass the thesis statements around the room
In small groups, pick a statement to focus on
Break the thesis up into its main elements
Make an essay plan
KEY TIP #5 PLAN YOUR ARGUMENT
Planned structure ď‚¨
Your essay plan provides the basic structure for your writing
Next week we will look at how to extend this structure through paragraphing and integrating ideas and references
Be clear about what you have to do
Make an argument
Convert this argument into a writing a plan
This plan provides the structure for you writing
Next Week Writing Essays Need more help?
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