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Academic writing for your dissertation

Monica Fernandes, Academic Skills Advisor

PG Politics and History Dissertation workshop

Session Outline  How to build a strong argument

 The importance of structure  Writing clearly and concisely  Get the most from your referencing

The biggest misconception…


What do you think makes an argument strong and weak? Weak • Opinion based • Biased • Emotive • Illogical • No evidence

Strong • Clear position • Supported by good evidence • Supported by strong structure • Objective • Clearly and concisely written • Thought critically about the topics

Develop your academic opinion… • An academic argument is an informed and authoritative opinion backed by evidence and reasoning • This position is expressed as a thesis statement – Thesis statements contain a claim, a justification and are often supplemented by a qualifying statement.

What do you think, Smith?

Do you think Smith’s research methods are valid, Jones?

Williams, do these methods work across different contexts?

Critical Thinking Means‌ ‌getting involved in the academic debate and having a questioning attitude

How can I think critically? Start with the basic questions‌


The structure of your work has 2 levels‌ 1. Macro level

2. Micro level

1. Macro-level structure  This has been highlighted in the MAISS disso guide

 What is the big picture…  Organisation of the essay as a whole  Introduction, body and conclusion

Macro-level structure Context



Remember: Don’t just tell them what you’re going to say – tell them why they should care.

Thesis statement


Review Implications

Remember: No new evidence, but do push beyond the bounds of the essay.


Remember the Microlevel‌

Paragraph-level structure What are the three main elements of a paragraph?


Statement = TOPIC SENTENCE Evidence = References or experiences

Explanation = Significance One-sentence paragraph

Identify the ‘SEE’


The concept of counter-hegemonic globalisation is complex and radical in nature, challenging the system of domination while still supporting the natural and inevitable course of globalisation. Evans claims globalisation leads to economic and political exploitation (2000: 16), which could be resolved if the neoliberal global regime is replaced with a more democratic system. This emphasises the need to further develop democratic practises through transnational connections, changing the current perception about globalisation’s relationship with capitalism.

Use effective signposting language‌ To show a contradiction: However, although, nonetheless, by contrast, To show similarity or addition: Similarly, furthermore, likewise, as well, besides, further, moreover, and To indicate a result or conclusion: Therefore, thus, consequently, as a result To reformulate or sum up points or ideas: In short, ultimately, in other words

Be objective Subjective Opinion I think globalisation is really important to improve economies.

Balanced evidence-based

Academic argument While research by Singh (2005) suggests economies are dependent on globalisation, Evans(2011) argues that counter hegemonic globalisation is inevitable because‌

Formality – what’s wrong? Anti-globalisation does not wholly reject globalisation, some aspects of globalisation are embraced like travelling, communication and access to information. But anti-globalisation is “out there” in their mind set as they believe globalisation equals exploitation. This is completely True as you know globalisation works hand in hand with capitalism and anti-globalisation is the light at the end of the tunnel. Avoid: emotive language, colloquialism, secondperson (‘you’), informal opinions and random capitalisations

Inappropriate ‘I’ • “Although Nonu (2010) distinguishes between climate change and global warming, I think he fails to do so convincingly” • “Although Nonu (2010) distinguishes between climate change and global warming, he fails to do so convincingly”

Be concise! Cut the junk… ‘at this moment in time’


‘take into consideration’


‘until such time as’


‘last but not least’


‘in the event that’


‘due to the fact that’ ‘the way in which’ ‘in order to’

because how


Practice To start off, it would be appropriate to define what is meant by ‘recessions’ before going any further. OR ‘Recession’ refers to…



Now the technical bit‌

References They • Support a claim or idea by an author • Acknowledge sources • Avoid plagiarism

References are acknowledged in two places: • Within the text AND • At the end, in the list of references. Refer to the document on BBL for referencing in the Politics and History department.

Integrate your evidence Indirect quotation (paraphrasing) • Demonstrates broad knowledge and understanding • Distils ideas and conserves word count • Allows for sophisticated synthesis of ideas

Direct quotation (in speech marks) “ ” • Brings ‘punch’ and interest to a point • Should only be used if you couldn’t have said it better yourself (or if it’s central to your argument)

Bibliography • • • •

Always on a new page (insert page break) Never numbered/ with bullet points Start with the author’s surname Could divide your sources into ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ sources • Italicise – Book title – Journal TITLE – Website

Summary • University study requires a critical approach to learning • This approach is applied in creating a critical response to essay questions • This response is constructed as a thesis statement and developed throughout your essay • Always ensure that your ideas are well structured and linked together

Contact details • PH Consultation times at MJ 234: – Tuesday and Thursday 15:00-16:30

• Visit ASK appointments: – Monday- Friday 1-6 pm – Book online for these appointments at:

• Email:

Academic writing session