advice on academic writing

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Advice on academic WritingUNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, Writing Courses

Some General Advice on Academic Essay-Writing

When writing an academic essay it is important to develop a consitent thesis. This should have an appropiate argument, which will help to prove the idea proposed.

The first step should be to formulate thequestion(s)you will seek to answer in your essay.

The organization of your text should be clear and appropiate.

Providing evidenceKeep the essay's overall purpose and organization in mindStart writing earlyTaking Notes from Research Reading

Revise extensively

Planning and OrganizingThe best time to think about how to organize your paper is during the pre-writing stage.Most university essays are argumentative, and there is no set pattern for the shape of an argumentative essay. To convince your reader of the validity of your position, the organisation of your text should be clear.

Using Thesis StatementsWhen you are asked to write an essay that creates an argument, your reader will probably expect a clear statement of your position. Typically, this summary statement comes in the first paragraph of the essay, though there is no rigid rule about position.

Introductions and conclusions play a special role in the academic essay, and they frequently demand much of your attention as a writer. A good introduction should identify your topic, provide essential context, and indicate your particular focus in the essay. It also needs to engage your readers' interest. A strong conclusion will provide a sense of closure to the essayIIntroduction and conclusionThematic unit.ParagraphTopic SentenceIt states the main point of a paragraph: it serves as a mini-thesis for the paragraph.

The Transition from High School to University Writing

To meet the expectations of university writing, you will need to unlearn rules you may have learned in high school. The reason for this to happen is that university writing is a more complex discipline. Several things to remember about these differences:

UNIVERSITY Discourages formulas. Provides freedom for you to come up with your own way of structuring your argument. Offers discipline-specific guidelines for approaching written work. Encourages critical thinking. Discourages repetition. Argumentative essays should be supported by evidence from your sources.

Reading and ResearchingCritical Reading Towards Critical WritingMost of the papers you write will involve reflection on written texts - the thinking and research that has already been done on your subject. In order to write your own analysis of this subject, you will need to do careful critical reading of sources and to use them critically to make your own argument.

Choose where to focus your critical efforts.

Avoid foregrounding and isolating facts and examples.

Use quotation critically. Quote appropiately.

Critical reading may involveevaluation.

How to Get the Most Out of ReadingBe aware of thestructureof the text as you read.

Know what kind of ideas you need to record.

Consider to maintain an appropiate length for the text.

Research Using the Internet Firstly, it is important to resort to the Internet in a responsible and critic manner. There are a great many solid academic resources available, keeping a detailed record of sites you visit and the sites you use is a helpful idea to use them when necessary. Guarantee the reliability and accuracy of the resources.

New Vocabulary Words It is important to comprehend with precision the meaning of the words present in the different resources. In order to do this without a constant interruption during the reading, there are certain aspects to recollect:


One of the most effective methods for beginning the kind of thoughtful reading necessary for academic work is to get a general overview of the text before beginning to read it in detail. This is called skimming. Scanningis reading with a more focused purpose, such as locating a particular fact or figure.

Using Sources Using Quotations-You must preserve the punctuation of a quoted passage, or else you must enclose in square brackets any punctuation marks that are your own.

Indicate any alteration made when quoting.

If an argument or a factual account from one of your sources is particularly relevant to your paper but does not deserve to be quoted consider:

SummarizingThe relevant passage if you wish to sketch only the most essential points in the passage.

Be adequate in the use of the different resources and qoutations, be careful not to plagiarise.ParaphrasingThe passage if you wish to convey the points in the passage at roughly the same level of detail as in the original.

Provide a reference.

The paraphrase must be in your own words. You must do more than merely substitute phrases here and there. You must also create your own sentence structures.

Specific Types of WritingThe Book Review or Article Critique

An analytic or critical review of a book or article is not primarily a summary; rather, itcomments onandevaluatesthe work in the light of specific issues and theoretical concerns in a course.Some reviews summarize the book's content and then evaluate it; others integrate these functions, commenting on the book and using summary only to give examples.

An annotated bibliography

An annotated bibliography gives an account of the research that has been done on a given topic. Like any bibliography, an annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of research sources. In addition to bibliographic data, an annotated bibliography provides a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance.

The Literature Review

A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.The Academic Proposal

An academic proposal is the first step in producing a thesis or major project. Its intent is to convince a supervisor or academic committee that your topic and approach are sound, so that you gain approval to proceed with the actual research. As well as indicating your plan of action, an academic proposal should show your theoretical positioning and your relationship to past work in the area.

The Abstract

It is the first impression of the document that follows abstract should represent as much as possible of the quantitative and qualitative information in the document, and also reflect its reasoning.

Writing about History

When writing about History it is important to resort to both Primary and Secondary Sources. A primary source is a document that wascreated at the timeof the event or subject you've chosen to study or by people who were observers of or participants in that event or topic.Effective Admission Letters

It is a letter or personal statement as part of applying for graduate or professional school. It should have the appropiate format and structure.

Style and EditingErrors In Grammar, Punctuation, And Style

When editing your paper it is essential to revise these aspects:

How well you've handled the topic and followed the assignment.The quality of your ideas.The way you've organized your paper.The quality of your writing style and grammar.


Punctuation, when skillfully deployed, provides you with considerable control over meaning and tone.

Some Tools and Rules to Improve Your Spelling

Use a dictionary.Be consistent about using British or American spellings in your writing.Create your own "difficult-to-spell" lists.Learn the standard pronunciations for frequently misspelled words.Watch out for homophones, near-homophones, and other easily confusable words.Use your computer spellchecker, but with caution.Learn English spelling rules.

Common mistakes

Subject-Verb AgreementThe two essential parts of a complete sentence are the subject and verb. It is extremely important to avoid this mistakes, especially when using relatives clauses, long sentences and when the subject of a sentence consists of a complex noun phrase.

PluralsThe plural form of most nouns is formed by addingsto the end of the word. Although the application of this rule is wide, the irregularity of a number of words in English should be known.PossessivesThere are different types of indicating possession in English, such us pronouns, preposition, possessive s. To know them all will enrich the writings.

English as a Second LanguageUsing Articles

To determine which article to place in front of almost any noun, it is useful to know whether the noun is:

countable uncountable singular plural definite indefinite

Recognising the type of noun will help to know when to use a definite article, such as a- an , indefinite one, as the, or a zero-article .

Expressions of Quantity: Special Cases of Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb agreement is generally quite straightforward in English. However, with subjects that introduce the idea of quantity, some additional rules are needed.

With fractions, percentages and indefinite quantifiers (e.g.,all,few,many,much,some), the verb agrees with the preceding noun or clause

With acollectivenoun, use either a singular or a plural verb, depending on whether you want to emphasize the single group or its individual members.

Expressions of time, money and distance usually take a singular verb.

Adjectives pre


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