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What Is Academic Writing?

Companion to From Inquiry to Academic Writing: Introduction

Sara Tracey

on 24 April 2012

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Transcript of What Is Academic Writing?

For the next several weeks, we'll take a close look at Pollan's inquiry, his argument, his evidence, and we'll add our voices to the conversation Pollan has captured in this book. What is Academic Writing? Academic writing is what scholars do to communicate with other scholars in their fields of study... ...and it's what you'll be learning in this class. read as a writer and write as a reader analyze arguments discover issues develop an academic thesis use sources write an academic essay When you're reading, don't just focus on what writers say--you should also think about how they say it. Everything you read can help you become a better writer if you pay attention to an author's techniques, use of language, rhetoric, etc. (rhetoric: the available means of persuasion) by the end of the semester, you'll have a solid foundation in all of these skills, and you'll prove it by writing an 8-10 page, documented research paper. But we'll get to that later... Our primary example of academic writing is Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Core Skills In this class, you'll learn to: Key Text reading as a writer,
writing as a reader As you read the introduction to The Omnivore's Dilemma, you'll notice that Pollan shifts easily between a conversational tone and a more formal, academic one. When you read as a writer, you'll not only notice this shift, but will also ask: 1) why does Pollan make this shift, and 2) what impact does it have on you as a reader? Later, when you're working on your own academic writing, you'll ask yourself: "can I adapt my tone here like Pollan does?" In academic writing, the author is trying to persuade the reader to believe something through a chain of claims. Your job is to recognize and evaluate those claims, thus analyzing the argument. analyzing arguments As we read The Ominvore's Dilemma, we'll begin to reconstruct (and dissect) Pollan's argument piece-by-piece. But right away, we can begin to see the direction Pollan is going. The introduction is titled "Our National Eating Disorder"...what does this suggest for the scope of Pollan's argument? Academic writing often begins with an issue--a question that an author sets out to explore and debate. discovering issues Pollan begins with a question: "What should we have for dinner?" It doesn't seem like a very academic question, but there are many issues underlying this seemingly simple inquiry, including concerns about health, the environment, the accessiblity of food, etc. Pollan claims that the decision of what to eat is about much more than nutrition and taste. developing an academic thesis A thesis is a writer's main claim. When you're reading, the author's thesis should help you follow the logical progression of evidence. When you're the writer, your thesis will help keep you focused and on track throughout your essay. Pollan's thesis--in the simplest terms possible--is that we ought to be more aware of where our food comes from. Look back at the introduction, and see if you can find where Pollan makes this claim. using sources academic writing relies on outside sources: research that allows writers to convey other's ideas and to enter coversation with those ideas. Pollan doesn't cite his sources in the same way you will when writing academic papers, but if you flip to the back of The Omnivore's Dilemma, you'll see that he provides an extensive bibliography. Strong arguments almost always make use of various sorces: articles, books, interviews, etc. Pollan uses all of these. writing an academic essay
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