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English 100 Academic Writing: An Introduction

Scott J. Wilson English 100
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Scott J. Wilson

on 22 March 2016

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Transcript of English 100 Academic Writing: An Introduction

Academic Writing: An Introduction
Scott J. Wilson
English 100

As the Engkents suggest, "writing is a skill that you develop with practice" (1)
Like anything,
repetition
is key to being successful.
Malcolm Gladwell
has determined that 10,000 hours is the number required to be great at anything (The Beatles, Wayne Gretzky, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods).
While there are many types of essays and you may get "conflicting advice from different instructors" (1), the essential skills remain the same for all essays.

"Essay writing is all about
organizing ideas
and
making points
and
supporting them
" (1)

Think of your paper like a
debate
where you
establish the correct answer
.


Practice makes Perfect
Art, not science? Perhaps.
Unclear Writing: Avoid at All Times
Coherence
As the Engkents explain, "errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation can be
more easily forgiven if they do not lead to misunderstanding
" (2-3).
They become a problem if confusion is the result. Again, your
reader should not have to work to find meaning
; it should be immediately clear.
Grammar and Clarity
Efficient communication is the best communication.
"Wordiness is often the result of a weak vocabulary and unnecessary repetition, and an attempt to reach the required word count with padding" (3).
Make sure you remain on topic and you do not ramble.
You are required to edit for wordiness in your papers
. Often, we do not pick up wordy phrases the first time we write them.
Conciseness: Get to the point
Read the instructions carefully
Highlight important parts
If the instructions are complicated, read them multiple times.
You are responsible for following the directions.

If it's confusing, ask for clarification.
Knowing exactly what you're being asked for will help you avoid "wandering off topic" (5).
As the Mali video suggests, speaking (writing in this case) with conviction will lead to success.

Don't "bluff [your] way through an essay" (5).
If you haven't brainstormed and outlined enough, it will be clear that you aren't sure what you are talking about (repetition, gross generalizations and wandering off topic are signs of this lack of preparation/planning.


Have something to say
In most academic settings, you are
writing for someone that is familiar with the subject matter
you are writing about.

Therefore, you do not need to spend time explaining who characters are and what happens in the story.
Instead, stick to a specific argument about that story and those characters.


You
don't have to answer every question in any given essay prompt.
They are meant to inspire your argument.
Often times, the underlined parts of the essay prompts are the primary question you're being asked to answer.
Most times, you'll be asked to analyze the motivations or actions of characters:
"explain why they do what they do and not just describe what they are doing" (4).
Essay topics into answers
The Writing Process: 3 Steps
Questions?
Your success in this class and others will depend on your ability to
convince your reader that your argument is correct
.

It is the
writer's responsibility
to impart meaning through
logic, evidence, and analysis
.

"If you are not communicating your ideas to your audience, your writing is not fulfilling its fundamental purpose" (1).
Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning
Katherine Acheson-Writing Essays about Literature
Academic arguments should
almost always use

inductive reasoning
. "This means they analyze
[specific] examples
in order to come to
broader conclusions
" (98).

"If this ice cube is cold and that ice cube is cold, we can conclude that it is likely that ice is cold" (98).

"If a novel examines the lives of women, we can argue that it is concerned with the condition of women in the society in which it is set" (98).

So, "move from
particular pieces
of evidence
to broader generalizations
" (98).
Do
NOT
use Deductive Reasoning
Katherine Acheson-Writing Essays about Literature
Avoid deductive reasoning
in your essays.

Deductive reasoning moves from
general principles to specific qualities
. We want to avoid this in academic papers.

Bad essay idea:
"literature, taken as a whole, is about truth, beauty and the human condition; therefore any individual work of literature is about truth, beauty, and the human condition" (99).
Start The Essay With Specifics
Katherine Acheson-Writing Essays about Literature
"A great way to get your essay off to a
terrible start
is to make a
sweeping statement
about literature or about human life and imagine that this generalization somehow sets the stage for your particular observations" (99)

Don't start with:
"since the beginning of time" or "people have always" or "it is universally true" (99)

If you have been taught to start this way,
stop
now.
Move from specific in the intro to more general in the conclusion.
Spoilers Welcome in Academia
Good academic writing is the opposite of great comedy:
it starts with the punchline to the joke.

Good academic writing is the opposite of good mystery:
it starts with revealing the murderer.

In your essays, you are providing
what the argument is, why you're arguing it, and how you will prove it all

in the introduction
. There is no need to build up to a big reveal at the end. Doing so will be very bad for your marks and your reader's understanding of your thesis.
Most, if not all, academic writing is argumentative writing where you make an argument and prove it is valuable and true.
Clear and Concise: The Keys to Success
What is clear to you, the writer, is not always clear to your audience, your reader.

Most of the time, this is the result of a lack of specificity in terms of definitions, logic and word use (vocabulary).

More often still, it is because
reasons for claims are not given.
A
claim is a debatable point
, while a
reason explains: i) why it is true ii) why it matters
(to the argument and in general).

"Ideas should follow logically from one to the next" (2).

If your paragraph is deconstructed and shuffled about, like puzzle pieces, they should fit together but only in their proper,
"logical" place
(2).
One way to maximize logical
clarity
is the use of
transitional signals
that show the relationship between sentences.
Ian consulted the building code and double-checked his figures. He made a serious error in his calculations.

vs.

Ian consulted the building code and double-checked his figures.
Nevertheless
, he made a serious error in his calculations.
In the first example, it's not clear if there is cause and effect between the consulting of the building code and the error or if he did one thing and the other just happened to happen next.

In the second example, it's clear that even though he double-checked the code, he still made a mistake.

Depending on your meaning, these are very different ideas.
Light rail transit can move
peoples

efficient

provided that the
train do
not have to sharing road with cars like streetcars do.

(minor errors:
singular and plural agreement
, missing articles, and
improper adverb use
)
Light rail transit
can people efficiency
provides
that the trains do not have
shared
road
in
cars as streetcars
doing
.

(
errors in parts of speech
and verb forms
make this sentence harder to understand).
Clarity through Audience and Purpose
An example of wordiness:
A considerable number of these students that graduated need to pay the loans that they obtained during their study years.

Many graduates need to pay off student loans.


Remember, these steps are not distinct. You may go back and plan more while writing. You can also edit "on the fly" (as you go).
1. Planning:
brainstorming (coming up with ideas) and outlining (organizing those ideas into a structure). Make sure you look at both (or multiple) sides of the argument.

2. Drafting:
writing the essay. "It is a draft until the version is finalized and handed in" (5).
You should have multiple drafts before handing in.


The Writing Process: 3 Steps
3. Editing-
revising and correcting your essay.

eliminate repetition
reduce wordiness
rephrase to vary wording
clarify logic
correct grammar, spelling, punctuation
sustain one argument
Make your point and support it
You're making
one main argument
and proving that it is correct and that it matters.
Therefore, give
sufficient explanation and clear evidence
for that argument.
You must
explain WHY you are right
and/or
WHY it matters
(why it is an important lesson for your reader to learn)
The most difficult technology to live without today is the cellphone. It has changed the way people communicate.
Nowadays people cannot live without a cell phone if they want to be part of this society.
The cell-phone is the best invention of modern life.
Because of the convenience of the mobile phone, people communicate differently. As a result, modern people cannot live without a cellphone. It plays an important role in our lives and brings us many benefits (6).
Each sentence here lacks a reason
how
or reason
why
the claim is true.
"Because"
is your friend in your essays.
Explain your logic.
Academic Style
conversational English is not acceptable
Use formal, impersonal, objective writing even if you are presenting your opinion.

In this class, you may only use the
first person "I" in the intro and conclusion
(when delivering your thesis statement)
People today are, like, so rude. It's all those gadgets. People don't talk to each other, you know. They are too busy gabbing on the phone or texting and stuff. Like, yesterday, this guy just stops in the middle of the hall, and I bump right into him.
Technological advancements in communication have led to a lack of civility in contemporary society. Instead of engaging with others face to face, people are so absorbed by their cellphones that they are not even aware of other people right next to them.
Don't use conversational expressions
(such as "well, let's see now" and "right?").
Avoid using you and I;
use third person (he, she, it, they) instead.
Eliminate your use of contractions
(such as "don't"). They are not allowed.
Don't use conversational reductions
(such as "wanna" and ''coulda" )
Don't use slang
(such as "it sucks" and "it is kind of stupid").
Avoid vague and imprecise vocabulary
(such as
"things"
and "stuff').
Use transition signals
(such as "moreover" and "for example").
Limit the use of questions
(which can give a more conversational feel to the writing).
from page 8
VS.
Whether it's an academic paper, a note for your roommate, a text message to your friend or a business report, audience is key.

Essays "show what you have learned, how you think, and how well you express your ideas" (3).
Any detail that your prof knows needs to be important to proving your argument or needs to be cut.
Narrow your topic down to something manageable and something you care about or are interested in or even something that confuses you.

You don't have to totally believe what you're arguing, but you need to have a
proper claim, reason, and evidence to support your thesis.
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