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The Writing Process

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Stephen Heap

on 15 April 2015

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Transcript of The Writing Process

The Writing Process
The Thesis Argument
Write it down!
Final corrections
Share your work
Piece of writing can be broken down into parts,
but all the parts need to work together and produce something greater than their sum.
Writing is a process,
not a product
Find your own approach;
every writer has their own.
Writing and science work hand in hand
The Rhetorical Situation
Making word machines
Read, read, read.
Write, write, write
What to say, and how to say it
What is the central idea?
Should be narrow in focus and clear in purpose.
A scientific thesis argument is
, based on a thoughtfully examined body of
Informed, but debatable.
Thesis argument
Self-evident statement
Risky statement
Pure judgement
: Sharks are predators
Self-evident statement
: Sharks impact marine ecosystems
Risky Judgement:
Preserving shark populations should not be a priority
Pure judgement
: All sharks should be hunted to extinction
Thesis argument
: Current fishing practices are irreversibly depleting shark populations
Weak argument:
There are many reasons why shark populations are threatened.
Overfishing of sharks has lead to a world-wide decline in shark populations.
Changing technology and lack of international cooperation may lead to the extinction of sharks
Different types of thesis argument
Breakdown of an idea,
and evaluation of its parts
Explain something to the audience
Make a claim that can be justified based on reason and/or evidence. Convince the audience of the truth of the claim.
If you can't explain it simply,
you don't understand it well enough.
Writing takes time. Set a deadline, and plan your action.
Quality reflects your investment
How your personal characteristics,
culture and interests affect your writing.
Confirmation biases
Check your bias!
Tendency to agree with what we already believe to be true, and to dismiss things that don't agree.
Change biases
Tendency to want things to remain constant.
Ego-centric biases
Tendency to believe that others think like us.
Probability biases
Tendencies to misinterpret probabilities
We have hundreds of cognitive biases.
The more you can account for them, the better your arguments will be.
Data above all!
The only true knowledge is the knowledge that you know nothing!

Embrace your ignorance!
Embrace uncertainty!
Change is good!
Embrace your ignorance!
When it comes to the data, trust objective measures and not your gut!
Always be aware of who your audience is.
Experts in your field
Scientists in general
The public
Funding agencies
What are they interested in?
What do they know?
What do they need to know?
Why should they be interested?
What do they respond to?
Communication to modify the perspectives of others.
Thesis argument
Stasis theory
and existence
What is the evidence that it exists?
What IS it?
How can it be defined?
Cause and effect
What causes it?
What are its effects?
What is your purpose?
Inform, acquire funding,
call to action, persuade...
Shapes tone and language
Quality and value
Is it good or bad?
What is it's value?
Action and policy
What should be done?
Keep on asking questions!
Be critical of your own work!
Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?
To write critically, we must also read critically.
Enhance your comprehension of the text and better integrate material into your own mind.
Give the writer the opportunity to present their case, but don't believe everything they say at face value.
and keep a
Pay attention to the
are the most important part of any research
Writing scientifically is to take part in a wider conversation.

The more familiar you are with this conversation, the more you can take part.
Always be reading.
Mind-mapping and brainstorming are good ways to engage with the pre-writing process.
and Doubt
Different drafting approaches
Direct Progression
Centre of Gravity
Principles of argument
is the fundamental unit of reason.

It functions to show that something is true by inferring a
from one or more
A premise is a statement that is either
. In science, whether or not a premise is 'true' is determined in one of two ways:
i) the premise is the conclusion of theoretical reasoning (e.g. a model)
ii) the premise is based on an observation of the world.
P1. All men are mortal.
P2. Socrates is a man.

C. Therefore...
Socrates is mortal
Valid and sound arguments
An argument is
if the conclusion follows from the premises.

It is a characteristic of the argument's structure, not its meaning.
P1: All pieces of cheese eat beans on Friday.
P2: Homer Simpson is a piece of cheese.
C: Therefore, Homer Simpson eats beans on Friday.
An argument is
if it is both
if the premises are True
(or, as it is in science, if the premises can be reliably supported).
P1: All sharks are fish.
P2: All fish require water.
C: Therefore, sharks are predators.
Just because your argument is valid does not make it good.
Just because your premises are true, does not make your argument sound.
Aim to make your arguments sound!
(the conclusion follows from the premises,
and you can support all the premises)
Don't assume the audience will follow logic that seems simple to you.

A good argument is sound,
is justified with evidence,
has well defined terms and
has explicitly stated premises that lead to a clear conclusion.
Theoretical and empirical evidence are the fundamental building blocks of scientific writing.

Evidence is used to justify your arguments, and style is used to arrange these arguments into a form that is easily digested and recognised by the audience.
The evidence must be used to service your thesis argument, but do not ignore evidence that would argue against your thesis.
Principles of Organisation
Your brilliant insights may be overlooked if they are not organised well.
The unit of organisation in scientific writing is the
Concluding sentence
Linking sentence
Break down your thesis argument into smaller components. These components then form a structural outline for the piece.
Topic sentence
Develop the topic sentence.

If your topic is a logical conclusion that you want to justify, the body will focus on the premises that lead to this conclusion.

If your topic is a description, then the body will elaborate upon the description and provide more detail.
i.) relate back to the topic to provide emphasis
ii.) state an important consequence of the topic

Topic sentences can also be welcome here.
Depending on the complexity of the thesis argument, there may be a number of hierarchical levels.

Thus, it may be necessary to have sections. Each section will contain within it a number of paragraphs.

These become the topics of your paragraphs. Each paragraph should thus directly relate back to the central thesis argument.
: The paragraph should have a singular focus, and be directly related to the thesis argument of the piece as a whole. ONE TOPIC per paragraph!
: The paragraph should be presented in a way that makes it easy for the reader to understand its point and its relation to the composition as a whole.
: Each sentence within the paragraph should carry the same basic idea at its core.

: Each sentence within the paragraph should have the same level of significance.

: The topic sentence provides the general idea, whilst later sentences are subordinate to this idea.

: A paragraph should have at least two subordinate parts.

If this is the case, the same principles that apply to paragraphs will be applied to the section.
Rhythm and Flow
... can be huge.
The emphasis or stress of a sentence is typically placed at the end.
Flow between sentences is improved when the topic of a sentence comes from the stress of the previous sentence.
This principle also works at the paragraph level.

The paragraph starts with a topic, then deals with stress.

Flow between paragraphs is improved when its topic sentence relates to the conclusive sentence of the previous paragraph.
Style brings the reasoning and the evidence together, and puts it in a form that a reader can understand.

It is the spearhead by which you accomplish inception, so always work to improve it!

Sloppy writing means that no one will care for your work, no matter its brilliance.
Attention to detail, with a holistic awareness of how everything fits together.
Stress and physiology
Revise, revise, revise. All writing benefits from revision.
Read with fresh eyes.
Take criticism constructively.
Careful inspection,
cutting and adding to improve health.
Idea plot
Read over your composition
Put yourself in the mind of a naive reader
Note down your fresh interpretation of the thesis argument.
Write down the topic sentence for each paragraph.
Are the topics in a
logical sequence
Do they act in service of the
thesis argument
Have you achieved
Is there anything that can be
Is there anything that needs to be
Revision Principles
Does every paragraph act in service of the thesis argument?
Does every sentence act in service of the paragraph topic?
Is there anything that is missing?

Are the connections between paragraphs obvious?
Does every sentence and paragraph say what you meant it to?
Have you overused jargon and acronyms?
Could a novice understand the work?
Omit needless words.
Use the active voice more than the passive.
Have you achieved coherence with each sentence and paragraph?
Improve punctuation.
Topic and stress.
Teleology and anthropomorphism
Don't give purpose to the actions of organisms or natural processes.
Don't ascribe human qualities to organisms.
Fine tuning to improve effectiveness
Check the spelling and grammar.

Ensure that everything is consistent
(especially terminology)

Format the writing for publication.

Get somebody else to check it.

Make a good copy.
Strive for perfection
and precision.
Unrestrained, in the moment and free to do as you want
Share your work
Get feedback and advice
Diet and exercise
Return to pre-writing
Throw off constraints
Remove distractions
Find the right place
Traditional scientific publications
Journals, books, conferences
Public media
Newspapers, magazines
New media
Blogs, podcasts
Discussion groups, presentations
Publishing comes in many forms,
it really just means that you
share your work with others
The information that animals use to select breeding sites can depend on the type of mating system.
Information use by animals
Breeding site selection
Mating System A
Mating System B
Mating System A+B
The purpose of this review is to consolidate and explicitly describe hypotheses
relating to landmarked boundaries and highlight areas most in need of research.
The behavioural patterns of male fish that we observed during fights implies that they are capable of assessing fighting ability in each other.
Writing in English
Unavoidable aspect of doing science. Sorry!
Overall, English writing ability was excellent. .
But there are some idiosyncrasies that arise for Finns writing in English.
Most language issues I encountered are common to anybody that is an inexperienced writer, regardless of their mother-tongue.
Articles and prepositions
Use of commas
Common Finnglish issues were actually quite rare in your assignments
Recommend more revision. Read slowly, or out loud.
Choose the correct article on a noun-by-noun basis
Is the noun countable, or uncountable?
apple, milk, luck, conservation value

do not use
do not use article if you refer to the noun
in general
if you refer to a specific thing
Peter has no luck.
The luck of the Irish.

Milk comes from mammals.
The milk in my fridge comes from a cow.

Biodiversity is an indicator of conservation value.
Dead wood is an indicator of the conservation value of a forest.
Can use
There must be an article in front of a singular noun
There is turtle in the river.
There is a turtle in the river.
Use a plural with no article if you mean any or all of the thing.
Feathers are a characteristic of the birds.
Feathers are a characteristic of birds.

Do they have the children?
Do they have children?
Typically, use
the first time you refer to something. Once the audience knows what you refer to, use
when the next word starts with a vowel sound
an appendix
a dictionary
an apple
a banana
Can go into more detail next lecture if you want
belonging to, relating to, connected with
the value of the forest
the function of the peacock's tail
the horn of the rhino
indicating a limit or ending point
genetic diversity contributes to phenotypic variation
when referencing the state of something
temperature has an effect on growth
Crazy language! Different forms of the present tense.
If you refer to repetitive actions or predictable future events...
tea after supper.
Increasing temperature

If you refer to something that is happening at the time of writing...
I am
tea right now.
Climate change is
animals to shift their range.

If you want to indicate activities completed in the recent past...
Over-fishing has
the fish stocks of many lakes.

If you refer to something that began in the past but is still continuing...
Over-fishing is
the fish stocks of many lakes.
As a rule of thumb, use only 1-2 commas per sentence.
Preferably only one.
Enclosing unnecessary expressions
The best way to see a country is to travel on foot.
The best way to see a country
(unless you are pressed for time)
is on foot.
The best way to see a country
, unless you are pressed for time,
is on foot.
Punctuating segments that can not be separated
We met on the ferry. Coming from Stockholm to Helsinki.
We met on the ferry, coming from Stockholm to Helsinki.
If the segments can be separated, consider having two separate sentences, or otherwise bridge them with a conjunction and possibly a comma (e.g. and, but)
'Big Picture'
Relate back to theory
Consider your audience, and write as if you were trying to convince a dedicated non-believer.
Next Step
Revise your assignment
Print it out, DOUBLE SPACED
and bring the hard copy to the next lesson.
We will then swap the papers around and allow others to give you feedback for your work.
We can then devote some time to workshopping the next round of improvements
The subsequent draft will then be your completed assignment
Some hints for the next revision
Consider your audience to be mostly naive to the topic. If you must use jargon and technical language, be sure to define what you refer to.
Start with a broad outline of the context in which the paper is a part. Do not start with "In this article..."
Try to identify the logic of the original author's argument. Can you provide any counter-argument, or at least express healthy skepticism over the reliability of their premises?
... is fundamental to the success of social species.
Explicitly informational based approaches...
... draw on communication theory.
State it early and obviously
Keep it flexible
Form groups of 2-4
Come up with a thesis argument
Debate the argument amongst yourselves to improve its quality
Write a rough outline for how an essay based on this thesis argument may be addressed
Can be about anything
e.g. your own research,
something from the news
something you just made up
cafeteria food
professor behaviour
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