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Writing Research Papers (June 2014 revision)

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Adam Auch

on 26 October 2015

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Transcript of Writing Research Papers (June 2014 revision)

Features of Academic Writing
Academic writing differs from other kinds of writing (journalism, technical writing) in a number of important ways. The following examples are adapted from Gillet (2011)
Secondary Sources are usually incorporated into a research paper in one of two ways:
A Writing Process
There are many different methods of writing a research paper. Here is one way to go about it:
Elements of an Academic Research Paper
Image by Tom Mooring
Secondary Sources
Writing Research Papers
Secondary Sources as Evidence
The use of secondary sources enables you to provide evidence for your assertions. They do not speak FOR you; instead, they help you develop your own argument by engaging in dialogue with other writers.

Literature Reviews
Literature reviews are not summaries; rather, they offer an overview of the themes, approaches, perspectives, and conclusions of the literature on a subject
Vocabulary, facts, and figures are used accurately and are consistent with the standards of your field
The relationship between ideas is clarified through the use of signaling words and phrases
Incorporates language particular to your audience and field and address more intricate issues than other kinds of text
Academic writing should be free of contractions, slang, and abbreviations
You are responsible for the claims you make and for understanding the sources from which you draw. You are also responsible to the people whose work you draw on to make your claims. This responsibility is reflected in proper in-text citations and proper reference list form.

The emphasis of the writing is on the information you are conveying or the argument you are making rather than on you.

You should clearly indicate the distinction between your claims and those of the source:
Although Smith (2009) asserts that greed is the key motivator of this character, the second chapter indicates that other motivating factors are at work.
Sometimes you want to show how your ideas differ from those in a source:
Sometimes, information from a source complements or adds to what you are saying.
Air New Zealand implements effective advertising techniques by incorporating symbols of national identity. As Jones (2005) asserts, consumer identification influences purchasing habits.

Direct Quotations
Use direct quotations sparingly and for effect (and only when you can not say something better yourself).
Bird (2011) refers to this solution as “insensitive” to native cultures (p. 2).
demonstrate familiarity with an area of study
participate in the ongoing academic dialogue
establish the relationships between ideas
identify points of tension in the academic dialogue
identify gaps in current knowledge
establish the need for further research
Literature Reviews:
Elements of a Literature Review:
A literature should include the following elements:
An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review
A division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative theses entirely)
An explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research.
Body Paragraphs
show the reader that there is a problem or explain the context for an issue;
Thesis Statements
A thesis statement must be arguable. It is not simply an observation, it is not a question, nor is it simply an announcement of the topic.
I think that universal health care is important.
This is a statement of opinion and, therefore, cannot be argued.
In general, a thesis statement should be about the world, not about the contents of your mind.
Currently there is no federally funded universal health care program that includes subsidized day care.
This statement is a fact.
Finally, an example!
To redress inequality between men and women, the federal government should develop and implement a universal health care program that includes subsidized day care
This statement can be debated and is, therefore, an appropriate thesis statement.
The body of your essay develops and supports your thesis. The number and content of the paragraphs in your essay will depend on the kind of argument you are making. Each paragraph:
Remember our sample thesis?
To redress inequality between men and women, the federal government should develop and implement a universal health care program that includes subsidized day care
You can get a good idea of what body paragraphs you need by looking at each element of the thesis. So in this case you might write body paragraphs explaining:
reaffirm your paper’s position
Step 1: Planning the Paper
Step 2: Decide on a topic
Step 3: Make an outline
Step 4: Research the topic
Step 5: Revise your outline as needed

Step 6: Drafting
Before you begin writing, you need to decide what you need to do, and plan how to carry it out:
Carefully read the assignment criteria and ask for clarification if necessary. Clarify due date, length, scope, format, and style.
Break the assignment into manageable parts and estimate how much time it would take to complete each part. Allow plenty of time for the revision stage.
A Resource for planning your essay:
The Dalhousie Libraries website has an assignment calculator that can help you to plan your paper:
Deciding on a topic can be either the easiest or most difficult part of the writing process. Here are two methods for deciding what to write about:
If you have been assigned a question:
Before doing much research, think about how you would answer the question. Write that answer down. This will be your provisional thesis statement.
If you need to develop your own research topic:
Choose a general topic that interests you (and is related to the topic of the course).
Your provisional thesis statement might not look like the example we saw earlier. It should, however, have a number of ideas related to it. To develop an outline:
Think about your ideas
How are they related?
Which ones go together?
Are some more basic than others?
Now that you have a sense of what you are writing about, it's time to do some research. Think about the claims you are making:
Do any of them require evidence from secondary sources?
Are you supposed to write a literature review?
What resources are available?
Do you need to revise your outline?

As you do research, you may discover that you'll need to revise your outline to fit what you've learned.
Sometimes you'll need to narrow or broaden your research question
This is a normal part of the research process.
Once you feel that you have a good understanding of your topic, you can start filling in your outline. Remember: each paragraph is a miniature essay!
Step 7: Revision
Consider what you have written from the perspective of someone reading it for the first time.
Be sure you leave enough time for this stage!
Word Limits
A word/page limit is like a budget
Your job is to ‘buy’ the best paper you can with the words you have
There are three rules for managing your money/words:
Rule #1: Only buy good quality merchandise
Make only specific, precise, and well-supported claims

Rule #2: Don’t buy the same thing twice
If you’ve already made a similar point, don’t make it again

Rule #3: Only buy what you need

Only include claims that help you in some way to establish your thesis

Questions to ask yourself when revising:
What is my thesis statement?
Where is my thesis statement?
Have I mapped out my argument in the introduction?

How is the essay organized?
Have I used transitions to improve the flow of the argument?
Have I properly incorporated my citations of secondary sources?
Does the conclusion effectively summarize my main points, reaffirm my thesis, and emphasize its implications?
Why am I writing this paper?
Does each paragraph, each sentence, each word have a clear purpose?
Remember: words are money! Am I spending them wisely?
One main topic per paragraph
Transition phrases:
Transition phrases establish the logical connections between ideas, create smooth flow, and reinforce the organizational structure. For example transitions can be used to:

Gillet, A. (2011). Features of academic writing. Retrieved July 22, 2011, from www.uefap.com/writing/feature/intro.htm
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2011). Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue/owl/
Taylor, D. (n.d.). The literature review: A few tips on conducting it. Retrieved from www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review
Transition words. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sass.uottawa.ca/writing/kit/grammar-transitional.pdf
Write a literature review. (2011). Retrieved from http://library.ucsc.edu/help/howto/write-a-literature-review
Questions about Body Paragraphs and Conclusions
Questions About the Introduction
Finally, a few General Questions:
Dr. Adam Auch
Dalhousie University
Writing Centre

Another Non-Example
You could Google the topic and discover within 2-3 minutes whether or not it is true.
Therefore, it's not really something you need to argue for.
It may, however, be the problem you are trying to solve; the proposed solution would be your thesis.
It also identifies a number of issues to discuss (but we'll get to that later).
state the thesis (point of argument or purpose) and emphasize the implications of this claim;
state your intended route or "roadmap“ (the elements of your analysis in the order you develop them).
helps to develop the thesis, a purpose that is presented in a topic sentence;
offers evidence from primary and/or secondary sources;
fits logically within the flow of the argument.
What you mean by inequality between men and women
Why this inequality needs to be redressed
Why subsidized daycare would help to redress this inequality
What such a program would look like
and so on...
Organizing Your Essay:
When deciding how to order your paragraphs, ask the following question:
How do your topics relate to each other?
Example: Simplest idea to the most complex
Example: Least controversial claim to the most controversial
This technique also helps with ordering the individual claims
What is the most basic claim you are making?
Put that first.
link paragraphs to the thesis statement:
Dalhousie should also resist the pressure to create more parking areas because greater availability will lead to increases in traffic.
continue an idea or emphasize similarity (additionally, also, and, because, furthermore, in the same way, then, therefore):
Smith (2005) further addresses the effect of weather on classroom behaviour.
indicate a point of contrast (but, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, yet):
The argument made by Bird (2008) for changes in immigration assistance are similar to Smith’s (2009); however, Smith offers a much more convincing argument by drawing on the direct experiences of immigrants.
establish purpose:
In order to better understand this occurrence, the historical context must first be addressed.

Before addressing the key issues, it is necessary to define…
Transitions can also be used to:
summarize (finally, lastly)
create links in a chain of points (first...furthermore...finally, basically...similarly...as well, generally...however...therefore)
establish order sequentially or chronologically (after, at first, before, finally, first...second...third, later, meanwhile, next, then)
draw together the main points
emphasize the implications of your analysis and findings, making clear your contribution to our understanding of the topic
should not contain any new arguments or information
If you have multiple questions to answer, try to answer the 'master question'--the question that would require you to answer all the other questions in order to give an answer to it.
Spend 10-15 minutes (no longer) writing down everything about the topic that seems to be important for you.
Take a break.
Read over what you have written.
What is the one thing you'd want someone to know about the topic?
Your answer to this question will be your provisional thesis statement.
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