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Academic discourse and


The purpose of introducing standards of good academic

practice is to provide you with the appropriate knowledge
and skills so that you can develop the ability to:

- present arguments in a proper way in academic

- identify relevant data sources,
- write clearly and in an appropriate style,
- construct coherent arguments, articulate ideas clearly
and to produce consistent, well-organized texts.

To succeed in short answer and
essay exam questions: answer the
question given!!
Analyse questions
Not only recall, or retell, information, but also apply and
interpret the material you have studied (APPLY, INTERPRET
e.g. Example exam question
List the five stages of group development.What is involved in each
This question requires you to do two things:

1. List You must define/explain the five stages of group development

2. What is involved You must explain how the stages achieve the
objectives, how they relate to each other

How would you organise your text?

A suitable plan for this question is as follows:

explain the details of each stage, one at a time

explain how they work: the effects, advantages and

disadvantages of certain elements of the stages

provide examples for stages, if possible

Typical essay question

The impact of the external environment on a

managers actions and behaviours cannot be
overemphasised. However, there are forces in the
internal environment that continue to play a major role
in shaping managers endeavours. Use the interaction
between some of the factors in both environments to
explain how business organisations and managers are
facing the challenges of the new global environment.
Support your answer with examples.

This task requires us to discuss the complex issues of how the external
and internal environment factors influence each other, and how this
interaction affects a managers role.

The essay has to respond to the complexity embedded in the task, which
is the interaction of the internal and external environments in a
managers role.

Our response should have two major parts:

describe the interaction of external and internal environment factors
in the new global environment
explain how this interaction impacts on what a manager does in the
new global environment

In your writing, you must demonstrate your ability to integrate ideas
and information and think critically about the topic or issue.
An academic position / opinion is:
- logical
- rational (carefully reasoned and can be verified via evidence)
- impersonal (not subjective)
- precise (not a wild generalisation)
Supporting your position with reasons and evidence
(evidence could be in the form of statistics or other data; examples;
research findings from experts in the field; or quotes from experts
in the field)
No data dumping!!!! Data should be put in to support the
claim(s) made

Extract taken from the introduction to an essay titled

Should home ownership be encouraged?

The rate of home ownership varies widely across the developed world.
Germany, for instance, has one of the lowest rates, at 42%, while in
Spain it is twice as high, 85%. Both the USA and Britain have similar
rates of about 69%. The reasons for this variation appear to be more
cultural and historic than economic, since high rates are found in both
rich and poorer countries. There appears to be no conclusive link
between national prosperity and the number of home owners.

1 Topic sentence
2 Example I
3 Example II
4 Reason
5 Summary

Task 1.

As companies experience the Nowadays companies are finding

need for change, they often that they have to change the way
apply human resource planning they do things and theyre finding
to define the relevant issues and that human resources planning is
develop responses to them. really helpful when they have to do
Broadly defined, human this. One reason why its helpful is
resource planning is the process because it can help the companies
of analysing an organisations work out what the issues are and
human resources needs under then, when youve done that, it can
changing conditions and help you make up your mind what
developing the activities youre going to do about it.
necessary to satisfy those needs. Basically, human resource planning
is what you do when youre going
through ....

Written vs spoken texts
Spoken texts have shorter, less complex words and phrases.
Spoken texts are:
more fragmented - more simple sentences and more use of
coordination and, but, so, because rather than subordination,
lexically less dense than written language - they have
proportionately more grammatical words than lexical words.

Written English
It is grammatically more complex,
It has more subordinate clauses, sequences of prepositional phrases,
attributive adjectives and fewer active verbs than spoken language.
There is less repetition in written texts than spoken English.
In addition, written texts have longer, more complex words and
They have more nominalizations, and a rather unlimited vocabulary.
Written texts are also lexically more dense than spoken language.
Written language has fewer words that refer to the reader, and more
abstractness as well.

The most common types of written
academic work (tasks 4 and 5)
Type Purpose
Notes A written record of the main points of a text or lecture, for a students
personal use.
Report A study of something that has happened or that a student has conducted
(e.g. a survey or an experiment) /a report is a description
of a situation or something that has happened 1,000-2,000 words
Project A piece of research, either individual or group work, with the topic
chosen by the student(s) / the emphasis is rather practical, leading to the
development of soething, or a proposed intervention 1,000-3,000 w.
Essay The most common type of written work, with the title given by the
teacher / A piece of writing used to assess coursework / subject / essays
are often concerned with abstract or theoretical subjects- 1,000-5,000 w.
Dissertation/ The longest piece of writing normally done by a student (20,000+ words)
thesis often for a higher degree, on a topic chosen by the student / the emphasis
is on theory building
Article Writing published in academic journal -5,000-10,000 words

Task 2 page 1
Text A
An informal personal report

Text B
A newspaper article

Text C
An academic research article

The purpose of academic writing

The most common reasons for writing include:

to document and communicate academic research outcomes
to report a piece of research the writer has conducted
to synthesise research done by others on a topic

in a factual and unbiased way

task 3 p. 2

Academic writing style / register
(Task 6)
1 Formal vocabulary
. . . the extent of political-economic dependency . . .
2 Impersonal style
. . . it has also long been recognised that . . .
3 Long, complex sentences
Equally, from a political perspective, the nature of state involvement in
and policies for tourism is dependent on both the political-economic
structures and the prevailing political ideology in the destination state,
with comparisons typically made between market-led and centrally
planned economies.
4 Use of citations
(Buckley and Witt, 1990; Hall, 1991)

Formal academic language:

Academic grammar
Verb tenses
There are conventions regarding which verb tense to use where in academic writing.
Present simple: introduction
- referring to a source text and discussing findings from the literature (e.g. Smith (2011) states
that; Ling (2004) explores the nature of; As Northingham and West suggest, there
- stating facts (e.g. The rate of increase is significant.)
- implications of results (e.g. The results indicate that)
- conclusions (e.g. Further research is required)
Past simple for an action or event at a specific, definite time in the past, or when discussing
another researchers work (Literature review) or when reporting your method or results:
- literature review, when referring to activity that was completed as part of the methodology
or when referring to information that was once considered true, but has now been discounted.
(e.g. Smith found)
- reporting methods (e.g. managers were interviewed.; Smith statistically modelled the
frequency of)
- reporting results (e.g. Levels of productivity increased) methods and results

Present perfect for an action or event in the past at no specific point; for a
past action or event with current consequences; for change; or to indicate
importance or controversy:
- a past action or event with current consequences (e.g. The organisation
has managed the crisis successfully)
- change (e.g. Revenue has increased substantially)
- emphasising current relevance or continuing debate (e.g. Godfrey et. al.
have emphasised that modern financial theory; Samson has modified
the concept of )

Passive and active sentence constructions

While you should use a combination of active and passive sentence structures.
If the important information is who did something put the subject first (e.g.
the accountant) and use active construction. If the important information is
the idea or event (e.g. the financial process), put it first and use passive
construction. Use passive sentence construction if the subject is not relevant
(e.g. in the methods section of a report) or is unknown.

Impersonal style


- adverbs that show your personal attitude: luckily, remarkably, surprisingly.

Academic writing attempts to be precise, semi-formal,
impersonal and objective.

This does not mean that pronouns like I and we are never used, but
in general the focus is on presenting information as clearly and
accurately as possible.

In this way it differs from normal speech and writing, which is

more personal and uses more lively idioms and phrases.

Vocabulary : What is special about academic English?

technical terms??

While most of your readers such as the scholars who

read the journals you publish in, and your professors
who set your assignments, know the meanings of the
technical words you use, it is a good practice to define
such words.

Clear and unambiguous expression is the

hallmark of good academic writing.

Analyse texts a and b (Task 5 pp. 3-
4) and find examples of the
features listed in task 6.
Answer the following questions:
- are they written in a proper
academic style?
- what are some differences
between the two texts?

Task 7 p. 5

Task 8 p. 5
Read the four extracts. How do the authors present the issues?
In a tentantive way? In a certain, incontestable way?

Caution vocabulary

Hedges (vs boosters)

Presenting your case
It is better to use impersonal expressions (phrases or sentences) rather than I
It is widely believed / agreed that...
Most people consider that / Most people appear to
It is generally agreed / accepted that school uniforms develop a group identity...
It is probable/possible that. . .
This evidence suggests that. . .

If you want to present a minority point of view, you can use the following:
It can be argued that
It has been suggested
Some people believe that

When you are supporting your opinions with sources, use phrases such as:
According to (), few companies

Academic writing is a cautious style

Areas where caution is particularly important include:
a) outlining a hypothesis which needs to be tested (e.g. in an introduction)
b) discussing the results of a study, which may not be conclusive
c) suggesting possible explanations
d) commenting on the work of other writers
e) making predictions

e.g. Poor education leads to crime.

Caution can be shown in several ways:

(modal verb) Poor education can lead to crime.
(adverb) Poor education frequently leads to crime.
(verb/phrase) Poor education tends to lead to crime.
There is a tendency for poor education to lead to crime.

Opinions without evidence have little
value: references and quotations
A reference is an acknowledgement that you are making use of
another writers ideas or data in your writing:

As Donner (1997) pointed out, low inflation does not always lead to low
interest rates.

There are three main reasons for giving references:

a) To avoid the charge of plagiarism, which is using another persons ideas

or research without acknowledgement.
b) The reference can give more authority to your writing, as it shows you
are familiar with other research on the topic.
c) The reader can find the original source by using the reference section
which will list the full publishing details of Donners book:
Donner, F. (1997) Macroeconomics. Borchester: Borchester University Press

Task 10 pp. 7-8

(a) Summary
Hoffman (2009) stresses the critical importance in the developing world of mobile
phones in the growth of small businesses.

(b) Quotation
According to Hoffman, mobile phone ownership compensates for the weaknesses
of infrastructure in the developing world: In the poorest countries, with weak
transport networks and unreliable postal services, access to telecommunications is
a vital tool for starting or developing a business, since it provides access to wider
markets (2009: 87).

(c) Summary and quotation

Hoffman points out that most of the growth in mobile phone ownership now takes
place in the developing world, where it has become crucial for establishing a
business: . . . access to telecommunications is a vital tool for starting or developing
a business, since it provides access to wider markets (2009: 87).

Summary and citation
Rodgers (2007) argues that family-owned businesses survive recessions
Quotation and citation
As Rodgers maintains:There is strong evidence for the resilience of
family businesses in recessionary times (Rodgers, 2007: 23).

Using a quotation means bringing the original words of a writer

into your work. Quotations are effective in some situations, but
must not be overused. They can be valuable:
when the original words express an idea in a distinctive way
when the original is more concise than your summary could be
when the original version is well known.

Quotation = Using the exact words of the original text in your work

To summarise = To reduce the length of a text but keeping the main

To paraphrase = To restate the relevant information

Citation = Short in-text note giving the authors name and publication
The citations are linked to a list of references at the end of the main text.
The list is organised alphabetically by the family name of the author.

Place of publication

(a) Short quotations (two to three lines) are shown by single / double
quotation marks.
As James remarked: Martins concept of internal space requires close analysis.
(b) Longer quotations are either indented (given a wider margin) and are
printed in smaller type.
(c) Page numbers should be given after the date.
(d) Care must be taken to ensure that quotations are the exact words of the
original. If it is necessary to delete some words that are irrelevant, use points
(. . .) or [] to show where the missing section was:
Few inventions . . . have been as significant as the mobile phone.
Few inventions [] have been as significant as the mobile phone.
(e) It may be necessary to insert a word or phrase into the quotation to
clarify a point. This can be done by using square brackets ([ ]):
[this second category of] products is distinguished by its high brand recognition and
resistance to switching strategies . . .

Poor sample that looks like the writer has a poor grasp of the

Jonston (1996) feels that Stone (1998) notes that.. One of the
factors that people tend to overlook is .. Lockshead (2004) argues in
favour of studying this factor. Brown (2003) proposes that...

Better sample showing some critical thinking and sentence


Jonston (1996) reports that his study of shows.. This finding is

supported by Stones (1998) replication of .. Although both these studies
focus on the .aspect of motivation, they have omitted.According to
Dornyei (1999), motivation.This has serious implications for

Formal signalling and connectors
An important part of your writing is the use of signalling or sign-posts, and
connective words and phrases. Signalling explains briefly to the reader the
direction and purpose of pieces of information. For instance, signalling or
sign-posting may include statements such as:
- before discussing , it is necessary to define the terms
- following the explanation above of the nature of . and its effects on
, discussion can now focus on
Connective words and phrases can help your reader to understand the
thinking that underpins your writing. For instance:
- then, next, after, while, since (time connectors)
- therefore, consequently, as a result (cause/effect connectors)
- in addition, moreover, furthermore, similarly (connectors adding ideas)
- but, conversely, nevertheless, however, although (connectors contrasting

Common transition words

From titles to outlines: Planning is
necessary in all academic writing

Analyse essay titles and identify both the topic and the task:

Discuss look at various aspects of a topic, compare benefits and

Analyse look at the various parts and their relationships
Describe - give a detailed account of something
State - give a clear and simple account
Suggest - make a proposal and support it
Summarise - deal with a complex subject by giving the main points
Assess/ evaluate - decide the value or worth of a subject
Illustrate give examples

An effective introduction explains the purpose and scope of the paper to the
reader: introduce the topic and give some background facts about it +Tell the
reader what you are going to be writing about

Exam essays: dont copy from the question!!

Introduce the topic of the essay and tell the
reader what youre going to write about
Unemployment has become an increasing problem in the recent past.
What factors contribute to an increase in unemployment and what steps
can be taken to solve the problem?

Over recent years, the level of unemployment has been increasing at an alarming rate in
many countries around the world.This essay will discuss the reasons for this increase and
consider what practical solutions are available.
Examples 1 and 2 pp.13-14

Opening paragraphs
It is often difficult to begin writing an essay. The first few
sentences need to be general but not vague. The subject can
be introduced by giving some background information:

In recent years the internet has become an important tool of academic

There is increasing interest in the use of wind power to produce

Having provided some background, the writer should next

mention the main areas which will be covered in the essay.

In the case of longer assignments it is often better to write the main
body before the introduction. With shorter essays, for example in
exams, this is impractical, and the introduction has to be written


Create a Research Space: establish a territory, establish a niche,
occupy the niche)

(Task 11 p. 8)

Introductions vs abstracts
Introduction: introduce the
- It begins with background It is an abbreviated and accurate
sentences on the topic summary of the contents
presented in a research article /
- It explains the purpose of the thesis / dissertation
written piece
- It presents the writers Introduction
position on the topic Methods
- What about Example 7 pages Discussion

Body: it is where the reasons for a
position are detailed along with
supporting evidence for the reasons

- It may include headings for different sections in the body (LONGER

ESSAY) / 2 or three paragraphs (SHORTER ESSAY)
- It presents the argument in logical steps
- It clearly states the main point of each paragraph
- It presents supporting sentences in logical order
- It supports each point with specific evidence

Organising paragraphs
Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of texts.

Well-organised paragraphs not only help readers understand the

argument, they also help writers to structure their ideas effectively.

a) A paragraph is a collection of sentences which deal with one


b) + definitions, examples, information, reasons, restatements and

summaries. The parts of the paragraph are linked together by
phrases and conjunctions. They guide the reader through the
argument presented.

Organising the Main Body

1. Causes and effects

2. For and against (benefits and drawbacks) / advantages and disadvantages

3. Comparison

4. Problem and solution

5. Agree and disagree

Conclusions (TASK 13 P. 12)

A final section that summarises the arguments and makes it clear
to the reader that the original question has been answered.
Conclusions should use tentative language.
Avoid absolute statements such as education reduces crime. Instead
use cautious phrases: may reduce crime or tends to reduce crime.

Summary of main findings

Reference to how these findings compare with other studies or
Implications of the findings
Limitations of the research
Proposals for further research

The format of long and short
writing tasks
Short essays (including Longer essays (coursework
exam answers) generally essays) may include:
have this pattern:
Introduction Introduction
Main body Main body
Conclusion Conclusion
Example 1 p. 13 +
Example 2 pp. 13-15
Example 3 pp. 15-18

Dissertations may have:

Abstract (A short summary that explains the papers purpose
and main findings)
List of contents
List of tables
Main body
Literature review (Part of the main body in which the
views of other writers on the topic are discussed)
Materials and methods / Case study (A section where one
particular example is described in detail)
References (A list of all the sources the writer has mentioned in
the text)
Appendices (A section, at the end, where additional
information is included)


While essays are often concerned with

abstract or theoretical subjects, a
report is a description of a situation or
something that has happened. In
academic terms, it might describe a
survey you carried out.

Essays give you more opportunity to expand on possibilities,

ideas or concepts.
Reports deal with describing and/or analysing actual past
A good report is like telling a
good story. In a report you are
telling the reader what happened,
why it happened and in a way that
holds their interest. Like any good
story, you would also set the scene
first, making the reader aware of,
for example, the history,
background and overall context of
the report topic.

Reporting surveys
(Example 8 pp. 31 and 32)

When designing your questionnaire:

a) Limit the number of questions so the respondent can
answer them in a minute or two. Long and complicated
questionnaires will not receive accurate replies.
b) Questions should be clear and simple, and not be too
c) Closed questions are easier to process, but open
questions will collect a wider range of responses.

Visual information and visual devices such as

graphs and tables are convenient ways
of displaying large quantities of information in
a form that is quick and simple to understand

Case studies
A case study provides a description of a particular practice e.g. a business
problem, scenario or situation, which is then critically analysed / reviewed
/ evaluated using the relevant theory.

Case studies are assignments that unite theory and practice.

In a case study, you will:
- Apply selected theories through simulated problem solving and decision-
- Learn by doing instead of just listening to lecturers or reading.

The case study is examined in order to try and understand what has
happened and why.
The case study is analysed to identify the major problems that exist and to
suggest solutions to these problems.

Examples 4, 5 and 6 pp. 19-30

When reading and studying a case, it is possible to take two different


1. The Problem-Oriented Method

The case study is analysed to identify the major problems that exist and to
suggest solutions to these problems.

it follows a common critical-thinking pattern of examining

(a) the background of a problem
(b) the problem itself
(c) a plan for solving the problem
(d) the application of the solution
(e) the result

2. The Analytical Approach

The case study is examined in order to try and understand what has
happened and why.
It is not necessary to identify problems or suggest solutions.

an introduction,
background information,
development: issues presented (e.g. what happened, how a model is
applied, a scheme developed)
a discussion: this is where you interpret, explain and discuss the
issues you presented in the previous section (e.g. why the scheme
a conclusion that summarises the main points (e.g. the reasons for
the early demise of the mentoring scheme)

Case study reports, project reports
and * reports
1. Introduction: In the introduction you can introduce the aim and subject
of the report.You can tell the reader what to expect: what issue is being
explored or evaluated, and if necessary, why.
2. Background Information: In this area you would present an overview of
the historic, economic, political or social influences and/or the micro factors
that enable the reader to put the report issues into context or perspective.
3. Development : In this broad area of the report, you would outline key
issues, ideas, and practices etc. that are the main focus of the report.You might
also present relevant data or information to help build a picture for the reading
of what has happened.
4. Discussion : This is where you interpret, explain and discuss the
issues presented earlier in the report. In an academic report this is often done
by reference to relevant theories, models and practices.
5. Conclusion : This section should bring the report to a close by pulling
together the main points emerging from the report and by giving a relatively
brief resume of the main or overall conclusions or recommendations reached.

Oral presentations
Be clear about the purpose of your presentation
Select the most important elements and convey the information in a
simplified manner
Provide reasons and evidence
Use examples or case studies to illustrate an idea

1. Introduction explain the issue (background information and

key terms explained) and provide an outline of the key points you
will be considering
2. Body the main ideas, reasoning, evidence and explanation
3. Conclusion a summary of what you have considered with
repetition of key ideas

To sum up
Features of academic writing

Texts are explicit, with clear discussion of data and results

Texts follow an inductive top down pattern, with clear
topic sentences and an introduction to help readers see where
the text will lead
Texts contain metadiscourse such as to summarize, in
conclusion, firstly, secondly, etc., to help guide readers through
the argument
Texts are emotionally neutral and strive to appear objective
Texts contain hedges like probably and might to avoid
sounding too confident

Texts adopt the right tone to show appropriate

confidence and modesty
Texts acknowledge prior work and avoid plagiarism
Texts comply with the genre requirements of the
community or classroom
Source: Johns (1997).

Do not use idiomatic or colloquial vocabulary: dad, guy. Use standard
English: father, man.
Use vocabulary accurately. There is a difference between currency and
Be as precise as possible when dealing with facts or figures. Avoid
phrases such as about a hundred or hundreds of years ago. If it is necessary
to estimate numbers use approximately rather than about.
Do not contract verb forms: dont, cant. Use the full form: do not,
Avoid the following:
like for introducing examples. Use such as or for instance.
thing and combinations nothing or something. Use factor, issue or
lots of. Use a significant/considerable number.
little/big. Use small/large.
get phrases such as get better/worse. Use improve and deteriorate.
good/bad are simplistic. Use positive/negative, e.g. the changes had
several positive aspects

Do not use question forms such as What were the reasons for
the decline in wool exports? Instead use statements: There were
four main reasons for the decline . . .
When writing lists, avoid using etc. or and so on. Insert and
before the last item: The forests of the twelfth century consisted
of oak, ash and lime.
Although academic English tends to use the passive more
than standard English, it should not be overused. Compare:
Manners (1995) claims that most companies perform
worse when . . . (the focus is on the source)
It is widely agreed that most companies perform
worse when . . . (the focus is on what companies do)