Academic Essay structure

academic writing a guide to tertiary level writing and critical essay format and academic essay plan example
LottieBarners Profile Pic
Published Date:12-07-2017
Your Website URL(Optional)
Essays Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 31The Writing Process Writing is a long and winding process. In managing this process, there are certain steps that you can take every time you begin an assignment. These steps will help to maximise your efforts and make meaning out of the chaos and disorder that often appears when fi rst embarking on any assignment. One of the most comprehensive and sophisticated assignment tasks you will fi nd at university is essay writing. What follows are some guidelines on how to go about essay writing. However, the steps outlined have general application for almost any other assignment that you will be given. Think about topic It is essential that you interpret the topic correctly. This can be achieved by brainstorming to generate ideas, and then formulating a point of view, even if it is a very rough one. Some people have found that reading around the assignment topic, by looking up some of the key words in their course materials and textbooks or glancing through relevant readings in their study guide, is helpful in familiarising themselves with the question. Research topic Start your research by reading your study guide, text book, and lecture notes (if lectures are available). Then look in the library, or access the online catalogue, to see if there are other useful materials, but only look at information relevant to the topic. However, to do well in an assignment, it is not always necessary to have references outside your course materials. For 100 level papers, 3-5 references may be enough to do well, as long as you explain the ideas thoroughly and relate them effectively to the essay topic. Sometimes, course co-ordinators may specify the minimum number of references expected in the assignment instructions. Also, remember that you will be marked on what you write, not what you read. So try to look at everything you read in terms of whether it is worthy of summarising on paper. Simply writing something down in your own words will help clarify your understanding of the topic. Plan your essay Now that you have made notes and summaries on the essay topic, you should be in a much better position to decide on the type of position or argument you are going to back up or argue in your essay. With your argument in mind, write down the main points that support it. Make sure they are in complete sentences, and arrange them in the order that best supports your stance. These sentences can function as an essay plan. Each sentence represents a paragraph in your essay. Write your essay Remember, writing often does not come easily. Be patient and start with getting your ideas down on paper. After the fi rst draft, you can work on refi ning them. If you have already made summaries and notes, the process of writing your essay may be easier. However, if you are having diffi culty, try writing some headings that are relevant to the essay topic – perhaps they summarise each of the main points you want to make – or perhaps they are just words that have some relevance to the topic. Under each heading start summarising information from one book or study guide reading. Suspend the need to connect your writing to other readings or parts of the essay. Just write. Trying to control the way your essay will look and its structure early on can waste time because, as you write more and read more, you end up developing groups of information that you can link together due to similar features they have in common. However, doing this at the beginning is diffi cult as you cannot see the overall picture since you are just starting out and your knowledge of the essay topic has not had suffi cient time to develop. Uncertainty at the beginning is perfectly acceptable and 32 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writingnormal. Once you are more familiar with the issues, it becomes easier to work out the main themes or sections and even the order to place them. What is important though is writing down information in your own words, so that you have something to show at the end of your reading and analysis. Revise your essay Look over your essay to make sure that you have answered the essay question. Have you stuck to the topic? Have you left out anything vital? You may have to revise your essay several times before it effectively addresses the topic and question. Try to leave yourself at least 24 hours between fi nishing your fi rst draft and revisions. This will allow you time to distance yourself from the topic and refl ect on it with a critical eye. It is also really useful if you can access someone independent who is not doing the course to have a read over your assignment to see if it makes sense. If they understand it, then your marker should understand it. Take note of anything this external person does not understand, because it may suggest that you need to clarify and explain details further. Providing such extra detail can only reinforce what you know and understand to the marker. Edit your essay You should check for errors (punctuation, spelling, grammar), bad sentence structure, jargon, slang etc. Is your presentation OK? Can it be improved? Is the referencing correct? The Importance of Planning an Assignment Overall, writing university assignments takes a lot of time. Often, people do not do as well as they would like because they have not allocated enough time to give justice to each of the stages outlined. Ideally, four weeks is a good amount of time to allocate for the preparation, planning, writing, and revising of an assignment. In the fi rst week, you may be just fi guring out what the actual assignment topic means and then reading through some course material to get a broader view or a more in-depth view of the issues. During this fi rst week, you may also evaluate what course materials are useful for answering the assignment and what you can leave out. You may also, of course, choose to look in Massey library’s Kea catalogue to see whether there are any other useful materials. Remember, if you are an extramural, you have to factor in extra time for the delivery of library books, as well as the time it takes for the completed assignment to reach its destination. Hence, rather than the four weeks mentioned above, six weeks may be a more realistic time frame, so initial delay is unwise. Once you have been able to prioritise the most useful resources for your assignment, Week Two may involve reading to make notes and summaries. By the end of Week Two, you may have half your summaries complete, allowing you to fi nish them in Week Three. During these weeks, you may also begin to develop a fi rmer idea of your argument or point of view in response to the assignment topic. At the start of Week Four, you may be in a good position to write an introductory paragraph, a Conclusion, as well as construct a Reference List. The last few days before you submit it may give you time to check spelling and grammar as well as get someone you know to read it through to ensure that it is understood by someone independent. The next section provides advice on how to interpret assignment topics. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 33Interpreting the Topic • In order to get good grades, you must be able to interpret an essay topic accurately. • You also need to stay on track – essay writers often waste words on background or side issues instead of directing their entire essay to answering the question. • There are 3 things you need to look for when interpreting an essay topic: Command - tells you what to do Topic - the general area of discussion Focus - the specifi c area of discussion Universities should not be run like businesses. Discuss topic focus topic command For this essay topic, the general area of discussion is universities being run like businesses. The specifi c area of discussion is whether or not it is OK for universities to be run like businesses. The command word “discuss” means that you are to “investigate and present the different aspects of a problem or subject and come to some conclusion.” • You can also turn the statement into a question. This sometimes makes the topic easier to understand. Should universities be run like businesses? All you need to remember when writing your essay is to answer the essay question directly. • A list of the most commonly used command words or instructions and their meanings is presented on the next page. Essays are one of the hardest assignment tasks to get a handle on. They require more than presenting what has happened in a fi eld of work. Typically, they involve you constructing a debate around the different arguments in favour of or not in favour of a particular issue. It is often a good idea to imagine yourself as a lawyer when thinking about how you are going to write your essay. As a lawyer, you have to be able to persuade and convince the jury of your point of view, while also acknowledging the opposition’s arguments, but then downplaying them in some way by mentioning their weaknesses or disadvantages. By highlighting the weaknesses in arguments that oppose your point of view, this functions to strengthen the merits of your argument. It is always good to be aware of alternative views, interpretations, and evidence surrounding an assignment topic and to acknowledge them in your assignment. However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to agree with these views. At least, by mentioning them you show the marker that you have read widely, you are well informed on the issue, and you are not biased in your position. Common Key Task Words in Assignments Account for: To give reasons, explain why something has happened. Analyse: To break the subject up into its main ideas, and evaluate them. Assess: To judge the value of a subject critically. Comment on: To discuss, explain, and give your opinion on the ideas expressed. Compare: To show the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. Criticise: To make your judgement about the views expressed and support your judgement with evidence. 34 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level WritingDefi ne: To give the meaning of a word term, distinguishing it from closely related subjects, sometimes by examples and illustrations. Describe: To give a detailed account of the characteristics of a subject. Discuss: To investigate and present the different aspects of a problem or subject and come to some conclusion. Evaluate: To appraise or estimate the worth of something, to some extent an explained personal opinion. Examine: To inquire into, and consider a problem carefully. Explain: To account for a subject’s character, causes, results, implications, etc., by clearly stating and interpreting the relevant details. Generate: To propose new ideas or new interpretations of available subjects. Hypothesise: To propose a supposition which can be used as a basis for testing conclusions. Illustrate: To explain or clarify a problem using concrete examples, diagrams, or fi gures. Integrate: To draw together in a logical related way two or more subjects not previously related. Interpret: To explain the meaning of something, to make it clear and explicit, and to evaluate it in terms of your own knowledge. Justify: To provide the reasons for your conclusions or for the statement made in the question. Outline: To give the main features or general principles of a subject leaving out minor details. Prove: To show the truth of a statement by argument, experiment, or test. Relate: To establish the connection between one thing and another. Review: To survey and critically examine a subject. State: To describe the subject in precise terms, or set down an exact meaning. Summarise: To make a concise account of the main ideas of a subject or argument, omitting explanatory details and examples. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 35Essay Structure All essays share the same basic structure, although they may differ in content and style. The essence of an essay is an opinion, expressed as a thesis statement or proposition, and a logical sequence of arguments and information organised in support of the proposition. Essay Structure Opening sentences are broad and Introduction = general, gradually focusing the 5% of the total reader onto the topic and fi nally paper onto the proposition. PROPOSITION: Main idea of the essay, summarising the whole point of the essay. Paragraph 1 First Supporting Statement (SS1) Sentences developing SS1 (defi nition, explanation, evidence, illustration). Argument Paragraph 2 Supporting Statement (SS2) Paragraphs Sentences developing SS2 Third Supporting Statement (SS3) Paragraph 3 Sentences developing SS3 Narrow statement relating to the conclusion from the previous paragraph. Conclusion = Summarising argument leading to 5-10 % of fi nal broad statement on the total paper implications or signifi cance of your argument. 36 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level WritingPlans, Introductions and Thesis Statements It is really important to plan your essay before you begin writing. Planning will save you time later. It is also essential that you have a starting point to plan from, even if it is in a very rough form. The thesis statement is the obvious place to start from as this is the answer to the essay question. From there you can decide what your essay’s subtopics will be and what you want to say about them. After you have a basic idea of what you want to talk about, you can begin to write the essay. However, when writing an essay, it can also be diffi cult to come up with a point of view early on, at least until you have surveyed most of the literature. So, instead of developing a thesis statement early on, you may choose to read up on the assignment question and make notes on the relevant concepts, theories, and studies that support different points of view. Once you have been able to make these notes and develop a summary of the issues, you may then be in a far better position to write a thesis statement that accurately summarises the issue and takes into account any divergences in opinion and evidence from the literature. The notes you have already written will not go to waste because these can be the building blocks for your paragraphs that support your thesis statement. In fact, if you have made really good notes, you may only need a linking sentence between paragraphs to link your argument together in support of your thesis statement. Irrespective of the approach you use, it is important that you have a good structure to your essay. This begins with an introductory paragraph. Introductions and thesis statements • An introduction should begin with a broad opening statement that establishes the context of your essay. • For a thorough introduction, you might want to ask yourself, “Who, What, When, Where, How, and/or Why?” • It is often useful to think about the literature on the topic and indicate how your contribution is related to what others have written. You can include why the topic is important. • It is really important that your introduction tells the reader where you will be going, so mention what is going to come up in the essay. • By the end of the introduction, the focus is narrowed down to the thesis statement. (However, sometimes you may wish to begin your introduction with the thesis statement, or use a rhetorical question instead of a thesis statement.) Broad opening statement More focused middle Thesis statement Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 37Guidelines for writing a thesis statement Try to state the outcome of your analysis, rather than announcing your intention to investigate, as in the case of “this essay will,” “this essay intends to,” or “I will” statements. • Make sure you are very specifi c. • Make sure you are very clear. • A thesis statement is brief, 1-2 sentences only. • Make sure your claim is realistic so that your essay does not sound ridiculous, or fanciful. • Ensure your thesis statement has some signifi cance. • A thesis statement generally does two things: it answers the essay question and provides a reason or explanation for the answer chosen. Example Essay topic: Do the advertisements targeting speeding drivers work? Thesis: Although the number of speeding drivers will never be reduced to zero, the advertisements targeting them are having a positive effect because people are taking notice of the gruesome consequences of excessive speed. Sample introduction Every teenager is thrilled at the prospect of sitting behind the driver’s wheel of a car. At some stage, though, the excitement turns into complacency and bad habits are often formed. Many of these bad habits have little effect on safety. A few, however, such as drunk driving and speeding, are dangerous and a great deal of time and effort is put into getting people out of these habits. Many campaigns, though, are not successful because they are easily ignored. This has not been the case with the campaign against speeding drivers. Although the number of speeding drivers will never be reduced to zero, the advertisements targeting them are having a positive effect because people are taking notice of the gruesome consequences of excessive speed. Paragraphs In order for your argument to come across clearly, it is essential that your paragraphs are well structured. • Generally, each paragraph should develop one idea only – referred to as the controlling idea. This idea can be summarised in a topic sentence, which may be the fi rst sentence, although it can also be the last sentence of the previous paragraph. The controlling idea should be developed in the rest of the paragraph with relevant factual details, examples, explanations, defi nitions, or research data. • Try to ensure that you have no less than three sentences per paragraph. • Sentences within the paragraph should be well linked so connections between them are obvious. Be careful to avoid sentences that may be too long. Ideally, a sentence should be no longer than three lines. 38 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level WritingHowever, there is no lower limit on how short a sentence should be – as long as there is a subject (e.g. it, the theory, she, Smith) and a verb phrase (run, speak, accept, agree, disagree, have disagreed, will accept), the sentence is complete. • Paragraphs should be arranged in a logical sequence and should also be well linked. • Connections can be made between sentences and between paragraphs by using signposts or transitional words and phrases to indicate change, comparison, or agreement. Highlighting a point Importantly, … Indeed, … In fact, … More importantly, … Furthermore, … Moreover, … It is also important to highlight… Changing direction and creating comparisons However, … In contrast, … Conversely, … Nevertheless, … On the contrary, … Unfortunately, … Rather, … On one hand, … On the other hand, … Compared to… In comparison, … Another perspective holds… Adding another point In addition, … Further, … Another point to consider is… Secondly, … Thirdly, … Also, … Adding a similar point Similarly, … Likewise, … Again, … Summarising Finally, … Lastly, … In conclusion, … To conclude this…, To summarise, … In summary, … In sum, … Overall, … The three main points are… • Signposts tell the reader - What is going to be said, what is being said, and what has been said. - How the main ideas support the thesis. - How each group of ideas follows from the one before. • Signposts make your writing fl ow more smoothly and make it easier to follow. • More signposts are provided within the section on Techniques for putting authors’ ideas in your own words (see page 16). Example Incorporation offers several advantages to businesses and their owners. For one thing, ownership is easy to transfer. The business is able to maintain a continuous existence even when the original owners are no longer involved. In addition, the stockholders of a corporation are not held responsible for the business’s debts. If the XYZ Corporation defaults on a 1 million loan, for example, its investors will not be held responsible for paying that liability. Incorporation also enables a business to obtain professional managers with centralised authority and responsibility; therefore, the business can be run more effi ciently. Finally, incorporation gives a business certain legal rights. For example, it can enter into contracts, owning property, and borrowing money. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 39Conclusions • Conclusions round off your essay. They remind the reader of all your main points and explain the signifi cance of your argument. • The concluding paragraph of an essay should include: - A narrow statement relating the conclusion to the preceding paragraph. - A restatement of the proposition or thesis statement. - A brief summary of the main points made in the essay. - A fi nal, broad statement on the signifi cance of the argument, and, if appropriate, its implications. • Your conclusion should not just be a list of the points you have made. Link to previous paragraph Restatement of thesis Summary of argument Broad closing statement Example By promoting a caring atmosphere in schools, teachers can reduce the likelihood of bullying. Above all, teachers need to inform themselves and the rest of the school community so that together they can develop a policy to discourage bullying. By educating themselves about bullying, teachers and parents have the knowledge to set up effective programmes and structures both within the classroom and for the whole school. Furthermore, by removing the opportunity for children to bully, providing children with a stimulating environment, and giving them the tools to deal with confl ict appropriately, teachers can reduce children’s inclination to bully. Although bullying will never be fully eradicated and must be dealt with as soon as it occurs, increasing awareness of the problem is making schools a safer and more enjoyable environment in which children can learn. Strategies for Organising Points in Assignments In understanding how to organise and structure the points you want to make in an assignment, it is worthwhile demonstrating several different patterns to use for an essay, which could easily be adapted for other assignment forms. Mock essay: Discuss the social effects surrounding an Act of Parliament. Imagine you have chosen an Act of Parliament and have identifi ed two main effects, with each effect incorporating several other sub-effects. Paragraphs could be structured around one or more sub-effects that comprise a main effect. Introduction Introduce effects A and B. Effect A 1. Sub-effect (1st paragraph in body of assignment) 2. Sub-effect (2nd paragraph) 3. Sub-effect (3rd paragraph) 40 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing4. Sub-effect (joined onto 3rd paragraph) Effect B 1. Sub-effect (4th and 5th paragraphs) 2. Sub-effect (6th paragraph) 3. Sub effect (7th paragraph) Conclusion Summarise, and highlight the three main sub-effects, as well as future implications of the Act. Mock essay: Compare and contrast Smith and Brown’s theories about human development. This question is basically asking you to write about the similarities and differences between two things. Imagine you have read up on both theories, but have found that there are more differences than similarities. Further, within the similarities there are two main features and within the differences there are three main features. Introduction Introduce Similarities and Differences Similarities Feature A 1. Example from Smith’s theory 2. Example from Brown’s theory Feature B 1. Example from Brown’s theory 2. Example from Smith’s theory 3. Another example from Smith’s theory that replicates a part of Brown’s theory. Differences Feature C 1. Examples of different processes of analysis from each theory. Feature D 1. Example from Smith’s theory that is not provided in Brown’s. 2. Reason why Brown’s theory does not include the stage in Smith’s Feature E 1. Example from Brown’s theory that is not in Smith’s. 2. Reason why Smith’s theory does not include the stage in Brown’s. Conclusion Summarise, and highlight overall there are more differences than similarities, which may derive from the structural differences between the theories. Mock essay: Discuss cross-cultural communication issues in business organisations. Imagine you have identifi ed four main issues, their associated causes, and potential solutions. Introduction Introduce the topic of cross-cultural communication and its infl uence upon business environments. Then briefl y introduce the four main issues surrounding cross-cultural communication to be discussed in the essay. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 41Issue 1 1. Identify and explain nature of problem or diffi culty 2. Outline causal factors 3. Describe two possible solutions and briefl y evaluate pros and cons of each solution. Issue 2 1. Identify and explain nature of problem or diffi culty 2. Outline causal factors 3. Describe two possible solutions and briefl y evaluate pros and cons of each solution. Issue 3 1. Identify and explain nature of problem or diffi culty 2. Outline causal factors 3. Describe two possible solutions and briefl y evaluate pros and cons of each solution. Issue 4 1. Identify and explain nature of problem or diffi culty 2. Outline causal factors 3. Describe two possible solutions and briefl y evaluate pros and cons of each solution. Conclusion The Process of Revision • Revising occurs when you have fi nished your draft. It is a good idea to take reasonable breaks in-between drafts, so you can look at your assignment with fresh eyes. • Here is a revision checklist for essays, which can be adapted for other assignments. Key question: Have I answered the question posed by my topic? Introduction Is my opening broad and interesting? Have I followed the funnel shape? Is my thesis statement clear? Body Does each paragraph have a topic sentence? Have I kept to one main idea per paragraph? Are my ideas fully developed? Conclusion Have I summed up my argument effectively? Is there a clear re-statement of my proposition? Have I given the essay a sense of completion? Referencing Are quotations introduced smoothly? Are quotations accurate? Are quotations justifi ed as relevant to the topic? Is the formatting correct? Presentation Is my essay professionally presented? Content Have I answered all parts of the essay question? Is there any information in the wrong section? Do the points I am making agree with each other? 42 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing Is there any irrelevant information? Can I write anything more clearly? Are the main ideas summed up briefl y? Editing Editing is a crucial part of the revision process. Editing involves checking your assignment from the paragraph level right down to the word level, and, even, to individual punctuation marks. Does your writing make sense? • You must make sure that your sentences say what you meant them to say. • Write as simply as possible. Try not to make things more complicated than they have to be. It has been posited that a high degree of curiosity proved lethal to a feline. This can be more simply expressed as……………. Curiosity killed the cat. • Make sure that your reader understands the jargon you use. • Try to avoid clichés (a word or expression that has lost its impact because it has been used too much e.g. avoid clichés like the plague) because they are boring. • It is best not to clutter your writing with unnecessary words. • Try to keep your writing as active as possible……. The study was conducted by Smith and Jones (1987). This could be more simply and directly expressed as……. Smith and Jones (1987) conducted the study. • Aim to vary your sentence length. Try not to use too many, very long or very short sentences. • Make sure your writing is formal – avoid personal pronouns (I, we, you), unless assignment instructions advise otherwise. • Do not try to make your writing overly complex by cramming in long or ‘scholarly’ phrases. Keep it simple and clear. Proofreading • You must proofread your essay – reading it aloud will help you fi nd errors. You could even tape record yourself as you read and replay the tape to check for sentence and paragraph fl ow. • Make sure you take your time when proofreading. • Check spelling carefully. DO NOT TRUST THE SPELL-CHECKER. It cannot pick up where you have used an incorrect word. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 43 I have a spelling checker, I’ve run this poem threw it, It came with my PC. I’m sure your please to no, It plainly marks four my revue It’s letter perfect in it’s weigh, Mistakes I cannot sea. My checker tolled me sew. Layout • Layout is important too. Your assignment should look good for your personal satisfaction, but your marker will be grateful if it is easy to read Hints: • Check that spaces between words and lines are consistent. • Line spacing should be at least 1.5. You need to leave space for the marker’s comments. Hence, it’s good to ensure you have a 4cm margin on the left hand side for markers to insert comments. Space also makes your essay easier to read. • Try not to start a new sentence on a new line, unless it is a new paragraph. • Mark new paragraphs consistently – preferably, leave a line between each paragraph. • Make sure that your font size is at least 12 point. • Ensure that your References page is formatted correctly. Sample Essay I - 800 words Question: How can schools make the best use of information technology in the classroom? Topic – schools’ use of information technology in the classroom. Command – how can Focus – the best use Word limit: 800 Analysis: This question requires you to go beyond merely identifying schools’ use of information technology in the classroom, in order to develop an argument around how schools can make the best use possible of such technology in the classroom. There may be many uses of information technology in the classroom, and you may wish to acknowledge this in the beginning of the essay. However, the focus of your essay needs to be based on examining and explaining the best usage of information technology. It may be that there are several best methods available. Hence, you could then proceed to explain each of these and how they can be implemented in the classroom. Alternatively, there may be one overall best method amongst a group of very good methods, in which case you will need to highlight why one method is better than the others, and how this method can be implemented in the classroom. Keywords and phrases which may be useful in searching for information: computers and education, computers in schools, computers in classrooms, internet in classrooms, online technology and education, computer-mediated communication and classrooms, online classrooms, online schools, e-learning. 44 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing The following essay includes additional notes in the margin, which identify specific points in the development and structure of the argument, as well as paragraph structure, and APA referencing conventions. Essay on how schools can make the best use of information technology in the class room Education means considerably more than just teaching a student to read, write, and manipulate numbers. Computers, the Internet, and advanced electronic devices are becoming essential in everyday nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM life and have changed the way information is gathered. How this Comment: General lead into the broad topic by indicating the inadequacy of traditional teaching alone. new technology is utilised in the curriculum and managed by teachers will have an important role to play in widening the resource and knowledge base for all students. Technology affects the way nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM teachers teach and students learn. To make the best use of Comment: Narrowing the topic further by affirming the significance of IT for teachers and students. information technology (IT), schools need a workable plan to fully nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM Comment: Information technology is followed integrate it into all aspects of the curriculum so students are taught with its abbreviated form, i.e. IT, in brackets, indicating to the reader that the next time this phrase is mentioned, it will be abbreviated to IT. how, why and when to use technology to further enhance their nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM learning. Comment: Thesis statement. Notice how the beginning of the sentence is constructed in such a way as to answer the essay question: “To make the best use of information technology (IT), schools need…” If a school does not have a clear plan of how and why it wishes to nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM implement IT, then it runs the risk of wasting money. In schools today, Comment: Topic sentence indicating the paragraph is about how schools need a clear plan for implementing IT. This point follows-up on the first nearly all classrooms have access to a computer. However, many point made in the thesis statement: schools need a workable plan. schools mistake this as incorporating information technology into Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 45nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM the curriculum. School staff need to research what IT is available Comment: Example backing up the topic sentence. and what would best serve the school’s purpose, not simply nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM purchase the latest equipment. There should be a policy stating how Comment: Statement about what schools need to do in order to develop a plan. IT is going to assist pupils’ development and what teachers want nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM pupils to achieve (Reksten, 2000). Staff members need to be clear Comment: A citation from Reksten to provide additional evidence about how to develop a plan for implementing IT in schools. about what they want IT to do for them before they can start nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM incorporating it into their lessons. A summary sentence, which restates Comment: the idea in the topic sentence. The only way information technology is going to be useful to schools nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM is if all staff members are well-informed and fully supported. It is the Comment: Another topic sentence. This may be seen to build on the idea of good planning by ensuring staff are well supported and informed about principal’s responsibility, and should be part of the school’s plan, to changes. ensure that all staff are consulted about the changes, and that the change is carefully organised. Some teachers may be resistant, especially if they have not had much experience with computers, so training teachers is essential in implementing IT into the school curriculum. Staff members must feel involved in the process of acquiring technology, and in learning how to operate it, in order for nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM them to increase their confidence in using IT as a curriculum tool. Comment: Backs up the topic sentence by identifying a range of points to be considered. Teachers are only going to be able to incorporate IT into their nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM lessons if they are competent users themselves (Reksten, 2000). Comment: The final sentence in the paragraph presents further support for the need to prepare teachers well for change by citing the literature. nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM In addition, teachers need to be aware that IT within the classroom A useful linking word to start a new Comment: paragraph, which indicates another relevant point. is extremely flexible, but that they need to plan what purpose IT nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM serves in each lesson. The skills a child learns are the important part Comment: A third topic sentence, which advances the point that teachers need to plan their use of IT in the classroom. More specifically, this topic sentence of any lesson, and it is the same with technology. IT needs to be used indicates that the paragraph will serve to support the point made in the thesis statement about fully integrating IT into all aspects of the curriculum, as and understood in all subjects in the same way as the ability to read mentioned in the third sentence. 46 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writingis necessary for all subjects, and “must be used across the curriculum, in the same way that a pen and pencil are used in most nbowker 19/1/06 4:05 PM subject areas” (Ager, 2000, p. 15). The best way to plan the use of IT Comment: Rather than standing alone, the quotation is integrated into the sentence, with appropriate acknowledgement made, by including in the classroom is to approach it as simply a learning tool that is the author’s name and year of publication, the page number, as well as speech marks around the quotation. more advanced (and more exciting) than the traditional pen and nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM Comment: This sentence brings the detail paper. mentioned in the paragraph back to addressing the essay question by focusing on “the best way to…use…IT in the classroom”. It is vitally important for students to be taught the strategies for using nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM IT. Children also need to be fully informed about the capabilities of IT Comment: This topic sentence deals with the final points made in the thesis statement, with respect to teaching students how, why, and when to use before being asked to use it. Pupils should be aware that the technology. contexts in which they use IT will change, and they need to know what is the appropriate use of IT and what is not. Whilst it is important that children learn to use IT effectively, teachers must emphasise that IT is not always suitable. For example, personal communication is a better option than an email when thanking someone. According to Apter (1968), the danger is that the “computer dehumanises people and inevitably leads them to act like nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM machines themselves” (p. 58). Teachers must make sure they plan to Comment: Another author citation, followed by a quote. Notice that throughout the body of the essay, each paragraph includes one author citation – this is use variety in their lessons. Too much IT instruction may be just as a good formula to use for 100 level papers because throughout each paragraph there is evidence that you have been engaging with the literature when writing harmful to a child as not enough. the assignment. The usefulness of IT in the classroom, as with any learning tool, nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM depends on the innovation and imagination of the teacher. It is Comment: This sentence refocuses the essay towards the general theme of how to effectively use IT in the classroom. The sentence acknowledges imperative, though, that the implementation of IT into a school is that the teacher’s skills are central to this. carefully planned. The current information explosion makes it essential that IT be used extensively within the classroom so Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 47children know how to use IT appropriately and effectively. Teachers must, therefore, be fully informed about what kinds of IT are available and whether or not they are appropriate for classroom use. School boards and teachers must therefore ensure that all staff have a clear plan about what they want their students to achieve nbowker 15/12/05 8:56 AM through IT. The appropriate incorporation of IT into the classroom Comment: The final paragraph functions to reaffirm the points made in the body of the essay, which, in turn, support the thesis statement. will broaden the minds and skills of students, allowing them to be better prepared for further technological advances. 48 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level WritingReferences Ager, R. (2000). The art of information and communications technology for teachers. London: David Fulton. Apter, A. J. (1968). The new technology of education. London: Macmillan. Reksten, L. E. (2000). Using technology to increase student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing 49Sample Essay II – 2000 words Question: Discuss the extent to which online users alter their identity Topic – online users alter their identity Command – discuss Focus – the extent to which Analysis: This is quite a diffi cult question because it is asking you to examine how much people alter their identity online, rather than highlighting the fact that people can change their identity – a potential trap for fi rst- time essay writers. Certainly, it is good at the beginning of the essay, whether in the introduction or the body, to acknowledge that people do alter their identity. However, to actually answer this question, you need to go beyond acknowledging the fact that people do change their identity, and discuss or debate the extent to which this happens and why. It may be that identity alteration occurs in different contexts. For instance, it may be that different groups are more likely to alter their identity than other groups, who do not alter their identity online. Alternatively, some groups may alter their identity to a greater degree than other groups. Answering this essay question requires a thorough analysis and examination of the different variables or factors infl uencing people’s identity construction online. Keywords used in searching for information: identity, social identity, alter ego, persona, internet, online, chatrooms, IRC, multi-user dungeons, MUDs, computer-mediated communication. In writing this essay, notes were constructed in my own words from the ideas in books, book chapters, and journal articles surrounding the topic. These notes were then grouped together according to similar ideas and points of view to create topic units, in which I was not concerned about their size as long as they were distinct. From there, it became possible to identify a position or argument on which to base the essay. The introductory paragraph was then written, with a thesis statement crafted which functioned to summarise the ideas in the essay. At this time, a concluding paragraph was also roughly put together. Then the paragraphs forming the body of the essay were polished up from their rough shape and were checked to ensure that they were in line with the thesis statement. Topic sentences were crafted for paragraphs in the body, along with summary sentences rounding off the paragraphs. Finally, the concluding paragraph was elaborated on from its original form, ensuring that it adequately summarised the whole essay, but also managed to move the essay forward to the future. In total, the essay (excluding the Reference List) came to 1895 words, which fi ts easily within a 2000 word limit. 50 Academic Writing: A Guide to Tertiary Level Writing