Academic Essay writing process

what does academic essay mean and what does an academic essay consist of How to Improve Academic Essay Writing
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Published Date:03-07-2017
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A resource to assist tutors ACADEMIC ESSAY working with Indigenous WRITING students For students at Charles Darwin University Table of Contents The academic world 3 Critical thinking 4 Purpose of this booklet Preparing to write an essay 6 Unpacking the essay question 6 This booklet aims to provide Looking at the marking rubric 7 resources to tutors who work with Indigenous Understanding a Brainstorm of the essay topic 8 students at Charles Darwin University. It is intended to Developing a Taxonomy for the essay topic 9 provide you with information and exercises to Academic essay structure 10 assist you to scaffold A word on academic language 10 students to be successful in their university studies. We Writing a thesis statement 11 focus on writing academic essays, because this is a skill Writing an introduction 12 student’s need in most university courses, and is a A note on using headings 12 skill that can be transferred to assessments in other Writing a paragraph 13 units. Essay: An annotated example 14 We know that students Referencing 20 bring a wide range of skills and life experiences to the In-text referencing 20 university setting. What we hope to do is to assist you, Appendix 1: Analytical essay 21 as tutor, to build on the students’ existing skills and knowledge, with transferrable skills that will enable them to succeed at ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS university. Our philosophy aligns with the old proverb: Thanks to Jamie Pomfrett for providing original materials for this guide. Thanks also to Jamie, Debra Dank and David McClay PhD for reviewing this document. “Give a man a fish and you Lesley MacGibbon PhD feed him for a day, but ACIKE Staff Development teach him to fish, you feed Charles Darwin University him for life.” 2Exercise: Rules of the game The Academic World Ask your student which sport they play or follow. On paper or The ‘academic world’ and whiteboard draw up two columns. In one column list the the ‘real world’ are not the rules of the game as the student identifies them. In the other same. column, list the rules of writing academic essays. Get the student to help to identify these if they can. Your completed Levin (2004) explains that list might look something like this: the ‘academic world’ and the ‘real world’ are not the Rules of soccer(football) Rules of essay writing same, and students need to You cannot pick up the ball You must analyse the learn the differences unless you are goalie. question carefully to make between these worlds. sure you answer what is The real world is where we asked. experience our lives – we You can head the ball in You must use formal live and work, raise children, the air. academic English – not slang play or watch sport, spend or txt language. time with family and friends and interact with the You must play within the You cannot just write your natural world. A lot of what lines of the field. opinion. You must back we know about the real everything you write with world is from our evidence (what other people experiences. have written). The academic world on the You cannot physically push Different lecturers may have other hand is one of or shove players on the different rules about what theories, explanations, ideas other team. academic language is – you and critiques. We can’t will need to check with them. experience them the same Games are usually 45 mins You must reference where way as we experience the you got your information real world, through seeing, each half. from. hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. In the academic You must obey the Referee There are particular forms of world we learn from what is even if you don’t agree referencing you must use. spoken, or more often with him or her. written, about the world. This means that in the You need to stay onside. You must not copy other academic world you learn at people’s work (plagiarism). second hand, from what other people have written, You must wear shin guards You need to write in rather than from your own to protect your ankles. paragraphs- start with an experience. Levin (2004, p introduction and finish with a 5) argues that: conclusion. “The culture of higher education in the Western world is very much a culture of the written world”. 3 Exercise: Critical thinking 1 1. Show your students a standard bottle of water – or show the picture of a bottle of water, and ask them to Critical thinking describe this. Students often have trouble understanding what we When describing they should just tell you what they see – mean by “critical thinking”. It is worthwhile spending  it is a clear plastic bottle some time exploring ideas  the label says it is ‘spring’ water around critical thinking, and  it has a white cap the difference between  etc description and analysis or critical thinking. We have found the following 2. Ask your students to think critically exercises to be very helpful. about this bottle of water. You might need to ask them the question “So what? This is a bottle of water, what else do we know about bottled water?” The students should be able to come up with things that might include:  It costs 4 for a bottle of water this size from the supermarket  Plastic bottles like this are a problem in landfill  At home we drink bottled water because our tap water tastes bad  Bottled water isn’t any better than the water that comes from our taps  We don’t take bottled water when we go country because then we drink from the spring 4Exercise: Critical thinking 2 Ask your student to imagine that where they live has just been struck by a cyclone. Describe what they might see: List their descriptions on the left-hand column. Then ask them to imagine that they are the civil defence wardens for their neighbourhood. Get them to think critically about what they described, and write what they identify when thinking Why do we need critical critically. For example: thinking? Cyclone: description Cyclone: critical thinking Students often ask why they The houses seem to be Are there any injured people in need to develop critical OK, but garages and the houses? thinking and why they need sheds have been blown to demonstrate it in an Are any of the buildings in down. essay. Most jobs require danger of falling down and people to be able to think injuring people? critically, and essay writing Some of the streets are Are there people who have is one way that the flooded. been cut off by the water that university can see that need rescuing? students are developing critical thinking. In many Is there still fresh water coming It looks as though the from the taps? jobs people are required to water is up to one metre write reports that will guide deep. What type of vehicle is needed the action of others – for to get through the flooding? example in nursing, and critical thinking is required There are trees blown Are any of the power lines still to do this. down over roads and active? power lines. Are they a danger to anyone? Is there any power in the neighbourhood? Are the roads accessible, or are they blocked to traffic by live power lines or fallen trees? Etc Etc Etc Etc 5Unpacking the essay question Usually the essay question will have some direction words that give clues about what is wanted in the essay (Rolls & Wignell 2013). These words PREPARING TO may be “describe”, “explain”, “argue”, “discuss”, “critique” etc. WRITE AN ESSAY Describe: Write about the facts, process or event. Write in a systematic Unpacking the essay order, and emphasise the most important points. You are not expected to explain or interpret. question Work with the student to Explain: You will need to analyse, not simply describe or summarise. You analyse and decipher the need to focus on the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of a particular issue, to clarify reasons, causes and effects. question. Argue: If you are asked to argue, you need to systematically support or What does the lecturer want reject a point of view by presenting evidence. You also need to show that in the essay? you are aware of the opposing point of view. Even if you think that the Discuss: You present a point of view. This will include both description lecturer has set a silly and interpretation. Your opinion should be supported by argument and question, it is what the evidence from other writings. student must answer. Critique: A critique is where you identify and discuss both the positive Help the student unpack the and negative aspects of a topic. question. Compare and contrast: Find the similarities and differences between two or more ideas, events or interpretations. Examples of essay questions: NAPLAN (The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) is a feature of education in all Australian Primary schools. Describe NAPLAN and discuss why it is so controversial. Critically analyse the key concepts of working cross-culturally, specifically in regards to effective communication and the impact on your work practice. Outline and analyse the key components of a framework for health professionals to engage in effective and respectful communication with Indigenous peoples, especially in regards to the delivery of health services. Describe how this could potentially be viewed as part of a strategy across a number of levels to systematically lift the cultural competency of mainstream health services. 6Looking at the marking rubric In most units at Charles Example of a marking rubric Darwin University, a marking guide or marking rubric is provided. In the following example of a rubric, what are the three aspects of the essay Go over this with your that the lecturer considers most important? Where should the student put students because it usually most effort? How important is text organisation and essay structure? gives a clear picture of what the lecturer is looking for in the essay. It assigns points For maximum points essay must percentages of the marks for particular things. Text 5 Introduction: Must have clear thesis statement aligned organisation to body of essay Many students believe that and essay structure 5 Body of essay: Must be well structured, have cohesive having an essay free of paragraphs, and flow well. grammatical errors and that is nicely formatted is the Language: Must have style of voice suitable for purpose 5 and audience most important aspect of essay writing. This is 5 Conclusion: Must include clear summary of key points important, because it makes from body of essay and link to thesis topic. the essay readable, but Content 25 Answers the question: Ideas must be well presented and often other aspects of an consistently related to the essay question. essay are worth many more 25 Critical thinking: Shows high level of critical analysis, and marks. includes different points of view where relevant. Quality of 15 Research: Ideas supported by credible and relevant evidence sources. 5 In-text and referencing list accurate. Grammar 8 Sentence structure clear, consistent & error free. Formatting 2 Formatting as requested. Cover sheet completed accurately. 7Understanding a Brainstorm of the essay topic Essay topic: Using personal reflection, write a 1000 word essay on how Brainstorm or mind map rising food prices are impacting on people’s diets It is always good to start Brainstorm 1: The student has decided to focus the essay on fruit process with what the student as a sub-group of food. His/her knowledge is limited at this stage to three already knows about the main points – fruit is important in a diet, people are eating less fruit, and essay topic. his/her council planed fruit trees during WWII. A good way to record this is in a brainstorm or mind map. The following two brainstorms show a student’s developing thinking about an essay topic: Using personal reflection, write a 1000 word essay on how rising food prices are impacting on people’s diets. Brainstorm 2 was completed after the student had spent time researching the topic. The student was able to find references for the ideas on Brainstorm 1, and add additional aspects from his/her researching readings. In Brainstorm 2 he/she has attached references to all his/her main ideas. Brainstorm 2 shows how the student developed his/her thinking about the essay topic after doing some research. He/she has included references in the diagram. Brainstorm 2 provides a good outline for the essay. 8Developing a taxonomy for the essay topic: Using personal reflection, write a 1000 word essay on how rising food prices are impacting on people’s diets. Creating a taxonomy A taxonomy is a way of organising information that groups things that Rising fruit prices are alike together impact on people’s (Rolls & Wignell diets 2013). When the student has completed a second brainstorm, it is a Fruit is good idea to then get People are Possible important for a them to organise it eating less solutions healthy diet into a taxonomy. A fruit taxonomy can be thought of as a “tidy brainstorm”. It gives the student a clear picture of how to Cost of Personal structure their essay, fresh Good experience – and which supporting source of fruit councils plant arguments go with vitamin C fruit trees which main argument. All arguments or themes in an essay MUST be supported by EVIDENCE. Perish- Fewer Imported Free able People Australian fruit fruit Social price Evidence is what lack fruit costs for benefits money hike other’s have written farmers more family and published about the particular issue. Evidence from a reputable academic journal or book has more credibility than evidence from 9 magazines or newspapers. Example: An academic essay structure (Rolls & Wignell, 2013, p 55) Academic essay structure While the essay structure provided by Rolls & Wignell Introduction (2013) may appear overly prescriptive, it does provide General statement an excellent framework for Thesis statement a student who is beginning Outline of main ideas you will discuss essay writing, or a student who has difficulty Body of essay structuring an essay. Paragraph A This structure can be Topic sentence expanded to accommodate Supporting evidence answers to even quite Supporting evidence complex essay questions. Supporting evidence Concluding sentence If your student has completed a brainstorm and Paragraph B taxonomy for the essay Topic Sentence question, you can work with Supporting evidence them to decide on the order Supporting evidence of their paragraphs, and put Supporting evidence them into the essay Concluding sentence structure framework. Paragraph C Topic Sentence Supporting evidence Supporting evidence Supporting evidence A word on academic Concluding sentence language Universities have differing Conclusion requirements relating to whether students can use Summary of main points; final comment. the first person “I” “we” in (paraphrase what is in the introduction). their essays. Generally the policy at Charles Darwin University is that students Many academics write their introduction and conclusion last, to make write in third person and do not use “I” in their academic sure that they reflect what is in the body of the essay. For beginning essay writers it is good to write the introduction first to ensure that essays unless they are asked for a personal reflection. they answer the question asked, but always check it and revise if Ask the student to check necessary when the body of the essay is completed. what form of writing their lecturer expects. 10Writing a thesis Creating a thesis statement from the essay question statement The following examples based on the work of Rolls & Wignell (2013) A thesis statement is the show that there is no one right way to create a thesis statement. What most important sentence in is important, is that the thesis statement signals what the essay will the introduction of an essay be about. because it clearly states what the essay will be about. There are many Essay Question 1 ways of creating a thesis What is meant by the term globalisation? Discuss the effects of statement, but for globalisation on at least one of the following: beginning or struggling  Trade essay writers turning the  Business essay question into a  Consumerism statement is probably the  International relations most straight-forward.  The arts Thesis statement 1a This essay will discuss the positive and negative effects of In addition to stating what globalisation in relation to consumerism, trade and business. your essay will be about, the Thesis statement 1b thesis statement is used to This essay begins by defining what is meant by globalisation, restrict the scope of the and then discusses the positive effects of globalisation on the essay and signal the writer’s arts in Australia. position. There are no wrong examples, although the essays will be Essay Question 2 Despite its negative health effects the tobacco industry significantly different. remains an important part of the economy of many nations. Discuss the economic effects of the tobacco industry in relation to at least one of the following levels of industry:  Primary level (farmers)  Secondary level (small business)  Tertiary level (Government revenue) Ask your students to identify which of the thesis Thesis statement 2a statements restrict the This essay will show that the economic benefits of the scope, and which signals the tobacco industry are beneficial to the global economy at writer’s position. the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of the industry. Thesis statement 2b Despite its negative health effects the tobacco industry remains an important part of the Australian economy. This essay will discuss how the Federal Government tax regime on the industry currently brings in more money than is spent on tobacco related illnesses. 11Writing an introduction An introduction should include the following: Writing an Background information Introduction This is usually made up of one or two sentences to introduce the topic and give background information. The introduction is the most important paragraph in an Thesis statement essay, because it sets out This introduces the main topic or argument on which the essay is the thesis statement and based. gives the reader clear Outline signposts for what they will The outline lets the reader know what the essay covers, and how it is be reading in the essay. organised. Scope This section is only needed if the focus of the essay is narrowed. It lets the reader know the focus of the essay. A note on using Rolls & Wignell (2013, p 58) provide a very clear example of this headings framework in the following example: Getting students to use headings when writing their INTRODUCTION essays is a really good idea In the past two years the threat of cane toads to the Top-End of Australia has become an increasing because it helps them keep Background reality. Their numbers continue to steadily focussed on the structure of increase in Kakadu National Park and they are the essay. However, as it is causing damage to this pristine environment. This not usual to include essay will discuss the effects of cane toads on the headings in academic Thesis statement environment of Kakadu National Park and show essays, make sure that the that they will cause permanent damage to the students delete them from environment. This will be seen, firstly by Outline discussing the characteristics of cane toads and their final copy of the essay. then, examining their predicted long term effects on the animals of Kakadu and the tourist industry. Because there is data available only on the effects Scope of cane toads on goanna, frogs and crocodiles, these are the only animals that will be discussed. 12Writing a paragraph Writing a paragraph Paragraphs form the The following paragraphs have been adapted from Rolls and Wignell building blocks of an essay. (2013, p 63). In academic essays a paragraph should Topic sentence Adults should read to infants. Smith and Brown introduce one main idea (2010) explain that this helps them to read at a and provide supporting later stage because it helps them to see the evidence that elaborates association between words on the page and Supporting language. It should also help infants to view the main idea. This sentences with books and reading as a positive experience supporting evidence needs evidence because ‘story-time’ is usually a cosy, one-to-one to be referenced with in- experience between a parent and child. text referencing. The main idea is often called a topic sentence, Topic sentence & Another reason that global warming is a major link sentence concern is its effect on habitats. This will occur as and provides the reader melting ice caps increase water levels around the with a map of what is globe. Low-lying countries will be the most coming next in the essay. seriously affected. A study by CSIRO (1999) had Supporting projected that by 2020 a number of Pacific Island A paragraph should have a sentences with countries will need to be evacuated. As human beginning (topic sentence), evidence habitats will be affected, so too will be the a middle (evidence), and if habitats for plants and animals. it is a long paragraph, a summary sentence at the end. An essay that flows well is easier to read. Encourage your student to use linking words and sentences to link their paragraphs. Good linking words To begin To conclude In addition In the same way The following essay illustrates the different sections of an academic In this case essay. Because the essay asks for a personal reflection, it is For this/that reason acceptable to use “I” in this essay. In other words In particular Thanks to Jamie Pomfrett for making this available Another possibility is In contrast However To summarise 13Essay: Using a personal reflection, write a 1000 word essay on how rising food prices are impacting people’s diets Thesis: This clearly states what your main argument of the paper is. All the rest of your information will be used to make this This is the information that gives argument. In a 1000 word essay a the reader some orientation and thesis will be focused on one or background to the question and two specific things. Doing this will the essay topic. It is very general help to guide your essay and keep information. In a 1000 word essay your argument succinct and within 1-2 sentences is sufficient. the word limit. INTRODUCTION Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. However Jones (2010 p, 12) states that people are eating less fruit because it is becoming more expensive. This paper will argue that one way of combating the rising price of fruit is for local council’s to plant more fruit trees in local parks and public areas. Firstly, the paper will identify key terms in the literature around food prices. Secondly, the paper will focus on fruit, and examine its role in healthy diets and evaluate recent consumption of fruit. Finally I will use my personal reflection of the current situation in my home town to explore a possible response. Sign Post/ Road Map: This section clearly shows the reader what evidence you are going to use and how you are going to present the evidence to support your thesis. In a 1000 word essay you might use 2-4 main pieces of evidence. And you say I will firstly … and secondly … and finally … 14The evidence that supports the topic Topic sentence sentences BODY The rise of food prices in the last five years is indisputable. Jones (2010) makes it clear that across Australia the price of food has increased more than people’s wages have increased which makes it difficult for people to access food the way they did five years ago. Doolan (2012) highlights that fresh food, in particular fruit, has been the most effected. She claims that the price of non- perishable items such as flour and sugar have increased by only 5% while the price of fruit and vegetables have increased by 20% (Doolan 2012, p 4). This kind of price rise is what food theorists such as Manhood (2011) call a “perishable price hike”, which is when the price of fresh food like fruit and vegetables increases further than the price of non-perishable items. These are paragraphs that define Concluding sentence, see how it key terms as stated in the links to the topics sentence of the introduction next paragraph According to some authors (Leah & Cameron, 2011) the perishable price hike we are currently experiencing in Australia has to do with what they call the “diminishing farmer population”. This means that as farmers get old and retire, they are not being replaced by younger ones and therefore there are fewer farmers growing food in the country (Leah & Cameron, 2011). Because there is less food grown, Australia is forced to purchase food grown overseas which is more expensive and therefore raises the price of food that we see on the shelves. Perishable items such as fruit and vegetables require refrigerated transport, unlike sugar and wheat, and the costs associated with refrigerated transport are much higher (Leah & Cameron, 2011). 15Paragraph introducing fruit as part of the discussion as stated in the introduction. Notice how it also is linked to the end of the previous paragraph. Current fresh fruit consumption trends suggest that this perishable price hike is having a negative impact on health. One report, based on interviews with 500 people, states that on average people are eating half as much fruit as they were 5 years ago (Mike, 2009). In addition, in another study (Jones, 2010) it was reported that shops are selling half as much fruit as they were 5 years ago. These two reports clearly demonstrate that people are eating much less fruit than they were five years ago before the perishable price hike started. Health experts (Dan 2012, and Bee 2013) indicate that this drop in consumption of fruit will have negative impacts on the community. They claim that fruit is a great way to access essential vitamins and minerals (Dan, 2012) and that if people are not getting these vitamins and minerals then the health impacts could be devastating. Bee (2013) states that in the last five years more people have become severely debilitated by even the common cold because of a lack of vitamin C in their diet. She goes on to say that the food people are buying, like flour and sugar, does not have the vitamin C that people need to stay healthy. Paragraph that examines the role of fruit in the diet and evaluate what is being said in the literature about the current consumption habits of fruit – just as it said it would in the introduction. 16Murray (2013) says that more economic development is needed so that people can have access to the money they need to buy the food to keep them healthy. But the health experts suggest that this will not be a solution. Bee (2013) says people need a regular reliable source of food, and that we cannot rely on imported fruit and vegetables to provide perishable goods. If the source of food is the problem, then I would like to discuss my experience of growing up in regional NSW as a possible solution. Here the writer is using a personal Notice how this paragraph reflection. The writer firstly evaluates the literature and also describes in and then analyses their leads the discussion into the next reflection relation to the topic and paragraph and topic in the essay. argument of the essay. In my home town there were many fruit trees planted in the parks and along the streets. They were was planted during WWII as people feared there would be food shortages as a result of the War. There are many different types of fruits - oranges, lemons, cherries, apples and pears. There is enough of a variety of fruits that there is always something in season. Our family will often walk down to the park to get our fruit, especially since fruit in the shops is so expensive. I wouldn’t say that people are eating as much fruit as they were five years ago, because there are not enough trees in the town to supply everyone, but people do have enough fruit to get by. 17In this paragraph the writer uses some literature which is about the topic and argument of the essay but also links to the personal reflection the writer has used. This is a very good skill and needed when using personal reflections. I also think it is nice in my town, that when you harvest fruit from a tree, you get the chance to talk to someone. Smith (2004) says that talking to people in your community has positive health benefits because people feel a sense of community. So I think that the fruit trees in our town are not just good for our diets, but for community health as well. I think that if the rest of Australia followed my town’s fruit tree planting example, then people would have a way of accessing fruit without having to buy it. The conclusion Notice how it summarises the discussion and reaffirms the thesis. It answers what the introduction says it will do. Conclusion Because of the “diminishing farmer population”, Australia is currently experiencing a rise in the cost of food in particular a “perishable price hike”. The evidence suggests that as a result of this people are not eating as much fruit as they were five years ago. This change in how much fruit people are eating is having a negative impact on health as people are now being severely affected by things like the common cold. Some authors say economic development is needed to give people more money but others say this won’t work and the source of food needs to change. I have suggested that planting fruit trees in parks and along the streets will change the source of food and give people a greater access to fruit and help reverse the negative health impacts we are seeing as a result of the perishable price hike. 18References Bee, M. (2013) Keeping healthy. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 10(7), 14-18. Dan, J. (2012). Impact of diet on health. In Dietetics Australia, 34(5), 4-9. Doolan, C. (2012). The economics of Australia Farming. London, Sydney, New York: Routledge. Jones, P. (2010). Food Security in Australia. The Market Gardeners Monthly, 32(6), 47-56. Leah, M., & Cameron, S. (2011). The agricultural sector on the move. Horticulture Australia, 78(4), 41-54. Manhood, J. (2011). Economics in Action. Sydney, Perth: Silverdale Publishing. Mike, W. (2009). Where to from here for our fruit producers? Fresh Produce Journal, 12(3) 17-21. Murray, L. (2013). Australians on the brink. Economics Today, 12(1) 56-66. Smith, G. (2004). The health benefits of community gardens. Psychology Today, 33(12), 45-49. 19In text referencing Direct quotes: Referencing This is when you take the exact words and sentences from an author and use it in your own writing. If it is longer than one sentence, indent it. For Many students struggle with example: the concept of referencing. In academic essays students Swann and Raphael (1995) state: must reference, not only The Aboriginal concept of health is holistic and encompasses direct quotes, but also ideas, mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. This and information they have concept does not just refer to the whole body, but is in fact summarised or steeped in harmonised inter relations which constitute paraphrased. wellbeing. Crucially it must be understood that when the harmony of these inter relations is disrupted, Aboriginal ill Useful words to use to refer health will persist (p 19). to what others write include: These are the exact words from the article. They are not changed, so it is a direct quote. We do not use direct quotes a lot in academic writing  States because the idea is to demonstrate that the student has understood  Argues what the author is saying and can put it in their own words.  Discusses  Identifies Paraphrasing:  Talks about This is when you summarise the author’s points and put it into your own  Asserts words. If we are to paraphrase the quote above we might say:  Maintains  Contends A range of activities that support the balance of mental, physical,  Indicates cultural and spiritual health are essential for Aboriginal health and  Examines wellbeing (Swann & Raphael 1995 p19).  Notes  Reports Another paraphrase of the same quote could be:  Considers Swann and Raphael (1995, p 19) claim that Aboriginal ill health will continue until the mental, physical, cultural and spiritual components of It is sometimes useful to health are harmonised. remind them that “There is no such thing as an original idea”. Referencing Academic referencing includes in-text referencing and reference lists at Referencing provides the end of the essay. students with supporting evidence for what they have There are various forms of referencing used in academic, the most written. common being the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Harvard referencing styles. Students seem to have more difficulty with in-text th At CDU most faculties have adopted the APA 6 edition style of citations, so the following referencing. Information on this style is available online through the examples are worth going CDU library: through. 20