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Academic Writing for FYP Students (LCS). Seminar 2 Íde O’Sullivan Regional Writing Centre. Plan of seminars. Seminars: Weeks 3, 4, 5 Tuesday 12:00 – 14:00 (HSG025) Tuesday 15:00 – 17:00 (LG011) Drop-in/One-to-one sessions: Weeks 7, 8, 9 Tuesday 12:00 – 13:00 (HSG025)

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Academic Writing for FYP Students (LCS)

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Academic Writing for FYP Students (LCS)

Seminar 2

Íde O’Sullivan

Regional Writing Centre

Plan of seminars

  • Seminars: Weeks 3, 4, 5

    • Tuesday 12:00 – 14:00 (HSG025)

    • Tuesday 15:00 – 17:00 (LG011)

  • Drop-in/One-to-one sessions: Weeks 7, 8, 9

    • Tuesday 12:00 – 13:00 (HSG025)

    • Tuesday 15:00 – 16:00 (LG011)

Plan of seminars

  • Seminar 1(Week 3):

    • Layout/presentation/structure

    • Academic writing style

    • Referencing

  • Seminar 2 (Week 4):

    • Developing and sustaining an argument

    • Writing an effective abstract, introduction and conclusion

  • Seminar 3 (Week 5):

    • Editing and proof reading


  • Writing an effective abstract

  • Writing an effective introduction

  • Writing an effective conclusion and discussion

  • Developing and sustaining an argument

  • Some helpful websites

  • Final words

Writing an effective abstract

  • What is an abstract?

  • Types of abstracts

  • Why are abstracts important?

  • What should I include in the abstract?

  • What should I not include?

  • Qualities of a good abstract

  • Style

  • How to write an abstract?

What is an abstract?

  • Term often interchanged with summary

  • It is a brief, factual account of the content of a report or article

  • Highlights ‘the major points covered, concisely describes the content and scope of the writing, and reviews the writing’s content in abbreviated form’ (Literary Education Online: Writing Abstracts)

Types of abstracts

  • Descriptive abstract

  • Informative abstract

Descriptive abstract

  • Often used in electronic databases to facilitate keywords searches – abstracts therefore often contain key terms

  • Indicates key areas to be covered in the report

  • Is an extended statement of the scope or purpose of the report

  • Articulates the paper’s organisation, rather than its content

  • 50-75 words

Descriptive abstract


“This article examines the economic, political and social forces at work in the Georgia wheat-producing region prior to the break-up of the USSR. The causes for failing birth rates in Georgia are explored, and the links between this problem and the collapse of the Soviet system are analysed”.

Descriptive abstract

  • Written in present tense

  • Lists topics but does not explain what article says about the topics

  • Does not give results, conclusions or recommendations

  • Reader needs to find more by reading the text

Informative abstract

  • Kirkman (1992) believes this type is best and more useful to readers in most circumstances

  • Summarises the entire report

  • Gives the reader an overview of the facts that will be laid out in detail in the paper itself

  • Varies in length (200 – 300 words)

  • Is rarely longer than one page and should never exceed 10% of the length of the entire report

    University Writing Center, George Mason University)

Why are abstracts important?

  • They give the reader the idea of what the report / article contains.

  • They are needed for keyword searches in electronic databases.

What should I include in the abstract?

  • A clear concise summary of the entire report (not more than one page in length)

  • The aim of the study and a brief justification for the investigation into the problem

  • A brief description of how the problem was approached and a justification for that approach

  • A summary of the outcomes and whether they confirm those that had been initially anticipated

  • The main results, conclusions andrecommendations

What should I not include?

  • Lengthy historical summaries and background information

  • Personal judgements: “I feel this thesis does an excellent job of…”

  • Overstatements of the results: “This thesis proves…”

  • Lengthy examples and supporting details

  • “[…] extraneous information and terms which don’t support the content” (Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network)

Qualities of a good abstract

  • Provide essential message (thesis, findings, important names, conclusion)

  • Non-technical style

  • Can be used independently of the main document

  • Does not contain personal judgments

  • Contains one or more well developed paragraphs

  • No new information (information not included in the report)

  • Present tense? - Be consistent!!!


  • Avoid the use of ‘I’

  • Use short simple, active sentences

  • Use correct English

  • Suit style to readers

  • Ensure it reads fluently – not just a collection of unconnected sentences

  • Use transitions (however, consequently, therefore, in addition to) to link sentences and make connections clear

  • Hedge

How to write an abstract?

1. Read text to be summarised – get general gist (what’s the purpose etc.)

2. Read again and mark and number important points

3. Write single sentences about each important point

4. Write a sentence to answer ‘what is this text about?’ – try to get an overview of the text’s central idea

How to write an abstract?

5. Write first draft by combining overview sentence with important points – avoid repetition

6. Check draft against original – does anything need to be added? Is it accurate and complete?

7. Revise abstract, add transitions and aim for a coherent, unified piece of writing


  • What is an introduction?

  • Purpose of an introduction

  • What should I put into the introduction?

  • Summary

What is an introduction?

  • Usually has two parts:

  • 1. General Statement – to attract the reader’s attention and give background info to the topic

  • 2. Thesis Statement – to state the main topic, may indicate sub-topics, may indicate how the essay is to be organised, usually the last sentence in the introduction

Purpose of an introduction

In academic writing, an introduction has four purposes:

1. To introduce the topic

2. To indicate the context through background information

3. To give some indication of the overall plan of the essay

4. To catch the reader’s attention, usually by convincing the reader of its relevance

What should I put into the introduction?

  • Identify the domain and the topic

  • State the problem - claim, hypothesis, or question - to be investigated

  • Gives the problem context and significance within the research community

  • State the objectives and outline the plan

  • Give a detailed description of what will follow in subsequent chapters

What should I put into the introduction?

  • May mention why this research is relevant and important

  • May elaborate on the method of inquiry, which may include a statement on the ethical aspects of the research

  • May delineate the scope of the research

  • May include a definition of terms

  • Should tell reader what to expect and look for

    • Check with your supervisor!


  • Introduction should be funnel shaped

    • Begin with broad statements.

    • Make these statements more and more specific as the writer narrows the scope of the topic and comes to the problem.

    • Be sure that the question, hypothesis or claimis one that can be handled in a report of the length specified.

    • This question, hypothesis or claim is your thesis statement.


  • What is a conclusion?

  • Elements of a good conclusion

  • What should I include in the conclusion

  • Summary

What is a conclusion?

  • ‘ A conclusion is a final result, a judgment reached by reasoning, or the summing up of an essay, book, or other piece of writing’ (ABC of Academic Writing)

Elements of a good conclusion

  • A conclusion should:

    • Remind the reader of the main points of your argument

    • Bring ‘closure to the interpretation of the data’ (Leedy, 2001: 291)

    • Be clear

    • Be logical

    • Be credible

Elements of a good conclusion

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the limitations

  • Discuss the implications of the findings

  • Offer suggestions for future developments – Remember: A summary alone of what you have done is a weak conclusion

  • End on a positive note – final sentence should be strong and positive

What should I include in the conclusion?

  • An introduction

  • A summary of the investigation, the results, and the analysis

  • A summary of the conclusions drawn from the analysis and discussion of the data / results

  • An account of whether the research has answered the research question

  • An assessment of whether the hypothesis or claim has been proved, disproved, or partially proved

What should I include in the conclusion?

  • A discussionion of the implications of the findings

  • A demonstrable awareness of the limitations of the outcome

  • Suggestions for future developments – Remember: A summary alone of what you have done is a weak conclusion

  • A final, strong, positive statement


‘Whatever kind of conclusion you decide on, it should not introduce new topics, apologize for any real or perceived failings in the paper, or merely stop or trail off. Make sure your paper has a clear sense of closure’ (Ebert et al., 1997: 129)

Developing and sustaining an argument

  • What is an argument?

  • Qualities of a good argument

  • 4 Rules for an argument

  • Persuasion and truth in academic writing

  • Some tips

The thesis and persuasion: academic argument

‘In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement and it serves as a summary of the argument you'll make in the rest of your paper’ (UNC-CH Writing Center, 2004: Online).

Developing and sustaining an argument

Your thesis is the basic stand you take, the opinion you express, the point you make about your limited subject. It’s your controlling idea, tying together and giving direction to all other separate elements in your paper. Your primary purpose is to persuade the reader that your thesis is a valid one’ (Skwire, 1976: 3).

What is an argument?

‘An argument is the case that someone makes, in a theory or in their writing… you give reasons for saying what you do, and present evidence to support what you say’ (ABC of Academic Writing).

Qualities of a good argument

  • Pursue your argument logically

  • Do not only describe, but evaluate and interpret also

  • Argument can be implicit or explicit

  • Arguments need justifications for their claims

4 Rules for an argument

  • Leedy (2001: 183) cites Marius (1989) in highlighting 4 rules for an argument

    1. ‘state your arguments early in the game’ – present and interpret data

    2. ‘provide examples to support any assertion you make’ – makes it stronger and more credible

4 Rules for an argument

3. ‘give the fairest possible treatment of any perspectives different from your own’ – may support or disagree with them

4. ‘ point out the weaknesses of your own argument’ – by doing this you show objectivity as a researcher

Persuasion and truth in academic writing

  • An Argument should be persuasive – don’t sacrifice truth for persuasion

  • Academic inquiry is a truth-seeking pursuit

    • facts are distinguished from opinions

    • subjective truths are distinguished from objective truths

    • relative truths are distinguished from absolute truths

  • Claims are qualified

  • Hedge

Persuasion and truth in academic writing

  • The integrity of the conclusions reached in an academic essay or report is based on its honest pursuit of truth.

  • Its persuasive quality is based on the quality of its appeals.

  • Although largely dependent on logic, proof, and method, academic texts do appeal to the reader’s emotions and regard for authority as well as to reason.

Some tips

  • Establish your argument in the introduction - in a thesisstatement.

  • Advance your argument by giving evidence.

  • Do not reiterate evidence already provided, but refer back to something you have already stated.

  • Present counter arguments and explain both the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments – arguments should be balanced.

Some tips

  • Concede points, even when you know that such a concession weakens your argument. The goal is not to be right, but to explore the question honestly

  • Qualify your statements

  • Expose questions that your opinion begs

  • Your concluding argument should be strong and positive

Useful websites

  • ABC of Academic Writing

  • Literacy Education Online: Writing Abstracts

  • Writing Abstracts: Guidelines for Metadata Development

Useful websites

  • Summaries: An Introduction – University of Victoria

  • Writing Summaries – Colorado State University

Final Words

  • Leave everything aside for a few days and come back with a fresh mind

  • Allow sufficient time for editing

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