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Research Methodology: Academic Writing. Íde O’Sullivan, Lawrence Cleary Regional Writing Centre Freewriting/ Writing to prompts. Strategies that might help boost my academic writing skills……… Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes. Write in sentences.

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Research Methodology: Academic Writing

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Research methodology academic writing l.jpg

Research Methodology:Academic Writing

Íde O’Sullivan, Lawrence Cleary

Regional Writing Centre

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Freewriting/Writing to prompts

  • Strategies that might help boost my academic writing skills………

  • Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes.

  • Write in sentences.

  • Do not edit or censor your writing.

  • Discuss what you have written in pairs.

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Workshop outline

  • Workplan

  • Presentation

  • Structure

    • Overall structure

    • Paragraph structure

    • Sentence structure

  • Academic writing style

  • Strategies to develop writing

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Key stages in the process

  • Planning

  • Drafting

  • Revision

  • Editing and Proofreading

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The rhetorical situation






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Organising principles




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Organising principles




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Key tasks for academic writers

Participating in academic conversations

Developing and advancing balanced arguments

Exploring your personal writing process

Developing strategies that work for you

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  • Understanding the assignment

  • Formulating the question/hypothesis

  • Brainstorming (mind-mapping)

  • Research (note-taking)

  • Planning and organising your research

  • Structuring your research

  • Developing and sustaining your argument

  • Drafting and redrafting your work

  • Editing and proofreading your work

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Presentation and layout

  • Font

  • Margins

  • Line spacing

  • Pagination

  • Headings

  • Numbering systems

  • Table of contents

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Presentation and layout

A major report

or thesis is


divided into

three parts.

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Structuring the main text

  • Introduction

  • Chapters / Sections that inform the reader of the context for the arguments posed, explain the methods of inquiry and the procedure used to gather data or evidence, present the findings, discuss the findings, draw conclusions from the findings, and develop the argument.

  • Conclusions and Recommendations

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Structuring the main text

  • Chapter 1- Introduction

  • Chapter 2 - Background and literature review

  • Chapter 3 – Research design and methodology

  • Chapter 4 - Data analysis / results and discussion

  • Chapter 5 – Conclusion

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Structuring the main text

  • Keep in mind the assignment question, any questions you need to answer in order to answer the assignment question, and the instruction word as you plan your essay/dissertation.

  • From beginning to end, the point of order is the initial question, claim or hypothesis.

  • Do not “write down all you know about…”

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Structuring the main text

  • Organise the essay/dissertation so that the argument unfolds in a clearly stated, detailed, logical, linear progression and arrangement of ideas.

    • Introduction: present the thesis, hypothesis, or question that you will try to defend, prove or disprove, or answer.

    • Sections: to support the thesis

    • Conclusions

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The introduction

  • In academic writing, an introduction, or opening, has four purposes:

    • To introduce the topic of the essay/dissertation

    • To indicate the context of the conversation through background information

    • To give some indication of the overall plan of the essay

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

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The introduction

  • The introductory paragraph is funnel-shaped:

    • It begins with broad statements.

    • The statements become more and more specific as the writer narrows the scope of the topic, until…

    • The topic is narrowed to a point that can be handled in an essay. This is your thesis statement.

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The introduction

  • Introduction to area to be researched (context)

  • Research question/problem (objectives)

  • Rationale/relevance of the topic

  • Hypothesis/es

  • Brief outline of methodology (including statement on ethics)

  • Assumptions

  • Delimitations

  • Chapter outline (plan)

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CARS model

  • Establishing a territory

    • Claiming centrality

    • Reviewing items of previous research

  • Establishing a niche

    • Counter-claiming

    • Identifying a gap

    • Question-raising

  • Occupying the niche

    • Outlining purpose

      Swales (1990:141)

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Structuring the main text

  • Chapter 2 - Background and Literature Review

    • Introduction: What does Chapter 2 consist of? What is its unifying point of order?

    • Sections on each of the main areas of literature you will review

    • Definition of terms

    • Conclusion/s based on Chapter 2

  • Aim: reveal the current state of knowledge/state of the art on a selected topic

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Structuring the main text

  • Make sure

    • that the literature reviewed is relevant (do not “write down all you know about…”), and

    • that the discussion of the literature is not too long - there must be a balance between this section and the remaining sections.

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Structuring the main text

  • Chapter 3 – Research design and methodology

    • Introduction: What does Chapter 3 consist of?

    • Research methodology

    • Data collection (steps you took, methodology)

    • Data analysis

    • Conclusions based on Chapter 3

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Structuring the main text

Make Sure…

  • that the methodology addresses both the procedure for the collection of your data and the one for your analysis.

  • that you section the analysis so that the argument unfolds in a clearly stated, detailed, logical progression.

  • that you view the data objectively. Don’t ignore data that disproves the hypothesis or claim.

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Structuring the main text

Chapter 4 - Data analysis / results and discussion

  • The results section must not only present the results; it must make the results meaningful for the reader.

  • The discussion should not simply provide more detail about the results; it should interpret and explain the results.

  • Methods of organising the results and discussion.

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Discussion (Swales, 1990: 172/3)

  • Background information

  • Statement of results

  • (Un)expected results

  • Reference to previous research

  • Explanation

  • Exemplification

  • Deduction and hypothesis

  • Recommendation

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Structuring the main text

  • Chapter 5 – Conclusion (Seminar 2)

    • To what extend have the aims of the study been achieved?

    • How has your primary and secondary research (Chapters 2 and 3) helped answer the research questions you had in Chapter 1?

    • Have your hypotheses been proved/disproved/partially proved?

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Structuring the main text

  • Chapter 5 (continued…)

    • Discuss the Implications.

    • Did the study raise any further questions?

    • Any recommendations for future research?

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  • 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

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  • A good conclusion:

    • Demonstrates an awareness of the limitations

    • Discusses the implications of the findings

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

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

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End matter

The End Matter generally consists of:

  • a References page and/or a Bibliography,

  • Appendices, and

  • in some technical reports, a Glossary might be found at the end of this section.

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The dissertation should not be a Magical Mystery Tour!

  • The dissertation hasa clear structure.

    • From beginning to end, the point of order is the initial question, claim or hypothesis.

    • Chapter and section headings announce the organisation with a logical, linear, progressive arrangement of ideas.

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  • At its simplest, the structure…

    • …contains an introductory chapter

    • …provides context (relevant theoretical, historical background)

    • …includes a study / analysis of its subject data (1 or 2 chapters)

    • …comes to a conclusion and, perhaps, recommends future research.

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Paragraph structure

  • Essays are divided into paragraphs in a meaningful way.

  • What is a paragraph?

    • Series of sentences (related to each other in a meaningful way)

    • Coherent (introduction, middle, end)

    • Common theme

  • Every sentence in a paragraph develops one topic or idea, and each paragraph in an argumentative essay, likewise, develops the line of argument that supports the thesis statement.

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Paragraph structure

  • Paragraphs signal the logically organised progression of ideas.

  • When organising paragraphs, the main idea in one paragraph should flow logically into the next.

  • The flow of information should be organised around themes and comments.

  • Shifts in the argument or changes in direction should be accurately signalled using appropriate adverbials, conjunctions, and prepositions.

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Paragraph structure

  • Just as an essay is guided by a thesis statement, a paragraph is organised around its topic sentence.

  • A topic sentence informs the reader of the topic to be discussed.

  • A topic sentence contains controlling ideas which limit the scope of the discussion to ideas that are manageable in a paragraph.

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Paragraph structure

  • ‘Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two important characteristics’ (Oshima and Hogue, 1999: 17).

    • The topic - What is it?

    • The controlling idea - What is it?

    • The method of development - What is it?

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Paragraph structure: Supporting sentences

  • The sentences that follow expand upon the topic, using controlling ideas to limit the discussion. The main idea is supported by

    • Evidence in the form of facts, statistics, theoretical probabilities, reputable, educated opinions,

    • Illustrations in the form of examples and extended examples, and

    • Argumentation based on the evidence presented.

    • Qualifying statements indicate the limitations of the support or argument.

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Paragraph structure: Concluding sentences

  • Concluding sentences can either comment on the information in the text, or

  • They can paraphrase the topic sentence, or

  • They can transition into the topic or aspect of the topic to be discussed in the paragraph that follows.

  • Not every paragraph needs a concluding sentence.

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Paragraph structure:Unity

  • Paragraphs should be unified.

  • ‘Unitymeans that only one main idea is discussed in a paragraph. The main idea is stated in the topic sentence, and then each and every supporting sentence develops that idea’ (Oshima and Hogue, 1999: 18).

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Paragraph structure: Coherence

  • Coherencemeans that your paragraph is easy to read and understand because

    • your supporting sentences are in some kind of logical order

    • your ideas are connected by the use of appropriate transition signals

    • your pronoun references clearly point to the intended antecedent and is consistent

    • you have repeated or substituted key nouns.

      (Oshima and Hogue, 2006: 22)

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Cohesive devices

  • References

    • Backwards (pronouns, demonstratives , definite article)

    • Forwards (the following, as follows, subsequently)

  • Substitution (so, one, ones)

  • Ellipsis (the remainder, another part)

  • Conjunction (however, for example, furthermore, firstly)

  • Lexical cohesion (Repetition, Synonyms)

  • Anaphoric nouns (this problem, this situation, this view, this process)

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Examples: Gillett (2005)

  • “Some of the water which falls as rain flows on the surface as streams. Another part is evaporated. The remainder sinks into the ground and is known as ground water.”

  • Ellipsis

  • “Genetics deals with how genes are passed on from parents to their offspring. A great deal is known about the mechanisms governing this process.”

  • Anaphoric nouns

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Examples: Gillett (2005)

  • “This first example illustrates an impulsive overdose taken by a woman who had experienced a recent loss and had been unable to discuss her problems with her family. During the relatively short treatment, the therapist helped the patient to begin discussing her feelings with her family.”

  • Lexical cohesion

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Paragraph structure: Transition signals

  • Transition signals do exactly what it says on the tin: they ‘signal’. They can signal relationships between sentences, just as they can signal relationships between paragraphs.

  • Example: ‘Finally,there have been numerous women altogether outside the profession, who were reformers dedicated to creating alternatives’ (Gillett, 2005: Online).

  • The signal indicates the final point in a series of points.

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  • “If people stopped drinking, they might be able to prevent liver cirrhosis. However, governments permit the production and sale of alcohol. So, the government should help in preventing this disease. Nevertheless, government resources are limited.”

  • University of Melbourne, Language and Learning Skills Unit:

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Paragraph structure

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do not use pronouns to refer to an antecedent in the previous paragraph.

  • Lengthy paragraphs indicate a lack of structure.

  • Short paragraphs indicate a lack of detail or evidence to support the argument.

  • Do not end a paragraph with a quotation.

  • Use a variety of sentence patterns and lengths to give your paragraph a lively rhythm.

  • Signpost your paragraph organisation.

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Sentence structure

  • Vary your rhythm by using a variety of sentence types and patterns. Use a combination of

    • Simple sentences

    • Compound sentences

    • Complex sentences

    • Compound-Complex sentences

  • Do not limit yourself to simple sentences or linking sentences using “and”/”but”.

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Academic Writing Style

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Stylistic differences that markacademic writing




  • Explicitness

  • Hedging

  • Responsibility

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Persuasion and truth in academic writing

  • Because they are argumentative, academic writing tends to be persuasive.

  • An argument should be persuasive, but don’t sacrifice truth in favour of persuasion.

  • Academic inquiry is a truth-seeking pursuit.

    • facts are distinguished from opinions.

    • relative truths are distinguished from absolute truths.

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

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Academic writing style

  • Hedge. Distinguish between absolutes and probabilities. Absolutes are 100% certain. Probabilities are less than 100% certain.

  • Be responsible. Provide traceable evidence and justifications for any claims you make or any opinions you have formed as a result of your research.

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Strategies to Develop Writing

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Cracking the codes

Analysing the genre/text and modelling

Generate a list of

The most important features of academic writing

Criteria to make your writing-strategies more effective

The important conventions in your discipline

What is/is not acceptable in your discipline

Student handbooks and guides for written submissions


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Getting started

  • Create time and space for writing

  • Freewriting

  • Writing to prompts

    • “What writing have you done for this assignment, what writing would you like to do……”

    • “The aim of this assignment…”

  • Experiment with different types of writing

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Other types of writing

  • Keep a learning diary (Moore and Murphy, 2005:61) / writing diary / process journal (Elbow and Belanoff, 2003:19).

    • When do you feel most/least motivated to write?

    • What strategies have/have not worked in the past?

  • Write a little bit every day (Moore and Murphy, 2005:117):

    “we learn to write through writing” (Hyland, 2002:81).

  • Keep a notebook with you to record ideas when they come to mind (Moore and Murphy, (2005).

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Writing time

  • Dealing with issues of time

  • Setting goals

  • “Binge” and “snack” writing (Murray, 2005)

  • Do I need a big block of time to write productively?

  • “Short bursts of productive writing” (Murray and Moore, 2006:17)

  • Outlining (Murray, 2005)

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Other strategies

  • The importance of reading

  • Modelling

  • Images and diagrams

  • Mind mapping

  • Writing dictionaries

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Dialogue as a social strategy


Generative writing

The “writing sandwich” (Murray, 2005:85): writing, talking, writing

Writing “buddies” (Murray and Moore, 2006:102)

Engaging in critiques of one another’s work allows you to become effective critics of your own work.

Regional Writing Centre


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Strategies that work for you

Writing is a personal process

Learning diary (Moore and Murphy, 2005:61)

Process journal (Elbow and Belanoff, 2003:19)

When do you feel most/least motivated to write?

What strategies have/have not worked in the past?


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Shannon Consortium Regional Writing Centre, UL

Using English for Academic Purposes

The Writer’s Garden http://www.

The OWL at Purdue

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill /wcweb/handouts/index.html

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Reference List

Elbow, P. (1998) Writing without Teachers (2nd edition). New York: Oxford University Press.

Elbow, P. and Belanoff, P. (2003) Being a Writer: A Community of Writers Revisited. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hyland, K. (2002) Teaching and Researching Writing. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Moore, S. and Murphy, M. (2005) How to be a Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Hints for Students Everywhere. UK: Open University Press.

Murray, R. (2005) Writing for Academic Journals. UK: Open University Press.

Murray, R. and Moore, S. (2006) The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.

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