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NE4016 Academic Writing 2. Íde O’Sullivan, Lawrence Cleary Regional Writing Centre Literature review: Key skills. Choose a research topic Design and develop a research question/problem (scope) Undertake literature searching and retrieval Analyse, synthesis and evaluate data

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ne4016 academic writing 2

NE4016Academic Writing 2

Íde O’Sullivan, Lawrence Cleary

Regional Writing Centre

literature review key skills
Literature review: Key skills
  • Choose a research topic
  • Design and develop a research question/problem (scope)
  • Undertake literature searching and retrieval
  • Analyse, synthesis and evaluate data
  • Present a literature critique
  • Develop good writing and reporting skills

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literature searching and retrieval
Literature searchingand retrieval
  • Select the review topic
  • Decide on selection and exclusion criteria
  • Search suitable electronic databases using keyword searches
  • Identify appropriate literature to be included in the review
  • Analyse and synthesise the literature
  • Engage in a critical review of the literature

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reviewing and evaluating the literature
Reviewing and evaluating the literature
  • Key information in the review
    • Title
    • Author/Year
    • Purpose
    • Methodology
    • Findings
    • Outcomes
    • Recommendations
  • Key thoughts and comments
    • Strengths, weaknesses

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writing a page 98 paper
Writing a ‘page 98 paper’
  • My research question is …
  • Researchers who have looked at this subject are …
  • They argue that …
  • Debate centres on the issue of …
  • There is work to be done on …
  • My research is closest to that of X in that …
  • My contribution will be …

(Murray 2006:104)

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writing the review1
Writing the review
  • Introduction
  • Main body of text
  • Conclusion
  • References

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the introduction
The introduction
  • In academic writing, an introduction, or opening, has four purposes:
    • To introduce the topic of the essay/report
    • To indicate the context of the conversation through background information
    • To give some indication of the overall plan of the essay/report
    • To catch the reader’s attention, usually by convincing the reader of its relevance.

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what should i put into the introduction
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 of the review and outline the plan
  • Give an overview of the literature sources and key search terms used in the review
  • May delineate the scope of the research

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the main text
The main text
  • Examining the theoretical literature and the methodological literature underpinning the selected study
  • Examining the theoretical literature and then the empirical literature in discrete sections
  • Dividing the literature into content themes
  • Examining the literature chronologically

(Carnwell and Daly 2001:60-62)

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the conclusion
The conclusion
  • Concise summary of the findings
  • Identify the gaps in the literature
  • Outline and justify the purpose of your proposed study

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the literature review
The literature review
  • Reveal the current state of knowledge/state of the art on a selected topic
  • Make sure that the literature reviewed is relevant (do not “write down all you know about…”)
  • A description of a series of studies is insufficient; you must engage in a critical review of the literature.
  • Include not only a review of the literature; the methodologies employed should also be critically reviewed.

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writing in layers murray 2006 125 27
‘Writing in layers’(Murray 2006: 125-27)
  • Outline the structure: write your chapter or section heading for the Literature Review.
  • Write a sentence or two on the contents of the chapter and each section.
  • List out sub-headings for each section.
  • Write an introductory paragraph for each section.
  • At the top of each section, write the word count requirement, draft number and date.

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  • Logical method of development
  • Effective transition signals
  • Good signposting
  • Consistent point of view
  • Conciseness (careful word choice)
  • Clarity of expression
  • Paragraph structure
    • Unity
    • Coherence

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paragraph structure
Paragraph structure
  • What is a paragraph?
    • Series of sentences
    • Coherent (introduction, middle, end)
    • Common theme
  • Every sentence in a paragraph develops one topic or idea.
  • Paragraphs signal the logically organised progression of ideas.
  • The flow of information should be organised around themes and comments. The main idea in one paragraph should flow logically into the next.
  • Shifts in the argument or changes in direction should be accurately signalled using appropriate adverbials, conjunctions, and prepositions.

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paragraph structure1
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 supporting sentences
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
Paragraph structure: Concluding sentences
  • Not every paragraph needs a concluding sentence.
  • Concluding sentences can either comment on the information in the text, or
  • They can paraphrase the topic sentence.

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paragraph structure unity
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
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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example meei fang et al 2007 471
Example: (Meei-Fang et al. 2007:471)

People with dementia are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition: they have a decreased ability to understand directions and to express their needs verbally, are easily distracted from eating, prone to become agitated, and may use utensils incorrectly. Inability to feed oneself (eating dependency) is a major risk factor for malnutrition among older people living in long-term care settings (Abbasi & Rudman 1994, Durnbaugh et al. 1996). When people with dementia can no longer take food voluntarily, assistance is required although, as the disease progresses, even taking food with assistance can become difficult and, in some instances, tube-feeding may be required to supply nutrition. This form of feeding can, however, cause distress and anxiety, not only for the person being fed, but also for caregivers (Akerlund & Norberg 1985, Burgener & Shimer 1993).

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paragraph structure transition signals
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’ (Gillet 2005).
  • The signal indicates the final point in a series of points.

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paragraph structure transition signals1
Paragraph structure: Transition signals
  • To introduce an additional idea
  • To introduce an opposite idea or contrast
  • To introduce a choice or alternative
  • To introduce an example
  • To introduce an explanation
  • To list
  • To introduce a conclusion/summary
  • To introduce a result

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paragraph structure2
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
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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writing to prompts
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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getting started
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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keep writing
Keep writing
  • Where and when do you write?
  • Why are you not writing?
    • “I don’t feel ready to write.”
    • Writers’ block
  • Getting unstuck
    • Writing to prompts/freewriting (write anything)
    • Set writing goals
    • Write regularly
    • Integrate writing into your thinking
    • Break it down into a manageable process

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keep writing1
Keep writing
  • Be patient
  • Be creative
  • Taking pleasure in writing
  • Be proud of your writing
  • Get stuck in

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cracking the codes
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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writing time
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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dialogue as a social strategy
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.

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motivation it is not too late
Motivation: It is not too late
  • Take stock of where you are now
  • Outline your research
  • Make plans based on the time that is left
  • Organise your time accordingly
  • Get writing
  • Keep writing
  • Allow time for revision and to put it all together
  • Let family and friends know
  • Be selfish with your time

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revising global
Revising (Global)

Global issues (organisation and structure):

Does the text achieve your writing goals as established in your evaluation of the rhetorical situation (writing context) and by your thesis?

Is there deviation, wander and digression?

Does each paragraph treat in a controlled manner an identifiable idea, and does that idea follow logically the ideas expressed in previous paragraphs and do they allow readers to predict the ideas expressed in the paragraphs that follow?

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revising global1
Revising (Global)

“If the process of writing has changed your views, consider rethinking the thesis and reworking the paper” (Ebest et al. 2004:14).

How does the introduction fit in with the body of the paper? Did you address what you said you would address? Did you fulfil your promises?

Does your conclusion take into account the discoveries made during your research and writing processes.

Strategy: Outline your paper, now that you have finished it.

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revising local
Revising (Local)

Local issues (editing and proofreading):

Look at logical and grammatical relations as expressed within paragraph boundaries.

Is the relationship between pronouns and noun substitutes and the things they represent clear?

Verbs express relationships of time and indicate person, number and mood. Are those relationships consistent and appropriate?

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revising local1
Revising (Local)

Is information logically arranged, and is the organisation of your text clear?

Does each paragraph have a topic sentence and is the paragraph cogent, coherent and unified?

Do your sentences express complete ideas, and do you vary your structures? Are they grammatical? What about the mechanics?

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checklists and feedback
Checklists and Feedback

Before flying, pilots go through a methodical check of their plane. Do you have a checklist for your assignments before you hand them in?

How can you anticipate problems that you are unable to see? Get a peer to help.

Ask for the feedback that you need and that is appropriate to the context.

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revising peer review
Revising (Peer review)

For example, this is an argumentative paper: “Were you convinced by my argument? Why? Or why not?”

I know I write poor introductions: “Could you identify my thesis?” Or “...could you tell me how the introduction attempts to grab the reader’s interest?”

I know that my sentences tend to be long and difficult to understand: “Could you read my paper aloud so that I can listen to it and mark where you are having difficulties in reading?”

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  • Make sure to set the language to BrE or AmE but stick to one (-ise/-ize)
  • Standard forms
  • Double letters
  • Don’t rely on spell check – it doesn’t catch everything

- for foe

- form from

- quiet quite

- practice practise

- affect effect

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  • Sentence structure
  • Complete sentences
  • Agreement
  • Tense
  • Grammar check is not always correct

- passive sentences

- defining and non-defining clauses

The woman who lives in apartment No. 34 has been arrested. Mrs. Jackson, who is very intelligent, lives on the corner.

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  • Commas, semi-colons, full stops
  • Apostrophe
    • its Vs it’s
    • 1920s
  • Possessives
    • The dog’s bone
    • The dogs’ bone
    • The horses’ mouths
    • Seamus’ car
  • Capitalisation

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tips for editing
Tips for editing
  • Set it aside for a few days and come back with a fresh eye
  • Get someone else to proofread it as well as you
  • Use the print preview button to check layout before you print
  • Always proofread on hardcopy
  • Hold paper below the line you are proofreading
  • Use the find button to make changes
  • Be consistent!!
  • Editing a reference list is separate

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editing a reference list
Editing a reference list
  • Check that in-text dates and page numbers match reference list
  • Only enter names in reference list that you have mentioned in your text – it’s not a bibliography
  • Make sure that if a name is mentioned in the document that is in included in the reference list
  • Do a separate edit of your reference list, checking everything matches, everything is included and it is consistent

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common errors
Common errors
  • Consistency of layout
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Syntax
  • Correct font and spacing
  • Word or letter substitution
  • Transposition of letters
  • Omission of a line or lines, which does not outwardly affect the meaning
  • Check finished work with original
  • Dates, proper names and place names, and figures
  • Complete labelling of diagrams, tables, graphs, etc

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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
Reference list
  • Carnwell, R and Daly, W. (2001) ‘Strategies for the construction of a critical review of the literature’, Nurse Education in Practice, 1: 57-63.
  • Moore, S. and Murphy, M. (2005) How to be a Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Hints for Students Everywhere. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. (2005) Writing for Academic Journals. UK: Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. (2006) How to Write a Thesis. UK: Open University Press.
  • Murray, R. and Moore, S. (2006) The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.
  • Oshima, A. and Hogue, A. (2006) Writing Academic English, 4th edition. New York: Pearson Education.

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