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Academic Writing for International Students Presented by Brian Clifton, Erica Peterson, and Jim Redmond Graduate Writing Consultants UNT Writing Center
American academic values • Acknowledging sources of information • Using conventional organization • Communicating with professors • Studying American English grammar • Preparing for standardized tests • Visiting the Writing Center
Acknowledging sources of information • Acknowledging sources is an important value in the American academic sphere. Knowledge is considered a commodity that belongs to the person or institution who produces it. • Another reason for citing sources is that readers want to ensure that your information is reliable. When you cite a source, the reader can locate the information and determine its validity. By citing, you show your reader that you have gone through an appropriate research process.
Values behind citing sources • When you refer to someone else’s work in your own writing, readers will expect you to include a reference that indicates whose work you are citing and where it was published. • The UNT library pays to subscribe to academic journals and databases. Using the library website to locate sources will provide you with more information than using a regular internet search engine. • Reference librarians who specialize various academic fields are available to help you perform in-depth research. To contact a reference librarian, call Willis Library at 940-565-3245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specifics about citation practices • Quotation: unaltered words or passages you take directly from the source and place in quotation marks. • Paraphrase: your rewording of a passage written or spoken by someone else. • Summary: a condensed presentation of a larger excerpt that captures a source’s main ideas. • You must properly cite quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.
Citation practices (cont.) • Do not “over-quote.” Use quotes very sparingly. Reserve quotes for when you want to convey a concept or term found in a source that you cannot possibly restate more clearly in your own words. When possible, always try to paraphrase first. • Paraphrasing requires more than simply plugging in a few new words here and there in place of the source’s original phrasing. The language should be significantly reworked without compromising the author’s intended meaning. • Summarizing allows you to quickly cover a larger amount of material or provide some basic understanding of background information, a concept, or argument that is relevant to your topic before moving on. • Integration of summary, paraphrase, and quotations into your own work will result in efficient and effective English Academic writing that is engaged with the scholarly discourse.
Citation styles • There are several styles of citation, and which style you use will depend on which subject you are studying. Some of the most common citation styles are Chicago, American Psychological Association (APA), and Modern Language Association (MLA). • You should own a copy of the style manual that describes the citation style used in your field. The manual will give detailed information about how to cite a variety of sources, including books and journal articles. After you master the basics of your citation style, you can use the manual as a reference when you cite less common types of sources, like interviews or graphs. • If you don’t own a copy of your citation style manual, you can use the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) to look up information about citing sources.
Using conventional organization • Academic papers should be organized according to field-specific conventions. Some fields have rigorous organizational patterns that must be followed, while other fields are more flexible in their expectations. • Writers use conventional organization to help their readers. When readers encounters information in a pattern they expect, they will not have to work hard to understand a paper. They can easily find the main ideas and supporting points of your research or argument.
Identifying main ideas with thesis statements • One organizational strategy that is used in most academic fields is identifying main ideas early. Readers hope to find the main points of your paper in the first section. • To identify your main idea early, try to develop a clear thesis statement. The thesis should clearly and directly declare the main point of your paper. • Even though the thesis statement appears near the beginning of a paper, it is usually written or revised at the end of the writing process. You don’t have to know what your thesis will be when you begin writing. After you finish drafting your paper, you can return to the first section to work on your thesis.
Topic sentences • Another organizational strategy that will help readers navigate your paper is including a topic sentence at the beginning of every paragraph. • A topic sentence is like a summary of the paragraph. It provides the main idea of the paragraph so that readers will be prepared to understand the detailed information in the following sentences. • Like the thesis statement, a topic sentence can be written last. After you finish drafting a paragraph, read it to determine the main idea, and then go back to the beginning of the paragraph to write the topic sentence.
Headings and Subheadings • Many academic style manuals include rules for using headings and subheadings. • A heading or subheading is similar to a title. Just like the overall paper includes a title, each section has its own title. • A heading is the title of a major section of the paper. For example, the heading for the first section of a paper is often “Introduction.” • A subheading is the title of a smaller section of a paper. Within the Introduction, you may include sections like a literature review or a statement of your contribution to research in your field. These smaller sections are often introduced with subheadings.
Organization and style manuals • One common organizational pattern in academic papers is called IMRD, which stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. This pattern is used in most scientific fields, including the social sciences. • The style manual used for citations in your field will also include information about how papers should be organized. • In addition to reading your style manual, a good strategy for learning the organizational patterns used in your field is to read reliable academic articles. Try to follow the same organizational patterns in your own papers.
Communicating with professors • Communicating with your professors is a key strategy for successfully completing writing assignments. • There are some cultural differences in how people communicate with each other. In American academic culture, it’s considered appropriate to approach your professors with questions or concerns before an assignment is due. It’s okay to tell a professor that you do not understand their assignment and that you need clarification or more information. • Remember that one part of a professor’s job is to answer your questions and help you understand your assignments. You should not contact them any more than necessary, but when you do have a specific question about an assignment, do not hesitate to ask.
Meeting in person • The best way to communicate with your professors about writing assignments is to meet with them in person. When you meet with them, be polite and direct. • To schedule a meeting, send the professor an email to let them know when you are available and ask when would be a convenient time for them to meet. • Be prepared for your meeting. Read the assignment guidelines carefully and write down the questions you would like to ask. Professors may not have a lot of time for your meeting, so it’s important to be efficient and organized.
Meeting in person (cont.) • If you don’t understand the answer your professor gives you, respectfully tell them you need clarification and ask your question again. If you still don’t understand, ask if there is a resource you could read to get more information. They may be able to suggest a book or website that provides details about the kind of writing assignment you’re going to complete. • At the end of your meeting, try to summarize what you understood so the professor can clarify any misunderstandings. • If you have new questions or would like more information after your meeting, send your professor a brief email that includes a greeting (like ”Dear Professor Smith,”) followed by your questions. End the email by thanking the professor for their time and attention.
Communicating through email • Sometimes, you may not be able to meet with your professor in person. In that situation, it’s best to communicate through email. • Send your professor an email before the writing assignment is due. Ideally, you should reach out as early as possible. Professors do not prefer to answer questions about an assignment at the last minute, because it may give them the impression that you did not plan ahead. • Emails should be brief, so be direct and concise. Greet the professor and then ask specific questions. End the email by thanking them for their time. • If the professor’s response doesn’t give you all the information you need, send a follow-up email asking for clarification. Be specific about what you did not understand.
Studying American English grammar • Understanding American English grammar is a major concern for many international students. • UNT has a large international graduate student population. Writing tutors are prepared to help you with common writing problems related to grammar. • Even though we do not proofread papers in the Writing Center, we are happy to help you learn grammatical concepts. We can explain the grammatical rules that you may be struggling with and help you to identify errors in your papers. When you learn the grammatical rule, you will be able to write with confidence and proofread your own work.
Grammar resources • There are many writing manuals that include sections on common writing problems for international students. If you want to practice using grammatical conventions, you can use one of these manuals to find detailed explanations of concepts and sample sentences to work on. The Writing Center has copies of manuals that you can refer to during an appointment. • In addition to writing manuals, there are many online resources that provide reliable information about grammatical rules. The Purdue OWL is one source that provides this information.
Preparing for standardized tests • A standardized test in writing usually includes a writing prompt, which may propose a topic or ask a question. The test will also describe some requirements for your response, including the purpose for writing, the guidelines for length and content, and the amount of time you have to complete the test. • The most common purpose for writing is to make an argument. The prompt will ask you to take a position on an issue and write a response that attempts to convince the reader that your position is valid. • The guidelines for length and content vary by exam, but responses are usually short--no more than a few handwritten pages.
Organizing your response • There is a conventional organization for responses to standardized test questions on writing exams. This organization pattern is called the five-paragraph essay. • A five-paragraph essay includes the following components: an introductory paragraph that makes a clear thesis statement; three body paragraphs that describe the reasons why the writer has taken a particular position; and a conclusion paragraph that summarizes the argument.
Visiting the Writing Center • The Writing Center is located at Sage Hall, room 150. • To schedule an in-person appointment, please call the front desk at 940.565.2563 and let them know that you are a graduate student seeking a graduate appointment. You can also physically visit the Writing Center to schedule an appointment if you’d prefer to talk to someone in-person. • The Writing Center also offers online graduate tutoring. We prefer to meet with you in person before moving forward with online appointments if possible, but realize this might not be feasible for all students. After your first in-person appointment, you can email us at email@example.com to request an online appointment, and we’ll email you back with further information.
Preparing for an appointment • Whether in-person or online, all of our graduate consultations are one-hour long, and students can schedule one session per week. Given these constraints, it is best to have a specific piece of writing you would like to work on with us and some sense of the problems or concerns you would like to discuss. • With that said, we are more than happy to work with you at any stage in the writing process. A consultation can take many shapes depending on your concerns, ranging anywhere from a brainstorming session about topic or thesis statement development to a discussion about a particular section of your dissertation or preparation of job market materials. • By the end of your tutoring session, you should have a writing plan in place and can schedule a follow-up appointment at the front desk.
About graduate tutoring • We strive to be careful, inquisitive readers of your work, who are ready to listen and collaborate. • We see every session as your time to discuss your writing. We want to respect this commitment, so long as the conversation is related to your academic career and you’re willing to learn and work on your writing with us. • The Writing Center does not offer proofreading or editing services because correcting students’ papers does not help them become independent writers. • All of our graduate tutors are also graduate students. We see ourselves as peers helping other peers through the variety of difficulties we all face while writing academically.