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Writing Essays for Dummies


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1 About This book 2 Conventions Used in This Book 2 How This Book is Organised 3 Part I: Navigating a World of Information 3 Part II: Researching, Recording and Reformulating 3 Part III: Mastering Language and Style 3 Part IV: Tightening Your Structure and Organisation 4 Part V: Finishing with a Flourish: The Final Touches 4 Part VI: The Part of Tens 4 Icons Used in This Book 5 Where to Go from Here 5 Part I: Navigating a World of Information 7 Chapter 1: Mapping Your Way: Starting to Write Essays 9 Transitioning to University-level Writing 9 Writing at school 10 Writing at undergraduate level 10 Writing at postgraduate level 11 Getting the Genre Right 12 Writing an essay, not creative prose 12 Writing an essay, not a newspaper article 13 Writing an essay, not a report 15 Crafting Your Essay: Stages in the Writing Process 17 Stage 1: Analysing the title 17 Stage 2: Making a timetable 18 Stage 3: Gathering data 19 Stage 4: Brainstorming and planning 20 Stage 5: Writing the first draft 21 Stage 6: Revising your draft 22 Stage 7: Checking and polishing 22 The final hurdle: Handing in 23 Becoming a Successful Essay Writer 23 Just write, write, write 24 Giving yourself enough time 25 Changing your mindset 25 Chapter 2: Getting Going and Keeping Going 27 Getting Ready to Write 27 Finding out what helps you to work 27 Organising yourself 30 Overcoming Writer's Block 32 Challenging your fears 32 Writing something - anything - and rewording it 32 Talking before you write 33 Visualising the final product 34 Forgetting about the essay for a while 34 Sleeping on it 35 Reading something different 35 Getting your blood flowing 36 Doing something that makes you feel good 36 Keeping Yourself on Track 37 Planning large scale 37 Planning small scale 39 Thinking half hours not whole hours 41 Dividing work into manageable chunks 42 Rewarding yourself 42 Getting Help: Using Other Students as a Sounding Board 42 Recognising What Helps You to Write 44 Chapter 3: Working Out the Essay Type 45 Finding Out What to Write About 46 Unpicking keywords 46 Looking for function words 47 Identifying Different Frameworks 51 Knowing what you do for all frameworks 52 Examining types of essay 53 Making your story flow 61 Planning Around Your Framework 61 Part II: Researching, Recording and Reformulating 63 Chapter 4: Eyes Down: Academic Reading 65 Reading Academically: How It Differs 66 Using Your Reading List 67 Knowing which books to read 67 Finding the books on your list 68 Moving Beyond the Reading List: Searching for Literature 70 Using the library catalogue 70 Calling on the experts 71 Using Articles from Journals 72 Brushing Up Your Reading Techniques 75 Reading smartly 75 Reading online 78 Reading faster 79 Putting it all together: The SQ3R technique 82 Reading critically 83 Chapter 5: Researching Online 85 Exercising Caution as You Surf 85 Getting Started: Using Popular Websites 86 Checking out key websites 86 Broadening the Net 87 Working with Wikipedia or not? 87 Finding Academically Acceptable Websites 89 Recognising scholarly sites 90 Determining sources and authors 90 Scoping the scope 93 Being wary of bias 94 Assuring accuracy 94 Checking currency 94 Completing your checklist 95 Searching with keywords and other terms 96 Chapter 6: Note Taking and Organising Your Material 97 Preparing to Take Notes 98 Stocking up on supplies 98 Creating a filing system 98 Working with index cards 99 Annotating: Marking Up Texts in a Useful Manner 100 Writing in your books 100 Working with PowerPoint handouts 101 Finding your own mark-up system 102 Colour coding 102 Making a Page of Notes 103 Selecting what's important for you 104 Laying out your notes 105 Drawing and making diagrams 105 Creating your own shorthand 108 Stopping the Notes and Starting to Write 110 Knowing when to move on 111 Turning your notes into a plan 111 Chapter 7: Avoiding Plagiarism 115 Understanding Plagiarism 115 Falling into the copycat trap 116 Seeing how tutors catch you out 117 Considering the consequences 118 Keeping on the Straight and Narrow 118 Writing in Your Own Words 121 Paraphrasing 121 Summarising 124 Part III: Mastering Language and Style 129 Chapter 8: Writing with Confidence: Brushing Up Your Grammar 131 Punctuating Properly 132 Capitalising Correctly 137 Using Different Parts of Speech 138 Verbs 138 Nouns 139 Pronouns 140 Adjectives 142 Adverbs 143 Prepositions and conjunctions 143 Interjections 145 Chapter 9: Penning the Perfect Paragraph 147 Understanding Paragraphs 147 Thinking about types of paragraph 147 Looking at the dos and don'ts 148 Structuring a Paragraph 150 Following the process 150 Penning a topic sentence 152 Writing supporting sentences 153 Considering sentence length 154 Ensuring Coherence and Logical Flow 157 Ordering sentences within the paragraph for coherence 157 Making the language flow 159 Signposting your sentences and paragraphs 159 Checking for coherence and flow 160 Chapter 10: Writing in the Academic Style 163 Adopting the Right Tone of Voice 163 Remembering your audience 164 Being modest 164 Being cautious 164 Be careful with your attitude 165 Writing in a Formal Style 166 Using 'I' in your essay 166 Active or passive? 167 Avoiding overstatements 169 Expanding contractions 169 Keeping your eyes peeled for cliches 170 Steering clear of slang 172 Using a wide range of language 173 Using the right specialist words 174 Minimising your use of long words 175 Substituting phrasal verbs 176 Never using formatting or punctuation for effect 177 Remaining Objective 178 Avoiding Biased Language 178 Being Clear, Concise and Precise 179 Being specific 180 Cutting out unnecessary fluff 180 Steering clear of complicated sentences 185 Writing statements not questions 185 Finding Your Own Voice 186 Seeing your writing as part of a process 187 Working with feedback 187 Taking it at your own pace 188 Part IV: Tightening Your Structure and Organisation 189 Chapter 11: Preparing the Aperitif: The Introduction 191 Understanding the Aims of Your Introduction 191 Knowing What to Include 192 Covering the conventions of intros 192 Defining keywords and terms 194 Writing a thesis statement 195 Exploring alternative openings 197 Coming Back to the Introduction at the End 198 Avoiding Common Mistakes 199 Chapter 12: Serving the Main Course: The Essay's Body 201 Developing a Position 201 Using Different Types of Writing 203 Descriptive writing 203 Analytical writing 204 Reflective writing 206 Keeping a Balanced View 208 Knowing what counts as evidence 209 Reading with critical eyes 209 Stating your opinion 210 Incorporating Quotations 210 Using Visuals 211 Presenting visual information 212 Interpreting visual information 212 Summarising information in charts 213 Chapter 13: Dishing Up Dessert: The Conclusion 215 Knowing How to Conclude 215 Understanding what a conclusion does 215 Getting the content right 217 Writing the Conclusion 218 Drawing all the threads together 218 Pointing forward 220 Striking the right tone 220 Getting the length right 222 Realising that writing your conclusion can change your essay 223 Evaluating Your Conclusion 223 Checking your work. 224 Asking yourself 'So what?' 225 Making the final check 225 Chapter 14: Acknowledging Sources of Information 227 Understanding the Importance of Referencing 227 Bearing in Mind Some Basics 228 Getting to Grips with the Jargon 229 Pinning Down Your Referencing Style 231 Using Harvard (a.k.a. author/date) 232 Working with footnotes 232 Quoting within Your Essay 233 Citing the author in the text 233 Quoting directly 235 Quoting indirectly 236 Slotting a short quotation into your sentence 236 Dealing with longer quotations 237 Listing References at the End of Your Work 238 Part V: Finishing with a Flourish: The Final Touches 243 Chapter 15: Editing and Proofreading: It's All in the Detail 245 Knowing the Difference between Editing and Proofreading 245 Editing: Casting a Critical Eye over What You're Saying 246 Considering content 246 Examining structure 247 Addressing style 248 Ensuring that your essay's the correct length 249 Proofreading: Dotting the is and crossing the Ts 252 Knowing what to look for 252 Using different proofreading techniques 256 Chapter 16: Perfecting Your Presentation 259 Looking Good: First Impressions 260 Picking paper 260 Perfecting pages 261 Binding 261 Creating a cover sheet 262 Looking Good: On Closer Inspection 262 Choosing the right font and font size 262 Styling headings and subheadings 263 Using italics 263 Spacing adequately 264 Incorporating data into your essay 265 Finishing Off 267 Running through your checklist 267 Kissing the essay goodbye 268 Chapter 17: Moving On: Results and Feedback 269 Congratulating Yourself on What You Achieve 270 Noting what you've done well 270 Focusing on positive feedback 272 Understanding What the Marks Mean 272 Coping with Getting a Lower Mark than You Hoped For 273 Dealing with disappointment 274 Talking to your tutor 275 Taking action to improve 275 Taking advantage of other support 276 Moving On to the Next Essay 277 Part VI: The Part of Tens 279 Chapter 18: Ten Troubleshooting Tips 281 Oops! I've Written Too Many Words 281 Uh-oh . My Essay is Too Short 282 Eeek! I'll Never Finish On Time! 282 I'm Having Technological Torments 283 My Writing is Just Appalling 284 I'm Not Sure I've Answered the Question 285 I Think My References are All Wrong 285 I Don't Really Understand the Reading 286 I Hate My Course and Can't Be Bothered 286 I Can't Find Any Mistakes - is That Really Okay? 287 Chapter 19: Ten Tips for Writing Essays in Exams .289 Planning for Exams from the Start 289 Managing Your Time 290 Trying Different Revision Techniques 291 Using What's Gone Before 292 Being Good to Yourself 294 Gearing Up 294 Writing by Hand 295 Dealing with Exam Nerves 296 Answering the Question 297 Presenting the Examiner with a Polished Product 300 Index 301

About the Author

Mary Page teaches English for Academic Purposes and essay-writing skills at the University of Southampton. Dr Carrie Winstanley is a Principal lecturer in Education at Roehampton University. Carrie was recently named one of the Top 50 university teachers in the UK by the Higher Education Academy.

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