MSc Management: academic writing from start to finish
- 1 hour 30 minute interactive presentation
- Group: Up to 50 students
- Room: lecture/ classroom
- Discipline: Any, can be tailored to assignment
- Level: Any
- Materials: Slides
After engaging with this support, you will be able to:
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different search tools
- Identify an appropriate tool to use for finding information for your specific purpose
- Identify and use key databases in your discipline
- Identify and use relevant specialist information common in your discipline
- Develop strategies for assessing the appropriateness of sources to use in your assignments
- Discriminate between good-quality academic sources and other sources
- Present a balanced and well-structured argument
- Use information sources appropriately to support your own arguments
- Use an appropriate academic voice and style in your assignments
- Use correct academic practices in quoting, citing and paraphrasing
- Develop effective strategies for editing and proofreading your own work
- Work well as part of a team
Suggested online resources
- Planning ahead: making your search work
- Knowing where to look: your search toolkit
- Finding the good stuff: evaluating your sources
- Know your sources: types of information
- Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically
- Writing your essay
Introduction (Slides 1–2)
The facilitator should explain that this workshop will be a place to practice an approach to improving your writing which will inform your academic writing and professional practise. The workshop features a sequence of short activities to encourage critical engagement with the literature and improve writing around these key areas:
- Before you start to write.
- Structuring your assignment.
- Referencing and avoiding plagiarism.
- Editing and proofreading.
Highlight the support available in Blackboard (Slide 3)
Before you start to write (Slides 4–5)
Activity 1 — Mentimeter (Slide 4–5)
In groups of 2–3 discuss what you do before you start to write, input your answers into Mentimeter.
The facilitator then highlights activities that students might do before they start to write.
RAFT — Before you start to write continued…..(Slides 6–10)
The facilitator introduces the RAFT strategy.
RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) is a writing strategy which will help you to understand your role as a writer and to communicate clearly.
When you are writing it is useful to think about:
- your role as a writer in each situation.
- who your audience is.
- the best format for you to use.
- and your topic, e.g. what you want to say.
- What is my role as a writer in this situation?
- What is my intended purpose?
- What is my job here?
- What am I trying to do? (and likewise, what do I want to avoid?)
Your audience for your assessed work is likely to be your tutor, it is helpful to bear your audience (or your ‘reader’) in mind as you write; particularly as your audience will be responsible for assessing your work, providing you with marks and giving you feedback on how to improve.
They may well have 100's of assignments to mark so to ensure a smooth journey your work should be:
- Well presented
- Properly referenced
Avoid a rough ride using:
- Unclear language
- Unclear purpose
- Poor structure
- Poor presentation
In order to ensure that you consider the reader your work should be:
- well structured, with a clear purpose that you outline at the beginning of the assignment.
- well presented, ensure that you follow course guidelines regarding formatting.
- referenced correctly using the agreed format to provide clear evidence of wider reading.
- a critical engagement with the literature which shows that you take a clear position in regard to the question posed and that you provide evidence (with analysis) to support your argument.
You should be given clear guidance as to how each piece of assessed work should be formatted, referenced and presented. Word count guidelines should always be adhered to otherwise you could lose marks.
In some cases you may be given a choice over which format to use (for example, an essay, a blog post, a presentation or a video) and this can be an opportunity to try something different. However, if you are unfamiliar with the format required and its related conventions (for example, if you have been asked to write a report and you are not sure what this entails) you should make sure that you are fully aware of what is expected of you before you start writing so that you don’t lose any marks.
Your topic is the subject of your writing and you should make sure that you answer the question or fulfil the brief you have been given. Read the question carefully and break it down into sections to make sure you address each section. Look for topic words which set out what you should focus on and pay attention to limiting words to help you set the scope of your writing.
Consider the question
Before you start to write or even research the question you should break it down. One way to do this is by identifying the instruction words, topic words and limiting words.
Ask the whole group to shout out the instruction word, the topic word and the limiting words (Slide 11).
Instruction words activity, students can use their phone/laptop and work in pairs to complete the instruction words quiz at http://bit.ly/Match-Game
In the game the students have to match the instruction word to the description.
Structuring your assignment — overview and introduction (Slides 14–17)
Facilitator introduces a basic structure (introduction, body text, conclusion) and briefly states why each section is important to the reader and the writer. The introduction introduces the topic to the reader and enables the writer to state how they will answer the question. The main part (body of the text) is where analysis of evidence and ideas takes place as an argument or the writers position is developed. The conclusion is where the points are drawn together so that the writer can suggest to the reader where they should go from here.
What the introduction should do.
This could include:
- Setting out the questions you will answer
- Context of the paper (what does the reader need to know to understand your ideas)
- Vocabulary for the paper: what do you need to define for the reader to understand your ideas?
- Broad statement of your opinion on the topic: what are you asking the reader to agree with (or argue against!)
What is the role of the conclusion and how do you ensure it is effective? (Slides 18–20)
Ask students to discuss in small groups the role of a conclusion e.g. a good conclusion should…
Students should input their answers into Mentimeter.
Facilitator: outline the purpose of the conclusion: to suggest what next (further research or a change in thinking), to answer any burning questions the reader may have which have been left unanswered so far, to address limitations, and to zoom out on the argument (to reflect on it, not to repeat it).
Body text & useful resources (Slides 21–33)
The facilitator introduces the basic components that should be included in the body text or main part of your essay:
- Topic sentence: the first sentence of a paragraph that encapsulates the topic that you are to cover in that paragraph
- Evidence: to support your argument, offer a counter argument or develop a particular point of view
- Analysis: to be conducted on the evidence used to show why it is/is not reliable. The facilitator can use It says, I say and so to demonstrate use of evidence and your own analysis.
- Transition sentence this is when the writer moves from one sentence/topic to another.
Introduce and demo the academic phrase bank.
Referencing? What’s it good for? (Slides 34–43)
What’s the purpose of referencing?
Activity: Discussion + Mentimeter
The facilitator should ask the students to discuss in groups the following two questions:
What is the purpose of referencing for the reader?
What is the purpose of referencing for the writer?
Everybody should think of an answer for each question and submit these to Mentimeter.
Facilitator should outline the reasons why we reference and that referencing properly also enables you to avoid plagiarism.
Harvard referencing — quote, summarise or cite?
The facilitator explains that there are two parts to referencing (the citation within the text and the full reference at the end of the essay in a reference list or bibliography with all the bibliographic information.
The facilitator should explain that there are a number of different ways that effective academic writers incorporate the work of others into their writing.
Quoting, summarising and citing
- Quoting: reproducing someone else’s words verbatim; must be identical to the original.
- Summarising /paraphrasing: expressing someone else’s idea in your own words (where you could, if necessary, give the specific page number of where that author expressed that idea).
- Citing: referring to the broader work of an author that spans multiple pages/chapters/publications.
The students will practice writing and including references using the different methods of quote it/summarise it/cite it/common knowledge.
Activity: Minute paper
Each student will write a one-minute paper using the information on Slide 43.
The facilitator will emphasise the following key points:
- The attendees will need to look at the evidence presented on the screen and that they need to use one example of paraphrasing, a quotation and a citation in their 1 minute paper.
- It is important the students consider how they effectively incorporate the evidence in their 1 minute paper.
- Sometimes there is no wrong or right answer, it can vary according to your individual writing style.
Once completed then the facilitator should ask the attendees to swap their sheet with the person sitting next to them for feedback and comments.
To complete the activity the facilitator should ask the group if there were any differences of opinion in the way the references have been included in their one minute papers. The facilitator can then ask the pairs to explain why they have quoted, summarised/paraphrased or cited.
To close this activity the facilitator should indicate that it is important to think about how best to include a reference in your text.
UML referencing guide and reference management software (Slide 44–45)
To make referencing easier look at our referencing guide. You can also use reference management software to make referencing easier.
The Library supports Endnote, Endnote Online and Mendeley.
Editing and proofreading (Slide 46–48)
This activity is to help the student determine the difference between the editing stage and the proofreading stage. This will enable students to think about what standard (or state) should my work be in BEFORE I proofread it?
The objective here is to get students to understand the difference between academic writing/editing and proofreading.
Stress the point that proofreading is part of the final stage of writing. Contrast it to editing which requires specialised knowledge of the subject matter with reference to the notes on Slide 48.
The facilitator then talks through the elements necessary to get your work up to a good standard (details also on Slide 48).
- Follow the assignment rubric or instructions (concerning word count and format/referencing).
- Check for spelling errors.
- Ensure correct punctuation.
- Check grammar.
Proofreading strategy (Slides 49–50)
There are lots of resources to help you proofread your work.
- Demonstrate the Padlet.
- Highlight the University Language Centre’s Academic writing tutorial service. Please note: during Semester One this service is only available to Postgraduate Research/PhD students.
The facilitator discusses the proof-reading strategy. Emphasise the importance of leaving yourself enough time to effectively proof-read your work and encourage students to seek help from their peers.
A flatmate or someone who is not familiar with the subject of your essay can make an ideal ‘critical friend’. They can read through your essay and make sure that your points are clear and well-evidenced, to the point that they can be understood by someone who has no background in the subject.
Did you find this session useful (Slide 51)
Direct to further support available, MLE and Drop ins. (Slide 52–53)