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All writers need to bear in mind both the purpose of their writing and for whom they are writing. As a student writer your purpose is, in most cases, to display your understanding to your reader, who is your marker. Thus, when tackling an assignment, you need to ask yourself what knowledge and understanding it has been designed to assess. Then ask yourself how well you have succeeded in displaying that knowledge.
The breadth, depth, accuracy and relevance of content should be the core elements you consider when writing assignments.
Academic writing is a process that involves drafting and re-drafting to craft your paper into its final form.
There is no set rule about how many drafts are necessary to perfect a piece of writing. Some students may think that they need to write only one draft of an assignment, correct the errors they find, and turn that in for a grade. More realistically, students need to work through at least several drafts to come up with the best possible finished product.
Reviewing and re-working a text to bring it to its final form entails several processes.
When undertaking these processes, writers should view their work from the perspective of the reader. It can be difficult to view your work objectively, but it is the only way you can ensure your message is getting across to the reader in the clearest and most effective way.
When editing an essay for structure, use the following checklist as a guide.
The purpose of a report is to present clearly organised information about a process, an object, a situation or a topic that you have researched, analysed or investigated.
There are many different types of reports, among them lab reports and business reports, each with their own formats and conventions. Presented below is a checklist for report requirements in general. You should consult your unit guide, assignment description, or your faculty/lecturer/tutor for specific requirements.
Editing for style involves examining the clarity and tone of a piece of writing. As a student writer, your purpose is to demonstrate the clarity and depth of your thinking. Clear writing indicates clear thinking.
You should also adopt the appropriate academic tone. You will become familiar with the accepted style in your field by reading a variety of texts - journal articles, books, reports, theses and student papers.
The essence of good writing is the skill of presenting complex ideas as simply and clearly as possible. Your guiding principle should be 'Write to express, not to impress'.
This deals with the relationship between the writer and the reader as well as between the writer and the subject. Academic writing is formal, impersonal and tentative in tone.
In order to produce the appropriately formal academic tone you should:
- avoid slang and casual language
- avoid abbreviations and contractions.
In many subject areas you are expected to avoid the pronoun 'I'. At the same time, however, you are often asked to make judgements and include your own views on an issue. How can you do this without saying 'I think', 'I believe' and the like?
In fact, whatever is included in your paper that is not attributed to someone else is assumed to be yours. Therefore, if you say There is a case for stricter government control on guns, the fact that you are not reporting another person's view implies that it is your own.
Very little in the world is clearly either right or wrong, all or nothing. Most research findings and theories are open to modification. Therefore academics and researchers are cautious in the way they present their findings. You too should use this style in your papers. You can do this through use of:
For example: Experience suggests that most students who study consistently through the trimester tend to achieve better marks.
- verbs - may, can, seem, suggest, tend to
- adverbs - probably, likely
- adjectives - some, most, many, few
- nouns - tendency, probability, possibility, assumption, estimate
Only after carefully editing for structure and style should you begin reading through your assignment to find and correct errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is known as proofreading. Although it is common for students to proofread their writing in the process of composing, it is important to leave it until after all the drafting and re-drafting has been completed.
At the composing stage you should be working at the level of ideas - organising vast amounts of information and concepts gathered through your reading and reflection on the topic. Proofreading at the same time as composing can easily paralyse your writing by hindering the flow of your thought.
Writers should leave themselves plenty of time for careful proofreading to find and correct errors. Most know from unfortunate experience that it is hard to proofread well at 4 am on the day the assignment is due.
Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, 2002, rev. Snooks & Co., John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Qld.
The web site About.com: English as a second language looks at the skills of grammar and writing.