Ivory Tower Writing #22: The writer’s practice

Were you expecting an instructional post? This time, I wanted to take a break from the instructionals and take a detour. I want to write a bit about the writer’s practice. 

Specifically, I want to discuss John Warner’s most recent book titled Why They Can’t Write. Among the books I’ve read this year, I feel like this is the most impactful book I’ve read. The reason being is that it forced me to reflect on both the way I approach writing and how I teach my students academic writing. 

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Ivory Tower Writing #21: Writing a theoretical framework

Most of the time, your professor will likely ask you to support your paper with a theoretical framework. What you think this means may be, 

“Oh, I just need to find a theory that fits my current problem,” 

Or maybe, 

“I just need to list every single theory which I think has the slightest relevance to the topic I’m writing about,”

However, this isn’t usually the case. So what is a theoretical framework and how should you go around to creating one? Don’t worry, this is what this post is about.

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Ivory Tower Writing #20: Composition – the five paragraph essay

In Ivory Tower Writing #10, I discussed some general guidelines on how to compose paragraphs, structure paragraphs, and some tips on how to create “flow” in your essay. In this post, I’ll discuss the classic five-paragraph essay and how it helps students grasp the basics of composition and coherence. I’ll also cover some problems of the five-paragraph essay and how it should ideally be used in instruction.

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Ivory Tower Writing #18: How many citations is enough?

This is a question I often get from my students, especially since I have a reputation for being a strict grader (to them, this is an understatement; I am known to be judicious (think Lawful Evil)).

Here’s the short answer to the question: it depends on what you’re writing, who you’re writing for, and your current skill level. It is a complicated blend of these three factors, and it’s not easy to discern the contribution of each.

No, seriously, ask anybody and they won’t give you a straight answer to this question. I had to find my own sweet spot, but my sweet spot is either too much or too few according to reviewers. What other people deem “normal” may be excessive or not excessive enough.

Now, the long elaboration. Note that this should not be interpreted as an absolute guide; instead, think of it as one of many voices out there trying to advise you. It all comes back to you and (mostly) your professor’s judgement.

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Ivory Tower Writing #17: Analytic memo-taking

This post covers a research-specific writing method known as analytic memo-taking, a skill useful for processing qualitative data.

For those who deal with a lot of qualitative data (e.g. from newspapers, interviews, speeches, and oral history), processing the vast amounts data into something readable requires a degree of skill and a lot of patience and perseverance. One of the ways to ease the burden is by writing analytic memos.

Analytic memos are basically short write-ups, often never exceeding one page (this, of course, is relative to your research), in which you as the researcher record your thoughts/impressions/interpretations. Analytic memos should not be confused with actually writing a draft or manuscript, but your draft will very likely use sentences or substance from your analytic memos.

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Ivory Tower Writing #15: The art of summarizing

This post covers a simple how-to in writing summaries.

So, it seems you’ve been asked to summarize a specific book or article, either at the request of your professor or (gasp!) own initiative. Being able to summarize effectively is an important skill you need to learn early on, especially if in your field of study, you deal with a lot of text and reading.

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Ivory Tower Writing #13: Knowing your enemy – types of papers and what to expect (part 2)

This post further explains the types of papers you may encounter during your university life and what to expect from them.

I’d like to continue on from where we left off at post #8 when I first discussed the types of papers that you may meet throughout your university life. This time, let’s focus on some of the more specific types of papers.

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Ivory Tower Writing #11: Writing a conclusive conclusion

This post covers some practices on how to write a conclusion that’s conclusive.

At this point, we’re almost done with the paper. You’ve fleshed out your ideas in paragraph after paragraph and you don’t have anything more to say. But wait, there’s still one part left: the conclusion.

Cue the groans.

“But I’ve already made my point! Why do I have to write more?”

Well, as I’ve said before, academic writing is a circular process. Like it or not, you have to write a conclusion. So, let’s get down to business.

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