Academic Writing needs analysis and defining your terms

Needs Analysis 

Interview each other in pairs, making notes about your partner in this table. Take turns being the first to ask each question.

 

Name:

Useful language

Lecturer/ Professor

Researcher

Academic                  TA

(Private) tutor/ Cram school teacher

Tenure

 

Higher education

Four-year degree – BA/ BSc/ B Ed

Postgraduate – Diploma/ MA/ MSc/ MBA/ (Research-based) Master’s/ PhD/ Post-doc

Scholarship/ Academic funding

 

Language school

Self-study

IELTS/ TOEFL/ GRE/ GMAT

 

Essay

(Academic) paper

Dissertation/ Thesis

Textbook

Academic journal/ Magazine

Transcript

Abstract

 

Email/ SMS

Editing/ Proofreading

Application form/ Personal statement

CV

Job

Present

 

 

 

 

 

Past

Future

Research and studies

Present

Past

Future

 

 

 

 

 

Studies of and use of English

Present

 

 

 

 

 

Past

Future

Academic writing and reading (in English and your own language)

Present

 

 

 

 

 

Past

Future

Other writing in English

Present

 

 

 

 

 

Past

Future

Views on academic writing in English (ways of learning, difficulties, differences, etc)

 

 

Ask about any words in the useful language box above which you don’t understand.
Without looking at the previous page, try to think of words on the topics above with these definitions to fill the gaps. When there is more than one gap in the definition, it is the same missing word all the way through.

 _________________ is the British equivalent of elementary school.

______________________ is more or less equivalent to junior high school.

_____________________ is an American expression for an undergraduate degree, used to contrast it with a two-year junior college degree.

There are two related meanings to _______________, one of which is a lecturer in your university who has special responsibility for checking on your studies. The other is a private teacher, often one who comes to your house to help you catch up on subjects you are behind on at school or to prepare for an exam.

In British English, “_________________” is a more general term than “professor”.

B Ed stands for ________________________.

The expected standard of a ________________ degree is exemplified by the following definition:

A ______________ thesis must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality, shown by the discovery of new facts, or by the exercise of critical power. Additionally, a ______________ thesis must show work which, if written in a suitable form, would be publishable.

                                                                                                                              (modified from Cryer 2000: 186)

_____________s are not students, nor are they faculty members. […] The NSF and NIH define a ______________ as a temporary period of advanced training in preparation for an independent research career (Bravo & Olsen, 2007). […] In the literature there are hints that the _______________ is a muddled concept, though I know of no study that explicitly problematizes the definition of what it is to be a _____________. (Cantwell, 2009)

Webster’s definition of a ______________ is helpful:

              A ______________ is a substantial paper that is submitted to faculty of a university by a candidate for an advanced degree that is typically based on independent research […] (Webster, 1961. p. 656).

An ________________ can be defined as a ‘peer-reviewed periodical containing scholarly articles in a particular field of study’.

Look at the previous page to help.

Underline the phrases which you could use in your own writing above, asking about any you aren’t sure about. There should be at least one useful phrase per definition above.

Answers

Primary school is the British equivalent of elementary school.

Secondary school is more or less equivalent to junior high school.

Four-year degree is an American expression for an undergraduate degree, used to contrast it with a two-year junior college degree.

There are two related meanings to tutor, one of which is a lecturer in your university who has special responsibility for checking on your studies. The other is a private teacher, often one who comes to your house to help you catch up on subjects you are behind on at school or to prepare for an exam.

In British English, “lecturer” is a more general term than “professor”.

B Ed stands for Bachelor of Education.

The expected standard of a PhD degree is exemplified by the following definition:

A PhD thesis must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality, shown by the discovery of new facts, or by the exercise of critical power. Additionally, a PhD thesis must show work which, if written in a suitable form, would be publishable.

                                                                                                                              (modified from Cryer 2000: 186)

Postdocs are not students, nor are they faculty members. […] The NSF and NIH define a postdoctorate as a temporary period of advanced training in preparation for an independent research career (Bravo & Olsen, 2007). […] In the literature there are hints that the postdoc is a muddled concept, though I know of no study that explicitly problematizes the definition of what it is to be a postdoc. (Cantwell, 2009)

Webster’s definition of a dissertation is helpful:

              A dissertation is a substantial paper that is submitted to faculty of a university by a candidate for an advanced degree that is typically based on independent research […] (Webster, 1961. p. 656).

An academic journal can be defined as a ‘peer-reviewed periodical containing scholarly articles in a particular field of study’.

Without looking above, complete the exercises below.

From memory or with your own ideas, improve the definitions below.

Secondary school is the same as junior high school.

A four-year degree is not a two-year junior college degree.

Tutor means a lecturer in your university who has special responsibility for checking on your studies and a private teacher, often one who comes to your house to help you catch up on subjects you are behind on at school or to prepare for an exam.

“Lecturer” is a more general term than “professor”.

B Ed means Bachelor of Education.

The expected standard of a PhD degree is:

A PhD thesis must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality, shown by the discovery of new facts, or by the exercise of critical power. Additionally, a PhD thesis must show work which, if written in a suitable form, would be publishable.

Postdocs are not students, nor are they faculty members. […] A postdoctorate is defined as a temporary period of advanced training in preparation for an independent research career

The dictionary definition of a dissertation is helpful:

              A dissertation is a substantial paper that is submitted to faculty of a university by a candidate for an advanced degree that is typically based on independent research […].

An academic journal is defined as a ‘peer-reviewed periodical containing scholarly articles in a particular field of study’. 

What is wrong with each of the definitions?

Before or after checking your corrections, match the definitions above to the problems below:

–       Sentence too long

–       Suggests there is only one possible definition

–       Doesn’t give enough information about the source(s)

–       Too much certainty about the definition

–       Defining phrase has the wrong meaning

–       Doesn’t give enough information to be an accurate definition 

Compare with the originals on the previous page. Other answers might be possible, so please check your own versions with your teacher.

Do the same thing with the defining phrases below.

The definition of… is…

Everyone defines… as…/ Everyone uses… to mean…

Everybody uses…’s definition of this, which is…

The term… is only used in…, where it means

There are loads of definitions of…

According to… this definition is wrong, and it should be…

Basically, it means…

But that definition is impossible to understand, so…

But that’s not all it covers

But that’s not really a definition, because it covers all kinds of things.

I’m going to take… to mean…

It’s impossible to define…, but…

My favourite definition of this is…

No one agrees on what… means

Sorry, I forgot to explain what… and… mean

The common use of… is wrong, as it actually means…

The dictionary definition of… is…, but nobody uses it that way

The use of… to mean… is old fashioned/ out of date  

The phrases above are divided by what kind of mistake the person using the original definitions phrases was making. Try to label each section.  

Suggested answers

Too general

The definition of… is… – The (Oxford English) dictionary definition of… is…/… defines… as…/ One possible definition of… is…

Everyone defines… as…/ Everyone uses… to mean… – Most people in this field take this to mean…/ What… mean by… is…

Everybody uses…’s definition of this, which is… – The acknowledged authority on… is…, who defines it as…/ A commonly quoted definition is this is by…, who explains it as…/ The most common source for a definition of this term is…

The term… is only used in…, where it means – … is a specialised term within the field of…, used to mean… 

Too informal

There are loads of definitions of… – There are a number of possible definitions of…, of which the most useful/ relevant here is…/ There are several/ many meanings to the term…, but…

According to… this definition is wrong, and it should be… – … contested this definition of… as…, preferring instead…/ … seeks to redefine… as…/ An alternative definition is… given by…, who says…/ An alternative view of what… means is suggested by…

Basically, it means… – The core mean of… is…/ The fundamental meaning of… is…/ A somewhat simplistic definition of… is…

But that definition is impossible to understand, so… – A more easily understood definition is…/ A simpler definition is…/ A more accessible definition is…

But that’s not all it covers. – A more inclusive definition is…/ You can extend this definition to…/ This concept can also be said to cover…

But that’s not really a definition, because it covers all kinds of things. – A fuller definition is…/ A more accurate definition is…/ A more precise definition is…/ We can improve on that somewhat vague definition by…

I’m going to take… to mean… – I’m going to follow… in taking… to mean…/ This paper will follow… in taking… to mean…/ The arguments in this paper rely on a definition of… as…/ In this paper, the term… is used to mean…

It’s impossible to define…, but… – … is a somewhat ambiguous/ problematic term, but we can…

My favourite definition of this is… – Perhaps the clearest definition of this is…/ Perhaps the best definition of… is provided by… in…

No one agrees on what… means – Debates over the precise definition of… have yet to be resolved, but…/ There is disagreement about the most useful definition of…/ There is no consensus about what the term… covers, although most studies in the area have traditionally focused on the area of…/ … and … define… in different ways. The former…/ For…  … means…, whereas according to…/ The debate about the meaning of… can perhaps be resolved by…

Sorry, I forgot to explain what… and… mean – Before moving on, it is worth defining the fundamental terms involved in this field./ It is worth taking some time to define those two important terms./ It is impossible to really comprehend… without first understanding…, which can be defined as…/ Understanding of the concept depends upon a clear definition of…

The common use of… is wrong, as it actually means… – Although in common parlance this term is used to mean…, in this field it rather means…./ .. has a specialised meaning in this context, being…/ … is used in this field with the more restricted meaning of…/ In the field of…,…/ Unlike the everyday English use, the technical meaning of… is…/ …. is used in this field with the more restricted meaning of…

The dictionary definition of… is…, but nobody uses it that way – The dictionary/ Oxford English Dictionary definition of… is… [1], but it could be argued that its actual use is…/ The (Oxford) dictionary definition of… is… (but its actual use is more like…)

The use of… to mean… is old fashioned/ out of date – …. was first used by to mean…/ … originally meant… but nowadays…/ More recent definitions emphasize…/ More recently, the definition has been extended to cover…/ The use of the term… has drifted away from its origins, and…/ … was formerly/ originally defined as … but more recently…/ The origins of the term lie in… but…/ … was first used by… to mean… However,…

Other academic vocabulary to define

a diagram/ a figure

academic conventions

academic sources

academic writing/ semi-academic writing

APA

appendix

bibliography/ citations/ references/ suggested reading

brainstorming/ mind map

bullet point

caption

chart/ diagram/ graph

coherence

comma/ semi colon/ colon

conclusion/ summary

critical reading

department/ faculty

discussion forum

e.g./ i.e.

Ed.

et al.

extended definition

heading/ title

ibid.

Ivy League/ Oxbridge

lecture/ seminar/ tutorial/ workshop

mailing list

main body

N.B.

note taking

op. cit.

original research

paragraph/ section

paraphrase

plagiarism

portfolio

poster presentation

pp.

process writing

qualitative research/ quantative research

quotation marks/ speech marks

redbrick universities

refute

shared knowledge

synthesising

thesis statement

vol.

Homework

Task 1

Write definitions of five of the words and expressions above, using sources when possible and maybe contrasting them with similar things.

Task 2

Write an essay of over 200 words (probably four or five paragraphs) with the title “Key terms in my area(s) of research interest”. Decide on the topic of each paragraph and write the essay plan above the essay before you start writing.

Task 3

Write an essay defining academic writing, including both several sources and your own ideas, of at least 200 words. Decide on the topic of each paragraph and write the essay plan above the essay before you start writing.

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PDF version for easy saving and printing: Academic Writing Needs analysis Defining your terms

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