Many people, especially the students, are sometimes confused on how to write an effective essay. In the video, problems in terms of writing essay are trying to address by James. Watching the entire video can give you the chance to make an effective writing.
The first thing being highlighted is asking a question. This is for you to concentrate on your target or purpose. Through asking a question, answer can be obtained and a clear view will be emphasized. The next thing is about the thesis, which is the answer to the question. Thesis should be strong and must avoid “maybe” or other words that makes it weak. Your work become stronger if you know what you actual want to express, this will also guide your reader on what are the things you are conveying. This should be strongly said or stated
Introduction is very important in writing an essay. Readers should identify your thesis; therefore, you should create a clear introduction of the subject matter or on the things that you are trying to point out. Proof is very important in writing to make the thesis stronger. This can be found at the body of your essay. The final thing is the conclusion, which connects to the things mentioned: asking question, thesis, introduction, and proof or body.
If you want to have full information on the full content of this video, do not hesitate to watcth it now and become a good writer in the future.
Elements That are Important for Every Essay
- Topic (title)
The essay as any other paper has its title and it is vital to make it unforgettable for the reader. You need to try to interest your audience, so everyone has a desire to continue reading your essay. Find out what is the most important in your essay and use this information in your title. It shouldn’t be too long or too short. The best possible title size is about 5-8 words.
Another important factor in essay writing is structure. If you want to become really good at it, you need to learn it by heart. The structure of essay consists of such parts: introduction, body part and conclusion. Every part also has its rules of writing. An introduction consists of several sentences and it presents short information about the paper in general.
Every good introduction should have a thesis statement, generally, at the end of the paragraph. A body part includes arguments, usually three or two, and evidence for every argument. In this part, you describe your topic and prove your point of view. The last part is the conclusion and it summarizes all the information previously written.
Data is also a very important part of every essay because from the reliability of the information you have depends on how well it is written. It is necessary to work only with the verified facts, but still be able to present your point of view relying on them. Moreover, readers will believe your ideas faster, if you use some famous names and works in your academic paper.
This will help you to pass any essay and get the highest grades, but you still need to be sure that there is someone, who is able to help you in the difficult situation. Essay writing services are those, who can do it and they will be glad to assist you anytime. Still, you should be very careful, choosing essay service, because not all of them are professional and trustworthy. That is why you need to read essay writing service reviews every time you want to hire some writing company to help you with your academic papers.
Top 5 Things to Avoid When Writing an Essay
The essay is the most common type of academic writing, which every student meet during the studying years. That is why you need to know how to write this academic paper. If you don’t have money or just don’t want to get help from essay services you need to be aware of what is possible to write in your essay and what is not. This article is dedicated to the top five things that you should never use in your piece of writing.
Every professor tells students to write the papers by themselves. Plagiarism is a very serious mistake. You can lose your points and you can also fail the subject if you use plagiarized papers. Always check your papers with the special programs. When you order papers from essay services, you should also check them for your own safety.
Essay writing has lots of nuances and it is quite hard to know all of them. Therefore, we hope that this short article will help you to avoid the most common mistakes.
It is not appropriate to use colloquialisms in your academic paper. Essays can be written in various styles, except the colloquial one. You should always remember that essay is a type of academic paper and everything should be done due to requirements.
- You should be careful with the word “I”. It is better to avoid this pronoun in your paper.
- Usage of the first person plural in your essay is also very tricky. When you write “we” you include a reader to your essay. Remember that the reader should be a separate individual.
- Usage of the second person is also under question. You have the same effect on the reader as with the word “we”. You include the reader to your paper and this shouldn’t happen.
- Don’t use too many rhetorical questions. It will be enough to write one or two for your essay.
- Choose carefully the words for your paper. Not every word you use every day, for example, some slang, is appropriate for your academic paper.
Students very like to use clichés in their works. It is fine to have a few general statements, which prove your point of view. The problem appears when students lose their own ideas and only use these clichés. Professors don’t like that. Try to present your point of view in your own special manner.
Students like to use direct speech to show that their ideas have some serious background. In some way, it is very good and it helps to present the good understanding of the topic. Such things also help to prove your points of view. On the other hand, when you overwhelm your essay with quotes you lost the uniqueness of your paper.
When professors ask you to write an essay they expect your own ideas and views. It is also important to remember that every statement of the famous person should be included in your bibliography. Unfortunately, it often happens that students fail to provide references.
It is a very common mistake to overwhelm an essay with lots of details. Students often think that the more details they use the better it is. They are sure that such amount of facts will demonstrate their teacher how hard they have been working and how much do they know.
However, the effect of such actions is usually the opposite. The truth is, it becomes very hard to find any sense in the paper. The theme is just missed in the sea of details. You should write only about the most necessary things that have the direct connection to the topic of your essay
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How to Choose a Research Topic
- Select a topic that interests you
- Read through background information
- Start making a list of key words
- Write out your topic as a statement and select the main concepts
- Start making a list of words to describe your topic
Select a topic that interests you
Selecting a topic is possibly the most difficult part of doing research. Is it too big? Is it too narrow? Will I be able to find enough on it? Start by choosing a topic that you like or are curious about. You’re going to be working on it for quite a while, so try and find one that’s interesting and that you can reasonably cover in the time and space available.
Read through background information
Taking a few minutes to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook may be one of the most effective and time saving research tips on this list. You will probably refine and refocus your topic several times before you finalize it.
The Reference shelves behind our Reference Desks are filled with books that can help you focus your topic. These books are good places to start your research when you know little about a topic, when you need an overview of a subject, or when you want a quick summary of basic ideas. They are also useful for discovering the names of important people, and can familiarize you with the vocabulary of the field. Encyclopedia articles are often followed by carefully selected bibliographies or lists of references to other works, useful items to have as you begin looking for additional information.
Write out your topic as a statement and select the main concepts
Once you have your topic, write it out as a short sentence or question and look at the different components that make up your statement. The research statement “Is memory loss related to aging?” has two main concepts:
1) memory loss
Start making a list of words to describe your topic
Start compiling a list of the key words that you will use as you search for your topic. The way terms are used in some fields can be very different from standard everyday usage. The Reference Desk can help you find specialized dictionaries and thesauri to define unfamiliar terms and quickly build a useful list of key words to search on. For example, the topic “Is memory loss related to aging?” might have key words that fall into two general categories:
1) memory loss or amnesia or Alzheimer’s.
2) aging or aged or elderly, seniors
Combine your concepts with their keywords to produce a final set that contains elements of both key concepts.
How to Write Informative Abstracts
Once you are through researching and writing a report, you may be bored by your subject and eager to submit the manuscript for publication. After working night and day on a project, it is a relief to forget about it for a while. If you have not written an abstract for your report, however, you may have a sudden mood shift, like someone who has slammed a new car into a brick wall after driving it off the showroom floor.
Exhausted by your topic, you may feel the urge merely to retype the major transitional phrases and headings in your report and call that the abstract. Though understandable, such an approach is foolhardy. Take this warning from a former fool: act as if you have all of eternity to revise your abstract. Although it is usually the last section written, the abstract is the most important element of many academic documents. Readers frequently scan abstracts to determine whether a document is worth reading.
Informative abstracts provide readers with an accurate understanding of the gist of a report, including, for example, a statement regarding the significance of the subject, a review of the methodology used and limitations found, important results, discussion of results, and recommendations. Because abstracts are brief, usually less than a page long, they include only the specifics necessary to highlight essential information.
Abstracts must be able to stand alone as independent mini-reports because they are often torn from their context – that is, the report proper–and reprinted in computerized databases and printed indexes (such as Chemical Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts, etc.). Because of this need to stand independently, you should eliminate references to authorities cited, tables and graphs illustrated in the report, obscure abbreviations, and jargon.
While you generally want the abstract accurately to reflect the tone of the report, you should remember that even technical audiences enjoy being eased into a complicated topic. Many abstracts fail because the authors have lost perspective of their audience and subject. After spending the majority of their free time researching and writing a study, authors understandably may assume that everyone is familiar with the significance of the subject, with technical terms and abbreviations, and with a methodology. Such assumptions can be quite deadly, however, because they lead to impenetrable prose.
Because the abstract makes you focus on what is important, you may find it useful to write an abstract for all of your academic projects. Writing abstracts can provide a powerful way of reevaluating your logic and of defining purpose. Even if you are not required to present an abstract at the beginning of a report, you will still need to summarize the gist of your document when you write a query letter.
Looking over your subject to see what disciplinary assumptions are challenged, questioning the significance of your ideas, emphasizing the important results, addressing limitations in a realistic manner – these activities are essential to helping you separate the wheat from the chaff. In addition, when you work to summarize your report in a sentence or two, you often gain a firmer hold, a tighter perspective, on the nature of your work.
How To Write Effective Introductions
A successful introduction shares many of the characteristics of a good abstract. Like abstracts, introductions to academic manuscripts often establish a deductive overview. Also, introductions generally establish the context for the discussion, and they move from what the reader and writer consider given information to new information. We can comprehend and recall information better when authors provide an overview of the main points of the document before launching into a detailed analysis of these sub-issues. Likewise, sentences that explain a text’s organization help us comprehend information when we read.
Inexperienced scholars often illustrate their naïveté by belaboring the obvious. Editors of scholarly journals and books, however, cannot allow scholars to take up valuable and expensive space reviewing ideas, research trends, or research methodologies that are printed in detail elsewhere. As a writer, you may need to write a ten-page introduction to figure out how your work contributes new knowledge. Those ten pages may very will need to be summed up in a single sentence that refers readers to the scholars on whose shoulders you now stand. The only way to determine what common ground you share with your readers is to question their knowledge and interests about the subject. Sometimes you will need to write several drafts before having a firm grasp of the information that is unique and worthy of elaboration.
Occasionally you may not want to provide the customary overview of your purpose or results in the introduction. While you usually will want to clarify the purpose for writing the document in the introduction, you may want to avoid this straightforward approach when your subject matter is likely to be viewed as threatening to your audience. If your ideas are controversial or contentious, then you may first want to establish your credibility by clarifying the ways in which the readers’ assumptions are justified. After you have established yourself as a reasonable and knowledgeable scholar, readers may be more likely to reconsider their assumptions.
When your subject matter is quite technical, you can aid comprehension by highlighting how you have organized the document. When revising your introduction, you may want to provide a sentence or two that will offer the reader a sense of how the document is organized. Then in the body of your research you can provide transitional sentences when you move from one aspect of your study to another.
You can also use headings and subheadings to limit the number of explicit transitional sentences and paragraphs that are necessary. By the way, if you are not subtle about your transitional sentences, you writing style may be judged as sophomoric by readers. For example, filler phrases like “The purposes of this research study were a, b, c,” or “In the following, I discuss the following issues: a, b, c,” are so overused, so mechanical and inorganic, that they call attention to your writing instead of your ideas. Thus, if you sense that the reader can follow the flow of your ideas, then don’t worry about transitional phrases. Yet balance the need to be subtle with the awareness that transitional sentences help readers understand and recall information.
Finally, as with abstracts, you should not expect yourself to write the final draft of an introduction until the entire manuscript has been completed. This suggestion is often surprising to academicians who were trained by writing teachers unfamiliar with research in composition theory. The notion that you should be able to outline your project and write the introduction before writing contradicts the generative nature of language. Because we learn by writing, the way we shape our work and even what we say often change as we punch our ideas through several drafts. You are wise, therefore, not to expect the impossible at the onset of a scholarly project. If your work is significant and not a routine review of what you already know, then you should expect great difficulty writing your introduction.
Your introduction will gain finesse as you work ideas through different drafts. Meanwhile, you may want to consider the following questions to help you get started:
- In one sentence, what is the purpose of the document?
- What surprising information is conveyed in the document? Do the results contradict expectations? Did the people that you interviewed say something shocking or highly interesting? Did your survey reveal an unexpected attitude on the part of your respondents?
- What assumptions does the audience hold about the topic? How knowledgeable are they about the issues that you raise?
- Would your concluding paragraph make a better introduction than the current introduction?
- Will the readers feel as if they have been driven off a cliff or have you identified the concluding paragraphs as a conclusion?
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How to Shape Effective Paragraphs
Unlike punctuation, which can be subjected to specific rules, no ironclad guidelines can be provided for shaping paragraphs. If you presented a text without paragraphs to a dozen academicians and asked them to break the document into logical sections, chances are that you would get twelve different opinions about the best places to put the paragraph breaks. In part, where paragraphs should be placed is a stylistic choice. Some writers prefer longer paragraphs that compare and contrast several related ideas, while others provide a more linear structure, delineating each subject point by point, paragraph by paragraph.
If your critics have not suggested that you take a hard look at how to organize your ideas, you may wish to skip the following discussion. After all, you wouldn’t take breathing lessons unless you had asthma or felt stressed out. Yet, if you are unsure about when you should begin a paragraph or how you should organize final drafts, then you may want to consider the following guidelines.
When you are drafting, trust your intuition about where to place paragraphs. You do not want to interrupt the flow of your thoughts to check on whether you are placing them in logical order. Such self-criticism could interfere with the flow of ideas that is important to being original and establishing a vigorous voice. Before submitting a document for publication, however, it generally makes sense to examine the structure of your paragraphs. Although the following guidelines are not ironclad, they can give you some insights about alternative ways to shape paragraphs.
Paragraphs often follow a deductive organization that moves from given to new information
Your goals for the opening sentences of your paragraphs are similar to your goals when writing an introduction to a document: in the beginning of a paragraph, you usually want to clarify its purpose. Most paragraphs in academic discourse move deductively–that is, the first or second sentence presents the topic or theme of the paragraph, and the following sentences illustrate and explicate this theme.
Use an inductive structure for dramatic conclusions or a varied style
While you generally want to move from the known to the new, from the thesis to its illustration or restriction, you sometimes want to violate this pattern. Educated readers in particular can be bored by texts that always present information in the same way. Note, for example, how Valerie Steele’s anecdotal tone and dialogue in the opening sentences to her essay on fashion in academia prepare the reader for her thesis:
Once, when I was a graduate student at Yale, a history professor asked me about my dissertation. “I’m writing about fashion,” I said.
“That’s interesting. Italian or German?”
It took me a couple of minutes, as thoughts of Armani flashed through my mind, but finally I realized what he meant. “Not fascism,” I said. “Fashion. As in Paris.”
“Oh.” There was a long silence, and then, without another word, he turned and walked away.
The F-word still has the power to reduce many academics to embarrassed or indignant silence.
Paragraphs are usually unified by a single purpose or theme
Regardless of whether it is deductively or inductively structured, readers can generally follow the logic of a discussion better when a paragraph is unified by a single purpose. Paragraphs that lack a central idea and that wander from subject to subject are apt to confuse readers, making them wonder what they should pay attention to and how the different ideas relate to each other. To ensure that each paragraph is unified by a single idea, Francis Christensen has suggested numbering sentences according to their level of generality, assigning a “1” to the most general sentence, a “2” to the second most general sentence, and so on. Christensen considers the following paragraph, excerpted from J. Bronowski The Common Sense of Science, to be an example of a subordinate pattern because the sentences become increasingly specific as the reader progresses through the paragraph:
- The process of learning is essential to our lives.
- All higher animals seek it deliberately.
- They are inquisitive and they experiment.
- An experiment is a sort of harmless trial run of some action which we shall have to make in the real world;
- and this, whether it is made in the laboratory by scientists or by fox-cubs outside their earth.
- The scientist experiments and the cub plays; both are learning to correct their errors of judgment in a setting in which errors are not fatal.
- Perhaps this is what gives them both their air of happiness and freedom in these activities.
Christensen is quick to point out that not all paragraphs have a subordinate structure. The following one, taken from Bergen Evans’s Comfortable Words, is an example of what Christensen considers a coordinate sequence:
- He [the native speaker] may, of course, speak a form of English that marks him as coming from a rural or an unread group.
- But if he doesn’t mind being so marked, there’s no reason why he should change.
- Samuel Johnson kept a Staffordshire burr in his speech all his life.
- In Burns’s mouth the despised lowland Scots dialect served just as well as the “correct” English spoken by ten million of his southern contemporaries.
- Lincoln’s vocabulary and his way of pronouncing certain words were sneered at by many better educated people at the time, but he seemed to be able to use the English language as effectively as his critics.
Each paragraph must relate logically to the previous paragraph(s)
Readers expect paragraphs to relate to each other as well as to the overall purpose of a text. Establishing transitional sentences for paragraphs can be one of the most difficult challenges you face as a writer because you need to guide the reader with a light hand. When you are too blatant about your transitions, your readers may feel patronized. To highlight the connections between your ideas, you can provide transitional sentences at the end of each paragraph that look forward to the substance of the next paragraph. Also, you can place the transition at the beginning of the next paragraph.
When evaluating your transitions from idea to idea, question whether the transitions appear too obtrusive, thereby undercutting your credibility. At best, when unnecessary, readers perceive explicit transitional sentences to be wordy; at worst, they perceive such sentences as insulting (after all, they imply that the readers are too inept to follow the discussion).
Vary the length of paragraphs to reflect the complexity and importance of the ideas expressed in them
Different ideas, arguments, and chronologies warrant their own paragraph lengths, so the form of your text should emerge in response to your thoughts. To emphasize a transition in your argument or to highlight an important point, you may want to place the critical information in a one- or two-sentence paragraph.
Consider your genre and the visual image of the paragraphs
As much as any of the above guidelines, you should consider the genre of your text. Paragraph length is influenced as much by the genre of the discourse as by the ideas being expressed. For instance, newspapers and magazines produced for high-school educated readers tend to require much shorter paragraphs than do academic journals. When evaluating how you have structured your ideas, however, pay attention to whether you have varied the length of your paragraphs. Long chunks of text without paragraph breaks tend to make ideas seem complicated, perhaps even inaccessible to less educated audiences. In turn, short paragraphs tend to create a listlike style, which intrudes on clarity and persuasive appeal. Because long paragraphs tend to make a document more complicated than short paragraphs, you should question how patient and educated your readers are.
Paragraphs provide a visual representation of your ideas. When revising your work, evaluate the logic behind how you have organized the paragraphs. Would your presentation appear more logical and persuasive if you rearranged the paragraphs? Next, question the structure of each paragraph. To see if sentences need to be rearranged, determine whether you are organizing information deductively or according to some sense of what is most and least important.
How to Write Effective Conclusions
Many scholars fail to recognize the importance of conclusions. Even if the introduction forcefully presents the problem and its significance, and even if the body of the document is logical and well developed, you still need to pay considerable attention to the conclusion. After all, these are usually the last words your audience will read. Readability studies have suggested that a powerful conclusion is second only to the introduction in terms of its effect on a reader. Consequently, present the gist of your argument energetically and concisely. If there is a persuasive aspect to your document, this can be an excellent place to present some emotional appeals.
Of course, your rhetorical situation defines how much detail you will need to go into in your conclusion. A 200-page document, for example, will place different demands on you than a conclusion to a short letter. When attempting to draft a memorable conclusion, consider the following questions:
- What are the broad implications of your work? What recommendations can you make based on the material you have presented?
- Would it be appropriate for you to speculate on what will happen next?
- What do you want readers to do once they have reviewed your document? Should they agree with you about the validity of an argument or theory? Should they change their teaching practices? Should they pour their creative energies into examining an innovative research question?
- Did you pose a question in the introduction that can now be answered? Is there a way of extending a metaphor that was presented in the introduction?
Throughout the time you spend writing a document, you should keep your ear tuned for a clever closing statement. To develop a powerful conclusion, consider the above questions and the most important message you want to leave with your readers. Also study the ways writers you enjoy conclude their documents.
How to Document Sources
Unfortunately, each discipline has its own standards for how to cite material. While interdisciplinary work would be much simpler if scholars could agree on one or two major citation systems, presently dozens of citation systems are endorsed by various professional organizations. For example, English teachers and scholars involved in composition and rhetoric follow the guidelines prescribed by the Modern Language Association (MLA).
In turn, psychologists and others in the social sciences follow those established by the American Psychological Association (APA). The bible for editors of scholarly journals and university presses is The Chicago Manual of Style. Biologists use The Council of Biology Editors Style Manual. Many lawyers use Harvard Law Review’s A Uniform System of Citation. Chemists follow The American Chemical Society’s Handbook for Authors. And engineers have numerous style formats to choose from, such as the Engineers’ Joint Council’s Recommended Practice for Style of References in Engineering Publications, the American Society for Mechanical Engineering MS-4: An ASME Paper, or the American Institute of Industrial Engineers’ The Complete Guide for Writing Technical Articles.
Avoid excessive quoting
Instructors do not want to read miscellaneous quotes thrown together helter-skelter. Documents that rely extensively on quotes tend to lack voice or authority. If you place quotes after every few lines, your ideas and voice take second stage to other people’s ideas and voices, which contradicts your reason for writing – to share your thoughts. Although no firm guideline can be prescribed, stylists often suggest limiting direct quotes to 10 percent of the total length of your document.
You will, however, occasionally find it useful to quote directly. For example, you might want to provide a direct quote if the material goes to the heart of your discussion or argument; if it is so well written that it cannot be condensed further; if it contains an eyewitness account of an event; or if it is written by a prestigious scholar whose comments are crucial to your purpose.
Ensure that paraphrased sections are accurate and properly cited
When you paraphrase another scholar’s original ideas, you must acknowledge your indebtedness. This does not mean, however, that you should cite everything you read. Instead, you need to determine whether a particular insight is considered given information by other scholars in the field. In other words, if many scholars are expressing similar ideas or insights, then you may be able to consider this information to be public domain information. When in doubt about whether an insight is unique to a particular scholar, however, you should cite the scholar.
Also, when reviewing your paraphrased passages, check to ensure that you have not repeated any phrases from the secondary source without putting quotation marks around them. If you have read an article many times by another scholar, you can easily repeat the syntax and word choice without being aware of it, so it truly makes sense to take a second look at the original source. Taking three or more words from a secondary source amounts to more than sloppy scholarship: it is plagiarism. Naturally, you should also ensure that you have not misrepresented the secondary source by omitting the context or crucial qualifiers from the direct quote or in your paraphrased statement.
Power quote to establish a persuasive persona
One of the conventions for introductions is to bow to predecessors and acknowledge your indebtedness to their ground-breaking, seminal research. If space limitations prohibit you from discoursing at length on the various works that contributed to your thinking on a subject, you can gather them together under the umbrella of a general, inclusive statement, as demonstrated in the samples below:
A number of researchers ( Bellack, Kliebard, Hyman, & Smith 1966; Cazden, John, & Hymes, 1972; Barnes, 1969; Flanders , 1979; Sinclair & Coulthard, 1978) have analyzed the language of classrooms and have come to the common conclusion that students have access to a limited number of language functions. ( Gere and Abbott374-375)
In recent years, several reader response theorists ( Bleich, 1975, 1978; Culler, 1975; Fish, 1970, 1976a, 1976b; Holland, 1973, 1975a, 1975b; Rosenblatt, 1976, 1978) have explored the unique role of the reader in the literary experience. Among the variety of explanations for the respective roles of the reader and text in the creation of meaning, some studies have demonstrated that readers’ cognitive frameworks and psychological predispositions affect their response to literature ( Applebee, 1975, 1976a, 1976b; Holland, 1975b; Kuehn, 1974; Peters & Blues, 1978; Petrosky, 1976; Thompson, 1974). ( Hynds 386))
While power quoting can be an effective way to highlight important information, you can sometimes be more concise by citing one or two important studies. Also, check to ensure that the scholars and studies that you have grouped together truly support the statement you have made. If informed readers believe that you have bundled together studies that actually disagree in their conclusions or that don’t truly support the assertion you have made, you will lose credibility no matter how strong the rest of your argument is.
How to Write an Annotated Bibliography
A bibliography is usually thought of as an alphabetical listing of books at the end of a written work (book, book chapter, or article), to which the author referred during the research and writing process. In addition to books, bibliographies can include sources such as articles, reports, interviews, or even non-print resources like Web sites, video or audio recordings. Because they may include such varied resources, bibliographies are also referred to as ‘references’, ‘works cited’ or ‘works consulted’ (the latter can include those titles that merely contributed to research, but were not specifically cited in text). The standard bibliography details the citation information of the consulted sources: author(s), date of publication, title, and publisher’s name and location (and for articles: journal title, volume, issue and page numbers). The primary function of bibliographic citations is to assist the reader in finding the sources used in the writing of a work.
To these basic citations, the annotated bibliography adds descriptive and evaluative comments (i.e., an annotation), assessing the nature and value of the cited works. The addition of commentary provides the future reader or researcher essential critical information and a foundation for further research.
While an annotation can be as short as one sentence, the average entry in an annotated bibliography consists of a work’s citation information followed by a short paragraph of three to six sentences, roughly 150 words in length. The annotated bibliography is compiled by:
- Considering scope: what types of sources (books, articles, primary documents, Web sites, non-print materials) will be included? how many (a sampling or a comprehensive list)? (Your instructor may set these guidelines)
- Conducting a search for the sources and retrieving them
- Evaluating retrieved sources by reading them and noting your findings and impressions
- Once a final group of sources has been selected, giving full citation data (according to the bibliographic style [e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA] prescribed by your instructor) and writing an annotation for each source; do not list a source more than once
Annotations begin on the line following the citation data and may be composed with complete sentences or as verb phrases (the cited work being understood as the subject)—again at the discretion of the instructor. The annotation should include most, if not all, of the following:
- Explanation of the main purpose and scope of the cited work
- Brief description of the work’s format and content
- Theoretical basis and currency of the author’s argument
- Author’s intellectual/academic credentials
- Work’s intended audience
- Value and significance of the work as a contribution to the subject under consideration
- Possible shortcomings or bias in the work
- Any significant special features of the work (e.g., glossary, appendices, particularly good index)
- Your own brief impression of the work
Although these are many of the same features included in a literature review, the emphasis of bibliographic annotation should be on brevity.
Not to be confused with the abstract—which merely gives a summary of the main points of a work—the annotated bibliography both describes and evaluates those points. Whether an annotated bibliography concludes an article or book—or is even itself a comprehensive, book-length listing of sources—its purposes are the same:
- To illustrate the scope and quality of one’s own research
- To review the literature published on a particular topic
- To provide the reader/researcher with supplementary, illustrative or alternative sources
- To allow the reader to see if a particular source was consulted
- To provide examples of the type of resources available on a given topic
- To place original research in a historical context
EXAMPLES(The second in complete-sentence style, the others in phrase style)
Altieri, M.A., & Anderson, M.K. (1986). An Ecological Basis for the Development of Alternative Agricultural Systems for Small Farmers in the Third World
American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 1, 30-38.
Critiques Third World
rural development strategies that promote large-scale agriculture based on uniform crop varieties. Describes Agroecosystem Analysis and Development, which stresses sustainability, equity, stability, and productivity. Lists examples of sustainable traditional farming systems and agroecological approaches to rural development.
Goulart, R. (1989). The Great Comic Book Artists, Volume 2. New York: St Martin’s Press.
The alphabetically arranged entries include one page each for the artist biography and black-and-white reprinted art. The subjective choices for inclusion? reflect a pronounced American, corporate bias. This slant and the blurry comic-book reproductions render the title a cut below Goulart’s usual high standards.
Larkin, C. (Ed.). (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music. London: Guinness.
Very comprehensive reference book of 3,296 pages (more than 10,000 entries) encompassing all styles of popular music, including jazz. Primarily biographical, but does contain record label histories. Entries from 150 to 3,000 words, though some important artists have longer entries. Most artists from UK and US, though additionally many reggae, Latin, and Afro-pop artists from outside these countries. Most entries include discography.
How to Distinguish Between Primary and Secondary Sources
Whether conducting research in the social sciences, humanities (especially history), arts, or natural sciences, the ability to distinguish between primary and secondary source material is essential. Basically, this distinction illustrates the degree to which the author of a piece is removed from the actual event being described, informing the reader as to whether the author is reporting impressions first hand (or is first to record these immediately following an event), or conveying the experiences and opinions of others—that is, second hand.
These are contemporary accounts of an event, written by someone who experienced or witnessed the event in question. These original documents (i.e., they are not about another document or account) are often diaries, letters, memoirs, journals, speeches, manuscripts, interviews and other such unpublished works. They may also include published pieces such as newspaper or magazine articles (as long as they are written soon after the fact and not as historical accounts), photographs, audio or video recordings, research reports in the natural or social sciences, or original literary or theatrical works.
The function of these is to interpret primary sources, and so can be described as at least one step removed from the event or phenomenon under review. Secondary source materials, then, interpret, assign values to, conjecture upon, and draw conclusions about the events reported in primary sources. These are usually in the form of published works such as journal articles or books, but may include radio or television documentaries, or conference proceedings.
When evaluating primary or secondary sources, the following questions might be asked to help ascertain the nature and value of material being considered:
- How does the author know these details (names, dates, times)? Was the author present at the event or soon on the scene?
- Where does this information come from—personal experience, eyewitness accounts, or reports written by others?
- Are the author’s conclusions based on a single piece of evidence, or have many sources been taken into account (e.g., diary entries, along with third-party eyewitness accounts, impressions of contemporaries, newspaper accounts…)?
Ultimately, all source materials of whatever type must be assessed critically and even the most scrupulous and thorough work is viewed through the eyes of the writer/interpreter. This must be taken into account when one is attempting to arrive at the ‘truth’ of an event.
How to Write an Essay Under Exam Conditions
You will have a specified time to write each essay. Aim to spend roughly 10 minutes (or more) planning and thinking. You may think that this is a huge chunk out of the time available but it is time well spent. It will save you time overall and will mean you do most of the thinking at the start, allowing you to spend the rest of the time writing.
Study the question
The first thing is to study the question. You are not being asked to `write everything you know about …’. You are being asked a specific question that needs an answer that is directly related to it.
Once you are sure what the question is asking of you, the next thing you should do is brainstorm. Simply write down everything you can think of in brief notes and in no particular order just to get it out of your mind and on to paper. You can organise it later but initially you will have a record of relevant points and information to include. They might remind you of other things too.
Answer the question
Now that you are aware of the demands of the question and have some ideas, you have to think about your answer. You need a main line of argument that will form the backbone of your essay. Once you have this, jot it down as it will form part of your introduction.
Now you have to organise the `mess’ that was your brainstorm into a well structured essay. Decide whether the question is asking for a thematic approach, or chronological. Is it asking for causes to be evaluated or for a discussion of two sides of an argument? Once you have a general approach, you need to decide what each paragraph is going to include. Look at your brainstorm and begin to group ideas, include any more relevant factors or points that may come to you as you are planning. Start to order the paragraphs and try to see natural links between points or paragraphs to help the flow of the essay.
A rough guide to your plan should be:
Introduction: introducing your understanding of the question, how you plan to tackle it, what you are going to include and what your main line of argument is.
Four paragraphs: each of a reasonable length discussing a single issue/factor (or combination of).
Conclusion: summarising the main arguments made in your essay and ending with your main argument.
Catch the examiner’s eye
Your essay will be one of possibly hundreds that an examiner has to read and mark. No doubt examiners are all very professional and read each one thoroughly, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a hand by making it easier for them to mark (and easier for them to give you more marks). So here are some ways to do this:
- Have a really good introduction. Have a snappy first sentence, show you have a firm grasp of the question and that you have a main line of argument. This tells the examiner where you are headed and also what to look out for.
- Have a good plan. If each paragraph deals with the factors, points or issues raised in your introduction, the examiner sees that you are fully in control.
- `Sign-posting’ – Make every paragraph catch the eye by beginning with a strong argumentative point that is linked to the main argument (backbone) of your essay. Then you can go on to explain and prove it.
- Try to make your essay fluid and easy to read. Ideally the points you make within a paragraph should flow from one to the other and each paragraph should link well with the next.
- Have a snappy ending. Summarise your main points and end with a clear and well thought out main argument. A strong ending will remind the examiner of what you have proven and show that you have been in control of the essay all the way through.
Know your stuff!
Writing a good essay requires the writer to know what to write. When you brainstorm there should be lots of things jotted on the page. When you write the essay itself, you need to have clear arguments, to be aware of the issues and be able to back up analytical points with appropriately selected information and evidence and some historians’ views. So you will need to have worked hard in your studies, and done some effective revision.
A good essay style will help you make the most of what you know. If you know a bit about the essay topic, a good essay style can hide some of your inadequacies. If you really know your stuff, you should end up writing an excellent essay rather than just a good essay.
- 10 minutes – is time well spent
- Study the question
- Answer the question
- Catch the examiner’s eye
- Know your stuff!
- A good essay style will help you make the most of what you know and help you to write an excellent essay not just a good essay.
How to Write Book Reviews
Once you have found a book worth reviewing, take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether you truly are qualified to critique it. Imagine the author of the book and the years of struggle that he or she went through, hoping to contribute meaning. Honestly ask yourself if you know enough about the conversation to which the book is contributing. Can you place the book in a historical framework? Are you properly familiar with the author’s previous works, presuming, of course, that such works exist?
Avoid the ideal text syndrome
Researchers in composition theory have found that readers usually judge documents by comparing the author’s product with what we would have done if we were the writer. Like the horse following the carrot, we often feel frustrated. While we have an image of how the text should be formed, an inchoate sense of excellence, our ability to capture this image in words continually eludes us. Let’s face it, we can critique even the most sublime document – note, for example, the endless parade of criticism regarding Shakespeare’s work.
We need to focus on what is really important and describe this information for our readers. And yes, in the spirit of presenting an objective evaluation, we also have to input some commentary regarding significant deficiencies. When carefully reading the work, therefore, you may want to divide comments into thirds:
- Describe the contents of the book and its organization, while paying particular attention to the new knowledge the book.
- Mention the significant weaknesses.
- Focus on the strengths.
As with all scholarly documents, you would be wise to share what you consider to be a final draft of the review with your friends before submitting it. You may want to ask them whether you have given enough information about the book for them to understand your assessment of it.
How to Write a Literature Review
Not to be confused with a book review, a literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources (e.g. dissertations, conference proceedings) relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of each work. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
Similar to primary research, development of the literature review requires four stages:
- Problem formulation—which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?
- Literature search—finding materials relevant to the subject being explored
- Data evaluation—determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic
- Analysis and interpretation—discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature
Literature reviews should comprise the following elements:
- An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review
- Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative theses entirely)
- Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others
- Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research
In assessing each piece, consideration should be given to:
- Provenance—What are the author’s credentials? Are the author’s arguments supported by evidence (e.g. primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings)?
- Objectivity—Is the author’s perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author’s point?
- Value—Are the author’s arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject?
A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject. In either case, its purpose is to:
- Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review
- Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration
- Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in, previous research
- Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies
- Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort
- Point the way forward for further research
- Place one’s original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature
How to Write Quantitative Research Reports
You can determine the best way to organize a research report by considering your purpose and by identifying your audience. Your readers would expect you to present the following:
- an abstract;
- a statement of the research question, hypothesis, or problem;
- a review of literature;
- a review of materials used and methods followed;
- a results section;
- a discussion section; and
- a notes and bibliography section.
In addition to these basic categories, a lengthy study might include a table of contents, a table of figures, and appendixes. Because these sections are inherently logical in descriptions of research, even essays in the humanities and fine arts are likely to use some of these sections to report research findings. Few would dispute that it makes sense to first describe a problem, explain how it was studied, and then report results and implications. Because of different philosophical underpinnings, however, academic disciplines differ in how they organize documents.
The methods section that appears in the body of a report is likely to be relegated to an appendix in a humanist’s report or omitted altogether. Some instructors in the humanities expect authors to begin the essay where the scientist ends – that is, with the results section. Argumentative essays and speculative reports are more likely to foreground the importance of a researcher’s results and minimize or even exclude discussions of methods. To create diversity and promote reader interest, some authors will use more engaging headings than “results” or “discussion,” yet the underlying meaning remains the same.
Because the best way to organize a research report is determined by your audience and prevailing conventions, no absolute rules can be offered. Claims that there is only one way to structure research writing are about as valid as claims that snake oil cures cancer. No one structure can account for diverse audiences and purposes. Instead, you can determine the best way to organize your work by listening to the emerging logic of your prose. Then, when you revise, consider the conventions for structuring ideas that exist for the audience, purpose, and context that you are addressing.
State the research question or hypothesis
Instructors expect authors to provide a brief overview of the research, covering, for example, the significance of the subject, findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The opening sentences (or paragraphs, depending on the length of the manuscript) of your investigation should identify your research question, methods, and essential conclusions. Don’t be concerned about repeating information expressed in the abstract. Although you are wise to avoid redundancy whenever possible, academicians expect some repetition from the abstract to the introduction. Also, don’t worry about giving away your best conclusions early.
Review the literature
After briefly clarifying your purpose, findings, and methods, you may wish to present a separate section that reviews the scholarship related to your topic. However, in most professional writing, lengthy discussions of the literature are taboo. Instructors expect students to ground observations and interpretations in available literature throughout the document and not just in a section in the introduction. Yet they are quickly bored by serious discussions of what they already take for granted, so you will want to explain succinctly how your ideas or findings refute existing assumptions or previous studies.
Review materials used and methods followed
Particular disciplines have very specific rules about how to conduct research. To be taken seriously, your research must conform to these methodological conventions. In the sciences and social sciences, authors are usually expected to describe the materials and methods used to conduct the research. Whether you expect others to repeat your study, if you fail to provide the details needed to reproduce it, your work will lack credibility.
If you are using a well-known and accepted method, then a few references to the major studies that have employed this method should suffice. On the other hand, if you are adapting someone else’s methods or using a controversial approach, you will need to defend the methodology, explaining why you have chosen it and how it provides an accurate measure of the problem being investigated. You can usually increase your chances of publishing your work by following established methods of inquiry. One of the main problems with using unorthodox approaches is that they require you to substantiate them, thereby diverting attention from what matters: your results.
Because a flawed research design is one of the most common reasons for rejecting a study for publication, ask experienced researchers to look over your plan before you conduct the research. Only after several of your colleagues have agreed that your method seems logical and feasible should you proceed.
While conducting the research, you will find it useful to keep a written record of the materials used. Cite generic or chemical names rather than trade names. Remember, be precise in the amount and kind of materials used so that your readers can follow exactly in your footsteps. If your investigation involved selecting subjects, describe the means used to select them.
When you survey people, provide a copy of the questionnaire either in the body of the report or as an appendix. Most professors want to know how you developed the survey, whom you submitted it to, how many people responded to it, and, as much as possible, the characteristics of the sample who responded to the survey and how closely these characteristics match those of the targeted population (for example, their sex, age, address, years of experience, etc.).
Descriptions of how you conducted an interview are often unnecessary and can even be counterproductive. However, you still may wish to elaborate on the setting in which you conducted the interview and on the specific questions that you asked.
After working night and day on a project, it is quite easy to forget to include some details because they seem obvious. As a result, once the study is completed, ask a qualified peer if the methods section includes all the information necessary to conduct the research. Here are some standard questions that instructors ask when critiquing research studies:
- Is the method traditional and accepted? Did the author cite the appropriate authorities who have used the method?
- If the method is unusual, did the author provide sufficient evidence to warrant its application? Was sufficient credit given to the originators of the method?
- Did the author use the best possible methodology to study the research question?
- Was the method used correctly?
- Finally, did the author provide sufficient details so that the study can be replicated? Has the author explained what, how, how much, and when?
The heart of a successful research report, of course, is the results. After quickly scanning an abstract or introduction, many readers will skip ahead to the results and discussion. In fact, many readers will only study the method section if they doubt the results. In some disciplines, such as the sciences, authors are expected to separate the results from a broader discussion of their implications. In contrast, students in the humanities expect authors to interweave their results with a discussion or argument.
Most research studies generate more data than need to be reported. On some issues you may have gone fishing and come up empty, while other issues that may have appeared tangential to your primary theme may prove significant and require emphasis. Academic honesty need not translate into going into monotonous detail about all of your results, yet if some results appear to contradict major patterns in the data, you cannot ignore them. When seeking a thesis that explains the data, question whether any common themes or major points of disagreement can be found in the data. Did you find what you set out to find? This rigorous process of finding patterns in the data can involve throwing out large chunks of information that simply are not helpful or important.
Also, remember that it is not necessary to explain your results in prose if you have captured them in a table or graph, yet you should mention their presence in the text. Consider the following additional questions when evaluating your tables and figures:
- Have you labelled the axes of tables and graphs? Will your readers understand the abbreviations used?
- Is an illustration truly necessary? Are the results already apparent in the text?
At last, it’s showtime. Now you can interpret the theoretical and pedagogical implications of your results. Here you can tackle the tricky questions and unresolved issues highlighted by your results. You can proudly point your finger into the scholarly territory that needs exploration.
Provide acknowledgments, notes, and bibliography
In the concluding section of your report, you can acknowledge your indebtedness to friends who helped you complete the report. Footnotes that elaborate on tangential issues may be included. Finally, you should acknowledge indebtedness to all of the scholars you have quoted or paraphrased in the report.