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February 13, 2012

Final summary of Writing For Arts and Social Sciences Seminar

Follow-up to Follow Up 2 from Matt's blog

Alrighty, so I thought I'd leave this final entry on the writing for arts and social sciences section until I received feedback on the exam I took near the start of this term, to reflect on the progress I have made since starting this process!

I have continued with my emphasis on results sections of journals, to get me more into the scientific writing style. However, the main thing I felt necessary to work on (partially through seminars, involving examination of published papers in journals), is going one step further and criticising/evaluating as I go along. I feel that I have reached the stage where I know enough to not only be learning from other journals, but also imposing my own knowledge on them, and seeing where I feel they are going wrong. Through this, I am learning more and more about what should be included in papers, and what shouldn't, and this is something I aim to continue developing long into the future.

In the examination in january, I tried to put into practice all the action points that I have set out so far. These included being succinct and to the point, planning out an essay before writing it, imposing time limits that I feel will allow me to complete all tasks, as well as general structuring of the essay. In reflection, I feel most of these were achieved to great success. I didn't run out of time, I wasn't going crazy with the asterisks (as I have been known to do in previous exams), and I felt calm in the knowledge that I had an action plan with each question! I recently gained my mark, and this reflection was accurate, as I obtained 68% (which I am very pleased about, considering the number of case studies involved!).

In each of the written pieces of work, I was precise in my analysis of the papers, and really feel like I now know how to write in a critical manner. With one mark in the 60s and the other in the 80s, the progress made through attending the writing seminar (and all the reflection involved) is really beginning to show!

I fully intend to keep developing my writing style, learning from journals containing published articles, and planning each piece of work fully before diving in and writing all parts of it in one sitting!

Many thanks for the seminar, and all the comments made on each blog post :)

December 15, 2011

Follow Up 2

Follow-up to Follow Up Post from Matt's blog

Soooo in the last couple of weeks or so, they've decided to flood us with loads of assessed pieces of work, and we have two more set for when we get back to uni again. I figure the last few have been set in a very condensed time period, so this has helped me practice my writing under time pressure, whereas the next couple (aside from aiding in my time management skills) will be more of a long-term coursework exercise.

With the last few pieces, my results writing skills have been the ones most tested. My last action point was geared towards taking an interest more in the results sections of published journals, and despite the endless chore that is picking apart every little part of every stats test, I really think this has helped me a lot here! By reading results sections from a variety of authors, I've got more of a grasp on the different ways in which results are reported (often varying from journal to journal), and my overall awareness of them has risen. Therefore, I was able to write in a style that was very similar to those I had read. Another winner was being able to condense my writing more (another action point I've been working on). For results sections in psychology, we must only use scientific language, and only write things that are absolutely necessary. Through all the practice I've had with summarising and condensing my writing, this is becoming more and more second nature to me!

Aside from all this, a few new action points have formed. I have two massive assignments in for after Christmas, and these take the form of critical essays. Again, being succinct and to the point is of vital importance here, so I shall continue to look at examples of scientific writing (particularly empirical critiques) to get a grasp on how these are writen by the pros. In addition, from reflecting on the results sections I completed for my previous assignments, I think that my methods of results presentation is something I need to work on - I wasn't sure whether it was conventional to draw one type of graph, or a table, etc etc. So looking up guidelines on this would be very helpful. One final point would be to look at structuring arguments, as this is one of the main parts of my empiricial critique, as well as my exam in January (on evaluating research methods in psychology). Therefore, I have requested a useful book from the lecturer taking the exam, and I'm in the process of borrowing it from my local library to see how arguments SHOULD be structured!


November 28, 2011

Follow Up Post

Follow-up to A3 Academic Writing for Arts and Social Sciences from Matt's blog

(Side note, sorry Laura - been insanely busy this week with a data project that counts 40% towards one of my modules!)

Alrighty, so my first action point from last week was writing things in a clear, concise manner. As luck would have it, a key task for some seminar work that I had to complete was to analyse an article, and write up a summary of the aims, design, and conclusions in 250 words or less! So, how would I tackle this? I began by sticking down the main key points on a page, cutting out anything that I thought was even slightly off topic. Next, putting it together. Skipping forward a good hour or so, I wound up with around 400 words; 150 over my target. However, I'll take this as a learning experience, as getting rid of those unnecessary words taught me which ones aren't needed. Although all of the evidence was necessary (action point 2), it everything could have been condensed better, so I'll call this a partial victory on the precise writing front! Next time, for the next piece of work for this seminar (something along similar guidelines), I shall aim to impliment this writing style right from the start, possibly using this piece of work as a bit of a template, and hopefully I can learn something from it!

On the journal reading front, I've taken an interest in some topics that aren't on my course (for example, hypnosis), to hopefully broaden my knowledge of psychology in general! Aside from being really interesting, I'm finding I have a better understanding of how they are written, and what makes a journal more scientific, rather than Arts-ey. My next step I feel should be concentrating more on the results sections of journals, along with looking up a book I was recommended by my Methods module lecturer. This will hopefully clear up something I've discovered through the extra reading - results aren't written the same way by every researcher - there's a lot of variation there, and there isn't a clear-cut way of doing things! As I say, hopefully I'm using what I've read in my own work, and it should make my writing style a little bit more professional! That's the aim anyway!


November 18, 2011

A3 Academic Writing for Arts and Social Sciences

Tutor: Dr Laura Davies

Date of workshop:17/11/2011

Weirdly feel like the pressure is on for this blog post, I may have to up my writing style game here..! Anyway, right, so a few hours ago I was sat in a seminar aimed at improving writing style in my field; Psychology. (Possibly incorrect semicolon usage - oh dear). We began by discussing the definitions of analysis and evaluation; two key parts of most academic writing that we will participate in. We went on to talk about referencing, the overall structure of essays, and had a go at discussing the strengths and weaknesses of some example essay sections (including having a quick look at our own work, which is much much harder to analyse; I guess we just can't help but take our own criticism personally!).

So, what strengths and weaknesses do I have? Intending to print off the last essay I did, I accidentally printed off a piece of work I wrote on developmental psychology from my first year. However, this actually had a surprise benefit: I could see the change in the quality of my work up to this point, and the advice I received demonstrated just how far I can go from here! Currently, I'm pretty good at presenting an argument (the benefits of doing an English Literature A level!), and writing with a decent structure. One thing I lack however, is not being able to present information in a clear, precise manner. Having been encouraged to use elaborate language in essays at A level, I find it very hard to switch this writing style off, and go into "nobody cares about pointless adjectives" mode. Therefore, first action point: in all pieces of work I'm writing, make a conscious effort to read over the completed piece, and cut out any unnecessary language.

My second action point ties in with not using unnecessary language. Whenever I write an essay and check back over it, I almost always find myself over the word count. At this point, I begin to see that pretty much ALL sentences can be presented in a much more precise manner. This applies not only to adjectives etc. but also to general sentence structure. So, my second action point will be to start out by structure sentences correctly in upcoming essays. If, when writing the essay for the first time, I can make sure sentences are written to convey the main evidence, and nothing more, then when it comes to exams I will be able to write in this way (as there is less time to check through essays in that context).

Finally, my last action point is that I need to read more journals. The more I expose myself to the subject literature, the more I should be able to soak up their writing style, like a metaphorical academic sponge. I figure that if I pick journals that interest me, I'll be able to maintain concentration and may get through on average one more piece of writing every day, which would be a good start!

I will try to update my progress on this side of my skills development at the end of next week, when I've attempted to put these targets into action. Good stuff!


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