January 23, 2014

First entry on Introduction to Academic Writing

Workshop Tutor: Dr Emma Smith


In this workshop we were introduced to the academic writing at Master's level.

To begin with, we were given an outline of the key stages to writing any piece of academic work. From the 'understandng of a title/question' to the 'final proofreading', we were shown the key steps to an academic writing process. The structure was very easy to follow and set out the three most important parts to an academic work: Understanding the question, forming an appropriate structure and critically revising and rewriting an essay. This was particularly enlightening as it showed me perhaps where I was going wrong in some of the essays I had written in the past.

We were then introduced to the most important aspects of master's level work: the ability to critique, evaluate and analyse. Dr Emma Smith then specifically defined these terms in accordance with each other. Being critical was said to involve challenging, questioning or judging a notion, whereas to evaluate had numerical connotations such as calculating, measuring and weighing up theories. To analyse something, was a fusion of the former two: separating theories into sections, before examining and explaining them. I found the distinction between these three particularly interesting and enlightening as they had never been distinguished to me in three years of academia. This distinction also meant that I could distinguish between different types of questions more easily.

The workshop then moved onto the very particular macro structure of essays from introduction to interlinking sentences. We learnt that every inroduction should have context, and outline and most importantly a thesis statement explaining to the reader what it is that will be concluded from the essay. The thesis statement should be true to the entire essay's aim or argument and be returned to in the conclusion. Likewise the conclusion should not contradict the introduction but return the reader's interest to the main argument and also summarise what has been discussed or found out. Although I had learnt it before, the workshop also re-emphasized that every paragraph should begin with a topic sentence backed up with support and end with either a concluding or transitional sentence. The allusion to the reader's interest was also quite illuminating. As highlighted in the workshop, we should not forget that writing is a form of communication and it is therefore imperative to communicate an argument well, inform and keep the reader's interest. The workshop reiterated that at master's level we would be judged by the quality of our ideas, our evidence and our reasoning.

The workshop ended with a good analogy to good referencing. Dr Emma Smith explained that using sources well was like hosting a good dinner party. In other words, the sources you use should be treated with respect and not used for the sole purpose of putting them down.

The workshop summarised that academic writing, particularly at Master's level, should be above all formal, rational, concise, accurate and engaging.


  1. My first action point will be improving my ability to understanding a question or topic fully before the process of researching or writing (in the next 3 to 4 weeks)

    I will practice by revisiting old essays, analysing their titles before reading them to see if in the past I have understood my questions. In turn I will do my best to understand current essay questions.

  2. My second action point will be to improve my critical revising of work (in the next 4 to 5 weeks)

    I will try evaluating previous bits of work to help improve my critical revising. In turn I will try to ensure I have enough time after finishing my work to read over it and critically evaluate current pieces of work.

  3. My third action point will be to improve the overall macro structure to my work (by the end of this term)

    I will try to improve my overall body of my work by ensuring there's a topic sentence, support and a concluding or transitional sentence to every paragraph.

  4. n.a

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Hi David, and thanks for posting. My apologies it’s taken me longer than the usual 1 week to comment.

    I’m glad you found the workshop to be of interest. The action points are good in that they’re specific and focused on areas where you want to improve. Do think about how you’re going to achieve them: re action point 2, for example, you could practise by returning to a previous piece of writing and critically reviewing it – this could help you improve before you start the next piece.

    I look forward to hearing your reflections on how you’re getting on once you’ve had a chance to make some progress.

    06 Feb 2014, 19:06

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