Tag Archives: Essay

ComWriter delivers a Grammarly sandwich!

Grammarly sandwich

  • Write content: ComWriter enables you to focus on writing content without worrying about formatting
  • Grammarly: the world’s leading grammar checker (available FREE online) is compatible with ComWriter to check your work
  • Auto format: all your writing is automatically formatted using our pre-defined style guides (or customize your own)

You can then export your writing to Word, Pdf or HTML with just one click

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Writing Proficiency Threatens the Success of Every Student

By Dr Linda Glassop, Composeright Pty Ltd

Academic writing is a critical success factor for University because it relates to assignment work. While many assignments might include other activities (e.g., presentations, demonstrations, or the development of physical items), writing is the predominant mode of communication for assignment work. To lack proficiency in academic writing threatens the success of every student.

Stressed student

Most Australian universities provide little support to students for academic writing. It would appear that Universities assume students have the skills when they arrive, or will figure it out on their own. Typically, University support is provided thus:

  • The library: Librarians are an excellent resource for helping students find research material, and for assisting with referencing. However, students generally need to take advantage of this resource on-campus during library hours
  • Style guides and other help sheets: the libraries at most universities provide a number of online help sheets for reference styles, writing tips and other issues related to writing. However, in this modern technology era, the idea that students will read a help sheet or indeed come on campus during library hours, is ill-informed
  • Study Skills: Most universities offer some sort of study or academic skills support. A student can make a booking with an advisor, attend a short course or seek out help sheets.

What is sadly lacking, however, is access to:

  • tutoring; specifically targeting academic writing, during the hours a student needs it (more often than not, in the evening or week-end)
  • online support, for seeking assistance (e.g., how to search the library databases)
  • tools that assist with writing, such as bibliographic software

On this last point, most Australian Universities do provide some bibliographic software support (e.g., EndNote), but this tool is primarily geared towards seasoned researchers (rendering it complex for an undergraduate to use) or not provided to undergraduates at all. Also, referencing is only one aspect of the complex process related to academic writing:

  1. Understanding the assignment (i.e., what is being asked)
  2. Finding research material related to the assignment task
  3. Knowing the difference between a thesis, a proposition and an assertion
  4. Structuring a story relevant to the assignment question
  5. Understanding the essentials of writing structure (e.g., introductions, conclusions)
  6. Quoting and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism
  7. Providing a grammatically correct communique
  8. Referencing research material appropriate to the discipline (citations, footnotes, bibliography and image captions)
  9. Formatting a document relevant to the task (e.g., preparing an essay versus a report)

1. Understanding the assignment (i.e., what is being asked)

If you fail to clearly understand what is being asked, then the answer a student provides will miss the mark. Work done will go for naught. Examining a research question involves unpacking the keywords and identifying the aim or purpose of the question (i.e., getting to the heart of the matter).

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

2. Finding research material related to the assignment task

Libraries themselves and library databases have a wealth of information. Sorting through all that data requires knowledge of researching using keywords, understanding the value of current information compared with older information, constructing a review of the literature in the field of inquiry and knowing how to manage what you find, so it doesn’t get lost.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

3. Knowing the difference between a thesis, a proposition and an assertion

The ability to convey meaning is indeed a craft rather than a science. But, the ability to carefully build a story around a central theme requires intimate understanding of the role of language. To make an ill-found claim is an assertion, to suggest something is to make a proposition, to state how something might behave is to posit a theory. Research work is important to our world. It helps us understand what is going on and our position in that world. A lack of understanding about the fundamentals of our own thoughts fails to provide the skills that will challenge beliefs. Challenging our beliefs constitutes progress, but it must be done in a thoughtful manner if anyone is to take notice. Beliefs that have evidence are theories we can all subscribe to. Beliefs that are forced upon us tend to get rejected outright.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

4. Structuring a story relevant to the assignment question

Education was founded on philosophy. The great philosophers had an intimate understanding of the art of forging an argument. Politicians are also great orators, but the difference is that Politicians tend to ignore the question, speaking of what they want you to hear rather than what is being asked about. Great orators know how to stay on task, and weave their story into a convincing argument supported by good evidence.

Tools available: Some templates can be found in various word processors; ComWriter has more structured templates; otherwise it is blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

5. Understanding the essentials of writing structure (e.g., introductions, conclusions)

Starting and finishing your story can is like welcoming your guests and bidding them farewell; it is not something you would ignore or overlook. But the customs of welcome and farewell are learned from our peers and mentors.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’. ComWriter templates have a structured approach.

6. Quoting and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism

Many people have said many things. It is important to acknowledge the great writers in our field and use them (politely) to support our arguments. The ability to weave another’s words into our story is quite challenging. I once heard a well qualified Professor say “I call this…” I was shocked, because what he claimed was ‘his’ (I) were the words of another well-known author in the field. Plagiarism is theft! Stealing other’s ideas without acknowledgment is appalling. But building on what has gone before is evolution. Evolution is founded on history (previous knowledge that we must acknowledge).

Tools available: TurnitIn, Grammarly

7. Providing a grammatically correct communique

English is fast becoming a generic language, but there are different flavors (or is that flavours)! For many students undertaking study in the English language poses a real problem when it is not their native language. I have my regular grammar mistakes that seem to haunt me, but trying to make sure our words can be understood is the central goal to communication.

Tools available: Grammarly, can be used in any word processor but is free for online product like ComWriter

8. Referencing research material appropriate to the discipline (citations, footnotes, images, bibliography)

Acknowledging our resource sources is something we learn at University or College. The rules are complex and, quite frankly, antiquated. But rules are there for a reason and we must try and obey. There are many tools available to support referencing, but they are generally antiquated and complex to use. Further, they must be integrated with our word processors or use copy-cut-and-paste. Writing is central to academic work, so it is crazy that we have not a single tool to assist with this. Although ComWriter is one such new tool working towards this goal.

Tools available: EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, Papers, BibMe, ComWriter

9. Formatting a document relevant to the profession and the task (e.g., essay versus report)

Word Processors all work the same and have endless features and menus. It requires a significant amount of time to become acquainted with these tools, let alone become an expert. Students can spend endless hours formatting documents rather than concentrating on structuring their story.

Tools available: There is only one tool that I am aware of that will automatically format text: ComWriter

A happy stundet concentrating on writing good content

Conclusion 

Students enter education for one purpose: skill development. Our role as teachers is to evaluate their skills. Written communication is still the primary mode for evaluating a student’s skill development. Yet we provide little by way of innovative support in this area. Tools are fragmented and old, the rules are complex and difficult to understand, support is lacking, and stress is high. Student Evaluation Surveys tell us about these problems over-and-over again. ComWriter is an innovative new writing platform dedicating itself to enhancing academic writing proficiency. Imagine: a library that acts like a google search, a word processor that has modern tools, the absence of formatting, and the ability to get assistance online. Imagine a learning environment where the pain of evaluation has been eliminated and I am free to explore my own ideas and creativity. Imagine no longer, compose right with ComWriter: NOW AVAILABLE.

 

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The first Uni assignment produced by ComWriter submitted!

Today, one of our beta-testers (Rachel) was the first person to write and produce her University assignment (Design, University of Technology Sydney) using ComWriter! Congratulations Rachel, we hope you get a High Distinction.

Rachel said “I can use comwriter when I am at the library to add my resources, and then go home and write my essay, and they’ll all be there, easy as!” After writing her essay, Rachel used the Harvard style to produce her assignment, and to her delight “All my references are correct, except for one extra comma, but that probably means I forgot to enter some data!” She added, “A whole level of stress was removed by not having to worry about the references and spacing and stuff.”

congratulations_001

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Writing a structured paragraph

Whether you are writing a paragraph, an essay or an entire book, PREP holds the key to writing a logical and coherent message.

PREP is an acronym for Point, Reason, Example and Point. These four keys enable a writer to construct logical prose. Without a logical method, writing is a hit-and-miss affair. PREP ensures that your listener will take notice of what you have to say.

Every time you want to make a point, you need to:

  1. Describe the Point (P) you wish to make (e.g., business students need to learn how to conduct research).
  2. Explain the Reason (R) why your point is important so the reader knows why they need to know the point (e.g., proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions).
  3. Provide an Example (E) that illustrates your point (e.g., incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign).
  4. Describe the Point (P) you have made (e.g., research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful).

To provide a point without a reason is an assertion. An assertion does not justify the point or provide any basis upon which the listener should take notice of your point. To provide a point and a reason without an example might make your listener take notice, but makes it difficult to understand how it might relate to the situation being discussed. A point-reason-example (PRE) provides a logical and coherent argument that people must take notice of. The final point acts to meld the PRE into a conclusion that reinforces what it is you are trying to convey.

When the four sentences noted as examples above are joined, the result is:

Business students need to learn how to conduct research (P). Proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions (R). For example, incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign (E). Therefore, research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful (P).

The term “proper research” (in the second sentence) qualifies the term “research” (in the first sentence) and the balance of the second sentence outlines the rational or justification for doing “research” (as noted in first sentence). In the fourth sentence “accurate and up-to-date’’ provides a definition for “proper research” (second sentence), and “successful” explains the outcome that “reliable and objective data” (second sentence) has for a business decision (second sentence). All sentences act to reinforce different aspects of the point you are trying to make.

Note that the paragraph provided has no references. Therefore, it is a personal assertion (opinion) made by the writer. If we wanted to ensure that what we are writing is credible, we need to find a journal reference to back up the point being made (first sentence), why it is important to know this point (second sentence) and an example drawn from past research (third sentence). The final point does not need a reference as it is a conclusion made by the author as drawn from reading the articles summarised in the first three sentences. So an objective paragraph would look like this:

Business students need to learn how to conduct research (Smith, 2006). Proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions (Jones, 2007). For example, incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign (Peters, 2008). Therefore, research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful.

In this example I have drawn the point from Smith (2006); I found a rationale for the point written by Jones (2007), and Peters (2008) provided an example from her research that illustrates the point (P). By using references in this way I have paraphrased published writers (re-written their points using my words) and also supported my argument with other works that provide objectivity. (R). Objectivity acts to reinforce that what I am writing has validity and should be taken notice of (P).

If you follow the PREP logic in this last paragraph you will note that I have used PRP without an example (P). The example is not needed, because the point itself is acting as the example (R).

If you then follow the PREP logic in the previous paragraph you will note that I have used PR without an example or final point. This is because the previous paragraphs illustrate the point I am making (E), and a summation would merely act to repeat what I am saying (P).

In summary, PREP acts to provide a logical and coherent argument. PRP can be utilised where the writer considers an illustration to be unnecessary. PR can be used on its own, but only when the rationale for the point acts as the example. By using PREP to structure everything you write, you will command attention from your reader and ensure that the points you are making are worth listening to.

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