Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Writing your introduction

My goal as a proof reader is to help you make a great first impression with your writing. The reason for this is that in writing (as in life) first impressions are often lasting impressions. A well written clear introduction can often mask (although certainly not disguise) a below average essay and a bad introduction can certainly reduce your chances of a good grade. So . . . what makes a good introduction?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Essay writing: the question

When answering an essay question it is important that before you start writing
you know exactly what the question is asking, so as to be able to answer it appropriately. I read a lot of essays that are either: too descriptive,  answer another question, start by answering the question and then move off target, provide a thorough background to all the issues raised by the question but never actually answer it. This is always difficult for me to see because their authors have spent a lot of time and effort in the research and writing, being let down only by the failure to fully understand the question.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Getting started

The start of a new academic year brings fresh ideas and new blood to the universities in the UK and elsewhere in the English speaking world. Lots of you are settling in just now and realising the huge task that awaits you before you experience the jubilation of donning your graduation gowns. Despite the daunting year (or four) that awaits, this is an exciting time. I am excited about the opportunity help out the many international students who worry that there written English might put their chances of success in jeopardy, via my website. I really am - as I am mainly working on PhDs and journal articles at this time of year and late dissertations I am really looking forward to receiving some new shorter works by the incoming Masters students, and excited to see what different subjects I will have the opportunity to learn about this year! It is also a good time for me to get back to blogging, and to introduce newer readers to things they should consider now that they have begun studying in a new country and a different academic culture . . .

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


An idea of what it will be . . .

According to my much thumbed copy of the 'Shorter Oxford English Dictionary' the relevant definition of an abstract is: An abridgement or summary of a book, document, etc. and yet I frequently read abstracts that could better be defined thus: Separated from matter, practice or particular examples; not concrete. Indeed the goal of an academic abstract should be precision rather than abstraction.
For me an abstract needs to do and be the following, to a lesser or greater extent, depending on the requisite length and the purpose it is expected to perform:
  1. It should be primarily in the present tense (except for when discussing research that 'has been carried out' for which the present perfect is O.K.).
  2. It should be written as if the work is completed and exists - you are not planning it you have finished writing it.
  3. It should tell the audience what the problem/gap is that you are investigating; why they care about it and what practical, scientific, theoretical or artistic gap your research is filling. 
  4. You then need to provide a brief description of the methodology used to acheive your results.
  5. Then give your findings – in an abstract your results and insights are not supposed to be a mystery – rather they are the crux of why someone will want to read your work.
  6. You should finish by mentioning the larger implications of your findings in relation to the problem/gap you initially identified.
The main purpose of an abstract is to sell your work to the reader - persuade them you are an interesting and informative writer and tell them what your work is about so they can judge quickly (i.e. by the third sentence) if your work is relevant to them. I am not and never have been a believer in the slow reveal in academic writing - you are either telling me something I need to know for my own research purposes or you are not - do not waste my time . . .
In the spirit of not wasting any of your time I only have one link for you and then I'm signing off:
Ah ha – you see what I did there!!
Top of Form
Bottom of Form

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Library psychology

Your attitude towards the University library is something that will no doubt be formed early on in your academic career. The way you use the library may help to determine your grade potential, and is more related to how you use it than the length of time you spend in it. There are a variety of approaches students apply to library based research and I will describe some of these to you below. Of course whether you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate will also have a big impact on how long you spend in the library and how successful your visit is . . .

Monday, 17 September 2012

Start as you mean to go on

Soon many of you will be embarking on your study programmes; many of you will find that time rushes by and the first assignments will be upon you before you have barely settled in. In this post  I will share with you some advice to help you through your first weeks . .  .

Monday, 10 September 2012

Fresh adventures

Preparing to take flight

Welcome to those of you who have taken the step to study abroad at an English speaking University. As you begin this month as Freshers you may feel daunted by the experiences you are facing. You may have left home to come and study in English as part of the wave of students recognising the growth of English as the language of academia worldwide, or you may be seeking adventure in a foreign land. Regardless of your motivations you will soon realise that this year has many challenges in store for you - not least of these will be meeting the requirements for producing good academic writing.