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.