Academic Writing and Workshop

 

April 26-28, 2019

BIU Benin City, Nigeria

 

Parts Speaking to Each Other:

Introduction, Methodology, Referencing 

 

Dominica Dipio

Makerere University 

Kampala — Uganda

 

Outline of Presentation

  • what is academic writing? 

  • the introduction: first impression 

  • methodology: how the problem is solved

  • reference/citation: acknowledging membership to academic community

  • conclusion

 

What is Academic Writing? 

  • granted, there are different types of writing: each with its own logic and style.

  • we all have our strengths and weaknesses as writers. It is important we are cognisant of this so that we are constantly improving the art. 

  • the required ability to express oneself tersely and with clarity comes with labour and practice even for those who are regarded excellent writers.  

 

It is like putting together bits and pieces, a mosaic of ideas to advance an argument. To use musical terms, at the end of the piece, the harmony that holds it together in the end should feel like a symphony for an orchestra; where the parts speak to each other in a systematic and logical manner.

Whether it is in natural sciences or special sciences and humanities, it is referred to as ‘scientific’ because it follows generally accepted standards within that discipline. It is precise (doesn’t rumble); characterised as objective: often written in an impersonal language, using the passive voice (3rd person voice). it should be judged as balanced, not biased, not informed by emotions, and personal interests (often personal pronouns are not used), not based on mere opinions (see Smyth, 1996; Hartley 2008) 

 

  • this kind of writing requires detailed planning to ensure clarity, which is its hallmark. it should be able to speak to the technical or professional group; but should also be able to interest those outside the specific discipline. 

  • It has a particular language and details of style to follow

  • before it is accepted to circulate,  it undergoes a process of gate-keeping: an expert reviewer from the specific discipline; selected readers may read sections of it to assess its clarity and ability to communicate; or it may be assessed on the basis of the text itself: coherence or argument, consistency of style, etc.

 

Introduction: First Impression

  • Besides the title, this is the first part of your article (if you do not have an abstract)

  • It should leave a good first impression on the reader to delve into the text  

  • It is the launch-pad that takes the reader into the article, and should thus, be very carefully crafted

  • The ‘What’ of the article is clearly stated here

  • Every article exists to at least ask a question and to to answer it. What question are you asking in your paper? 

  • It presents the thesis/premise/central argument/general claim/proposition in your paper

  • It is important to summarise (for yourself and the reader) the central argument into a sentence (i.e. thesis sentence). 

  • The structure of the introduction is an inverted pyramid: beginning with a broad and theoretical statement about the topic of research, and then gets narrower and more specific as it draws to an end

  • The is meant to establish the context of the paper, and to embrace/draw in the wider group interested in the topic    

  • It begins with the familiar/known and narrows down to the specific problem/focus of the paper 

  • The inverted pyramid should move from broad to narrow thus: 
  • general statement: 
  • specific statement (b/ground or context of the paper)
  • thesis statement (your initial assertion that is later proven or not. it is what the paper will argue).

  • organisation (what the paper does; how it is structured);

  • The intention of the general statement is to hook the reader with something interesting, informative, moving 
  • tantalise without exposing too much

 

    • There are several ways one can introduce a thesis:
    • a quote
    • tell an anecdote

    • define a central word

    • shocking fact/statistics/compare and contrast, etc

    • ask a central question that underlines a controversial issue

 

  • Revisit the introduction when the paper is done to ensure that you are introducing the paper you have actually written

  • this is why it is often said the introduction is written last 
  • more specific statement (stating the problem)

 

Examples of Introductions

  • The examples selected more or less follow the above
  • It is important to note that just as persons are diverse, style, even in academic writing cannot be uniformed. 

 

Methodology

  • Distinguishing between Methodology and Method

  • Methodology: is the overall systematic way of resolving research problem: it is the choice of the principles that guide the research; it embodies the theory/approach used to experiment/analyse the subject. it situates the research in a theoretical body of knowledge. e.g. qualitative, structuralism, feminism, etc.

 

  • Methods: these are the individual steps taken to solve a research problem. e.g. interviews, experiment, observation, questionnaires, surveys, (tools used to collect data in the field)

  • There are two sets of related questions to answer here: 

    • How was data collected?

    • How was data analysed?

  • What is data?

  • All bits of information needed to conduct research: can be accessed through all human senses, though it may at times be elusive, unstable and abstract (e.g. emotions, attitudes, skylines, etc). 

  • Data is the raw material manipulate or subjected to tests to reach a research conclusion

Types of Data — two broad categories:

  • Primary: comes from all sources our senses can identify. it is
    the most immediate and direct information sought out for
    one’s research. It could be obtained through:
  • measurement, 

  • observation, 

  • interview or 

  • experience/participation in an event 

  • Secondary Data: this is drawn from other researches related to yours, available in:

    • books and all printed matters

    • www (Internet sources)

    • audio-visual sources

    • museums, archives, galleries, sites, etc

    • we are inundated with data: it is important to assess the quality of the data you use! 

  • A researcher seeks the following about data: 

    • how did you select the data (or the subject and context) you have analysed?

    • the method used to identify and collect the data?

    • how was it coded or processed for analysis?

    • particular theory or approach used to analyse the hypothesis or research questions?

    • Have you authenticated the data sources (triangulation)?

    • Are they credibility?

    • Was the sample representative?

    • Are the methods used appropriately answering the research question?

  • The above affects the result: an unreliable method produces unreliable results

  • There are many approaches to answering a research question. Clearly explain why the one you have chosen is the best suited for collecting and analysing your data.

 

Types

  • There are two broad types of research: one is more suited for the natural sciences and the other for Humanities and Social Sciences. However, 

  • classifying, coding, summarising and analysing to reach conclusions. 
  • these are similar processes using different approaches 

  • Both follow the same logic in analysing data: 

  

Quantitative Methodology

  • There are two broad research designs: 

  • Quantitative: uses empirical-analytical approaches, generates objective knowledge, relies on hypotheses that are tested, use of experiment to establish a cause-effect relationship on the subject of study, data is often statistically analysed….

  • Qualitative: uses interpretive methods: understand, explains (what, why, how people do things in order to get deeper understanding); used mainly in humanities and social science based researches; largely depends on data using words (narratives), feelings/opinions/attitudes: that which cannot be statistically measured/analysed…. 

 

Qualitative and Quantitative 

  • Both are scientific with strengths and weaknesses

  • Both require elaborate process of explanation and analysis

  • Quantitative and qualitative methodologies may be combined in certain researches (e.g. attitude and demographics)

  • Sometimes, the line between the two is thin

 

Humanities

Eligibility Criteria for Humanities program:

“The list of humanities disciplines includes anthropology, archaeology, studies of the fine and performing arts, history, linguistics, literature studies, studies of religion, and philosophy. Projects in social sciences such as economics, sociology, or political science, as well as in law or international relations, are not eligible unless they are clearly humanistic in content and focus–that is, unless they use qualitative methods and approaches, and are informed by the study of history and culture. Projects whose purpose is advocacy, the improvement of policy, work for development, or the improvement of professional practices are not eligible.”  (AHP website)

Potential Limitations

  • It is good to be aware of likely limitations associated with data collection

  • But research is about problem solving: show how in spite of the challenge, its strength out-weighs the problem. 

  • The obstacles you faced and how you overcame it can provide an important insight about a particular methodology 

 

What to Avoid

  • In the methodology section, only give the relevant information to help the reader understand why you have chosen a particular methodology. 

  • This is not the place to write about theoretical stuff on the theory, but rather to explain how you will (you have) use it 
  • Particularly in MA/PhD research, avoid writing about methodology/theory in its section and failing to to use it in analysis and interpretation of the data(e.g. in literary analysis)
  • You can explain about a method/theory only when it is unconventional and so needs to be explained for your readers. 

 

Although objectivity is what is expected in research, at times a researcher’s subjectivity/bias/and interest may lead to faulty results. E.G. researches that use feminist perspective. A researcher may be too involved and take an activist stance; and the data would be selected in ‘closed’ manner to  prove a preconceived manner to prove what she is interested in. 

 

Referencing/Citation 

  • Use and manipulation of data is at the heart of research

  • We are not often the originators of knowledge: we stand on the shoulders of other scholars who preceded us and we need to acknowledge our indebtedness. 

 

Referencing

Referencing is our way of being honest,  responsible and accountable to fellow researchers in the discipline we are writing in; to the community and the public we draw data from; to the entire academic community and public that will read your work. 

 

  • The section of our research/article where citation is most evident is the literature review

  • Research is done to produce new knowledge/ understanding in a particular field of study

  • It is important to first show awareness of what has been done to know that gap that needs to be filled. Scholars need to know the (latest) existing knowledge in their field os study in order to find their niche 

  • Literature Review and generating a bibliography in one’s research field is, therefore, a very important phase in research before formulating a research problem

  • It is important to get relevant and valuable sources:

    • Library (general and discipline-based) are the most important source

    • Librarians are very helpful and resourceful

    • Depending on the nature of your research, there are many other centres and sources of valuable information on your research topic, including the local knowledge around, e.g. through people 

    • who are you citing in your field is important

 

Importance of Literature Review 

  • shows you are well located in your field of study

  • shows gaps in earlier research and introduces your own contribution

  • it increases your understanding of your topic and shaping your research question

  • sharpens your critical ability as you assess/evaluate related researches

  • gives you breath and depth of knowledge in your field

  • Through citation, 4 basic areas about your research field become clear to you before you begin writing: 

    • Related research theory (the academic/philosophical) your research is located in. how have previous scholars written on your research topic?

    • The background review logically lead you to introduce your research problem

    • Establish a relationship between what the latest researches say on and the gap yours will fill. Your review should speak to each other as you interweave the arguments and theories with your own stance

    • Show how the methods and techniques used in previous researches are  related or different from the one you intend to use

  • Such a scale involves in-depth reading and understanding of previous researches

  • Always preferred to read the original work in order to cite on the basis of knowledge and comprehension

  • To be able to cite and article in an informed manner, be critical: tease out the gist of the argument and be able to summarise it on your own words

 

 

Advice on Referencing

  • Take notes na make summaries of relevant articles and books, with the citation details (especially dates and pages)

  • In in-text citation, when to have a run-on and indented quotations

  • How to paraphrase and summarise 

 

 

Conclusion

  • Detail and accuracy are the hallmark of academic writing

  • It is offensive to publisher and scholars to be careless about correctness

  • It does not come easy even for excellent writers   

  • It is an art is learned and sustained through discipline.

 

References

  • Kumar, Ranjit. Research Methodology. Sage: London, 3rd Edition, 2011.

  • Hartley, James. Academic Writing. Routledge: London, 2008.

  • William, Richard. Research Method: The Basics. Routledge: London, 2011. 

 

 

Referencing/Citation

  • There is a range of citation style

  • In the Humanities and Social Sciences, we commonly use:

    • APA: (the Harvard style: American Psychological Association)

    • Chicago Manual Style/Turabian Citation

    • MLA (Modern Language Association) style

 

 

Referencing 

  • What is important is consistency in the meticulous application of the details referencing according to each style (there is a great deal of information online on these)

    • What is unacceptable is switching styles in an article

    • Usually with academic journals and books, it is the journal or publisher who determines the style

 

 

Writing the Results, Discussion and Abstract Sections in a Research Paper 

Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD

University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

 

What is a research paper? 

- medium for researchers to communicate the outcome of their research.

  • written work with particular characteristics:

 

(i) subjected to peer-review;

(ii) publishable in recognised periodicals – journals (books, proceedings, manuals, etc.);

(iii) make effort at communicating lucidly with other researchers.

 

How do “I” write a research paper? 

The sequence:

 

1. Prepare the necessary figures and tables

2. Put up a compelling Introduction

3. Write the Material and Methods

4. Write up the Results

5. Write the Discussion

6. Write a succinct but clear Conclusion

7. Write abstract in orderly and logical manner 

8. Compose a concise and descriptive Title

 

Results Section

 

Purpose:

Brief overview of data collected in the laboratory/field and the correct statistical analyses performed.

Logical and orderly arrangement of outcomes in line with how they were obtained.

Objective presentation of key outcomes using both illustrative materials and texts.

 

What to do:

  • Summarise every single number and calculations.

  • Place tables and figures chronologically in line with the applied methodolog(ies).

  • Format the tables (if any) in line with requirements.

  • Present the results in past tense (Don't ignore negative results).

  • Objective, non-bias and straightforward presentation.

 

Discussion Section

 

Purpose:

To provide analysis of results - (What is in literature, new understanding realised through findings).

To interpret and describe the implications of results obtained from laboratory/field.

To display good understanding of the subject matter based on verifiable facts and information.

 

What to do: 

Be well acquainted with documented outcomes of similar studies.

Look at the picture your results are painting vis-à-vis the main trend(s) in literature.

Subjective interpretation based on informed arguments may be advanced for results obtained. 

Negative results? There should be explanations! If you can’t give one then report & suggest as future work.

 

 

Abstract Section

 

Purpose: 

To give a summary that succinctly describe the content of the research paper.

To assist readers in making decision concerning acquiring the full paper.

To prepare readers for the full details in the paper.

*Effective abstracts achieve the above-stated purposes.

 

What to do:

Total number of words must conform to specification.

It should be structured in line with that of the paper.

Introductory part: brief background, identified problem, justification and objective(s).

Materials & Methods: How data were generated.

 

Results: Highlights in line with methodolog(ies).

Concluding part: Implications of results and conclusion.

 

 

Writing the Results, Discussion and Abstract Sections in a Research Paper 

Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD

University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria

 

What is a research paper? 

- medium for researchers to communicate the outcome of their research.

  • written work with particular characteristics:

 

(i) subjected to peer-review; 

(ii) publishable in recognised periodicals – journals (books, proceedings, manuals, etc.);

(iii) make effort at communicating lucidly with other researchers.

 

How do “I” write a research paper? 

 

The sequence:

1. Prepare the necessary figures and tables

2. Put up a compelling Introduction

3. Write the Material and Methods

4. Write up the Results

5. Write the Discussion

6. Write a succinct but clear Conclusion

7. Write abstract in orderly and logical manner 

8. Compose a concise and descriptive Title

 

What to do:

  • Summarise every single number and calculations.

  • Place tables and figures chronologically in line with the applied methodolog(ies).

  • Format the tables (if any) in line with requirements.

  • Present the results in past tense (Don't ignore negative results). 

  • Objective, non-bias and straightforward presentation.

 

 

Discussion Section

 

Purpose:

To provide analysis of results - (What is in literature, new understanding realised through findings).

To interpret and describe the implications of results obtained from laboratory/field.

To display good understanding of the subject matter based on verifiable facts and information.

 

What to do:

Be well acquainted with documented outcomes of similar studies.

Look at the picture your results are painting vis-à-vis the main trend(s) in literature.

Subjective interpretation based on informed arguments may be advanced for results obtained.

Negative results? There should be explanations! If you can’t give one then report & suggest as future work.

 

 

 

Abstract Section

 

Purpose:

To give a summary that succinctly describes the content of the research paper.

To assist readers in making decision concerning acquiring the full paper.

To prepare readers for the full details in the paper.

 

*Effective abstracts achieve the above-stated purposes.

 

What to do:

Total number of words must conform to specification.

It should be structured in line with that of the paper.

Introductory part: brief background, identified problem, justification and objective(s).

Materials & Methods: How data were generated. 

Results: Highlights in line with methodolog(ies).

 

Concluding part: Implications of results and conclusion.

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