Studying in the UK: A guide to Academic Writing

by XB9S Guide

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I've just finished marking assignments in my capacity as a part time lecturer. Within the work there are such common, and easily rectified themes losing marks for the students so I thought a guide in my blog would be useful. The following are some very basic tips to help support students, of all levels when they are writing an academic paper

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    1. Plan

    Before you start, have an good idea about what your going to aim to write about and discuss this with your tutor. Quite often good ideas can be swamped by the shear volume of information available which leads to a potentially excellent subject only being discussed at a superficial level. Your tutor will be able to guide and support you in focusing your idea so that your able to get the depth required for the level you are studying.

    Meet with your tutor early on, and then ask for appointments to be set at that point to give you goals to aim for when you are writing. There are a few people who can manage without tutor guidance but the majority will need at least one meeting to make sure your on the right track.

    Plan your work, think of the structure of your essay and work to that structure, I will go into this in a bit more detail now.

    2. Structure

    Think of when you read a journal article, and how that is set out. There are some aspects of writing that need to be there to help the flow of your work.

    Introduction: This is your opportunity to tell the reader what your writing about and how you are going to structure your work. It give clear direction of what to expect and helps the work flow better and easier to read.

    For Example:

    Working as a ANP in this speciality there is particular interest in this subject.
    A description of the interest and current challenges / focus / conflict
    This work will begin with a ..... (eg: review of the literature which will be examined in detail, )
    it will then focus on
    Following this a discussion will take place around
    Conclusions will be drawn and recommendations made.


    Main Body: Stick to what you have set out in your introduction structure, it helps the flow and this is expected in academic writing. If you have done a literature review it is good to give a brief summary of how you obtained the literature so describe your search strategy.

    E.G. A literature search was carried out using the following search engines and databases. Date parameters were set to 2001 - current day and the following search terms were inputed. From this 3000 articles were obtained requiring filters to be applied to date / location / speciality etc etc

    You can also comment on the types of articles you have found so if they are primary research, lit reviews, descriptive or historical articles. This indicates if there is a good evidence base or if there is need for further primary research.

    When you are discussing the articles it is not enough just to mention the author and date with a comment, in academic writing you must provide evidence that you have actually critically analysed the information you have presented so for research papers, what methodology did they use was it appropriate, what was the sample and does this give any limitations. Have the authors commented on limitations and if so how does this alter application to practice and your work. Similarly for literature reviews, have they described the search strategy is it comprehensive and there any areas that would have been missed and affect the quality of the review.

    If you are not familiar with critical appraisal then use a tool to help you get started. CASP provide some excellent resources for looking at the quality of research. There are other tools out there but I quite like these as they are good for starting off and simple to use

    http://www.sph.nhs.uk/what-we-do/pub...ills-programme

    Also Tricia Greenhalph wrote several articles for the BMJ on How to read papers, they are also excellent resources.

    http://www.bmj.com/content/315/7109/672.extract

    Also think about the quality of evidence, if needed look at the levels of evidence and make comment about it

    http://medicalevidence.org.uk/page_1255888996501.html

    If you do not critically analyse the literature you discuss then you will not meet the basic criteria for marking at degree and masters level.

    Conclusions: There should be no new information, and your conclusions have to be relevant to the subject you are discussing. There is no point in discussing pressure sore prevalence and introducing skin bundles at ward level and then concluding that advanced nursing practice has a role in improving skin integrity in cancer patients. I know that sounds common sense but you'd be surprised what gets presented in assignments.

    References: Use the system requested by your educational provider, and these are easy marks so take time and make sure you reference properly. It's attention to detail and important that you get it right.

    3. Basic Presentation

    Your educational provider should give you an assessment grid, this will give you clear ideas about what level they expect you to achieve. Read them, and if you don't understand them ask your tutor to explain. They are written in jargon sometimes but if it states that to pass you must "identify significant features of issues and make appropriate use of methods / techniques for analysis considering incomplete and contradictory areas of knowledge" they mean you need to critically analyse the literature your presenting and discuss limitations in application to practice.

    Proof read your work, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and basic punctuation will detract from your content and lose you marks. If you have difficulty with spelling and grammar (I know that I certainly do) then ask someone else to proof read it for you. Not necessarily your tutor, I don't correct this type of mistakes for my students but then they are masters level so I expect them to have already done so and it doesn't need to be someone who understands the subject either, just to pick up basic errors.
    Last edit by XB9S on Feb 7, '11
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    XB9S joined Sep '06 - from 'United Kingdom'. XB9S has '22' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Advanced Practice, surgery'. Posts: 8,510 Likes: 3,881; Learn more about XB9S by visiting their allnursesPage

    3 Comments so far...

  5. 2
    Thanks for taking the time to post this and to provide further links. I'm not studying at the moment but am going to keep the information for when I return to it. Thanks again, very much appreciated.
    cherryames1949 and XB9S like this.
  6. 1
    What a great, concise tutorial! Thank you.
    XB9S likes this.
  7. 1
    Thank you very much, it is very helpful
    XB9S likes this.


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