Academic Writing: Writing in a critical way

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Academic Writing: Writing in a critical way

  • Dr. Tamara O’Connor
  • Student Learning Development
  • Student Counselling Service
  • 896-1407

Learning Objectives

  • Understand what is meant by academic writing
  • Awareness of academic conventions and practices
  • Learn how to develop argument in your writing
  • Awareness of plagiarism and use appropriate use of references/citations
  • Resources

Writing in an academic way

  • Being critical and analytical
  • Using language in a precise & subject-specific way
  • Adopting a position or claim - thesis
  • Drawing on and citing a range of authors & arguments
  • Remaining objective

What is critical writing?

  • Argument
    • Evaluate & weigh up ideas
    • State point of view
    • Consider available evidence
    • Possible counter arguments
    • Claim that is proven throughout the paper
  • Opinion
    • Point of view
    • Lack of supporting evidence
    • Personal feelings and views

Steps in constructing argument

  • Analyse topic
  • Write down your working thesis
    • Your point of view in relation to topic
    • Keep thesis prominent
  • What is your argument/position?

Thesis Statement

  • PARAGRAPH 1 The Black Death (otherwise known as the Bubonic Plague) first appeared in Europe in the 1340s. Spread by rodents and fleas, the infection is said to have 'carried off' a third of Europe's population. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black.
  • PARAGRAPH 2 The Black Death of 1348 coincided with fundamental changes in the social framework of the later Middle Ages. However, the disease alone was not responsible for these changes. Rather, it is necessary to consider a number of economic, agricultural and health factors in assessing the transformation of late medieval society.

Thesis Statements

  • Which thesis statement is the most effective for an argument about the need for V-chips in television
  • sets?
  • Parents, often too busy to watch television shows with
  • their families, can monitor their children’s viewing habits
  • with the aid of the V-chip.
  • To help parents monitor their children’s viewing habits,
  • the V-chip should be a required feature for television
  • sets sold in the U.S.
  • This paper will describe a V-chip and examine the uses
    • of the V-chip in American-made television sets.

Steps in constructing argument

  • Analyse topic
  • Write down your working thesis
    • Your point of view in relation to topic
    • Keep thesis prominent
  • Organise your argument
  • Develop argument
  • Document points and claims
  • Reference or bibliography

Organizing your argument

  • Title
  • Introduction
    • Thesis statement
  • Body Paragraphs
    • Constructing Topic Sentences
    • Building Main Points
    • Countering the Opposition
  • Conclusion
  • From Purdue University Writing Lab

Develop your argument

  • Use body paragraphs & topic sentences
  • Use source material – reliable evidence
  • Show line of reasoning
    • link points
    • central guiding line
  • Show awareness of complexities
  • Your conclusions
    • based on evidence
    • No new claims

Signposting your line of reasoning

  • Indicator words for claims
    • Therefore, thus, hence, so, as a result
  • Indicator words for reasons
    • Because, since, on account of, for, in view of, for the reason that
  • Tentative or ‘hedging’

Cohesion & Flow

  • Parallelism
  • “One explanation for increasing rates of anorexia is...
  • Repetition of key words
  • Given-New
  • Prediction
  • From Center for Writing


  • Why?
  • Credit sources of information & ideas
  • Reader can locate for further information if required
  • Validate arguments
  • Increase and spread knowledge
  • Show depth, breadth & quality of your reading!


  • Using someone’s words or ideas and presenting them as your own (Marshall & Rowland, 1998)
  • Inappropriate use of ideas from books, articles, internet, or other students’ work
  • ???

Further information

  • Linking words:
  • Crème & Lea (1997). Writing at university.

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