Pdp 2 – Writing academic English The importance of good academic writing on the FdIT



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PDP 2 – Writing academic English

The importance of good academic writing on the FdIT

  • Throughout your time on the Programme, you will build databases, websites, programs, etc.
  • You will also be required to write various documents, including:
    • Coursework/project documentation
    • User manuals
    • Essays
    • Examinations
  • In order to achieve satisfactory marks for your modules, the written element of your work as well as the technical element has to be of a consistently high standard. Poor written work undermines good work in other areas

The importance of good academic writing on the FdIT

  • Tutors on the Programme award marks for both technical and written competence
  • A typical module mark schema (e.g. Introduction to Web Authoring using XHTML and CSS) awards approximately 60-70% for technical work and 30-40% for written documentation of the technical work
  • Failure to score well in the written elements will mean that the highest grades are not attainable to you
  • In year 2 and 3 of the FdIT, written work becomes more important, as written examinations are introduced as an assessment method

The importance of good academic writing on the FdIT

  • In the short term, you may scrape through your degree with mediocre writing. But, in today’s competitive job market, employers are looking for more than good programmers. They are looking for people with a broad range of hard and soft skills. For IT professionals, one of the most important soft skills is the ability to communicate effectively in a written medium
  • All IT professionals are required to meticulously document their work from analysis through to design, implementation, testing and maintenance. This work is invariably more time-consuming than actual hands-on programming

How to improve your academic writing

  • This course will help you with the basics of academic writing for IT/Computing
  • But some of you will need to do more to improve your writing to the required level. This may include those:
    • Who have never previously written academic English
    • Whose first language is not English
    • Who have particular difficulties with writing (e.g. dyslexia)
    • Whose grammar and spelling is weak
    • Who have not done any writing for a significant period of time

How to improve your academic writing

  • This help is available from within Birkbeck College
    • School workshops
    • Drop-in Sessions
    • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/facilities/support/contact
    • Online resources
    • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/services/facilities/support/study-skills
    • http://www.uefap.com/index.htm
    • Library (learning materials)
    • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/lib/
  • You should take full advantage of this help. For some, it may be the difference between passing or not passing the degree.

How to improve your academic writing

  • You can also help yourself improve your writing by:
    • Using the spell-checker in Word
    • Checking your work carefully before you submit it
    • Taking active steps to improve your grammar
    • Getting yourself a good book on academic skills/writing
      • The Study Skills Handbook – Stella Cottrell
      • Writing Academic English – Alice Oshima & Ann Hogue
      • The Good Study Guide – Andy Northedge
      • Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students – Stephen Bailey

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing tends to be more formal than personal writing. It should:
    • avoid colloquial words and expressions (e.g. ages, chill)
    • avoid contracted forms of verbs (e.g. I’m, didn’t, couldn’t)
    • avoid unnecessary personalisation (e.g. I’m happy now . . . I’m not a great fan of . . . )
    • be straight to the point (e.g. I’m happy now because the programme works and I can chill. Or, The program is now functional)
    • Example text

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing is more concise than personal writing. It should where possible:
    • back up claims with explanations (e.g. The shopping cart was built using Java rather than VBScript, as Java is able to provide a more robust security model than VBScript for this type of application)
    • back up explanations with examples (e.g. Johannes (2006) shows VBScript’s inherent security weaknesses in both authentication and payment scenarios in ecommerce)
      • When introducing examples, use terms like: for example, for instance, such as . . .

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing needs to be more precise than personal writing. It should:
    • use appropriate vocabulary (e.g. Look at. Or test?)
    • have no spelling mistakes (e.g. programme. Or program?)
    • have no grammar mistakes (e.g. I builds the programme using Java)
    • be correctly punctuated
    • not include unsubstantiated claims (e.g. But Java is the best language for building ecommerce!)

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing is more complex than personal writing. It should:
    • attempt to use more sophisticated vocabulary (e.g. The program works. Or, The program is functional?)
    • attempt to use more sophisticated grammar (e.g. I built. Or, The application was built?)
    • use linking words and expressions to give cohesiveness (e.g. The shopping cart was built using Java rather than VBScript, as Java is able to provide a more robust security model that VBScript for this type of application)
    • Use terms like, Firstly, secondly, next, However, In addition, As a result, etc. to provide structure

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing needs to be well-structured. It should:
    • have clear, logical paragraphs (Paragraphs are units of writing that are about one topic only. When you change the topic in your writing, you should begin a new paragraph)
    • be divided into clear sections and sub-sections (Sections in academic writing are used to group related paragraphs to give logical structure to a document)
    • Example text

What is academic writing?

  • Where possible academic writing should be supported by active reading and include citations and references of that reading
    • Johannes (2006) shows VBScript’s inherent security weaknesses in both authentication and payment scenarios in ecommerce)
    • Johannes, P. 2006. Building secure e-commerce sites that work. Wrox. London.
  • Find out more about referencing at:
  • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/lib/about/learn/citing

What is academic writing?

  • Academic writing should be your own work.
  • You can include other people’s words, but these should be in the form of quotations or paraphrase
  • Copying from other students, from books, or from the Web is plagiarism
  • Plagiarism is classed as a form of cheating
  • The penalties for plagiarism are detailed at:
    • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/reg/regs/plagiarism_pdf
  • Be warned, the staff on the FdIT are experts at detecting plagiarism

Further reading

  • http://www.uefap.com/writing/feature/intro.htm
  • http://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/studyskills/writtenassignments/page_17.htm

PDP 2 – Activities



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