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Writing Well at the Doctoral Level

Writing Well at the Doctoral Level

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Writing Well at the Doctoral Level

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  1. Writing Well at the Doctoral Level Presentation for Ed.D. Students January 14th, 2012 ------------------------------ Chris Street, Ph.D. California State University, Fullerton

  2. Our Goals for Today • Share a few principles of effective writing. • Discuss how to develop, nurture, and sustain scholarly voice. • Try out some revision strategies. • Share writing tips, strategies, and resources. • Explore the use of writing groups • Examine our own writing in light of what we have learned today.

  3. You want me to try and sound like an academic??? • Relax • This presentation will help you feel more comfortable as an academic writer.

  4. Pop Quiz! What do all professional writers have in common? (Hint: I found two commontraits that all professional writers seem to possess.) Answer: They are all voracious readers and they all revise their work.

  5. So how does this relate to us? Writing is learned by imitation. (Zinsser, 2006, p. 35) So, to learn to write as academic writers we need to be reading and studying academic writing.

  6. Reading like an author Reading like an author helps you to discover different stylistic devices, find various ways to engage readers, and leaves you with a greater awareness of how to target your writing for specific audiences.

  7. Remember the other thing that professional writers do?

  8. They embrace revision.

  9. The essence of writing is rewriting. (p. x)

  10. Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. (p. 84)

  11. Don’t believe me? People often believe that writing is a gift, one they may not possess. Yet professional writers practice their skill, usually daily.

  12. Still don’t believe me? Most professional writers establish a writing routine that includes plenty of time for revision, since this is where most successful writers spend the majority of their time.

  13. Motivation

  14. There are some writers who sweep us along so strongly in the current of their energy…that we assume that when they go to work the words just flow. Nobody thinks of the effort they make every morning to turn on the switch. (p. 245)

  15. You have to turn on the switch. Nobody is going to do it for you. (p. 245)

  16. Writers have to jump-start themselves at the moment of performance, no less than actors and dancers and painters and musicians. (p. 245)

  17. Consider who you are as a writer • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? • Are there patterns in the feedback that you have received from others regarding your writing? • What habits (good or bad) do you have as a writer? • What are your attitudes regarding writing?

  18. What did you discover? • Do you read and study the ways that academic writers craft their work? • Do you spend more time writing or revising? • Do you avoid writing?

  19. Things to Consider When Revising

  20. Use the Active Voice

  21. Use active verbs unless there is no comfortable way to get around using a passive verb. (p. 68)

  22. Verbs are the most important of all your tools. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully. (p. 69)

  23. Be precise. Use precise verbs. (p. 69)

  24. A Few More Reasons to Use the Active Voice • Active verbs express meaning more directly and powerfully than their weaker counterpoints--forms of the verb be or verbs in the passive voice. • Forms of the verb be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) lack vigor because they contain no action. • Verbs in the passive voice lack strength because their subjects receive the action instead of doing it.

  25. Is the Passive Voice Always Wrong? • No • The passive voice can work well in some situations. For example, if you want to emphasize the recipient of an action rather than the performer of the action. • “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today.” (Tom Wicker, New York Times)

  26. How do I know if I am writing in the passive voice?

  27. Identifying Passive Voice • Most of the time, writers can identify passive constructions simply be scanning their papers for be verbs (is/am/are/was/were/be/being/been) and then noticing what the next verb looks like. • If the verb behind the be ends in –ing, the sentence is active. • If the verb behind a form of the be ends in –ed, -en, or something else, the sentence is probably passive. • Active: Carlos has been making good grades • Passive: The candy has been hidden all over the house.

  28. Active The early bird catches the worm. Passive The worm is caught by the early bird. A six-word sentence in the active voice becomes an eight-word sentence in the passive voice. Plus, the passive sentence is not as direct. Two Examples

  29. A sample sentence--one written in the passive voice and suffering from wordiness--may help to demonstrate the importance of using the active voice.

  30. “It was reported that the report was basically an attempt to make a determination regarding why the electrical contractor failed to take the formally agreed upon project to completion at the time we had agreed upon before."

  31. By simply considering two aspects of effective writing--voice and wordiness--this sentence can be radically improved.

  32. Two Changes • Firstly, if the writer shifts from the passive voice--where the subject of the sentence is acted upon--to the active voice-where the subject does the acting-the sentence becomes much better. • Secondly, by cutting words that add no meaning to the writer's message, the writer's style matures considerably, becoming more clear, direct, and meaningful.

  33. A revised version of our original sentence We tried to determine why the contractor failed to complete the project.

  34. It was reported that the report was basically an attempt to make a determination regarding why the electrical contractor failed to take the formally agreed upon project to completion at the time we had agreed upon before. We tried to determine why the contractor failed to complete the project. The two sentences side-by-side

  35. Getting rid of the passive verb construction and cutting some of the unnecessary words helps to sharpen an awkward sentence into one that carries a forceful message.

  36. I am confused. Is there a simple way to identify the active and passive voice? YES!

  37. Identifying Passive Voice • If you use a word-processor, it will likely point out the passive voice when you are doing your spell/grammar check.

  38. Passive Voice Check in Microsoft Word • Go to Tools • Click Options • Click Spelling and Grammar • Check Show Readability Statistics

  39. The computer will identify what percentage of your writing is in the passive voice. But remember, sometimes the passive voice is appropriate; you--not the computer program--must decide whether to make a passive verb active. Microsoft Word

  40. The computer will identify what percentage of your writing is in the passive voice. But remember, sometimes the passive voice is appropriate; you--not the computer program--must decide whether to make a passive verb active. Microsoft Word

  41. The computer will identify what percentage of your writing is in the passive voice. But remember, sometimes the passive voice is appropriate; you--not the computer program--must decide whether to make a passive verb active. Microsoft Word

  42. To figure out how to do this for other versions of Word check out this site

  43. Let’s Turn On These Features

  44. The Importance of Paragraphs

  45. Paragraphs as Signposts From the reader’s point of view, paragraphs make promises. -- Erika Lindemann

  46. Keep Your Paragraphs Short Writing is visual-- it catches the eye before it has a chance to catch the brain.

  47. Keep Your Paragraphs Short Short paragraphs put air around what your write and make it look inviting, whereas a long chunk of type can discourage a reader from even starting to read. (p. 80)

  48. Great place to brush up on paragraph structure… OWL Parag:https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/606/1/

  49. Paragraphing is a subtle but important element in writing…a roadmap constantly telling your readers how you have organized your ideas. (p. 80)

  50. Study good nonfiction writers to see how they do it. You’ll find that almost al of them think in paragraph units, not in sentence units. (p. 80)