Tuesday, 15 January 2013

How do I write my research with clarity?

Research is essential for making a difference in education. It challenges our current thinking, provokes new ways of thinking and ignites new opportunities for our children and our classrooms. 

Writing academic papers seems to becoming a larger part of my teaching activities. The more questions I ask, the further my curiosity deepens. I am now delving into my own action research, publishing books and preparing professional development presentations regularly. However, the more my brains knows, the more complicated it gets trying to simplify information to capture my target audience. 

As a guide to support the structure of what I am writing about I found a fantastic website that explains it all in a way that I seem to understand. I have made notes which I refer back to regularly as I become more comfortable with writing either for research or publications. Its simplicity is what I liked most. Please check it out if you are looking for a little guidance in writing your classroom experiences. You never know you could be published someday soon!

Introduction - should be designed to attract the reader's attention and give her an idea of the essay's focus.
Begin with an attention grabber.
The attention grabber you use is up to you, but here are some ideas:
-          Startling information
This information must be true and verifiable, and it doesn't need to be totally new to your readers. It could simply be a pertinent fact that explicitly illustrates the point you wish to make.
If you use a piece of startling information, follow it with a sentence or two of elaboration.
-          Anecdote
An anecdote is a story that illustrates a point. Be sure your anecdote is short, to the point, and relevant to your topic. This can be a very effective opener for your essay, but use it carefully.
-          Dialogue
An appropriate dialogue does not have to identify the speakers, but the reader must understand the point you are trying to convey. Use only two or three exchanges between speakers to make your point. Follow dialogue with a sentence or two of elaboration.
-          Summary Information
A few sentences explaining your topic in general terms can lead the reader gently to your thesis. Each sentence should become gradually more specific, until you reach your thesis.

If the attention grabber was only a sentence or two, add one or two more sentences that will lead the reader from your opening to your thesis statement.
Finish the paragraph with your thesis statement.

Thesis statement - tells the reader what the essay will be about, and what point you, the author, will be making.
-          decide what point you will be making.
-          What do the main ideas and supporting ideas that you listed say about your topic?

Thesis has 2 parts
1.       states the topic.
2.      states the point of the essay or list the three main ideas you will discuss.

Body – where topic is explained, described, or argued.
-          Each main idea will become one of the body paragraphs. If you had three or four main ideas, you will have three or four body paragraphs.
-          Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure.
-          Start by writing down one of your main ideas, in sentence form.
If your main idea is "reduces freeway congestion," you might say this:
Public transportation reduces freeway congestion.
-          Next, write down each of your supporting points for that main idea, but leave four or five lines in between each point.
-          In the space under each point, write down some elaboration for that point.
Elaboration can be further description or explanation or discussion.
Supporting Point
Commuters appreciate the cost savings of taking public transportation rather than driving.
Less driving time means less maintenance expense, such as oil changes.
Of course, less driving time means savings on gasoline as well.
In many cases, these savings amount to more than the cost of riding public transportation.
-          If you wish, include a summary sentence for each paragraph.
This is not generally needed, however, and such sentences have a tendency to sound stilted, so be cautious about using them.

Conclusion - brings closure to the reader, summing up your points or providing a final perspective on your topic.

All the conclusion needs is three or four strong sentences which do not need to follow any set formula. Simply review the main points (being careful not to restate them exactly) or briefly describe your feelings about the topic. Even an anecdote can end your essay in a useful way.

Before finishing
1.      Check the order of your paragraphs.
Look at your paragraphs. Which one is the strongest? You might want to start with the strongest paragraph, end with the second strongest, and put the weakest in the middle. Whatever order you decide on, be sure it makes sense. If your paper is describing a process, you will probably need to stick to the order in which the steps must be completed.

2.      Check the instructions for the assignment.
When you prepare a final draft, you must be sure to follow all of the instructions you have been given.
Are your margins correct?
Have you titled it as directed?
What other information (name, date, etc.) must you include?
Did you double-space your lines?
Check your writing.

3.      Revise
Nothing can substitute for revision of your work. By reviewing what you have done, you can improve weak points that otherwise would be missed. Read and reread your paper.
-          Does it make logical sense?
Leave it for a few hours and then read it again. Does it still make logical sense?
-          Do the sentences flow smoothly from one another?
If not, try to add some words and phrases to help connect them. Transition words, such as "therefore" or "however," sometimes help. Also, you might refer in one sentence to a thought in the previous sentence. This is especially useful when you move from one paragraph to another.
-          Have you run a spell checker or a grammar checker?
These aids cannot catch every error, but they might catch errors that you have missed.

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