Week 3 Summary & Observations

This week we finally started writing a summary text using some grammar knowledge to help. As academic writing favours the noun, we talked about shell nouns and superordinate nouns. Also, I manage to have a comment or two on your Week 1 writing task, with three main observations you will find useful for improving your future writing tasks. The podcast version of this post can be found after the picture, or clicking here.

Only the ones who make their first moves will have a chance to succeed.

3/13 Week 3 Summary: Shell Nouns, Superordinate Nouns, and Reflections on Your First Writing Advanced Academic Writing: Tips and Ideas

Thanks so much, everybody, for taking part in the activities in this week’s lessons. After we went over the essentials of summary essay, such as the model text, the structure, purpose(s) and key language features for “packaging” information and conciseness in Week 2, Week 3 placed the focus on shell nouns and superordinate nouns, which we use for introducing general ideas in a text and replacing specific contents with more general terms.

I also asked you to try summarising a recent journal article on cancel culture. We started from reading the text excerpt, figuring out the main ideas, and breaking our summary down into a problem and a solution paragraph. You have had the hands-on experience opening the “problem” paragraph, and I have given some comments on the paragraph openers, which you can locate on Moodle. Now, you are going to move on and finish the summary by summing up and, very importantly, paraphrasing the four recommendations suggested by the authors.

Have a go, and try writing it over the weekend. As I said, you have to produce something so that I can help. It’s natural to make mistakes, as the old saying goes, “to err is human”. But this is what makes us progress: we learn from mistakes, and learn to avoid the mistakes next time. You have my back, and you’re safe in my class.

No one is judging you, and I won’t let them. All you have to do is believe in yourself, and write. (Remember to say “I believe” quietly in your head — shout it out if you want to)

I also want to reflect upon the writing you did in Week 1. I’ve finished reading and commenting half of it — you can find my recording in the Assignment link — if you haven’t, please be patient. Three main observations I would want to describe here, briefly:

1. “I think”: what makes academic writing and personal writing different is the former tends to be way less personal, casual and spoken-like. I understand your urge for showing yourselves in the essay by overtly saying what “I think”, thinking that’s our way to express opinions clearly and assertively. Perhaps it worked in your previous assignments, but one thing about being “advanced” here is the way you write “professionally”, not just the terms you throw in, but also the style letting your readers know you foreground the topic and argument, not yourself, at least not grammatically with forms like “I think”, “in my opinion”, “from my perspective”, “I support”, “I’m for this argument”, etc. The more you use them, the less you’re sure about what you say. I’ll keep reminding you this for the rest of the semester. Trust me, I’m a doctor.

2. Organisation: make sure you understand what a paragraph is. A paragraph is different from a “section”, which contains more than one paragraph. A paragraph is a chunk of connected sentences with the same focus on a particular idea, subtopic or argument. If you remember a Schaffer paragraph I mentioned in Week 2, a coherent paragraph include a topic and concluding sentence, with explanations and concrete details in the middle. So there is no such thing as a “one-sentence paragraph”. Nor do we have a “one-paragraph sentence”. Just sayin’.

3. Citation: summarising texts from external sources requires citations, something that you find as important as grammar. But I also found many of you who forgot to mention the authors of the paper, either through an integral citation, e.g. *Veil and Waymer (2021) reported that…*, or non-integral citation, one that puts at the end of the sentence (Veil & Waymer, 2021). Since you all are social sciences students, most likely you will use the APA citation and referencing style. Google it online, and along the way I’ll mention how you are to acknowledge sources from which you get supporting ideas from.

This week’s summary has got a lot to cover. I hope you understand. And remember, as you’ve started writing your first texts, you’ll have lots of chances to improve your skills, both writing and reading academic texts, as long as you are willing to take your first steps.

Writing makes perfect. Have a good weekend, and see you on Monday!

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