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Tips for Writing in North American Colleges: Revision

Summary:

This handout is an introduction to the basics of academic writing conventions for students who are new to American colleges and universities.

Contributors:Michael Maune, Hwanhee Park, Ghada M. Gherwash, Joshua M. Paiz, Tony Cimasko
Last Edited: 2013-11-09 11:20:00

When writing for the academic audience in North America, one of the most important things to keep in mind is clarity. Having a clearly stated argument that is maintained throughout the paper is the basis of much good academic writing. In order to achieve clarity, writers must pay attention to many things, including but by no means limited to: vocabulary; unnecessary usage of pronouns and “it” subjects; paragraphs that do not have clear topic sentences; and lack of transition between paragraphs. Other common concerns for revision, such as improving the flow between paragraphs and revising excessively long sentences are also discussed. This resource focuses on elements of revision for the argumentative research paper, which is one of the more common genres in the North American academic content. When writing argumentative papers, writers make claims and support these claims with relevant evidence that would help their readers believe their claims. This resource provides an overview of the revision process in the form of a check list.

Revising Front Matter and the Thesis

Addressing the audience

Some topics may be unfamiliar to the North American academic audience, or it’s possible that you may not be working from the same shared pool of knowledge as your audience. This means that they might benefit from a more detailed explanation on the contexts and relevance of your topic and its supporting evidence. Similarly, certain sources will require more explanation in order to make their connection to the argument more clear. If, for example, you use a survey done in New Zealand as evidence to support a change to the American policy regarding teenage driving. The readers will want to know how a study done in one country can be applied to revise a policy in another.

Building Better Sentence & Paragraph Structure

When you are revising your document, you need to make sure that other sentences, the supporting sentences, in your paragraphs are related to the topic sentence in some way. If they are not, you may want to consider moving them to a different paragraph, or changing your topic sentence.

By stating the relation between paragraphs, you are guiding the reader—showing them why the paragraphs should appear in the way they do in your paper. This can help make the overall “flow” between paragraphs smoother. If you cannot explain why a certain paragraph should come before/after the other, you will want to consider putting that certain paragraph somewhere else, where you can better explain its connection to the paragraphs surrounding it.

“Although inexperience does not simply mean that all drivers who are younger than eighteen years old are immature, the fact that teenagers took 10 percent of the U.S. population in 2005, but 12 percent of motor vehicle deaths demonstrates that they have disproportionally higher risks than that of other age populations, which justifies the action toward teenage drivers.”

This sentence contains four different ideas—1. Disclaimer “Although…are immature”; 2. Statistics “teenagers took…deaths”; 3. Interpretation of statistics “they have disproportionally higher risks…”; 4. Argument “justifies…drivers.”

In revising such complicated sentences, first start off by separating the most important element of the sentence—which, in this case, is “4. Argument”—and make it a separate sentence. Then find what seems the least relevant to the argument—in this case, the “disclaimer” because it’s going against the argument—and either delete it or put it in a separate sentence. Then see what remain, and either separate them further or leave them together, as you see fit. In the case of the example, the remaining two parts should stay together because they are statistics and interpretation of it. Finally, build in conjunctions as necessary. One possible revision reads:

“Inexperience does not simply mean that all drivers who are younger than eighteen years old are immature. However, the fact that teenagers took 10 percent of the U.S. population in 2005, but 12 percent of motor vehicle deaths demonstrates that they have disproportionally higher risks than that of other age populations. Such statistics justify the action toward teenage drivers.”

Sentence- and vocabulary-level issues

It ran across the yard, and then it ran into the house for a nap.
The dog ran across the yard and then it ran into the house for a nap.

The second sentence is much clearer as to who the “doer” of the action is.  

Documentation Style

 

MLA: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

APA: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

 

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