For international students, it’s sometimes hard to understand UK academic culture when beginning their studies. October’s Book of the Month, Stephen Bailey’s Academic writing for international students of business (2011) proposes a logical framework from which to draw success from academia. Often the simplest methods are the most successful. Indeed, there are formulas available for anyone willing to incorporate them into their personal writing style, such as identifying problems and finding solutions (problem > solution A > arguments against solution A > solutions B and C….). Acquiring these easy solutions that are liberally peppered throughout the book, would not only help international students, but boost UK students (and staff) writing styles too.
For instance, I found the section on organising paragraphs the most useful, whilst earlier chapters seemed light and too practise-centred, but that, as they say, is all in the design, structurally planned to hook the reader into digesting the entire book. Organising paragraphs into topic sentence > example 1 > Example 2 > might sound mechanical, too formulaic, un-natural even, but it’s a good beginners technique; building blocks on which to build more sophisticated techniques later on. Dealing with a single topic, constructing a paragraph of no less than for or five sentences, understanding the visual appeal of a well-determined structure, offering the first sentence as introducing the topic, while adding definitions, examples, information, reasons, restatements and summaries; guiding the reader through clearly presented arguments, are keys to unlock your academic potential.
Planning and precise note-taking is central to organising an effective, clearly presented essay. Having the patience and dedication to craft this technique no doubt becomes easier with practise. Take the art of summarising a topic by drawing an idea-packed mindmap or spider-gram, cohesively linking key ideas together into a readable structure, makes writing effective. Likewise, organising an argument around defining potential drawbacks > benefits > discussion > economic > ethical > social > discussion is another useful formula. Creating balance of impersonal phrases (‘it is widely accepted that’) versus minority viewpoint (‘some people believe that’), adding counter-arguments and your personal position without sounding too subjective, to add colour and interest weaves depth into an academic critique.
If you would like to read more, and perhaps develop your academic writing, then copies are available at 808.06665 bai on the second floor of the GCW. The Library has a large established, and perhaps under-used, collection of essay writing on the second floor (808 on the second floor). I certainly have benefitted from occasionally using the collection and appreciate it as a rich source of guidance, both for myself (well, you be the judge!) and supporting students in their studies. To develop your creative writing beyond Bailey’s book, then I would recommend Fairfax and Moat’s marvellous The Way to Write (1981), a beginners guide to good writing skills found at 808.066 fai. For an entertaining read, the great Keith Waterhouse’s Waterhouse on Newspaper Style is well worth reading for an insight into British journalism. There are plenty of other invaluable books in the academic writing section to expand your writing skills, like Derek Soles ‘The Academic Essay’ available at 808.066 sol.