Advice about writing abounds. The only problem is that while there are some pieces of advice that you may find useful, writing remains an idiosyncratic activity. We all do it differently.

Often we get stuck trying to take the next step in our narrative. Some call it writer's block. It's really more of a sign that you/me/we don't understand what we are trying to express.

There is a collection of notes on the research kitchen about writing.

There are a couple of key ideas you have to get clear for any academic writing. When you make a claim or assert something in your writing, e.g. People under two metres tall tend to duck a lot, you have to support such a claim.

You can do this in one of three ways:

  • using research literature that supports your claim (e.g. Smith (1993) has shown that people under two metres tall have a tendency to duck a lot)
  • using research data that you have obtained (e.g. The data, in Table 3.1 shows the height of my research sample of 100 people and the frequency with which they duck during the day. The data clearly indicates etc etc. )
  • or using a logical argument, e.g. all cats have tails; this is a cat; therefore it must have a tail1

The reason you cite is to support a claim or argument you are making. A big no no in postgraduate writing is to make an unsupported claim. There are three ways to support a claim:

The first option is very common in most academic writing. When you refer to the work of others it is called citing. A crucial notion in any postgraduate writing is that you cite any work that you make use of. If you use someone else's work and do not cite them you commit the serious sin of plagiarism2.

How you cite, the format of the reference in the text and the format of the reference in the reference list is usually determined by the course you are taking3

There is an excellent general resource for academic writing at the University of Toronto. There is specific advice for the different types of academic writing.

There is a good collection of material at the University of Melbourne that you may find helpful.

Feel free to suggest other sources you have found useful.

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