Academic Writing Tips 1: Signpost language, reporting and showing contrasts

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Academic Writing Tips 1: Signpost language, reporting and showing contrasts Empty Academic Writing Tips 1: Signpost language, reporting and showing contrasts

Post  Jason Renshaw on Sun Mar 09 2008, 11:37

The example essay provided in the Writing Pre-test Integrated Academic Task (see sticky post in the forum menu) provides some good models for you in terms of using three important writing devices in academic writing:

- Signpost Language
These are phrases and words that show the sequence of your ideas and call attention to the reader that something is going to be explained. Signpost language is indicated in the example essay below in red.

- Reporting information
In an academic report or topical expository essay, you will often need to pass on what someone else has stated, whether it be a direct comment or the outline of some kind of idea. Phrases to indicate reported information are shown in the example essay below in blue.

- Showing contrasts
You will often need to show how ideas relate to each other in your writing, whether it be similarities or differences. In the example essay below, phrases to introduce contrasting ideas are shown in green italics.

Example essay demonstrating signpost language, reporting and contrasts:

The reading passage presents the topic of native speaker English assistant teachers in public schools, and how this is bringing benefits to Korean students. The speaker, while acknowledging that there are some benefits, casts doubt on the conclusions reached in the reading passage.

First of all, the reading passage claims that the presence of native English speaker teaching assistants means Korean students in public schools now get more chances to listen to real English. It also states that the students can now interact with native speakers and improve their communication skills. The speaker points out, however, that the application of listening skills is not actually all that different from what was being achieved with a cassette or audio CD. He also stresses that the large class sizes means that there aren’t really many opportunities for 1-1 interaction between teacher and students. This could lead to disappointment from the learners.

Next, the reading passage asserts that native English speakers can help to improve the speaking skills of Korean English teachers, as well as provide chances for friendship and increased knowledge about culture. Contrary to this, the speaker claims that Korean teachers already feel stressed about speaking English in class and will feel even more stressed if there is a native speaker there watching and listening to them. He goes on to point out that it will be hard for genuine friendships to develop because the Korean teacher has to “mind” his or her foreign colleague, without extra pay, on top of many other responsibilities. This may become burdensome for the Korean English teacher.

Finally, the reading states that having native English speakers in the public schools will stop students from attending private language academies, causing less expense to Korean families and limiting the advantage of wealth. The speaker, on the other hand, sees this as a naïve statement to make. He explains how Korean parents want private tuition based on the smaller class size as well as access to native speakers. He also points out that Korean parents are competitive and will always want their children to get ahead of other children. Based on this, he believes enrollment at private academies will always stay high no matter what improvements are made at the public school level.

Further Tips:

Also remember that variety and flow are really important in your writing. It is important to use a variety of different expressions to indicate reported information and contrasts in particular. This helps the flow of your writing and helps to maintain the interest of your reader. Also, in academic second language essay exam tasks, it is important for you to show the depth of your language ability by providing different expressions and grammatical constructions (as well as variety in your clause composition).

If you look back over the expressions and sentence types used in the example essay above, you may notice that phrases for reporting information vary within each paragraph. Also, the way contrasts are shown is different in each of the paragraphs.

It is a good idea for you to write down these phrases, as well as the example sentences in which they are used. Try using them the next time you are asked to produce an academic report that compares and contrasts information from two different inputs (reading and listening).

Write On!

- Jason

Jason Renshaw
Kyungpook National University, Teachers' College, Department of English Education
Daegu City, Republic of Korea 702-701

Managing Director: www.onlinEnglish.Net
Jason Renshaw
Jason Renshaw

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