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Summer work

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 20 Sep 2018, 12:40

As most of my OU courses only run from October to June, I need to do other work to "keep the wolf from the door".  

This year I did two.  One was at Reading and involved working with teachers of EAP from Chinese universities.  I have done this several times before and it is always interesting and enjoyable although the teachers are from such diverse institutions and backgrounds that it is difficult to know how much impact there is.

The second course was a pre-sessional at Warwick.  I have done many pre-sessionals in the past (at Manchester and Bristol) but this was my first one for more than five years.  It was similar to previous ones in that it was largely based around a small scale study project. 

It was, however, quite different to previous pre-sessionals in that it was very specific.  All of the students will be studying for a Masters degree in Supply Chain Management.  We were given relatively light teaching loads so that we could design quite specific materials and I quite enjoyed working with content on the topic and helping to scaffold students to cope with articles using content that was relevant. 

My teaching was "Text based studies" (ie reading and writing).  We worked with three articles and there was variation in the style and formatting.  One made much more use of diagrams than the other two and one of the others described the research methods in more depth.  If I did the course in the future, I would also like to make more use of student writing such as responses to the kinds of assignments students would write.

Working towards a Study Project seemed quite focused and authentic but the final week of the course consisted of tests that seemed less valuable.  Some students on the course (this were mainly from other groups rather than the one I taught) seemed to be very disappointed with their results and I wonder how much of a blow this would have been to their morale as they are about to enter their courses.

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Quoting and paraphrasing

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2018, 23:12

I have been marking quite a large number of TMAs for L185 (EAP Online) and LB170 (Communication Skills for Business and Management) and notice that many students only reference when they quote something from a source.  I suppose this is a common misconception that references are only needed when the exact words are used.  Perhaps this is compounded by the way that sometimes students are asked to write from a limited number of sources that they know I, as the marker, has read.  They also have to use a great deal of material from these sources and it can perhaps seem unclear where the reference would go - at the end of each sentence, at the end of a paragraph, at the end of several paragraphs?  Considering how to be more effective in raising awareness will be an important aspect of teaching on these courses next year.

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Noun groups

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Following on from the last posting on a video on processes, I found there is also one on noun groups at:


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A useful link on paragraphing

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 10 Nov 2016, 15:43

Paragraphing is very important in academic writing.  This is partly because it can affect how easily a reader can interpret a text.  Pragraphing also potentially allows a writer to express their own voice. 

The following link gives some useful advice for writers, especially at postgraduate level:


Point 3 seems particularly important for many students at Masters levels.  The best writing deals with issues by concepts rather than arranged by authors.  Arranging an assignment (and particularly a project/dissertation) by key ideas rather than going through summaries of authors is what can distinguish the strongest work from the competent.

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The challenges of academic writing for students at level 1

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Feb 2016, 12:33

I have been having interesting discussions with some students through email and OU Live about academic writing.  These relate to issues of avoiding being too informal and personal while also being evaluative and developing a point of view.

Part of the issue is that academic writing tends to value concision and personal markers tend to use words that would be better used for other things. 

However, it is important for students to show stance.  They can do this by using a variety of evaluative words such as "major/partial").  Epistemic modality ie modal verbs for likelihood (eg "might/will") or deontic modality ie modal verbs used to express desirability ("should/must") are ways that students can show their stance without being too personal in style.

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Increasingly universities are using Turnitin to check on whether assignments are being plagiarised and I was looking at the results for some student work yesterday. 

It struck me that although it is useful, the findings have to be treated with caution.  One student had quite a high score but many of the hits related to her bibliography, which included the standard items.  Another student had 0% matches which seemed to indicate it was not related to any previous academic work so perhaps a very low score is also problematic.  Despite this, I think it does have a useful consciousness raising function for students making them aware of how they use sources.


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