Petre & Rugg (2010). Writing structure and style.

Petre, M., & Rugg, G. (2010). Writing structure and style. In The Unwritten Rules Of PhD Research (pp. 142-158). McGraw-Hill International.

[“Writing style” (p 143) …]

[“Making examiners happy” (p 143) …]

“Work backwards from where you want to end up. You want to end up with the examiners looking pleased and relieved as they finish reading your thesis and [page break] settle down to watch the latest re-run of _Buffy the Vampire Slayer_ or whatever examiners do in the evening.” (p 143-144)

“… the examiners’ point of view … The result of this is that you will want to see a thesis which is a clear, unequivocal pass. The thing you will least want to see is something which might just about scrape through with major revisions: this will entail weeks of further hassle for you if the wretched candidate ends up sending allegedly improved revisions to you for approval.” (p 144)

“If the relevant boxes can be unhesitatingly ticked, then everyone is happy and can get on with their lives. You as a candidate can tackle the first couple of boxes (‘original’ and ‘contribution to knowledge’) by some judicious phrasing. … Judicious phrasing by itself is not enough; you need to have done good research as well. … there should be clearly demarcated subsections which deal specifically with the originality and the contribution to knowledge of the topic you’re investigating and/or of the method you’re using.” (p 144)

[“Blood in the water” [ie, shark-bait –oki] (p 145) …]

[“Step 1: stay indoors until you’re ready” (p 145) …]

“The first and most simple step is not to go into predator territory if you have open wounds. If your work isn’t good enough, then don’t present it; go back and get it right, instead of presenting inadequate work and making apologies for it.” (p 145)

[“Step 2: send out the right signals once you are ready” (p 146) …]

[“Know your enemies” (p 146) …]

[“The keen beginner” (p 147) …]

[“The intelligent layperson” (p 147) …]

[“The snake-oil merchant and the self-proclaimed genius” (p 147) …]

[“Don’t show weakness and doubt” (p 147) …]

“There are lots of words and phrases which indicate weakness. Some of these are ‘weasel words’, whose purpose is to help you wriggle out of committing yourself to an assertion and substantiating it. Weasel words usually have no [page break] place in academic writing, and certainly not in a dissertation.” (p 147-148)

[“Don’t bluff” (p 148) …]

“The normal convention in many disciplines is that in such cases, where the expertise is outside what a researcher in the domain could be fairly expected to know in detail, it is acceptable to take advice from two or more independent authorities in the [page break] relevant area and follow that advice.” (p 148-149)

[“Academic style: an example” (p 149) …]

[“Technical terms” (p 149) …]

[“References” (p 149) …]

“… within six years of the submission date of the article, and all are specialist journal articles.” (p 149)

[“General academic language” (p 150) …]

[“Academic style: sending signals” (p 150) …]

“Good signals to send include: I’m a professional with the right attitude; I know what I’m doing …” (p 150)

[“I’m a professional with the right attitude (easy concepts, but hard work)” (p 151) …]

“I pay attention to detail in things like spelling and the layout of the references; I’ve done all the work I should have done, and demonstrated this in the write-up; I’ve done a meticulous job of work and demonstrated this in the write-up; I’ve presented this work neatly and exhaustively, following the conventions of this area …” (p 151)

[“I know what I’m doing (requires knowledge of your chosen field and hard work)” (p 151) …]

“I know all the key texts, have read them and have cited them correctly; I have read other relevant things as well and have cited them correctly; I know and understand the technical concepts in this area and have been careful to use all the relevant ones somewhere in my write-up …” (p 151)

“Balance matters: judicious use of technical language shows authority and provides explicit connection to the academic literature; setting that usage within a readable narrative demonstrates clarity of thought and communication.” (p 152)

[“Writing structure” (p 153) …]

[“Chapter titles, section headings, etc.” (p 154) …]

[“The research question” (p 154) …]

“This is the central part of your thesis; it is horribly easy to forget to state the research question explicitly, precisely because you are so familiar with it that you cannot imagine anyone else not knowing it.” (p 154)

“Is the statement of the research question clear and concise? Is the statement of the research question phrased as aims, objectives, questions, goal, problems to be solved, challenges to be addressed — or in some other form?” (p 154)

[“Theory and evidence” (p 154) …]

“Theoretical context provides the rationale for your work; evidence underpins your claim to have made an original contribution to knowledge.” (p 154)

“How is theory presented in the dissertation? [page break] How is theory used in the argument? Is it clear what theory the research relates to? How well is the design of the research related to theoretical underpinnings? Is it clear how the research contributes to theory in the domain? What are the proportions of theory and evidence? Is the evidence presented objectively? Are the premises stated? Are the methods described in a way that allows replication/repetition? Is the interpretation distinguished from the data? Does the interpretation-as-evidence follow from the data? Do the conclusions follow from the evidence?” (p 154-155)

[“Introduction” (p 155) …]

[“Literature review” (p 155) …]

[“Tables and their uses” (p 156) …]

[“Illustrations and their uses” (p 157) …]

[“Final chapter(s)” (p 157) …]

“… use the final chapter(s) to show the reader that you have achieved something worthwhile over the last few years and to create a good closing impression.” (p 157)

“Summary of results (may be compared explicitly against objectives stated in the introduction); Discussion about how the results generalize; Discussion of limitations (phrased positively); Statement of contribution to knowledge; Future work (phrased strongly and positively); Speculation (in moderation) …” (p 157)

[“Appendices” (p 157) …]

[“Academic style: summary” (p 158) …]

[“Some classic style mistakes, and how to avoid them” (p 158) …]

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