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Academic Writing tasks aim to find out how
well you can research a topic, argue a point of view, evaluate evidence,
and organize your thinking. The pages in the next four issues of the MED
Magazine will provide general advice about different aspects of academic
writing and what resources you can use for more specific
What Should You Do When You Begin an
Look at this economics essay topic:
Many countries implement minimum
wage laws that prevent employers from paying less per hour than
a certain wage determined by law. Discuss
the benefits and drawbacks that occur as a
result of minimum wage laws. Identify
who the laws help and who
the laws hurt. Explain any
efficiency loss that might result.
The words in italics
are the key words that tell you what you have
to do. The words in blue are the content
words that tell you what the essay topic is about. Here
are a number of key words that you need to know
Identify the key words in the essay topic and ensure that
you understand what you are being asked to do. Make
sure that you cover the whole topic and that you do not deviate from it.
Think about each section separately and break each section into several
small questions. These questions provide a structure or framework for
your essay. They also show you what you need to find out from your reading.
Look at this example based on the essay topic above:
- What are minimum wage laws?
- What are the benefits of these laws?
- What are the drawbacks of these laws?
- Who do these laws help and how?
- Who do these laws hurt and how?
- What efficiency loss might come from these laws?
Look at this biology essay question and decide what you
will have to do to answer it. When you have finished, look at the suggested
Investigate and discuss the biology of "handedness."
Describe the possible causes of right- vs left-handedness. Discuss
the history of discrimination against left-handed people and, if
possible, compare to discrimination generally against such groups
as women, homosexuals, or ethnic minorities.
- What is the biological definition of "handedness?"
- What are the possible causes of right-handedness?
- What are the possible causes of left-handedness?
- Are these causes the same or different?
- What discrimination has there been historically towards
- Is this discrimination similar to other kinds of discrimination?
Here is a selection of websites and books that will tell
you more about academic writing:
- Allen and Unwin eStudy Pages
- Day, S.X., McMahan, E. and Funk, R. (1997) The
Practical Writer's Guide. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
- Leki, I. (1995). Academic Writing (second edition).
New York: St Martin's Press.
- Rodrigues, D. and Tuman, M. (1996) Writing Essentials.
New York: W. W. Norton.
- Wilhoit, S. (1997). A Brief Guide to Writing from
Readings. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
You can find Usage Notes on Academic Writing at the following entries
in the Macmillan English Dictionary:
Next in the Series
- Identifying and evaluating resources
- Avoiding plagiarism and quoting sources
- Referencing in texts and bibliographies