Lots of students are hit with the harsh reality that university education unlike any other entails a lot of writing. What I prefer to see as “feedback”. It can be seen as something (data) that serves to inform future steps. (Glick M 2011). It happens when a person is allowed to give an opinion about how an activity or interaction has gone. It can be a good or bad opinion. It is usually delivered to someone else or maybe the organiser or other people involved in the activity or interaction.
It is not enough to read many books as a student. There is also the need to relay what one has read to evidence understanding in such a way that can only be arrived at by critically analysing all that has been read. There was a report carried out in the US in 1990 by the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCAN). In this report it was determined that upon graduation, students should have acquired skills in literacy, computer usage data analysis and evaluation. In a nutshell, they should have information gathering skills to take into their lives. (Department of Labour 1992).
The problem with getting information as a student is knowing what information to get or if what has been gathered will be relevant. The risk is usually in using only a small set of resources irrespective of the problem at hand. This poses the need to acquire this information literacy by learning to find a link between the use of the librarian, faculty and information technology resources available to meet the requirements of the problem at hand. (Weiner 2010).
Interestingly, becoming informational literate helps improve our overall awareness as students. It cannot be acquired without sharpening very many aspects including our writing, analytical and listening skills. In the process we learn how to summarise what we have read from various sources into a few words. These become the feedback that we present in the form of assignments, essays and exams.
Our writing is also show that we not only understand overall learning outcomes for the course but are able to apply our knowledge specifically to help solve the problems presented by the assignment, essay or exam. It also provides the opportunity for our hard work to be graded. This ultimately ascribes value to our degrees once attained.
Information gathering is a cumbersome task. We need to have a fair understanding of what the question is because it is the basis for the whole exercise. It guides the search. Planning the search for the information needed to answer the question require time, patience and strategy.
When information is found, questions regarding the suitability of the source of information become necessary. The helps to give the final product derived from the information some credibility and integrity. It is important to know more of the work and why. It is also important to know when the article was written to determine their relevance to the question being answered.
In addition, the student has to find ways to put down what has been learnt. Where a quote is used, the marks to determine their start and end should clearly be applied. Techniques like paraphrasing, summarising and mind mapping can be used to sieve out relevant information regarding the question that the essay is required to answer.(UNPAC 2017). Only after all this has been properly done understood then begin to validly engage in a full analysis of the information that has been gathered. It may also include disturbance thoughts, doubts and in-depth analysis. This is the evidence of understanding that academic writing presents.
In the end, the learning provider creates a fair system for submission. This allows the work done by students to be checked for similarities. The aim is to reduce copying, cheating and plagiarism. It also encourages students to use references and citations where multiple sources are used. (UNPAC 2017)
Personally I feel very daunted by this concept of academic writing. It has now dawned on me that knowing how to write is only one piece of the academic writing jigsaw puzzle. Citation and referencing are certainly good skills to take on board. They would help a person separate facts from their personal opinions as they write. Improving on communication skills to aid interaction with others helps to check and share ideas.
This an article was about writing awareness and the requirements for attaining an academic level of writing. It looked at the importance of researching widely during academic writing tasks. It emphasised on the seriousness of the exercise and showed that there was no room for students to droll over the idea of using appropriate citation and referencing in their work. More importantly it focused on the need for appropriate citation and referencing to give credit to sources used.
Thank you for reading as always.
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Department of Labour (1992) Secretary’s commission on achieving necessary skills. http://wdr.doleta.gov/SCANS/ Accessed 6 Aug 2013
Margaret Glick (2011) The Instructional Leader and the Brain: Using Neuroscience to inform practice. Corwin press pp113 Chapter 5
Weiner S L (2010) Information literacy: in neglected core competency. Educaus 33(1) Google scholar.
UNPAC (2017) Northampton