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Power Points Writing a Research Paper

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					SWLF 1005 (001, 002) – “INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WELFARE”
Nipissing University, North Bay (ON)
Global assessment: Paper #1
November 8, 2004


1. On blisters and academic writing:

        Blisters! That is my key insight from years of academic study – the start of every academic

journey always entails blisters (usually on a mental level, though it is amazing what excessive typing

can produce). Getting accustomed to new standards and expectations at the post-secondary level is

always a challenge.

        After teaching at the university level for six years, I can confirm that, without fail, students

are routinely not impressed with first assessment of their written work. Given that the average in

both sections of SWLF 1005 for Paper #1 ranged at around 63% (C-), our class should be no

exception to this rule.

        Whether you happen to be an upper-year student, returning to university, or new to the

university experience altogether, there were many recurring problems evident in this paper. Here I

list an array of different concerns around the three criteria your assessment addressed: 1) research; 2)

prose; 3) analysis/critical reflection.



2. Research:

        For a good result in the research assessment of Paper #1, students were expected to

demonstrate an in-depth grasp of course materials. But, as some will notice from their grade, the

point of conducting good research is not just to draw heavily on sources through constant

references. The goal, instead, should be to use research strategically to support your chosen thesis

(or central argument).

        In Paper #1, this involved providing an in-depth look at one or (or, for comparative

purposes, possibly two) approaches Hick offers in social welfare theory. Taking on any more than
SWLF 1005 (001, 002) – “INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WELFARE”
Nipissing University, North Bay (ON)
Global assessment: Paper #1
November 8, 2004

this meant you were unable to get at detailed questions bound up in discerning what social welfare

is.

           Other problems arrived with grammatical errors in the process of referencing sources.

Technically speaking, all direct quotations utilized in a paper should be introduced by a signal

phrase. What is a signal phrase? Here is an example:



        As Harden explains, “…students, by in large, have a great deal to say about the
peculiarities of their professors.”1


           In the above sentence, the bolded type highlights the role of a signal phrase. Its purpose, as

you can see, is to introduce a quotation, giving it some grammatical structure inside a sentence. If a

quotation is longer than 4 lines, you need to indent and single-space a quotation as a hanging

paragraph like so:




           The US government’s commitment to its ‘war on terrorism’ was reaffirmed by Vice-

President Dick Cheney during a speech to over 840 graduating military cadets at West Point

Academy:

           The battle of Iraq was a major victory in the war on terror but th e war itself is far fro m over…we cannot
           allo w ourselves to grow complacent, we cannot forget that the terrorists remain determined to kill as many
           Americans as possible both abroad and here at home, and they are still seeking weapons of mass
           destruction to use against us…with such an enemy, no peace treaty is possible, no policy of contain ment
           or deterrent will prove effective – the only way to deal with this threat is to destroy it completely and
           utterly, and President Bush is absolutely determined to do just that.2




1   Hard en, Lecture, SW LF 1005, Nipissing University, November 8, 2004.
2   “No Deterrents in U.S. War on Terror – Cheney”, Reuters Newswire, May 31, 2003.
SWLF 1005 (001, 002) – “INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WELFARE”
Nipissing University, North Bay (ON)
Global assessment: Paper #1
November 8, 2004

       It is also important to vary your choice of words for signal phrases and not to fall into a

single technique. “Hick states that” repeated 17 times during the course of a paper is likely to result

in a boring writing style. Think of signal phrases as part of the grammatical structure of any

sentence, and use them to help the cadence (or „flow‟) of your writing.


3. Prose:

       Speaking of writing (or, „prose‟ for our more refined purposes), this is clearly where most

students should concentrate their efforts in improving their work for Paper #2. In this vein, there

are two general observations worth making that everyone should address:

      Colloquialisms / informal tone:

       There were clear expectations in class for students to avoid use of the first person (I, me,

       my) during Paper #1, or to make very selective use of it. Unfortunately, however, many

       decided to write in a tone not remarkably different from something appropriate for emails or

       interpersonal conversations. Improvement in this regard will be expected.


      Editing techniques

       Everyone would benefit from allowing more time for editing drafts of their work.

       It was profoundly disappointing when it was clear that some papers were not even spell-

       checked in Microsoft Word. A Word spell-check or grammar-check are the absolute

       minimum standards for editing drafts, better than this is reading your work aloud from the

       computer screen. The best possible option is to find someone who has been successful in

       university courses in Social Science, and getting them to review your work. Your diligence in

       following though these editing steps will always result in a better grade.
SWLF 1005 (001, 002) – “INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WELFARE”
Nipissing University, North Bay (ON)
Global assessment: Paper #1
November 8, 2004

        Much more could be said about writing techniques, and Dr. Larry Patriquin‟s website

features an abundance of information in this regard <www.nipissingu.ca/larryp/lphome.html>.

Students are expected to review my assessment of your prose in Paper #1 closely, and take note of

detailed suggestions around grammatical flaws and sentence errors.


4. Analysis / Critical Reflection:

        What separates a decent paper from a truly great one is its ability to engage in analysis or

critical reflection. When writing, remember that both of us have read the course materials

thoroughly; so spending most of your paper rehearsing details of textbooks is not the best strategy.

Instead, after providing a brief description of the relevant concepts, it is crucial that you offer your

own perspective about the matter at hand. Do not, for instance, spend four pages talking about the

details of liberalism or a gender-based approach to social welfare. After providing brief descriptions

of these, get to the more interesting questions.

        Liberalism, for example, may be a pervasive ideology, but what are its flaws? A gender-based

approach suggests deeper insights about categories assumed in most social welfare theory, but why,

after all, are these assumptions made in the first place? And does a gender-based approach in itself

the solution to flawed perceptions of social welfare?

        A further crucial analytical skill is self-criticism, and many students did manage to include

this component in Paper #1. Following the body of your paper, it is important that you re-examine

the thesis you have presented. Bring out the best case against your thesis, engage with it, and then

re-assess your argument in light of this exercise. Think about the process as a cyclical one that

works this way:

        THESIS  ANTITHESIS  SYNTHESIS
SWLF 1005 (001, 002) – “INTRODUCTION TO SOCIAL WELFARE”
Nipissing University, North Bay (ON)
Global assessment: Paper #1
November 8, 2004

        Your thesis represents the very argument presented for the majority of the paper. It is

documented with reference to course materials, carefully presented, and neatly organized. The

„antithesis‟ represents the best response to your thesis, that „splinter in your mind‟ (to borrow that

line from The Matrix) bothering you from the outset of writing the paper. Rather than pretending

this „antithesis‟ does not exist, bring it out in full force to re-examine your paper‟s potential

assumptions. What results from this process is a „synthesis‟, or a more enlightened perspective on

the original thesis put forward.

				
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