Academic Writing

Rhetorical functions in academic writing: Using previous research

Introduction

One of the most important aspects of academic writing is making use of the ideas of other people. This is important as you need to show that you have understood the materials and that you can use their ideas and findings in your own way. In fact, this is an essential skill for every student. Spack (1988, p. 42) has pointed out that the most important skill a student can engage in is "the complex activity to write from other texts", which is "a major part of their academic experience."

is very important when you do this to make sure you use your own words, unless you are quoting. You must make it clear when the words or ideas that you are using are your own and when they are taken from another writer. You must not use another person's words or ideas as if they were your own: this is Plagiarism and plagiarism is regarded as a very serious offence.

The object of academic writing is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject, for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. You can do this by reporting the works of others in your own words. You can either paraphrase if you want to keep the length the same, summarise if you want to make the text shorter or synthesise if you need to use information from several sources. In all cases you need to acknolwledge other people's work, and provide a list of references.

This is particularly important in your literature review, where you introduce other work and in your discussion, where you compare your own work to that of others.

Using previous research

by, for example:

  • presenting research findings,
  • Putting in context,
  • presenting opinions,
  • comparing & contrasting different authors,
  • evaluating different authors in your context: strengths & weaknesses,
  • agreeing & disagreeing,
  • justifying, confirming & conceding,
  • taking up a position.

Examples

Explanation and agreement.

This explains the positive relationship exhibited in our model and also reflects the findings of Mesch et al. (1994) regarding positive effects of negative feedback.

Difficulty, limitations

The nature of our sample makes it difficult to generalize results to sales forces in other industries. The predominance of men in these sales positions, though quite representative of the automobile industry, might obscure any gender-related issues in feedback research (Schul et al, 1990). Also, the causal directions of our model, though well-grounded theoretically, cannot be supported by cross-sectional data alone. Experimental designs or longitudinal studies would be necessary to check the directions of influence.

Srivastava, R. and Rangarajan, D. (2008). Understanding the salespeople’s “feedback-satisfaction” linkage. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing.  23(3)  pp. 151–160.

Agreement

Our findings support previous research regarding the relationship between feedback and satisfaction (Brown and Peterson, 1993; Kohli, 1985; Teas and Horrell, 1981)

Negative evaluation, support

The results, however, do bring to light a number of unanswered questions in this area of study, specifically that current technological trends that, with computer and Internet accessibility at an all time high on college campuses, may make it easier to engage in multiple activities while trying to study. Also, modern educational gurus such as Veen and Vrakking (2006) even promote this.

Kirschner, P. A. Karpinski, A. C. (2010).  Facebook and academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 6, 1237–1245.

Justifying, negative evaluation, comparing authors

An obvious interpretation of our results is that all the estimates are essentially zero and the effects on English speakers in Dallas were observed by chance alone. Yet, the size of the results and the consistency with past research on the importance of reading books cast doubt on this as an explanation (Allington et al. 2010, Kim 2007).

Fryer, R. G. (2010). Financial incentives and student achievement: Evidence from randomized trials. National Bureau Of Economic Research: Working Paper No. 15898.

Positive evidence

Smith (1995) presents a convincing argument in favour of introducing a system for measuring performance.

Strong opinion

This point is reinforced in the EU Industrial Relations in Europe 2004 Report, which claims that 'coordination, based on shared understanding and mutual trust, may be more important than centralisation of wage-setting' (2004: 56). This clearly demonstrates that national peak-level employers' associations do play a key role in the process of collective negotiations.

Opinion

Meyer-Levy's previous research (1988) demonstrated  that female employees tended to explore more detailed information before making decisions, while males relied on more general information, and their own opinions.

Negative opinion

Giddens (2000: 69) indicates that the 'knowledge economy' reflects the dominance of dynamic 'knowledge' sectors such as finance, computers and software, telecommunications, biotechnology and the communications industries, where highly skilled, flexible 'wired workers' are employed within collaborative small business networks in an entrepreneurial culture. Curry (1993), on the other hand, suggests that the 'new economy', a related term, is based on smaller firms, industrial districts, flexible firm strategies and production networks and flexible technology, which echoes the flexible specialisation thesis.

Support

In support of Mayo's opinion, Johnson (1949) stated that the group combination has important effect upon company programs

Support

The best approach to managing people seems to be dependent on the person and context in his model of human nature. Human nature is complex and malleable, and thus human needs differ between individuals. This contingency theory of motivation (Schein, 1992) confirms this view by suggesting that motivation varies on a case by case basis.

Support

Milanovic (2002) illustrates that well-run businesses are of benefit to society.

Negative evaluation.

Some studies, however, have shown that it is not necessarily distraction that is responsible for reducing pain but rather the emotional quality of the distractor. Positive stimuli, such as humour and laughter, are known to reduce pain perception (Cogan et al., 1987; Rotton and Shats, 1996) but increasing the attention required to complete cognitive tasks (distraction without emotion) does not (McCaul and Malott, 1984)

Disadvantage

The main disadvantage of these early classifications is that the emphasis on geological inheritance and sea-level history leaves only limited concern for the hydrodynamic processes. The morphology of depositional coastal environments (those consisting of mud, sand and gravel, rather than eroding rocky shores) responds to the relative dominance of river, wave and tidal factors (Boyd el al., 1992)

Example, negative evaluation, tentative conclusion.

There is currently an ongoing debate in HRM about the role of HRM providers within companies. For example, there is a growing trend for HR Managers to participate more in the company strategic decision making process (Green, 2013). However, it is not clear whether this trend might have an adverse effect on the ability of HR to deal directly and effectively with employee related issues. It may be that this change of focus will have negative latent functions as Brown (2011) suggests. 

Contextualisation.

In relation to Shenkar’s (2001) ‘illusion of symmetry’, we can argue that UK/Polish difference and German/Polish difference demand to be understood in their own historical and specific context.

Chapman, M., Gajewska-De Mattos, H., Clegg, J. & Buckley, P. J. (2008). Close neighbours and distant friends: Perceptions of cultural distance. International Business Review, 17, 217–234.

Language

Reporting - Paraphrasing and Summarising

Reporting uses paraphrase and summary to acknowledge another author's ideas. You can extract and summarise important points, while at the same time making it clear from whom and where you have obtained the ideas you are discussing and what your point of view is. Compare, for example:

Brown (1983, p. 231) states that a far more effective approach is ...
Brown (1983, p. 231) points out that a far more effective approach is ...
Brown (1983, p. 231) claims that a far more effective approach is ...
A far more effective approach is ... (Brown, 1983, p. 231)

The first one is Brown's point of view with no indication about your point of view. The second one is Brown's point of view, which you agree with. The third one is Brown's point of view which you might want to question and the last one is your point of view, which is supported by Brown

Here are some more expressions you can use to refer to someone's work that you are going to paraphrase:

If you agree with what the writer says.

The work of X indicates that ...

The work of X reveals that ...

The work of X shows that ...

Turning to X, one finds that ...

Reference to X reveals that ...

In a study of Y, X found that ...

As X points out, ...

As X perceptively states, ...

As X has indicated, ...

A study by X shows that ...

X has drawn attention to the fact that ...

X correctly argues that ...

X rightly points out that ...

X makes clear that ...

If you disagree with what the writer says.

X alleges that ...

X claims that ...

X states erroneously that ...

The work of X asserts that ...

X feels that ...

However, Y does not support X's argument that ...

If you do not want to give your point of view about what the writer says.

According to X...

It is the view of X that ...

The opinion of X is that ...

In an article by X, ...

Research by X suggests that ...

X has expressed a similar view.

X reports that ...

X notes that ...

X states that ...

X observes that ...

X concludes that ...

X argues that ...

X found that ...

X discovered that ...

If you want to report that one source agrees with what anotheer writer says.

X accepts that ...

The work of X agrees that ...

X concurs with that ...

X supports ...

If you want to report that one source argues against what another writer says.

The work of X contradicts ...

X criticises Y ...

The work of X disagrees with Y that ...

Turning to X, one finds that ...

If you want to report a writer's conclusions.

The work of X concludes that ...

X finds that ...

Quoting

Sometimes you may want to quote an author's words exactly, not paraphrase them. If you decide to quote directly from a text, you will need an expression to introduce it and quotation marks will need to be used:

As X said/says, "... ..."

As X stated/states, "... ..."

As X wrote/writes, "... ..."

As X commented/comments, "... ..."

As X observed/observes, "... ..."

As X pointed/points out, "... ..."

To quote from X, "... ..."

It was X who said that "... ..."

This example is given by X: "... ..."

According to X, "... ..."

X claims that, "... ..."

X found that, "... ..."

The opinion of X is that, "... ..."

Concluding

After quoting evidence you reach a conclusion:

The evidence seems to indicate that...

It must therefore be recognised that...

The indications are therefore that...

It is clear therefore that ...

Thus it could be concluded that...

The evidence seems to be strong that...

On this basis it may be inferred that...

Given this evidence, it can be seen that...