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  • Editing and Revising Your Academic Writing

    University of Birmingham

    3 February 2014

  • “I am going to write this book for … those who already see that when they have chosen to write, they have assumed an obligation toward their reader to write as well as they are able.”

    Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer (1934)

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Why is good writing important for the academy?

    Publishing is your ‘shop window’.

    It reflects:

    • who you are as a researcher

    • your work

    • your department and institution

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  • DRAFTING AND EDITING

  • Drafting the piece

    • Good writing and editing are contingent on space and time

    • Avoid playing brinkmanship with deadlines –stress and pressure are not conducive to good results

    • Plan out your writing and editing schedule

    • Allow plenty of spare time at the end of the process for any final adjustments/review

  • Drafting the piece

    • The first draft is not the finished article – it doesn’t have to be perfect

    • Make a note of any missing data or content

    • Set aside at least 2–3 days between write-up and review, preferably longer

    • Review your piece with a fresh mind

    • Separate writing and reviewing into two stages

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  • Why separate writing and reviewing?

    Writing

    • Is creative

    • Concentrates on content

    • Data

    • Thesis

    • Argument

    Reviewing and editing

    • Is analytical

    • Concentrates on presentation

    • Form

    • Structure

    • Prepares for publication

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  • Essential tools for editing

    Why back up files?

    • To secure data and content

    • File corruption, PC crashes, loss/theft of laptops

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  • Essential tools for editing

    USB sticks/flash drives:

    • easy to use when travelling

    • easily lost

    • less stable and more prone to file corruption

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  • Essential tools for editing

    External hard drives:

    • hold a lot of data

    • desktop-based or portable models

    • more stable than USB sticks

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Essential tools for editing

    Computing in the cloud, e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive: • useful for access on the

    go and file sharing • security issues: avoid

    storing confidential or sensitive information in the cloud

    • often contains public folders sharing information openly on the internet – be careful where you store data

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Essential tools for editing

    Safety first!

    • Back up your work frequently

    • Use USB sticks when travelling, and back up to an external hard drive afterwards

    • Keep the external hard drive in a safe place

    • Protect your data in the cloud

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  • Essential tools for editing

    Track Changes in Word:

    • shows all the insertions, deletions and formatting made in the document

    • is very useful for co-authoring – all reviewers and their changes can be seen

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  • Track Changes is located in the Review drop-down menu in Word.

    Next to it there are drop-down options for reviewing the mark-up (i.e. your edits), to see everything that has been done.

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Track Changes

    Dos and Don’ts: • Do switch on Track Changes before writing, and

    keep it switched on • Don’t accept track changes at any point – only

    ‘Accept All Changes’ when the editing and reviewing process is complete

    • Do keep the original file with tracked changes visible

    • Do make a clean copy of the file for submission – ‘Accept all changes’ on that file

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  • The 3 C’s

    What do we aim to achieve in editing our work?

    • Clarity – can the text be easily understood?

    • Conciseness – is the text succinct and well constructed?

    • Consistency – not only in the message, but in style and presentation

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  • Structure: the ‘silver thread’

    This is the main concept or idea running through the piece which holds it together.

    • It keeps the argument focused

    • It is the A→B, the writing destination

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  • Structure checklist

    Examine the text and consider these questions.

    □ Does the argument flow?

    □ Are the points related?

    □ Is the order logical?

    □ Does any of the text go off at a tangent?

    □ Are any of the points irrelevant?

    □ Am I labouring the point?

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  • Using footnotes

    You may want or need to make an additional point to the main text.

    In English academic writing, footnotes are kept to a minimum. They should be:

    • subsidiary

    • relevant

    • brief

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  • Footnotes checklist

    □ Is the point genuinely necessary?

    □ Are there a lot of footnotes? Too many distract the reader, and are avoided in academic writing.

    □ Is the footnote long? Consider if the point actually has more weight: if so, put it in the main text. If not, edit it down.

    □ Is essential information footnoted? Avoid splitting important content (e.g. data, method) between the main text and notes.

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  • Labouring the point

    • Examine the text for over-emphasis

    • Postgraduate-level texts address their peers and a knowledgeable readership – no need to hammer the point home

    • Good flow of argument means progression: make the point, and move on

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  • Repetition

    Sometimes repetition is necessary to reinforce an argument.

    How do we do this without labouring the point or making it noticeable?

    • Keep it brief

    • Paraphrase

    • Don’t cut and paste text – avoid verbatim repetition

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  • Structuring the piece Standard structure for technical pieces or reporting research:

    Introduction Background

    Literature review Hypotheses/aim of the study

    Method Data collection and analysis

    Sample/participants Findings

    Discussion Conclusion

    Implications of the study Limitations of the study

    Recommendations for future research Funding statement

    Notes References

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  • Structuring the piece

    Descriptive or discursive pieces:

    • are freer in form

    • give the writer more latitude to express and order their thoughts

    • should demonstrate a clear aim – why are you writing this piece? What is it saying? Who is it intended for?

    • require a cogent structure – write out a plan

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  • Using headings

    Headings: • break up the text • impose clarity and order – you can see exactly what is

    being discussed and where • help you to review your work and examine the hierarchy of

    points • signpost the reader • Keep headings short • Keep the level of headings down – no more than 2 or 3 for

    a short piece • More can be used for longer pieces – e.g. book

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  • Sentence structure

    Good sentence structure encourages the reader to concentrate on the message, not the words.

    “...so that the reader continuously reads without faltering or momentary confusion”

    New Hart’s Rules

  • KISS Keep It Short and Simple

    Long, rambling sentences: • make readers work harder to understand the

    point • detract from the content • can make the text dull

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  • Editing long sentences

    Original Drawing a comparison between cultural work as it is understood and enacted within the studio and as it is understood and experienced within commercial industry contexts such as entry-level work as a runner highlights the tensions and contradictions in providing authentic contexts and practices and the extent to which cultural workforce issues can be engaged with. It does not necessarily render the studio context redundant in being able to address these though.

    Edited solution Drawing a comparison between cultural work as it is understood and enacted within the studio, and as it is understood and experienced within commercial industry contexts such as entry-level work as a runner, highlights the tensions and contradictions in providing authentic contexts and practices. Comparison also highlights the extent to which cultural workforce issues can be engaged with; however, it does not necessarily render the studio context redundant in being able to address these.

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Editing staccato sentences

    Original The female musicians express disappointment about receiving similar comments from other women. A clear rivalry exists concerning claims of authenticity. Women are required to prove their worth to the men who dominate the culture, even in relation to other women. The needle’s eye of authenticity seems so narrow that only those with exceptional musical ability can pass through.

    Edited solution The female musicians express disappointment about receiving similar comments from other women. A clear rivalry exists concerning claims of authenticity: women are required to prove their worth to the men who dominate the culture, even in relation to other women, and the needle’s eye of authenticity seems so narrow that only those with exceptional musical ability can pass through.

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  • Active and passive speech

    • The active is preferred in writing: verbs express actions rather than nouns

    • The passive makes expression unnecessarily complicated, even erroneous

    • This can be an issue for non-native English-language authors, as the grammar of some languages (e.g. French) constructs in the passive – ‘lost in translation’

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  • Active vs. passive

    Passive

    The hypothesis was supported by the results of the empirical investigation.

    It is important to give consideration to the factors involved in the operation of the organisation in order to achieve full appreciation of the situation.

    Active

    The results supported the hypothesis.

    It is important to consider the factors involved in operating the organisation in order to appreciate the situation fully.

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  • Why use active speech?

    The active voice:

    • is direct

    • keeps the text taut

    • keeps the reader engaged

    • projects confidence

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  • Repetition of terms

    • Frequent repetition of the same words and phrases indicates poor style

    • Key nouns may need to be repeated, but even these can be substituted with other phrasing

    • Check the text for overused words and phrases. For example, for ‘also’, use ‘moreover’, ‘in addition’, ‘furthermore’, etc.

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  • Repetition of terms

    Original The owners of small businesses claim that there is no way that small businesses can compete with massive companies like Tesco. There are many reasons why they cannot compete with these companies, such as the fact that small businesses do not have as much access to advertising as large businesses like Tesco. Small businesses also have limited hours of operation compared to large businesses. Also, small businesses have fewer staff and a lack of specialized staff. Small businesses also have a smaller inventory, and having a small inventory means that they cannot lower prices to the extent that large businesses like Tesco reduce their prices.

    Edited solution

    Small business owners claim that there is no way that small businesses can compete with massive companies such as Tesco: for example, they do not have as much access to advertising as large businesses. Small businesses have limited hours of operation compared to large businesses, fewer staff and a lack of specialised staff. They also have a smaller inventory, which means that they cannot lower prices to the same extent as large businesses.

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Quote marks

    Quote marks are used for two main purposes:

    • figurative speech

    • quoted speech

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  • “Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense [...] They imply ‘This is not my term’ or ‘This is not how the term is usually applied.’ Like any such device, scare quotes lose their force and irritate readers if overused.”

    Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, section 7.58

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  • Quote marks

    Overusing scare quotes:

    • distracts the reader

    • ‘makes’ the ‘text’ appear ‘ironic’

    • makes the author seem unsure of their argument

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Overusing scare quotes Original

    The studio is located in a building within a former industrial factory area developed as a ‘creative quarter’. The lived experiences of this ‘environment’ were crucial to the student ‘experience’, and bound up with how students could understand themselves as students becoming ‘cultural workers’. Overall, students were attuned to the way in which the ‘quarter’ was presented as a ‘creative area’ by the management company running the whole ‘quarter’.

    Edited solution

    The studio is located in a building within a former industrial factory area developed as a creative quarter. The lived experiences of this environment were crucial to the student experience, and bound up with how students could understand themselves as students becoming cultural workers. Overall, students were attuned to the way in which the quarter was presented as a creative area by the management company running the whole quarter.

  • Language: tone

    • Think about the tone of your piece – who is it aimed at? Consider the readership

    • Academic writing should be formal, but it doesn’t need to be archaic or stiff: avoid terms such as heretofore, herein, and spellings such as amongst, whilst – among and while are ok

    • Avoid lecturing: ‘Let us turn to…’ ‘We will now consider…’

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Jargon and abbreviation

    Specialist terms are an inevitable part of academic writing, especially in scientific and technical text.

    However, overusing jargon and acronyms:

    • obscures meaning

    • taxes the reader’s memory

    • can make the text nonsensical

  • Jargon and abbreviation

    Jargon

    Over the last decade firms have reconsidered their organisational boundaries using relationships with external actors as a fulcrum in this strategy, especially when pursuing continuous innovation. Mobilising the multiplicity of actors involved in the same innovation project is the consequence of the growing complexity and variety of resources needed to develop new knowledge. This renders the exchange of resources among partners a key component of innovation and the network relationships become the driving force behind the innovative processes.

    Jargon and excessive abbreviation

    The PI declared that the ROI of the R&D in this project was insufficient to meet VC prescriptions, and that QA procedures would be necessary to ensure justifiable HEI outputs.

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  • Abbreviation

    • Keep abbreviation to a minimum

    • Qualify abbreviations at first mention, then apply them consistently afterwards

    • Avoid using abbreviation as shorthand for your writing: express terms in full – clarity and reader comprehension come first

    • Don’t contract a proper name unless it is commonly known by that acronym, e.g. OECD, EU, M&S – but World Bank, not WB

  • References

    • This area requires special attention to detail, as it is often overlooked during revision

    • Be across your referencing – incomplete, missing or substandard sources and citations are not acceptable

    • Word 2010 has a new feature which creates bibliographies and styles citations

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Using referencing software

    • Software such as Endnote can be useful in drafting

    • University of Birmingham supports three different types: Endnote, Reference Manager and RefWorks

    • Endnote can fail, as it uses embedded field coding: ‘[Error! Reference not found]’

    • In Word, field coding can be converted to text by applying CTRL + A, then CTRL + SHIFT + F9, then save the file

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  • References checklist

    □ Are all the citations listed in the reference section? Is anything missing?

    □ Do author name spellings and dates match? □ Is every entry bibliographically complete? □ Are page numbers or ranges included for print references? □ Are web addresses and dates accessed included for online

    references? □ Are all the online citations in the reference list, not the footnotes? □ Is the referencing system organised alphabetically or

    chronologically? □ Is the referencing system uniform and consistently applied? □ Has the publisher’s referencing system been used?

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  • Final checks

    • Run a spellcheck in Word, but don’t rely on it completely

    • Set aside your piece for a few days, then print it out and proofread it on paper

    • Find a quiet, comfortable environment and read your piece aloud

    • Get someone else to read your piece – a fresh eye is invaluable

    • If you have English as a Second Language, get a native speaker to read your piece

    • If you need extra help with language, consider consulting a professional editor

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  • PREPARING FOR PUBLICATION

  • First steps

    Consult the publisher’s Notes to Contributors or Manuscript Submission Guidelines. These outline:

    • what reference system the publisher uses (e.g. Harvard, APA, Vancouver), and style notes

    • how to supply metadata: abstract, keywords, biographical notes, funding statement

    • word counts

    Guidelines are usually available to download at the publisher’s website – if not, ask the publisher

    © Lisa Cordaro Publishing Services

  • Legals

    • Copyright

    • Racism

    • Sexism

    • Inclusive language

    • Libel and obscenity

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  • Copyright

    • A complex landscape to navigate, especially with the onset of the internet revolution

    • Cyberspace is not a free space – copyright still applies

    • Intellectual property is a fiercely protected area of law

    • The term of copyright in English law is the life of the holder + 70 years

    • There can be special requirements for creative works: e.g. poetry, artwork, photography, design, song lyrics, film stills and TV programmes

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  • Copyright

    Fair dealing:

    • is often used by academics to cite text or reproduce images

    • is not a ‘catch-all’ solution to reproducing

    • is a provision in copyright law for the specific purposes of discussion and critique

    For fair dealing to apply, the extract or image must be actively discussed. Using it for illustrative purposes or to ‘decorate’ a piece does not qualify.

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  • Racism

    Racism is not permitted in publication.

    This means:

    • sensitivity in the text towards minority ethnic and disadvantaged communities

    • being aware of stereotypical ideas and images and that perpetuate racism

    • appropriate terminology: e.g. Developing countries (not ‘Third World’), African Caribbean, people of color, First People, Native American

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  • Sexism

    • He/she or his/her constructions can be used, but frequent occurrence can make the text awkward

    • The academy often uses she and her to redress the balance and acknowledge sexism

    • Publishers apply gender neutrality – an elegant solution is to use the third-person plural: they and them

    • She and her is retained in feminist writing and theory

    • Be aware of images and examples that project sexist stereotyping

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  • Inclusivity

    Inclusive language does not demean, patronise or stereotype people on the basis of: • disability • medical condition (physical and mental illness) • belief systems and religion • sexual orientation • gender • race/ethnicity • age Examine terminology and images for potential for offence.

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  • Libel and obscenity

    Dos and Don’ts • Do understand the consequences of making allegations, or

    portraying a person or organisation negatively, in public • Don’t write anything that you would not be prepared to

    defend in court – ‘publish and be damned’ • Do ensure that any controversial comments or allegations

    are evidence-based – show proof • Do be aware that the publisher may not allow the

    statement to be published if it could expose them, and you, to legal liability

    • Do keep it clean! Check your language and images for anything potentially offensive

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  • QUESTION TIME…

  • “The medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan

    Understanding Media (1964)

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