WRITING AND STUDY SKILLS
CLINIC
Introductions and information conveyance
THE PLAN—AND THE EXTRAS….
Old information/new information needs in
Introductions
 Passive Versus Active Voice

QUESTIONS TO PONDER
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In my field or for my field, does the intro serve to:
Define?
 Provide a Lit Review?

Justify the paper’s purpose
 Fill the gaps
 Outline the theories involved

Does the intro lead the reader to a completely
new world, or a new perspective on an old
thread?
 Do I need to explicitly outline the whole paper,
including research questions, purpose, and
evidence?

THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT
How much of the field must be explored for the
reader to feel situated within the context
sufficiently to proceed?
 What should the order of information be?
 Old information/new information enables the
reader to start off in a “safe” zone, and move
effortlessly to the purpose of your paper.

POSSIBLE “MOVEMENT”
Touch on the main idea  background  back to
the main idea again
 Background of field  main idea

For each, the progression often ends in the metadiscourse that outlines the paper.
 How much of any and all that appears in the
introduction should be explained, and how much
connection must be made for the reader to follow
the flow of the ideas?

KEEPING IT NARROW

You must be able to defend reasonably every idea
in your introduction.


Edgar Allen Poe is the greatest author of the
macabre genre.
Getting to the point and spiral in: Repeat the
same idea with more information or different
NEW information each time.
Repetition of vocabulary and ideas
 Lodestone concepts which revolve around a focal
point

Author
 Theory
 Main idea/purpose

EXAMPLE: SLA VERSUS SCA

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Second language acquisition (SLA) has been viewed as a second culture
acquisition (SCA). As Brown (1986) noted, “culture is really an integral part of
the interaction between language and thought. Cultural patterns, customs,
and ways of life are expressed in language; culture-specific world views are
reflected in language” (p. 45). This linking of culture to language intimately
affects the second language learner, for while he does not relearn the thinking
process, he does learn how to think in new patterns, as determined by his
L2’s world view. Brown hypothesized that the failure of a learner to master his
second language (SL) in the target culture had not sufficiently synchronized his
linguistic and cultural development. Either the learner acculturated to the
point of communication without further developing his language skills, as one
might associate with Schumann’s (1976) description of SL context
pidginization, or the learner had mastered the linguistic elements of his L2
without sufficient attention to the cultural dimension, making it difficult or
impossible for him to function comfortably in his L2 speech community.
Brown calls on SL teachers to pay attention to this two-part
development and to make use of the L1 and prior knowledge, “that
which is valid and valuable for second culture learning and second
language learning” (p. 47). So the question for the SL teacher becomes, what
are manifestations of culture in SLA and how are they connected to the SL as
taught, including the implications for linguistic competence?
WRITING THE INTRODUCTION FIRST OR
LAST

The relationship(s) of the ideas to be discussed
should be as clear as possible from the outset.
Begin with definition?
 Begin with contrast or contention?



Many studies have been done….
Situating the ideas within time or space might
also be a part of the equation. This might refer to
paradigm shifts or other upheavals integral to
your work.



Over the past decade…
Recently…
Focusing on Hong Kong politics . . .
PASSIVE VERSUS ACTIVE

Be + past participle shows that the SUBJECT did
not complete the action.
The research has been conducted in 30 countries.
 The program is being run on 10 consecutive
intervals at this time.
 Food is served daily to the unfortunate who
frequent the lower west side.
 The experiment was conducted to account for the
linguistic set backs experienced by the control
group.

PASSIVE VERSUS ACTIVE: WHEN SHOULD
YOU USE IT? STYLE BASED

Formal versus informal

First personal versus third person
We experimented on 10 monkeys.
 Ten monkeys were used in the course of the
experiment.
 Ten monkeys were experimented on.

MEANING BASED

Focus of the sentence/idea/paragraph/paper

Main elements and clauses
We don’t know who did it, or what caused it.
 We don’t want to assign blame.



Someone stole all of our monkeys!
Our monkeys have been stolen!
Mildred broke our computer, so our experiment is
ruined.
 The computer has been broken, rendering our
experiment null.

OLD INFORMATION/NEW INFORMATION
FLOW

Cohesion

Strengthening old information/new information
connections

Childhood diseases infiltrate the immune system.
The immune system is then compromised, and
drastic steps might have to be taken in order to
maintain the child’s health.
MIDDLE VOICE CONFUSION

This voice often carries a sense of suspense, and
is rarely used in academic writing without an
artistic, pathos, or literary intent:
The chair fell.
 The experiment failed.

CORRECTING FOR BOTH MEANING &
FORM

The active is to be preferred, as well as “active”
verbs:
It is important to recognize the limitations.
 The experiment is limited by a small population.
 The population limits the experiment’s
generalizability.


A direct object is necessary to create a passive.
The fish ate the cat.
 The cat was eaten by the fish.
 The dog fell down the hole.
 The hole was fallen down the dog….

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
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

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
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Writing and Study Skills Clinic