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大学Essay考试写作技巧
future(2009/1/30 6:41:36)  点击:31085  回复:0  IP:212.* * *
前段时间发了一个关于英语写作的帖子,但还没有针对到academic essay的写作,在这里补充一下,部分内容来自我上课的笔记,部分内容是我自己的总结,所以著作权的问题就请大家不要追究了,呵呵。主要还是针对社科类的写作,学理工的同学可以自己衡量一下适用的程度。

1,        Overview
A good essay offers:
An introduction which provides for a brief overview in a good topic sentence and a little contextualization, then a comment on the structure of the current debate.

A short reference to each part of the essay.
The work should NOT be descriptive of these, rather it should be indicative of the coming debate/discussion and its framing.

An examination of the niche – the small area into which your debate fits in academic terms.

我们在写作的时候要对自己阐述的内容的背景有了解,并要能够把这个背景简要地概括出来,再在其中提炼出自己的观点,不能泛泛而谈。拿到一个题目的时候想法可能会有很多,要能够取舍,把你最了解的观点说好说透彻了,比把所有观点都涉及到更有用。Description是必要的,但尽量少用,看文章的人最重视的还是analysis和argument。就算我们能把各大家的观点都融会贯通,旁征博引,缺少了自己的critical thinking也不会拿到高分的。

回应板油提到的不查资料就没法写essay的苦恼,在阅读资料的时候就应该带着批判的观点,对于那些重要的理论和著作,不必死记,但起码要知道什么人在什么问题上有什么重要的观点,这个重要的观点对该学科领域的影响有多大。有谁的观点是你特别赞同的?这些你特别赞同的观点也许就是你最容易记住的,也是能在考试中给你最多的帮助的。我们在阅读的时候,不妨适当的作一些笔记,最好就是把你的电脑打开,看到你觉得特别赞同的观点时,把它输入文档,后面标明作者、书名、年份和页数,考试前把你整理的这些观点重温一遍,会很有用。就算是平时的写作,这样的一份笔记也能节省你大量的时间。在一个学期内看过的书,可能看完都还给图书馆了,这样在期末写essay的时候,还是感觉自己缺乏材料的支持。但是手里有一份这样的笔记,你就能从容地引用名家观点了。

It is clear that different academic views subject differently because there are different bases for different academic views. Try to accommodate the opposite of what you argue and discount it. This shows that you have an open mind yet still are able to maintain specific arguments.

不同的学术观点有不同的社会现实基础,但是我们对西方社会的了解也许并不透彻。大胆引用发生在中国的例子吧,这些是我们最熟悉的,同时对西方人而言,也是非常critical的。Context是社会科学研究经常提到的一个词,我们生长的环境就是我们研究的context。把自己熟悉的东西分析好了,比去分析自己陌生但是别人熟悉的东西更容易拿到高分。

Don’t quote too much. Integrate the views you quote into the text and then argue and analyse what you think they indicate.

引用的前提是自己确实知道引用的内容在说什么,而且引用的内容确实能支持自己的观点,或从反面支持自己的观点。

You must detect the underlying meanings and suggestions in the texts you have used and speak about them effectively. For example, what is the academic/ethnocentric background of the author? Does this affect the work?

说一句大家可能觉得有些土的话:经济基础决定上层建筑。要了解某个材料文字后面的含义,了解它形成的背景是至关重要的。背景不仅决定了一个观点在一定范围内的正确性,也决定了它的局限性。

2,        question analysis
拿到一个问题,不管是考试题目还是essay topic,要做的第一件事都是分析这个问题本身:

关键词是什么?关键的定义是什么?问题包含了几个方面?问题暗示了关于哪个方面的辩论或讨论?在这里要特别指出一点,有的时候考试题目里会出现这样的要求:就某个问题,请你discuss。大家千万不要被骗了,不是真的要你discuss,所有的学术文章,要求的都是argue!而且是strongly argue!在读懂了题目之后,就要发展自己的文章。对于现在的辩论,你支持哪一方?为什么?除了你还有谁支持?在你下笔写文章之前,最好确保自己有足够的evidence,不然等写了一半了才发现支持不够,为时已晚。

3,        Introduction
不用我说大家都知道,introduction, main text和conclusion是一篇essay的必要组成部分。这其中哪部分最重要?introduction, believe it or not。首先我们要记住一点:the introduction is not introducing the subject, but introducing the essay itself. The purpose of the essay is not necessarily to prove the conclusion, but to prove that you are skillful enough to prove the conclusion. 我们在用中文写作的时候可能比较习惯用开头来介绍背景了,但这里强调的就是我们应该介绍自己的文章本身。

Introduction可以分为几个部分:topic sentence, topic context, current debate, content of essay, target – set out conclusion of essay. 先说你的文章要说什么,观点的背景是怎样的,简要地介绍一下在学术领域已有关于这个问题的辩论。然后谈一下自己打算从几个方面来说,最后记得要概括自己的观点。

Topic sentence
Set out a clear statement or position (or possibly a question) which involves knowledge that could be considered ‘common’, ‘shared’, ‘established’ or ‘known’ by both reader and writer (whether accepted or not) and which does not involve prior knowledge of your argument.

Topic context
Set out a context for the above – the historical context or fundamental aspects which should be understood before analysis begins.

Current debate around topic – the most important part of your introduction
Link the context section to current thought in the field. What is the current academic debate?

Purpose/Thesis statement/Outline of content
Set up the purpose of the essay by defining what you will do with the topic in relation to your knowledge of the subject. You must consider the application of academic thought and/or argument, and how this fits in with current ideas and research in the field of study. Name the subjects which are coming up in the essay, the arguments or analysis coming up in the essay and the way you will deal with them.
State your position and the hypothesis you’ll be working to.

Set out the niche – the area you are looking at within the current debate, (which in a long essay could form a mini literature review and links to your niche) – and define which ideas and arguments you want to look at. You need to think about how to ‘occupy’ that area, explaining what arguments or analysis or debate are most relevant and how these fit in with the problem or area to be considered. This leaves you with a clear idea at an early stage of topic and academic structures (argument, evaluation, analysis etc.).

Target/How you wish to conclude
Examine where your essay will take the reader.
What will the reader know by the time they finish looking at your work.
Can you offer a good reason for the reader to be interested enough to read all the way through?

要写出一个好的introduction真的不容易,大家比较担心的很可能是所谓的literature review这部分。其实不是真的要我们把我们读过的材料都概括出来(在篇幅比较长的论文里确实可能如此要求),在一般3000字的essay里,用几行来交代一下理论背景就足够了。

一些常用的连接词和词组:
bearing this in mind        in this light        hence                on balance        conversely
outweigh                prevail over                by contrasting                in contrast

4, argument/main text
在文章的主体部分,我们一般会把问题分成几个分论点来论述,再由对各个分论点的总结,引导出最后的结论。而每个分论点的论述,基本上都不会脱离以下的模式:

Introduce detail, contextualize within the debate.
    Support with additional material, example, citation and analysis. Always remember to introduce your purpose in the first line.

Extent detail.
    Support with additional material, example, citation and analysis.

Look at strengths/weaknesses of arguments.
    Support or defend (or both).

Sustain by examining additional perhaps detailed evidence.
    Compare /contrast/liken to a variety of works if possible.

Conclude by reviewing the balance of evidence.
    Extend by linking to the next part of the text.

在这里我们尤其要注意的是最后一点,如何顺畅地连接主体部分的各个段落。承上启下的问题中文里也说得多了,英文学术文章的写作,比较习惯在段落的末尾就埋下伏笔,这样可以避免在新的一段的开头过多地纠缠在承接的问题上,从而能让主体句更加清晰。下面再提供一些常用的argumentative phrases:

it is evident that…                
from this position we…
in turn, the ability to consider…
the counter position to this argument…
Smith for instance argues…
The effects of this have been documented in/by…
How might such a theoretical background apply to…?
Many advocates of…
Such a challenge…
Where a minority argues…
The necessity of a dialogue…
As can be noted, …
Yet, if we interpret…as a …, we should recognize that…
How these universal values fit in with…
These criticisms and incongruence are caused by…
The second justification…
Given such a background of objections…
…that could counterbalance the…
…in order to find a solution to the questions of …
…such questions have drawn the attention of both A and B…
…other theories that have been advanced…
…empirical studies have found extensive/little evidence to support…
…this concern draws our attention to…
…rather, we will address specific notions…
…in the context of …

关于段落的连接,承上启下并不是唯一的方式,尤其在我们写篇幅要求比较长的文章时,可能会有很多的层次,如果每次都等到一段结束再来介绍下一段的内容,可能不太利于读者对文章结构的把握和理解。我们比较经常遇到的情况是debate,就算文章主题不是关于两个对立的观点,也很可能会再段落中处理到,在这种情况下,在层次的一开头就交代清楚下文的发展是很重要的。

举个例子,关于税收的问题,可能会有保守派和自由派两方面的观点,去分析这两个观点,我们又可以从政治、经济、文化的角度去分别论述。一种结构是先论述完了保守派,再来论述自由派。另一种结构则是分成三个层次,分别来对比两种观点的优劣。后一种的结构较为紧凑,较为简单的分论点结构更容易被读者接受,3-2的结构也比2-3的结构更好处理衔接问题。3-2的方法在这里还有另一个优点:文章总的论点是需要分论点来支持的,从多到少的结构,能引申出更丰富的分论点,从而使文章更饱满。

在语言的使用上,最好尽量避免过多的人称使用,比如I/you/one/we,尤其是I,因此被动语态的应用很重要。还有就是关于副词的使用,在句子的开头能免则免。Traditionally, generally, obviously…都是很多人爱用的结构,但是其实这种副词,逗号,陈述句的形式是比较不正式的。我们来对比两个例子:

Obviously, this statement is wrong.
There is no evidence to support this statement.

大家觉得哪个句子看上去更学术呢?答案不言自明了吧。再补充一些常用词和词组:

The argument / inquiry / investigation / area of research / analysis / area of analysis / examination / debate / study / approach…


+



Provides / offers / presents/ represents / constitutes / establishes a basis on which / sets up / suggests / can be understood as …


And/or



Is based on / results from / derives from / arises from/out of /is formed by / offers an opportunity to / allows us to / provides a context for…


And/or



Contributes to the discussion on / is instrumental in / is a key part of / is a central component in / suggests a/the need to / raises the question of / allows the measurement of / contributes to / is related to / has its origins in / highlights the need/a requirement to…

5,        Conclusion
Referring back to the topic
Conclude by referring back to the introduction and the key parts of the main text. What was set up at the beginning should by now have been resolved through the critical analysis of the essay.
Is the initial “question, statement or position which involves knowledge that could be considered ‘common’, ‘shared’, ‘established’ or ‘known’ by both reader and writer” adequately covered/answered/ responded to?
Have you moved from a position (or niche) within the field and taken that right way through the essay?

Referring back to the purpose
Report back on the purpose of the essay set up in the introduction, and argue how this has been fulfilled.
To do so you will need to pick up key points/strands of argument from the main text. These must be brought together in an attempt to summarise the academic work that has been explored in the essay.

Referring back to the target
Has the target been achieved? Have you reached the position you claimed you would reach in the introduction?

Overall
Summarise the micro-conclusions from each section of the main essay. This is your chance to review what you have concluded and to refer to how you made these conclusions and which methodology or argument was involved.
Begin to draw these together to build a grand concluding position, being careful to relate each part of the essay to the arguments you have pursued throughout.
If you have successfully maintained a position based on worked evidence, this section should appear logical and coherent.

Follow up
Are there implications (perhaps for further research) which arise from your conclusion?
Perhaps your argument suggests further research is needed or that a particular problem should be re-evaluated.
This is the only part of the conclusion which can contain new information.

6,        review
学术论文的写作不是一个一蹴而就的过程,要经过反复的推敲、修改和增删。我原来对修改文章很头痛,因为我总是固执地认为第一次在灵感的推动下写出来的东西应该是最好的,而且一字一句地重新看自己写的东西,真得很累人。但是学术论文毕竟不是文学创作,灵感可以激发新思路,但是严谨和周密始终是必不可少的。那么我们在修改文章的时候可以做些什么呢?除了找找语法错误,除了弥补一些明显的漏洞,还可以做什么?

最概括地说,修改就是把小的元素放到大的环境里来再次考虑。从句子的角度去考虑词语的选择是否恰当;从段落的角度去考虑句子的关系是否清晰;从文章的角度去考虑段落的铺排是否合理。

句子层面:
Nominalisation——可以的情况下,尽量用名词来取代中心动词,如evaluation和evaluate,examination与examine,demonstration与demonstrate。为什么要这样呢?是为了避免过多地使用看起来较为主观的第一人称。前面已经举过例子了,evaluation will be given比起I will evaluate来,是要“学术”很多的。

Simplicity of phrase——保证词组和短语的清晰。学术论文有的时候是很难做到简洁明了的,因为一个定义里要包含的条件实在太多了。非要写长句子的时候怎么能避免出错?就是要把长的句子分成短语,每个短语起到一定的修饰或限制作用,一个正确的句子,把其中任何一个短语提取出来,句子都仍然是正确的,起码从结构上是正确的。

Use of conjunctions and connections——看看句子的逻辑关系是否合理,联结词有没有频繁重复。在写的时候我们可能不会留意到自己频繁使用某个词,比如很多人可能都留意不到自己几乎每两三句话就用一次very,但是写完了从一个大一点的角度一检查,就会发现问题在哪里了。

Modality and strength of language——这个问题可能大家经常忽略了:情态和语势。对程度的精确把握,是一篇成功的学术论文的要素,而精确与否,又经常取决于我们的语势有多强。我们可能会觉得越强的语势,会显得越有把握,越有说服力,但是过犹不及,over-argue了反而会有相反的效果。道理很简单,如果妈妈问小明,花瓶是谁打碎的?小明如果简单地说“不是我”,妈妈可能会相信。但是如果小明说“我发誓绝对不可能是我”,妈妈可能会怀疑。在学术上也是如此,如果拼命想强调某一个观点的绝对,反而会暴露出这个观点肯定是有缺陷的。我们来看一个简单的对比:There is … 和There really is …,哪个更肯定?表面上,或者从语法上来说,有really的程度更强,但是因为过分强调,以及使用了不太formal的副词,使这个陈述丧失了一定的客观性,它的说服力反而减弱了。所以特别提醒大家注意用词“度”的把握。前文中曾经提到,学术文章要求我们要strongly argue,但strong不是靠程度词的堆砌,而是靠evidence的支撑。

Register/formality of language——准确的专业词汇的运用当然是要注意的,但哪怕是一些细节也可以让你的文章更formal,记住用it is取代it’s,I would取代I’d,They have取代They’ve,养成良好的习惯。

段落层面:
Paragraph purpose and structure——文段存在的目的是否交代清楚了?段落结构是否完整了?该有的部分是否都有了?

Topic sentence——一个段落的核心,有没有错误?会不会过长或者过短?句子的头一句话,尽量不要超过30个单词的长度,第一句就把读者整晕了,后面还让人看吗?

Context——任何论述都有范围的限制,一篇文章有,一个段落也有,不要忘记了。但是也不用反复详细叙述,简要概括是一种能力的体现。

Sequence——句子的顺序是否符合逻辑?论据的顺序是否是一种最有说服力的安排?同样的材料,不同顺序的安排也会有截然不同的效果。

Micro conclusion and closing down——在完成了一个段落或一个层次之后,记得要做一个小的总结,把论述铺排开了但是收不回来是很危险的,不仅让读者摸不着头脑,连作者自己的思路也会被打乱。

文章层面:
Debate——这个词说已经说得很多了,最后再提醒一点,记得检验一下自己是否表明了自己的立场,就算你能把论战双方各自的观点理解得再全面,分析得再透彻,批判得再有创意,但如果没有交代自己的for和against,那也全是白搭。自己的立场才是最重要的。

Hypothesis——假设?前提?怎么说都好,自己要清楚自己想要推导出的结果是什么,有没有在全文贯穿这个Hypothesis,不要跑题了。

Inclusion of a range of positions——修改文章的时候,还可以多试着从其他的角度审视一下自己的观点,甚至站在反面批驳一下自己的观点,这样更容易找出漏洞在哪里,还有什么欠缺的地方。

Coherence of micro conclusion——分论点之间是否一致,有没有矛盾?是否能互为补充?也许在三个分论点里,你在其中两个支持观点A,在另一个支持观点B,那么最后两方是否能平衡?文章总体上支持的一方是否占了优势?

Cohesion of introduction and conclusion——最后记得考虑一下,首尾有没有呼应?

曾经在朋友的blog里读到过她的抱怨,说写学术论文就是变着法子让文章变得晦涩难懂,仿佛硬要把一个丽质天成的美女装扮着土气的老太婆。但我觉得,学术文章也是可以有美感的,文采飞扬是一种美,结构严谨,引人思考也是一种美。知之者不如爱之者,爱之者不如乐之者,尝试在其中寻找乐趣,才是真正的进步之道。


暂时先写这么多了,以后想到别的再补充。欢迎大家提问、讨论和分享其他的写作技巧和心得。
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