Text and language
Good general language skills and a good academic style form the basis of research texts. The reader of a demanding study expects accurate and well-founded knowledge presented in an honest, simple way. An effective research text is clear and simple, accurate and convincing.
Clarity combines the brightness of thought with simple expression: readability of syntax and accuracy of choice of words. Illustration by example reveals how much the author has taken into account the experiences of the reader: has he or she used examples in the text, comparisons and contrasts, has he/she awakened the curiosity of the reader by choice of words and triggered off the readers own thought processes. Brevity demonstrates both brevity of issues and compact expression. All supplementary material and unnecessary words should be removed. Correct language usage, grammatical expression and spelling mean that you should know and be able to use the grammar and spelling rules of the language of your thesis correctly and that your thesis should not contain errors in syntax, grammar and spelling.
A writer who respects his/her readers will strive for a text that is readable and user-friendly. The basis of readability is logical planning and its expression in writing: each part of the text serves the whole. Paragraphs comprise a series of connected not separate sentences. Each paragraph has its own place within the text as a whole. Sentences consist of clauses and phrases that are shaped and organised according to grammatical rules. Thus the organisation of content and style are clearly linked with one another.
The text of the report must be uniform and connected. A good text has a uniform contents, structure and style. The key to consistency and progression is careful planning but further cohesion can be woven into a text using several linguistic methods. Further cohesion can be created using vocabulary, grammar and context.
- The study and processing of the field of the topic brings a specific vocabulary to a text.
- The style of vocabulary creates expectations as to whether the text is supposed to be taken seriously or not.
- The reference ratio between clauses (the transfer from familiar information to new, pronoun references, repetition, deletions, and synonyms) demonstrates logical cohesion.
- Connectives – separate connecting words express the logical relations between clauses, phrases sentences and paragraphs. Particular care should be taken when using connectives because they are used more and more often in spoken language and are often used inaccurately.
- The uniformity of tenses fluently advances a text while an unjustified use of tenses breaks cohesion.
A researcher’s expertise is directly reflected by sentence structure, the accuracy of terminology and choice of words. A well-structured academic sentence is short, clear and easy to understand with well organised clauses and an interesting and natural choice of words.ˇ
Terms are an integral part of research language. Not all terms and professional vocabulary are in constant use. The message may be easier to convey without the use of terms if they can be avoided. Foreign terms are often considered more international and accurate than the same term in one’s own language. Before using a term of foreign origin is it best to check the usage of the term in its original language. Usage in the original language may show that the term is not international at all and that its expressed accuracy is, in fact, an illusion.
Each writer must organise his/her text into different levels of chapters and paragraphs. The headings of chapters and sub-headings as well as paragraphing show how you have organised your material and how consistently the material has been processed and moves from one point to another.
Headings should be short, to the point and they should cover subject to be discussed. Headings should be appropriate as should be the style of the whole report. Avoid sue of long sentence headings. A heading is not a story and should not include too much information. A heading does not require a general concept containing no information at all e.g. ‘Observations’ or ‘Study’ etc. There is no full stop after a heading.
Main chapters must start on a new page. When dividing a chapter into shorter parts please note that there should be at least two sub-headings under the same chapter heading. There must be text after each heading: the heading and subheadings do not come one after another.
A heading or subheading should not be left as a separate text at the bottom of the page. At least two rows of text should fit underneath headings. If this is not possible you must start a new page. Before finally printing your report, check that the page layout is correct. Do not destroy the uniformity of your text by using too many headings. Even a wider text must be should be organised to include only three level headings. Each level is usually expressed using decimals (2.1.2). There is no full stop after the main heading number and the last number of the subheading.
Paragraphs are the central units of text affecting readability and how the text is organised. The writer uses paragraphing to organise his/her thoughts into a consistent whole.
Paragraphs that are too long make a text more difficult to read and understand. On the other hand, successive short paragraphs (of one or two sentences) create a feeling of restlessness and that the text is too finely divided. It is also difficult for the reader to notice the links between issues and wider matters if paragraphs are too short. If a paragraph continues onto the following page there should be at least two sentences on each page.
When forming a paragraph, bear in mind the stylistics of paragraphing: The opening sentence informs the reader of the contents of the paragraph and then the required amount of back-up sentences provide more detail and outline the contents of the paragraph’s opening sentence. Thus the opening sentences form a contents skeleton that can easily be followed and each paragraph contains one main issue to be explained.
Previous research based knowledge and other literature can be used in your text either in the form of direct or indirect quotations. The most usual form of quotation is a brief summary: The writer summarises the main points of his/her source and expresses them in his/or her own words. The information from the source material can also be explained in the writer’s own words without having to summarise it – this is called paraphrasing. In addition to indirect quotations, direct references i.e. quotations are used to refer to other authors’ work.
When using direct references please remember the following rules:
- Research literature is quoted in order to demonstrate the accuracy of a statement or to support a statement that has been made. This type of quote should come from the original first-hand source and not e.g. a translation – since a translation is also, to some extent, an interpretation of the work.
- A quotation is understood to support a statement unless criticism is specifically meant.
- The source of the quotation must be expressed clearly and simply.
- You must put quotation marks (inverted commas) around a short direct quotation (maximum 3 lines) ‘--’. It must be same – word for word and in the same form, character by character, as the original text. Nothing should be left out without omitting marks.
- A long direct quotation (at least 4 lines) should be indented to form a separate paragraph and written using narrower line spacing than the rest of the text. You do not need quotation marks around the indented quotation but your must include the source either directly in the text before the quotation or directly following the quotation. The reference should always contain the page number(s) of the source from where the quotation was taken.
- Any text omitted from the quotation should be shown using either two successive hyphens (--) or three successive dots with a space between them (. . .).
- You must not add your own comments to quotations. If you must add a word or words e.g. to clarify to which issue a pronoun in the quotation is referring, the explanation must be situated inside the quotation within square brackets [--]. If you wish to emphasise something in the quotation you must inform the reader that you have underlined or used italics (ital.). If there is an error or spelling error in the quotation it must not be corrected but pointed out the reader immediately after the erroneous part of the quotation using [sic].
It is reasonable to expect that knowledge from a piece of research that has been ordered externally from the University of Applied Sciences will be disseminated to a comparatively large amount of people. Therefore your research report should contain generally accepted good expression and an effective structure. In terms of sentence and clause structure it is recommended that you obey the following principles:
- Use general English language, using the appropriate terminology while avoiding incomprehensible language and jargon. Professional, shop floor slang must not be used if there is a word in common English usage to replace it.
- Avoid long, multi-clausal sentences. To avoid long, complicated sentences make good use of full stops!
- Avoid the use of exclamation and quotation marks. Quotation marks are only used for certain types of direct quotation and sometimes for strange, unusual or descriptive expressions. A scientific text should contain normal, everyday terms that have been clearly and simply defined.
- Pay attention to the style of your writing. The passive is often used in academic texts. It is used because it is assumed that the observations and outcomes presented are not dependent on the observer but in principle they could be observed and reached by anyone with sufficient knowledge and skill.
When writing your research report you are permitted to make use of language and grammar guides. There are also guidelines concerning academic writing and the appearance of your research report for your use.
Word Processing and Printing Your Texts
Writing requires discipline. Planning how to best use the time available and organising a suitable working environment often requires special arrangements. It is best to produce longer pieces of text e.g. whole chapters when actually writing your report to ensure cohesiveness. Many researchers point out that you should write every day.
Word processing programmes are effective though with limitations. Working is often productive and active at your computer but accuracy and managing your material is difficult. It is difficult to follow how the whole work develops on the computer screen. It is also difficult to manage tiny details. In order to make your task easier it is a good idea to print out certain parts or stages of texts when they are ready, for proofreading. Many word processing programmes include a proof reading package. These should be used with caution and final checks should always be carried out using your own thoughts and eyes.