Showing posts with label writing skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing skills. Show all posts

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Discourse of Literature Reviews and Critical Evaluation

A Traditional Card Catalogue


Critical evaluations and literature reviews employ an academic discourse. I've started to compose a list of the most frequently used words and phrases :

Accentuated differences
Acclaimed authors
According to
Account
Acknowledge the issue
Addresses
Addresses the contradictions
Adequate
Adopts
Advances the idea
Almost all
Analyses
Arbitrary categories
Argues
Argument
Assesses
Attempts to challenge
Bogged down
Bold
Breaks new ground
Brief discussion
Brings together
By ignoring this
Care with which
Centres on
Certain types of
Challenges
Charts
Cited
Combines analyses of
Comments on
Compelling argument
Comprehensive
Conceptual framework
Concise
Confesses
Confides
Connects
Considered
Contains
Contradictions
Contributors


Trinity Library Dublin

Conveys the sense
Convincing
Covers a range of topics
Critics
Debates about
Dense literature
Describes the trends
Detailed
Disadvantages
Disciplines
Discusses
Discrepancy
Discuss
Dispute
Disputing
Drawbacks
Embrace
Emphasis on the
Engagement with
Enjoying a renaissance
Even handed
Evokes
Exaggerated
Examines
Excellent
Explains
Exploring
Exposes
Fascinating
Features
Focus
Frequently
From that perspective
Fulcrum topics
Fully revised
Generally
Grateful
Ground-breaking
Guides
Imaginative
Impressive
In this field
Inadequate
Inaugurated the field
Incisive
Includes
Influence
Innovative
Interdisciplinary team
Interrogates
Interesting
Interface of ... and
It is believed that
It is thought that
It is a widely held view that
It has been reported that
It has commonly been assumed that
Joined by several new scholars
Judicious use of
Last word on this ... must go to
Limitations
Long quotations
Lucid
Make sense of the contradictions
Many scholars hold the view that …
Many types of
Minor errors
Most
Muddles
Multifaceted
Nearly always
New ground
Offers
Offers guidance
Often
Old ground
Opines that
Original
Occasionally
Overlooks
Overview
Paradoxically

Bodleian Library Classics

Partially answered
Perspective
Persuasive
Pertinent voice
Precision
Presents
Project is driven by
Prose
Provides an overview
Purpose
Questions
Quality of
Range of alternatives
Readers lose patience
Recent research has suggested that
Recognisable concerns
Reflecting on
Relationship between
Relevant
Relies heavily on
Revealing
Riddled with misprints
Rigid
Rooted in her knowledge of
Sadly
Scholars
Serve as a warning
Several Scholars
Short quotations
Shows how / that
Significant
Some types of
Sometimes
Speaks to
Style
Subject
Subtext
Supple
Tellingly
The majority of
There is some evidence to indicate that
This book
This comment
This concern with
This contribution to the debate
This exploration of
This issue
This study
This volume
Thorough
Through a series of case studies
Traces
Timely
To be commended
Trifling particulars
Undoubtedly the standard work on this
Uniquely
Updated edition
Use of long quotation
Useful
Uses
Valuable insights
Various disciplines
Vast range of topics
Vital to consider
Weaknesses
Wide-range of
Wide-ranging

 Dr Ian McCormick is the author of
The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences and 11+ English  

Friday, 27 June 2014

7 steps to Prolific, or more Productive Writing



Most writers and intrigued by the idea that they might be more productive. Some writers want to become prolific. Some writers, such as Shakespeare, were able to churn out two or more major works every year; others, such as Charles Dickens or Walter Scott, astonish us by the sheer quantity of their work.

I was surprised to discover recently that my writing notebook lists plans for 23 books. Clearly some of these projects are little more than a title and an outline. So the problem is not having ideas, it’s more a question of having the time, the discipline and the confidence to see them through to completion as published works. In short, I am now trying to increase my productivity by researching some of the recurring ideas typically adopted by successful writers.

While doing some research recently on translations of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, I cam across the impressive productivity of JackLindsay, who produced 170 creative and non-fiction works during his long career.

But do you have to be a genius to be so prolific? Or is it more a case of responding efficiently and effectively to commercial deadlines?

1. The Necessity of Discipline.
“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” — Horace

Simply waiting for inspiration to drive your creative output is a highly risky strategy. Even the great romantic writers employed discipline. While it is essential to experience those fleeting moments of exuberant fancy and whimsical speculation, it is equally important to write them up in such a way that they will make sense at a later date. Your notebook is an essential tool for catching and capturing your creative flow.

2. The Benefits of Routine.
“I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed hours, a fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do.” — Roald Dahl

Design and create your routine rather than following someone else’s plan. Some writers find that they work best early morning; others burn the midnight oil. Some writers need the silence of the monastery or the peace of the nunnery, while others prefer the bustle of a cafĂ© or the rhythm of a train or bus journey. Some writers work for thirty minutes, others for three hours. My advise therefore is to experiment with different routines and note down which combination of space and time produces the best results.

3. Maps, structures, outlines
“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” — Winston Churchill

Often there is a romantic sense that knowing your future direction at the outset will cramp your creativity; that writing becomes mechanical when it is strictly planned. On the other hand it is quite common to start projects with great enthusiasm but then to experience writer’s block in the more complex middle phases. Even worse, you may find that your work is fruitless because not matter how hard you try there is a lack of a suitable conclusion for your creative efforts. Radical uncertainty of this kind frequently leads to anxiety and paralysis. Moreover, there repeated experience of failure to complete leads to a weakening of your willpower and motivation in the medium term. By finishing projects your confidence grows and develops, allowing you to undertake more creative risks with a reduce chance of blockage or failure.

4. Speed Drafting
“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” — Henry David Thoreau

Having capture your key ideas and imposed a provisional structure it is now time to work in more detail. This means fleshing out your ideas and feelings. At this stage it is essential to write quickly and to avoid agonising over precise words and phrases. Don’t worry about writing the most astonishing and eye-catching first sentence; first paragraphs are often better written at the end of your writing phase.

5. Revisioning
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Writing typically moves from fleeting moments of inspiration to the discipline of the draft: the process of revisioning. This process requires critical insights more than creative flow. It is also often best accomplished several day or weeks after your speed drafting. This period allows time for critical thoughts to develop and for your to be more objective. The revision stage often involves contraction as well as amplification of your ideas. So be prepared for cutting down, chopping up, and repositioning your thoughts.

6. Taming the Dragons of Destruction.
“Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.” — T. S. Eliot

It is very important that we learn to apply critical perception to our creative works. However, for many writers the negative thoughts can crowd out the ability to write confidently. The inner voice that questions your skills and ability, that constantly interrogates your sense of having a worthwhile and unique vision is the viral plague that constantly affects the tribe of writers. With experience writers learn that each of the key stages outlined above requires different degrees of critical and creative insight, and they learn to enjoy the unique character of each of the different stages. Accordingly, switch of destructive and negative thoughts. Keep reminding yourself that others will want to read your work, and that your work has value because it is the product of your unique perspective on the world.

7. Learning from others.
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Great writers are also great readers. By studying the work of others we improve our writing skills. By becoming critical readers we sharpen our creative tools. Also, the creative work of others can allow the writer to contemplate re-tellings and re-visioning of the body of experience. Remember that the vast majority of Shakespeare’s plays were derived from printed sources written by others. He also learned the craft of writing by collaborating, by being a member of writing community. Nor did he confine himself to the writer’s room. For writing is also a big, bold, bracing encounter with life itself, and that’s not be had by staring at a blank screen. Finding the most sustainable balance between real writing and real life might be your biggest strategic decision.

Writing Machine, Swift, Gulliver's Travels (1726)

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” —  Paul J. Meyer

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Adversative conjunctions


If you have been enjoying my book, The Art of Connection, you might be interested to read what Alexander Bain had to say on the topic of Adversative conjunctions:

Certain of the Adversative conjunctions are used to indicate the mutual bearing of consecutive sentences.

Some of the members of this subdivision are termed Exclusive, because they indicate the exclusion of some circumstances that would otherwise be allowable. "Else," " otherwise," are the chief examples; they occasionally introduce sentences, but owing to the intimacy of union that they express, their chief use is to unite clauses.

Those termed Alternative sometimes form a link between two sentences; for example, or and nor. When nor is used without neither preceding, it is commonly in the sense of and not: "Nor would he have been mistaken;" "And he would not have been mistaken."

We may have one sentence commencing with either and the next with or; and so with neither and nor. But, in general, these intimate a closeness of connection, such as requires the members to be kept within the same sentence.

The group of Adversative conjunctions represented by But (called Arrestive) very often institute relations between consecutive sentences. They are—But then, still, yet, only, nevertheless, however, at the same time, for all that. These may operate on a great scale, covering, not only the sentence, but the paragraph. An entire paragraph is not unfrequently devoted to arresting or preventing a seeming inference from one preceding, and is therefore appropriately opened by but, still, &c.

(English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual, 1867.)