Academic Writer

academic writer: organization: key concepts

Key concepts
Define terms and concepts which you think are not known to your readers towards the beginning of an academic paper. Although key words may be introduced with a simple dictionary style definition, key concepts will probably be described in some detail. This is a typical approach in much academic work. In a ‘problem-solution’ essay, for example, you will of course need to describe the problem, before you start to give your ‘solutions’! Citations are necessary if a concept is identified with the work of a particular writer. If you are using acronyms , you will want to write out them out in full the first time they appear, followed by the acronym in brackets. e.g. United Nations (UN). Thereafter you can simply use 'UN' and the reader will understand what it means.
EXAMPLE Notice the way in which the key concepts (formative and summative evaluation) are defined by short quotations and citations from the work of leading authorities in the field (Cronbach and Lynch). This is a cautious and common tactic. The writer then summarizes the position of a third authority (Stake) who is commenting on the first two statements. Finally the writer himself goes on to comment on the overall position ('The distinction is perhaps not as sharp as it would seem...')

Should an evaluation be formative or summative?
A formative evaluation is one which "regards the programme as fluid and seeks ways to better it" (Cronbach, 1982:12). Conversely, a summative evaluation "determines whether or not a programme has been successful" (Lynch, 1996:22). Stake (1977) suggests that the distinction reflects the difference between what programme insiders and outsiders want to know: the insiders are generally more concerned with formative, developmental aspects rather than achievements. Outsiders, on the other hand, tend to be more concerned with issues such as the impact of the programme. The distinction is perhaps not as sharp as it would seem, with most evaluations probably having both formative and summative elements. It can perhaps be most usefully seen in terms of a difference in focus: the formative evaluation focusing on the process of the programme, whereas the summative evaluation focuses on the product.

EXAMPLE 'Learning' is a concept which would be difficult to describe in a single sentence.

What is learning ?
The role of the academic staff in any institution is to facilitate the learning process for students and their ability to do this is crucial to the institution’s success. It is therefore important to understand their function as a teacher/facilitator and how Computer Assisted Learning fits into this. In a report in 1992 the Committee of Scottish Vice Principals identified functions involved in the learning process as follows:-
  • orienting setting the scene and explaining what is required;
  • motivating pointing out relevance, evoking and sustaining interest;
  • presenting introducing new knowledge within a clear, supportive structure;
  • clarifying explaining with examples and providing remedial support;
  • elaborating introducing additional material to develop more detailed knowledge;
  • confirming ensuring the adequacy of the knowledge and understanding reached;

These functions are carried out through a number of methods including lecturing, independent study, tutorials, discussion groups, practicals, project work, assessment procedures and Computer Assisted Learning.


Academic Writer 2000