While the course title “Introduction to Academic Writing” may not lead students to expect the Essay

While the course title “Introduction to Academic Writing” may not lead students to expect the course to be practical, it is. English 1015 is geared towards giving you the kinds of writing skills and knowledge necessary for success in the academic world and beyond. The ability to write a summary or abstract turns out to be useful in the modern corporate world where there is so much information and so little time. The Annotated Bibliography assignment was actually very similar to work I’ve done myself between teaching jobs. The Omnibus Review is another writing task I’ve done many times, one which can fall either to academics (i.e., professors) or to professional writers outside the university. Typically, a journal, magazine, newspaper or other publication will send reviewers or prospective reviewers an assortment of books it has received from publishers. From these the reviewer is requested to pick a specified number (usually between two and four) and write a single article that will review all the items selected. This task doesn’t sound easy, and it isn’t. Sometimes there are connections among the items sent for review, but generally, if there are any, they aren’t obvious. This leaves the reviewer to try to come up with an introduction, conclusion, and transitions along the way that will somehow weave the reviewing of disparate items into a single coherent review article. Your job on the Omnibus Review Assignment isn’t quite as difficult as the one described, but generically speaking, it’s similar. Here you’re asked to find two articles on the same topic and review them in, yes, “a single coherent review article.” Since you’ll have the benefit of the articles being on the same topic, you’ll be able to compare and contrast them, which should give your writing a clear sense of purpose and direction. In fact, the assignment is intended to be a test of your ability not just to work with sources (i.e., to summarize, paraphrase, and, to a lesser extent, quote from them), but once more to write in the comparative mode, this time on a somewhat more complex, research-based assignment. The length of the assignment is 500 words, which should be sufficient given that there are only two items under review and that they are articles, not books. In terms of the structure, I’ve found that it’s best to let the items themselves determine it: to review one and then review the other while harking back to the first as appropriate–in other words, to follow the block method of comparison rather than the point-by-point. As with the Annotated Bibliography, please try to select articles that are worthy of basing your assignment on. A review is generally formatted with the bibliographic information at the top of the first page (i.e., before the start of the review). The information for the same article I demonstrated with on the last assignment sheet would now appear as follows: Elliot Hirshman. “Freedom of Speech on Campus Is an Essential Part of College.” Strategies for Successful Writing. James A. Reinking and Robert von der Osten, Pearson, 2020: 567-569. Note that the only difference from the standard MLA bibliographic citation is that the author’s names aren’t inverted. As far as acknowledging sources goes, the requirements for review writing aren’t quite as exacting as those for writing full-blown research articles. Normally, all the referencing in a review is to the item or items being reviewed: there are no other “sources.” For this reason, it will be sufficient to provide parenthetical references for quotations only. (By contrast, in a research paper one must provide parenthetical references not just for quoted material but for summarized and paraphrased material as well.) Finally, keep in mind that you are writing a review and that reviews all do the same things: they provide the reader with a sense of what the item under review is like and of what you, the reviewer, think of it. From that point of view, it doesn’t matter whether you are reviewing books, articles, movies, or lawnmowers.

 

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