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2014 Writing Handbook Essay

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A Writing Handbook Designed for
Information Systems Technology Courses

Writing Handbook
Revised 2014

Edward J. Cherian, Ph. D.

Information Systems & Technology Management Department
School of Business
The George Washington University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 3
1.1. Purpose
1.2. Revisions
1.3. General Advice

2. Forms of Writing 5
2.1. Categories of Writing

3. The Case Study Method 7

4. The Essay 8

5. The Research Paper 9

6. Critical Journal Article Review 11

7. Writing a Business Plan 12

8. A Primer on Project Planning and Team Effectiveness 14

9. How to Read a Book 17

10. Some Sources for Reference Materials 18
10.1. Use of the World Wide Web
10.2. Other Reference Sources

11. Plagiarism 20

12. The Reference/Bibliography 22

13. Common Grammar & Usage Errors and Tips 23
13.1. Common Grammatical Errors
13.2. On Punctuation

14. Assessment Rubric – Critical Journal Article Reviews 26 15. Assessment Rubric – Research Papers 27 1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose

This handbook has been developed to provide students guidance in Information Systems Technology courses and in particular Writing in the Discipline courses, in the School of Business, George Washington University. It contains some very basic and valuable information, as well as some hints concerning spelling, grammar, forms of writing, preparing a research paper, and others.

In virtually all organizations communication through writing is a critical skill which some people come by naturally, usually because they began writing at a very young age. Many of us however, have to work at writing, and work even harder to write effectively.

In information technology writing is a particularly critical form of communication. The discipline contains many technical terms and jargon, and continuously adds new terms and products. Being able to communicate through effective writing is an invaluable skill when working in this new and often ambiguous discipline.

The correct form and style of writing is also important in communicating complex ideas, recommendations, research findings or just thoughts about technology. Use of the proper format, often a standardized form, is essential for research papers because, here again we seek to communication complex findings to insure that the reader gets it.

1.2 Revisions

It’s important to write a first draft of your paper even if you haven’t finished all your research. Read over your notes and using your outline arrange your notes to support your hypothesis. A first draft is always challenging; you have to articulate the ideas that have been floating around in your head and what you thought to be simple ideas may be more difficult to articulate when it comes to writing. No worries!

Let the first draft sit for a day or so as you may be too close to your work. You may then want to change the original organization, or delete part of what you wrote to start with, or recognize the need for added research - all this is normal. Revise the draft, tighten your arguments, reduce your evidence to the most salient of citations, rearrange your paper and produce a second draft.

Reread the topical sentence from each paragraph. Does the sentence make the point you want? Check the logic of the transitions among paragraphs. Is there a paragraph that doesn’t make sense or that doesn’t link with others? Are you now ready to write a conclusion? Remember the conclusion is critical to your paper, your chance to make a lasting impression on the reader.

The final revision (and there may be as many as 10 revisions) should include a check of the overall organization, spelling, format, bibliography, citations, pagination, and lastly the writing of an abstract or summary. Throughout the writing process, the most important and challenging task will be to constantly edit and revise your work.

1.3 General Advice

Experienced writers agree that time is the most important ingredient in producing a good piece of writing. Give yourself several days to complete an assignment. Take notes and do some free writing in one day. Outline your paper and produce a rough draft on another day. Rewrite, revise, and polish on a third. In this way you will be continually revisiting your ideas and style with a fresh critical mind. Your work will sound like writing, not like talking, or worse, like typing. Effective writing consists of rigorous analytical thinking and mature evaluations that have been considered, re-considered, and organized in a way that finally communicates clearly. It takes time. Important Info!

2. Forms of Writing

There are many different forms of writing, and many more different styles of writing. Here is a list of only some of the different forms of writing you may encounter in a lifetime:

- proposal - autobiography/memories
- resume - critical journal article review
- plan - book report
- research paper - trip/observation report
- essay (writing exercise) - directions/how to do something
- business letter - thesis/dissertation
- case study - poetry
- fiction/fantasy - journal/diary
- news report - memo
- e-mail

In information technology WID courses we use a variety of writing forms, particularly: research paper
case study
critical journal article review

All of us at one time or another will use many other of these writing forms in both professional and personal life.

In addition, there are some structural issues to note in almost all forms of writing, specifically:

Paragraph: A group of sentences that speak to one idea. Six sentences is about the right length, and should be put together in a way that makes sense and relates to the main idea.

Summary: A summary is a brief account of the main points of the paper. State the main ideas of the paper, in a logical way.

Abstract: An abstract is a brief synopsis of the paper; a highly condensed version of the paper. Normally an abstract or summary, never both, is required for papers of any length more than 2 pages. Introduction: This is a first impression offered to readers in hopes it will interest them to read the entire paper. It often helps to write an introduction at the same time when writing a conclusion - tie them together.

Conclusion: A conclusion wraps up the argument or position offered in a paper and leaves the reader with the major thesis of the paper. It answers the question, Why are these ideas important? Don’t add more details or introduce new material in a conclusion.

2.1 Categories of Writing

Writing can also be organized in four basic modes, or categories:

Descriptive writing – writing to describe a person, place or event so as to detail a picture for the reader. Using details the writer allows the reader to clearly see what the writer had in mind.

Expository writing – to provide information, such as directions or explanations

Narrative writing – to describe an experience, or sequence of events in the form of a story.

Persuasive writing – to offer an opinion, with supporting evidence, and try to influence the reader’s way of thinking

3. The Case Study Method*

There is no single approach to case teaching and learning any more than there is a single answer to a case study. The case method has proven to be a valuable learning technique. We use case discussions to accomplish what cases do better than other pedagogical methods.

The essence of case discussion is the airing of conflict between two or more opposing views. The best discussions include opposing views that are supportable and reasonable. The case method depends upon the active and effective parti...

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