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Beginnings, Middles, and Ends

  1. Statement of Purpose. At the outset (``The Beginning") state the goals you wish to accomplish in your paper (``My goal is to describe how the language policy in Pakistan evolved under British colonialism ...").

  2. Methodology. Then state the method(s) by which you hope to accomplish this goal: ``I shall demonstrate that this policy evolved from an indigenous paleophilic tradition to a European centrist model beginning in the 1880's and continuing until 1947 ..." or ``I shall compare indigenous life stories of Bengali speakers who had to deal with the confrontation of British colonialism, superimposed on their own linguistic culture. In these interviews, speakers reveal ... "

  3. In the Middle or Body of your paper, build your case. Review the literature (see sample below) on the subject; do not reinvent the wheel. Show that you are familiar with what others have said about this situation. (This is a form of academic courtesy, and helps establish your credibility. If you do not do this, people may think you are talking off the top of your head, or have no respect for the work of other scholars, and may lose interest in your project, and stop reading.) Describe, analyze, and evaluate the previous work, and give those authors credit by citing their work (see below for format). Then show how previous work could be improved, or how others admit the existence of a problem but have not solved it, or whatever it is you wish to show. If you find you are deadlocked, and don't know what to say that is new, try asking yourself the following questions:

  4. When you have said all you would like to say, summarize what you have done. One paragraph may be sufficient. You do not have to show that you have done something revolutionary or earth-shaking; merely reviewing the literature on the subject may be the most useful thing you could do, if you do it systematically and present your review clearly.

  5. If you have more than one point to make, summarize and wrap up the first before going on to the next. Try to stand back from your writing and see that the ideas flow smoothly, and that when there is a transition, that it is evident that you are shifting gears. Tell us that you are now going to shift gears, or now going to contrast and compare, etc.

  6. Remember that the focus of this course is on the sociolinguistic aspects of language use, and that we assume that there is no such thing as no autonomous grammar: that is, we always assume that there sociolinguistic factors that influence grammatical usage and thus there will always be variability.

  7. Final rules of thumb:
    1. Do not reinvent the wheel.
    2. Build on the work of others, and give credit where credit is due.
    3. Ask for help, even if you don't think you need it.
    4. Show your work to someone else to read; check for clarity, transitions, whether you are making your points.
    5. Try to think of who your audience is, and write to that audience.
    6. If you are better at oral presentations than written, tape-record what you have to say and then transcribe it onto paper.
    7. Give credit by citations and attributions to ideas that are not yours. I prefer the form ``As Smith points out (Smith 1991:354)", with Smith 1991 spelled out in full in the bibliography.
    Next: Review of the Up: Helpful Hints for Writing Previous: Writing Research Papers

    Harold Schiffman
    Wed Mar 20 14:28:15 EST 1996