I’d like to recommend a helpful set of writing templates for: writing definitions, introducing work, referring to the literatures, being critical, describing methods, reporting results, discussing findings and writing conclusions. It’s called phrasebank and was developed by John Morley at Manchester University.
It offers a large bank of sentence beginnings such as: The semi-structured approach was chosen because….; Publications were only included if….; The design of the questionnaires was based on… (these from ‘giving reasons why a particular method was adopted’). The intention is that phrasebank users draw on their own research to supply the endings to these beginnings.
That this list exists illustrates not only how, but also why it is that ‘academy-speak’ is a very particular kind of writing. It uses a specific set of rhetorical moves in order to accomplish standard tasks. So, while phrasebank might be intended for students whose first language is not English, it would be useful for almost anybody who needs some quick revision about the peculiarities of academic writing.
But I think it may have another use. I reckon that ending sentences may well be a good antidote for writer’s block because the stuck writer doesn’t have to worry about opening, just ending. So I’d experiment with these templates if you feel stymied by a piece of writing. Play with some of the appropriate set of starters to help unlock ideas and get the writing going. I think it might be another move to add to the repertoire of strategies for getting started.
There also is a health warning on these kinds of templates and they do need to be used with some caution and scepticism. All academic rhetoric positions writers in a particular relation to research and knowledge. Most of these starters are pretty old style post positivist in orientation so if you are not working in this paradigm you will need to be selective about which ones might be useful…but some might still be… More next post.