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Expressing
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Expressing your voice in academic writing

It is important that your 'academic voice' is present in your writing. Look at the formal version of the model text below. The writer's academic voice or argument is evident in the way the student introduces and interprets the evidence that supports his/her point. The paraphrased material does not dominate the paragraph, but rather is secondary to and supports the student's argument.

Formal Text Annotations
The inequity in the distribution of wealth in Australia is yet another indicator of Australia’s lack of egalitarianism. In 1995, 20% of the Australian population owned 72.2% of Australia's wealth with the top 50% owning 92.1% (Raskall 1998, p287). Such a significant skew in the distribution of wealth indicates that, at least in terms of economics, there is an established class system in Australia. McGregor (1988) argues that Australian society can be categorised into three levels: the Upper, Middle and Working classes. In addition, it has been shown that most Australians continue to remain in the class into which they were born (McGregor 1988, p156) despite arguments about the ease of social mobility in Australian society (Fitzpatrick, 1994). The issue of class and its inherent inequity, however, is further compounded by factors such as race and gender within and across these class divisions.

The relative disadvantage of women with regard to their earnings and levels of asset ownership indicates that within classes there is further economic inequity based on gender...
This is the topic sentence: a statement of the writer's intended argument in this text.

Supporting evidence is provided to validate the previous student’s claim/ opinion.

The writer's voice makes the significance of this evidence obvious by linking it to the issue of "class".

This evidence is used to support and elaborate on the previous claim. Paraphrased material is integrated into the paragraph as supporting evidence for the writer's argument.

The writer's comment indicates wider reading and an understanding of contradictory argument.

Again, the writer’s academic voice is clear. Here the writer is creating links with the following paragraph, which contains the next aspect of the argument.

New topic sentence linked to last sentence of previous paragraph; impersonal academic voice being used to express the writer’s argument/ educated opinion.

 

When a student over-uses secondary sources in a paragraph it may simply read as a string of quotations, devoid of the student's academic voice that 'ties' the ideas together into a coherent argument. In the following text, notice how difficult it is to identify the writer's voice; thus, there is a lack of argumentation and cohesion in the paragraph. The paragraph below reads more like a description of what other people have said: the ideas are not linked or commented upon to tell the reader why this information is relevant, and there is no indication of how each idea relates to the others.

 

Gabrenya, Latane & Wang (1981) and Albanese & Van Fleet (1985) note that as group sizes increase there is a tendency for the effort put in by the group to be less than the average effort put in by individuals engaged on the same task separately. Albanese & Van Fleet (1985) report on the 'free-rider problem', where the collective nature of the 'contract' obscures the fact of one member failing to honour their part of the contract. Gabrenya, Latane & Wang (1981, p180) discuss the phenomenon of 'social loafing' and typically define it as "one where everyone puts in a little less".

 

When incorporating the ideas and/or words of others into your writing, you must incorporate those ideas and words into your argument. Beware of simply describing others words or ideas without interpretation and an indication of why they are significant to YOUR argument.

The presentation of evidence in the previous example paragraph can be improved. Below, you are provided with the original paragraph, as shown above, and a revised version. The colour coding makes it clear that although the paragraphs share a high degree of content material, the paragraph on the right shows evidence of the student’s voice or opinion. In addition, this paragraph presents the content material in a smoother, more cohesive way since it focuses on the ideas the concepts and the relationship between them rather than upon the authors.

Original Paragraph - Poorly integrated evidence Revised Paragraph - Well integrated evidence
Gabrenya, Latane & Wang (1981) and Albanese & Van Fleet (1985) note that as group sizes increase there is a tendency for the effort put in by the group to be less than the average effort put in by individuals engaged on the same task separately. Albanese & Van Fleet (1985) report on the 'free-rider problem', where the collective nature of the 'contract' obscures the fact of one member failing to honour their part of the contract. Gabrenya, Latane & Wang (1981, p180) discuss the phenomenon of 'social loafing' and typically define it as "one where everyone puts in a little less". One phenomenon that can impact greatly on the effectiveness of groups is that as group sizes increase there is a tendency for the effort put in by the group to be less than the average effort put in by individuals engaged on the same task separately (Gabrenya, Latane & Wang 1981; Albanese & Van Fleet 1985). The phenomenon has been described using various terms. Writers influenced by industrial economics describe it as the 'free-rider problem', where the collective nature of the 'contract' obscures the fact of one member failing to honour their part of the contract (Albanese & Van Fleet 1985, p230). Writers who are organisational psychologists tend to label the phenomenon as 'social loafing' and typically define it as "one where everyone puts in a little less" (Gabrenya, Latane & Wang 1981, p120). Whatever the terminology used to describe this phenomenon, it is one that is problematic for groups.

 

Another example of evidence integration:

Poorly integrated evidence Annotations
There are a variety of reasons for conflict in organisational units. "The major sources of organisational conflict include: the need to share scarce resources; differences in goals between organisational units; the interdependence of work activities in organisational units; and differences in values or perceptions among organisational units" (Stoner and Wankel 1986, p383-385). The information has been presented as one long quote.

 

Well integrated evidence Annotations
Organisations develop structures, or teams, which use allocated resources to reach a goal. Often, however, the pathway to these goals can produce conflict. According to Stoner and Wankel (1986, p383-385), the occurrence of conflict in organisation units arises from sharing limited resources, differences in the objectives of organisational units, the interdependence of work activities as well as variations in individual styles and organisational ambiguities. Clearly, these individual sources of conflict need to be identified before potential solutions can be formulated. Introduction and orientation to the topic

The quote is presented instead in the writer's own words, as a paraphrase.




Clearly, these individual sources of conflict need to be identified before potential solutions can be formulated.

 

Activity (under development)



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