Use your reading to improve the structure of your writing

Closely studying the texts you read can give you insight into how the experts in your field write. Some texts have very predictable structures (e.g lab reports), while others are not so obvious (e.g. a persuasive essay in the humanities).

Texts with clear-cut sections are worth studying for the way they are written – from the organisation and sequence of information to the use of grammar. Other less predictable texts may show you how to put together an argument, deal with objections and express your opinion in an impersonal way. The internal structures of commonly occurring stages of a text, such as introductions, conclusions and abstracts, are also worth noting as you read.

If you are aware of the ways authors in your discipline use language, then you will gradually be able to transfer these techniques to your own writing.

When you are writing on a specific topic, certain texts can help to provide you with a structure for your own assignment. Often there are one or two readings which provide the bulk of your information to answer the question – other texts may provide additional material or alternative viewpoints. There is no problem with ‘borrowing’ the basic structure of a text (or combining the structures of more than one text) and dealing with the issues in the same sequence as the original author. You should of course take care to modify the structure to suit your own purpose (which is not likely to be exactly the same as the original author’s) and to avoid getting too close to the original and run the risk of plagiarising.

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