Writing workshop: A Report

Praveen Kumar Yadav

Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) started publishing its journal annually after three years of its inception in 1993 AD. So far NELTA has published twelve volumes of its journal till 2011. All the journals are not peer reviewed, however. The Journal of NELTA became a peer reviewed journal in 2010 only. It has been an integral part of NELTA’s mission for ‘enhancing the quality of English language teaching and learning through professional networking, supporting and collaboration’. It is also a means towards achieving NELTA’s goal of providing a ‘forum for exchanges of ideas and experiences at national, regional and international levels’.

Following the NELTA’s announcement for the call for articles for the upcoming volume of the Journal of NELTA 2012, Mr. Bal Krishna Sharma, one of the editors of the journals and a former EWC fellow, who is currently doing his PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Hawaii, USA, facilitated the workshop cum presentation organized by NELTA Central Committee at its office in Kamaladi, Kathmandu on 4th Aug, 2012. Altogether fifty members of NELTA, who are interested to get their articles published in a peer reviewed journal, had enthusiastically participated in the workshop.

Mr. Sharma discussed the following issues during the presentation.

  • Things we should consider before submitting a manuscript to a journal.
  • How to Avoid Plagiarism
  • Why are manuscripts rejected?
  • Where do you find more recent academic resources?
  • What do the reviewers focus on while reviewing your manuscript?
  • How to respond to editor and reviewer comments? And many more such questions

In order to contextualize his presentation, he drew samples from the NELTA journal manuscripts and showed the audience examples of papers that were not accepted or publication. Contrary to my expectation, there were examples of research reports that cited from different sources but did not acknowledge the source. In addition, there were manuscripts that did not read like a research paper, but like a textbook chapter or a class note.

Mr. Sharma focused on two different themes in order to address these agenda: (1) formatting a research paper, (2) avoiding plagiarism

Formatting a research paper

A research paper/article usually follows an IMRD (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion) format although there are variations and different labels/names for that.

1.      Title:

The title of the article should be concise. An author should use the key terms that s/he are going to use in the paper/article. The title should be written in such a way that helps readers to predict the purpose and content of the article. A good title helps the readers predict the content of the article.

2.      Abstract:

The abstract of the research paper/article should include three moves: Purpose/objective; methods; and major findings.

 3.   Keywords 

keywords refer to technical and conceptual terms used in our paper. The keywords help readers find our article in google.com. These are the words typed to find our paper/article.

4.      Introduction (funnel shape— moving from general to specific)

  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Literature review
  • Theoretical/conceptual framework
  • Niche/hole and significance of the study
  • Research questions

5. Methods

  • To describe the theoretical approach, the material analysed and the procedure applied (Swales and Feak, 2004).
  1. is explicit about what the author(s) did;
  2. gives reasons for actions, explains procedures, specifies categories etc., may give examples;
  3. procedures normally written in the past tense;
  4. packed with terminology
  5. sometimes subdivided into sections:
  6.     Context/site of research
    1. Participants
      1. Tools and data collection
      2. Analytical procedure

6. Results/Findings

–     To describe the findings with “variable amounts of commentary” (Swales and Feak, 2004: 157).

–     Answer our research questions

–     Arrange sub-headings according to the order of our RQs

–     Do not set out to answer that you did not propose

–     Double-check if you answered all RQs.

–     Note: It  may merge into discussion

  • It goes beyond factual recount of the findings;
  • It may involve a discussion section as well as the following:

–     Justifying the methodology;

–     Interpreting the results;

–     Citing agreement with previous studies;

–     Commenting on the data;

–     Admitting difficulties in interpretation;

–     Pointing out discrepancies (Swales and Feak, 2004: 171).

7.      Discussion (Conclusion)

 

  1. to offer “an increasinglygeneralized account of what has been learned in the study” (Swales and Feak, 2004: 157).

i.      must go back to the research question(s) asked in the introduction;

ii.      focuses on points rather than facts;

iii.      is interpretive rather than descriptive.

8.      Conclusion (Concluding or Final remarks/Direction for future research..)

Move 1: consolidate your research space (obligatory)

Move 2: indicate the limitations of your study (optional)

Move 3: identify useful areas of further research (optional)

9.      Reference

  • Use the suggested style, e.g. APA
  • Use alphabetical order
  • Cross-check all in-text citations are in the reference section and vice versa
  • Use the latest available resources

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty. Acts of academic dishonesty include Plagiarism (representing the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own), Cheating (getting credit by deceptive means), Fabrication (making up information), Falsification (altering information/records), Multiple Submissions (using the same work to receive multiple instances of credit) and Complicity (in any of the forms of academic dishonesty above)

People often plagiarize when they do not know about plagiarism and they do not feel their language skills are good enough. Those who are do not have enough time, people often plagiarize. Dishonesty and laziness and cultural differences are also responsible factor for plagiarism.

As consequences of plagiarism, we may defame our names.  We do not get published and we may be expelled from a college. Our thesis may not be accepted and we may not be promoted in our job. Therefore, we need to avoid plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism what we need to do is to be honest of ourselves. The strategies that can help us to avoid plagiarism are as follows.

• Summarize (and cite the source) = general meaning + our words           + citation

• Paraphrase (and cite the source) = exact words         + our words           +            citation

• Quote (and cite the source + page N) = exact words+ quotation marks+ citation +page no (APA)

 

Paraphrasing is used when we want to report all of the meaning of a sentence or passage, quotation should not be used while summarizing is probably the most common method used when we only want to report the main points of a passage or paper. Both paraphrasing and summarizing are similar in the way that they both involve putting information into our own words.

Quoting can be useful for showing exactly what someone has said about our topic, or when an author’s exact words are very important or interesting. While quoting, we must not quote too much but 10% of total paper –or less-in many fields. We can use quotes as the original words sound better than my words.”

 

Conclusions

Mr. Sharma concluded the workshop cum presentation with Do’s and Don’t’s in publication.

Do’s in Publishing

Don’t’s in Publishing
  • Plan ahead
  • Read and follow submission guidelines thoroughly
  • Review the most recent research on the topic; Review journal articles
  • Find some gap/hole in research
  • Write to the editors if you need resources or suggestions on your research
  • Show the paper to your colleague before you submit; Extra pair of eyes are useful
  • Write to the authors if you did not hear from them
  • If your manuscript goes through the review process, read the reviewer and editor comments carefully; they have spent a lot of time for your paper. Editors ‘never’ say they accept your paper without any changes.
  • Write to them for clarification or any possible conflicting suggestions from reviewers
  • Submit the revision; mention in the email what major changes you have made to the revised version
  • Wait patiently for the final decision; Make further revisions whenever necessary
  • Do not draft your paper overnight!
  • Do not plagiarize. We have softwares and techniques to trace that.
  • Do not write a fake research report. Editors can ask real data and can scrutinize further on methodology. Fake research reads fake.
  • Do not submit a paper that you wrote 10  years ago. Update it.
  • Do not include sources in references that you did not mention in the text, and vice versa
  • Do not submit a thesis chapter!
  • Do not submit a paper that is more like a text-book chapter; Journals publish ARTICLES.  (data-based; empirical)
  • Do not submit one paper simultaneously in two journals
  • Do not challenge editors!
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