Inductive vs. Deductive Writing


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Kaplan University professor in the School of Business and IT

There are several ways to present information when writing, including those that employ inductive and deductive reasoning. The difference can be stated simply:

  • Inductive reasoning presents facts and then wraps them up with a conclusion.
  • Deductive reasoning presents a thesis statement and then provides supportive facts or examples.

Which should the writer use? It depends on content, the intended audience, and your overall purpose.

If you want your audience to discover new things with you, then inductive writing might make sense.   Here is n example:

My dog Max wants to chase every non-human living creature he sees, whether it is the cats in the house or rabbits and squirrels in the backyard. Sources indicate that this is a behavior typical of Jack Russell terriers. While Max is a mixed breed dog, he is approximately the same size and has many of the typical markings of a Jack Russell. From these facts along with his behaviors, we surmise that Max is indeed at least part Jack Russell terrier.

Within that short paragraph, you learned about Max’s manners and a little about what he might look like, and then the concluding sentence connected these ideas together. This kind of writing often keeps the reader’s attention, as he or she must read all the pieces of the puzzle before they are connected.

Purposes for this kind of writing include creative writing and perhaps some persuasive essays, although much academic work is done in deductive form.

If your audience is not likely going to read the entire written piece, then deductive reasoning might make more sense, as the reader can look for what he or she wants by quickly scanning first sentences of each paragraph. Here is an example:

My backyard is in dire need of cleaning and new landscaping. The Kentucky bluegrass that was planted there five years ago has been all but replaced by Creeping Charlie, a particularly invasive weed. The stone steps leading to the house are in some disrepair, and there are some slats missing from the fence. Perennials were planted three years ago, but the moles and rabbits destroyed many of the bulbs, so we no longer have flowers in the spring.

The reader knows from the very first sentence that the backyard is a mess! This paragraph could have ended with a clarifying conclusion sentence; while it might be considered redundant to do so, the scientific community tends to work through deductive reasoning by providing (1) a premise or argument – which could also be called a thesis statement, (2) then evidence to support the premise, and (3) finally the conclusion.

Purposes for this kind of writing include business letters and project documents, where the client is more likely to skim the work for generalities or to hunt for only the parts that are important to him or her. Again, scientific writing tends to follow this format as well, and research papers greatly benefit from deductive writing.

Whether one method or another is chosen, there are some other important considerations. First, it is important that the facts/evidence be true. Perform research carefully and from appropriate sources; make sure ideas are cited properly. You might need to avoid absolute words such as “always,” “never,” and “only,” because they exclude any anomalies. Try not to write questions: the writer’s job is to provide answers instead. Lastly, avoid quotes in thesis statements or conclusions, because they are not your own words – and thus undermine your authority as the paper writer.

 

Your Students are 13 Minutes Away From Avoiding Plagiarism


By Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center

Avoiding plagiarism begins with knowing how to quote, paraphrase, summarize, and cite sources. Knowing the university plagiarism policy can help too, for it will typically clarify the stickier matters of unintentional plagiarism and self-plagiarism. Faculty and students should re-visit the school policy from time to time, in fact. The definition of plagiarism is not universal. It can also change. In 2014, Kaplan University changed its Plagiarism Policy to the Academic Integrity Policy. As a result, the KU Writing Center has been updating the plagiarism and citation resources with the new wording to ensure faculty and students have the most current and reliable information.

One resource was especially important to update: “Avoiding Plagiarism: An Interactive Self-Assessment.” This one video tutorial had nearly 6000 hits last year. At just over 13 minutes long, the tutorial features nine college writing situations where plagiarism may be occurring. Each scenario is followed by a quiz to help students determine their current understanding of plagiarism and learn why, when, and how to cite sources, even in PowerPoint presentations and rough drafts. The tutorial also highlights key excerpts of the Academic Integrity Policy, links to the newly updated Basic Citation Guidelines resource, and ends with a hotspot that opens the Writing Center homepage, so it provides quality instruction, key information, and access to immediate and additional support in one short video.

Share it with your students today! Click here: http://www.screencast.com/t/s8DtPUni

(c) Kaplan University Writing Center

Avoiding Plagiarism video: click to open.

Three Common APA Mistakes Students Make


By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

Learning and using APA Style, or any citation style, can be difficult for students. While there are many areas where students may encounter confusion, in the writing center we often see students repeating the same types of mistakes, and, unfortunately, some of these mistakes tend to look like plagiarism. By understanding some of the most common mistakes students may be making and the misconceptions that may be behind the errors, tutors and teachers can help students learn how to correctly use APA Style and avoid issues with plagiarism in their writing.

  1. Citations and references do not match. – Often students will use one piece of bibliographical information to cite a source in-text and then begin the full reference with a different piece of information. For example, I often see the title of the article, journal, or book cited in the text when the reference, correctly, begins with the author’s last name.   Another very common error occurs when students cite in-text with the URL for the source.   While there may be a number of reasons that students make this type of error, one possible reason is that they are attempting to establish credibility by including the medium in the text of their essays. My advice to students when they make this mistake is to do a careful comparison of their in-text citations and full references to ensure that the information in each citation exactly matches the first word in the reference.   It is also usually helpful to remind students that APA follows an author-date system to cite in-text and that information like an URL does not indicate the author or the year.
  2. The student includes too much information in references. I often see references with information like the author’s university affiliations, professional titles, and degrees. Similarly, a reference might include information like the number of charts and tables in an article.   There may be a couple reasons that students err by including too much information in references. They may simply be copying all of the bibliographic information from the source and then pasting it on their references page.   Student writers also may be including extra information to show that their sources are credible. In this case, it is helpful to remind students that references generally should have only four key pieces of information: Who, When, What, and Where.
  3. Sometimes students’ work reflects an attempt at APA, but all of the elements may not be present. For example, students may have in-text citations but no references on a references page, or, they may have no in-text citations but complete references. Sometimes, there may be some in-text citations, but not enough. In these cases, there may a couple different misconceptions in play.   Students may not fully understand, for example, that both citations and references are required for successful use of APA. In this case, I find it helpful to remind students that each serve separate and important purposes. Citations indicate what information in the students’ work has been borrowed from other sources and which outside sources the information has been borrowed from. Full references are included so that the reader, if desired, can locate the source that the writer has cited.   Finally, sometimes several passages in the students’ work have obviously been borrowed from outside sources, but there is not sufficient citation.   For example, I typically see only one citation at the end of the paragraph mainly composed of source material.   This may especially occur when students are writing about topics that they may have initially been unfamiliar with; thus they may struggle with citing entire paragraphs of paraphrased material. When I see this issue in students’ writing, I often direct them to a helpful post from the APA Style Blog, Citing Paraphrased Work in APA Style.     In this post, APA Style Expert, Timothy McAdoo (2011) poses the question of what to do when writers need to “ clearly attribute multiple ideas within a paragraph yet maintain a readable and interesting text” (para. 2) and invites readers to share examples in the comments. Several readers share examples that include providing the author’s name in the running text of the essay. Students can review these examples and see how to successfully attribute paraphrased work and, hopefully, avoid insufficient citing.

By knowing some of the common mistakes that students make when learning to use APA and the misconceptions that may be behind those mistakes, tutors and teachers can take a proactive approach to helping students understand the correct use of APA Style and avoid plagiarism.

References

McAdoo, T. (2011). Citing paraphrased work in APA style.   Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2011/03/citing-paraphrased-work-in-apa-style.html

Blogging to Enhance a Job Search


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Kaplan University professor in the School of Business and IT

Everyone wants to enhance the chances for a better job, and blogging can help!

You can share your career-related knowledge by posting good content. In what areas do you want to be considered an expert? A web developer might write about the value of validation or appropriate use of color. A medical assistant might write about the need to stick to HIPAA or recommend ways to deal with rude patients. A paralegal might write about courtroom dress code or the need to document everything thoroughly. No matter your career area, you could provide how-to lists, suggestions for certifications, what-if scenarios, and personal experiences. You can also link to other things you have done!

How does this help your job search, you ask? Many employers will look for information about job candidates by simply using a search engine and checking what comes up on the results list. Wouldn’t it be great for those employers to see your blog and find that you know your topics well? You can also list the web address right on your resume to make sure they can find it, of course.

Keeping this in mind, then, remember to post only positive information. Negativity towards anything can have the opposite effect you want, as that employer might perceive you as a simply another complainer who likes to post online. Complainers are not high on the employment list.

Similarly, use professional language. Informality may be construed as insincere or even flippant.

Another perk of writing a blog is that it helps you hone your communication skills through frequent writing practice. This is not only good as a student, but for the workplace, too.

Blogging is free, and you don’t need someone else’s permission to do it! Consider Word Press, Google’s Blogger (also known as Blogspot), or blog.com. Whichever system you choose, it may take you a little time to set up, but these platforms are created so that you don’t need to know any HTML coding to get it done.

Important things to consider:

  • Maintain control of what is shown on your blog pages, including comments. Set up your blog to disallow comments if you are worried there may be negative responses,  and/or you don’t intend to watch the comments carefully. Alternatively, most systems have a feature where you allow comments only with moderation, which means you get to decide whether or not to let each comment be seen.
  • Don’t hide your blog! Make sure you allow the blog to be listed by search engines.
  • Encourage your readers to sign up for the RSS feed, so they will get automatic notification when you have entered a new post. There should be a simple link somewhere on your blog pages to a “feed” that takes the reader to information about this.
  • Post regularly – for example, once a week or twice a month. Those who sign up for the feed will appreciate the regularity of notifications.
  • Proofread! What you post can only have a positive effect on your resume if it shows you can communicate well.
  • Make sure your content is original. Any plagiarism will reflect on you quite poorly, and yes, it will be noticed! If you want to share someone else’s ideas, link to them. If you really want to quote or paraphrase, make sure you clearly identify the source material (aha – finally we have a prospective use for APA).
  • Highly important: Do *not* post your schoolwork, as it would enable others to cheat. As the “enabler,” you could be held responsible by your school and be subject to a plagiarism report. Always write new content!
  • Lastly, customize the design if you have the knowledge to do so. If you’re not very technical, ask a friend to help, and make sure it looks professional when you’re done.

Blogs can be fun and showcase your knowledge. These are great reasons for blogging as you seek to enhance your job search!

Here’s a New Writing Center Video to Help First-Term Students Access the Writing Center


by Chrissine Rios, MA, Kaplan University Writing Center

Writing Center success, above all, takes getting students through the door, be it a virtual door or one hinged to a wall. Instructors remain a Writing Center’s greatest allies for spreading the word about the writing support available. (Thank you, instructors!) Yet even when help is a few clicks away, it can take time for new online students to acquire the web skills needed to navigate beyond their course homepage and access the live services once there.

The newest introduction video for the KUWC takes this into account. Only one minute and 27 seconds long with hot spots that open the service pages directly, the students who need help the most—those struggling academically, in their first term, or in need of learner readiness support—will know where to go, what to do, and how to get there. If you are a KU instructor, please share it with all your students: http://bit.ly/kuwc-hello 

To everyone who teaches, tutors, manages, or directs writing programs or writing centers elsewhere, let us know in the comments how you reach your first-term students. Perhaps a video like this would work for your students too!

KUWC Intro Video: Click to Open

KUWC Intro Video: Click to Open

Simple Mantras for Positive Learning


by Amy Sexton, Writing Center Tutor, Kaplan University Writing Center
Tutoring and learning can be frustrating.   Tutoring and learning online often is even more frustrating. Tutors and learners in an online environment usually do not have the benefit of non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language. Technology, as wonderful as it is, often acts up at the worst time, leaving the tutor and student focused on troubleshooting a connectivity issue or browser problem while the original intent of the tutorial session or paper review falls to the wayside.   Perhaps, most importantly, tutoring often occurs when students need additional support outside of the classroom. Sometimes busy students will attempt the class work on their own, seeking tutoring only after they have exhausted all other means, and, often for good reason, are frustrated and stressed.   How can tutors best help students when they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and crunched for time?

While there are perhaps hundreds of different ways to answer this question, remembering two key points has helped me throughout my career in academic support.   The points are actually based on the mantras within The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997), but I have found them to have especially practical implications in online tutoring and academic support.   They are easy to implement, and practiced regularly, even make the work more enjoyable, while also helping to create positive learning outcomes for students. These mantras are “Don’t take anything personally.” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 47) and “Don’t make assumptions.” (Ruiz, 1997, p. 68).

As previously mentioned, students often seek tutoring services when they need help the most. and, sometimes, at the very last minute.   Tutors should strive to not take students’ frustrations about the learning or writing process or lack of good timing personally, but instead to empathize with them and help them see how frustration can actually become a very productive part of learning and that proper planning can prevent future stress. Miscommunication and misconceptions often occur in the online learning environment, and sometimes issues arise as a result.   Tutors who expect to encounter such issues and decide to not personalize them will find it much easier to help students work through them.

The other mantra is to not make assumptions.   Assumptions can be made very easily in tutoring and learning, especially online. Tutors may assume that the student who is not responding or actively participating in a live tutorial session is unresponsive, but what if he or she simply does not know how to respond? Tutors may assume that the graduate student should be able to use formatting and citation guidelines, but what if the student has been outside of academia for decades?   In either case, the tutors’ assumptions would have been untrue, and, worst, would have negatively influenced their expectations of their students.

By not taking anything personally, tutors may find that they enjoy their work more. They do not internalize negativity and are better able to think positively about challenging situations. By avoiding assumptions, they may find that they are better equipped to meet students where they are and offer them the best possible tutorial services.   All of these are excellent outcomes for learners and tutors alike!
References

Ruiz, D.M. (1997).   The four agreements: A Toltec wisdom book. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen.

Writing to Learn: Strategies for Comprehending Content Area Texts


Misty LaCour, Ed.D.

Kaplan University Professor, School of Graduate Education – Teacher Education

Have you ever read a chapter in a content area textbook and wondered what in the world you just read?

Sometimes we all have difficulty in reading specialized textbooks for content areas. No matter how great of a reader you are, these texts can be challenging because they often use specialized vocabulary and  may be difficult to comprehend.

Writing can be a process of organizing and gathering our thoughts while reading these difficult texts. Writing can also assist us in gleaning the important information from texts and lend us a helping hand in comprehending difficult content textbooks. This type of writing does not follow a specific process or traditional writing rules. Instead, writing to learn is just that – writing to help yourself learn concepts.

Below are specific techniques you can use to obtain ideas from reading and help promote your critical and creative thinking:

Microthemes – While reading text, pause to think about the key ideas you’ve just read. Take note of these key ideas in your own words. A great way to collect your microthemes is to take your notes on index cards. After reading a chapter or chapters, you will have a set of notecards with the microthemes from the reading that you can use to review the text and prepare for class lectures or exams (Knipper & Duggan, 2006).

Text boxes – Divide a sheet of paper into two columns. While reading, make notes of important facts and ideas in the first column. After reading, write your reflections and any questions you have after reading the text in the second column (Knipper & Duggan, 2006).

Sentence synthesis – Most textbooks provide a list of keywords for each chapter of the text. After reading the chapter, challenge yourself to use the keywords to write a sentence or sentences summarizing the main points of the chapter (Knipper & Duggan, 2006).

Use these strategies while reading content area texts to help you better comprehend the information and better prepare for class assignments, lectures, and exams.

Check out more ideas for writing to learn in “Writing to Learn Across the Curriculum:  Tools for Comprehension in Content Area Classes”.

References

Knipper, K.J. & Duggan, T. J. (2006). Writing to learn across the curriculum: Tools for comprehension in content area classes. The Reading Teacher, 59(5), 462-470.  Retrieved from http://fu-ctge-5548.wikispaces.com/file/view/Knipper+and+Duggan.pdf