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Moravian College Professor Offers Writing Tips

Dr. Dana S. Dunn’s A Short Guide to Writing About Psychology in its Second Edition

Bethlehem, Pa., September 19, 2007—Concern that writing skills are essential for students to master prompted Moravian College Professor Dana S. Dunn to release a new and revised second edition of his book, A Short Guide to Writing About Psychology, (Pearson Longman 2008), featuring up-to-date writing techniques and the latest APA-style guidelines. This brief guide helps students to learn the skills necessary for writing in psychology and are applicable to writing in many disciplines.

Dunn asserts in his book that “to write well, you must write often.” Tips in the guide lead students through the writing process step by step —how to choose a topic, and then to outline, draft and revise papers, and to seek feedback from peers. In addition, it presents thorough discussions about how to research psychological literature in the library and on the Internet and how to present those findings in written and oral formats. Special attention is given to the interpretation and reporting of the results of statistical tests, as well as the preparation of data displays in tables and figures. The guide introduces students to all elements of professional writing in APA style, and offers practical tips for general types of writing that students encounter in the social sciences.

Dunn observes that writing is a matter of planning and managing time. “All of us know it, some of us do it, while others continue to struggle.”  Tips in the guide are focused on research-based studies, and not creative writing, and prompt the writer to be concise and direct. Updated directions for citing Internet sources, including electronic journals, e-chapters, and e-books are detailed; and it provides a visual overview of the five steps of the writing process, and explains structured guidelines for writing a clear, APA-style abstract in 120 words or less. Dunn discusses more forms of student writing – including letters, one-minute papers, and blogs, and emphasizes the distinctions between expressive and transactional writing in the guide.

Dana S. Dunn is professor of psychology and director of the Learning in Common Curriculum at Moravian College. He is also the author of The Practical Researcher: A Student Guide to Conducting Psychological Research (1999), Statistics and Data Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences (2001) and the forthcoming Research Methods for Social Psychology. He is co-editor of three other books dealing with pedagogy in psychology, including Measuring Up: Assessment Challenges and Practices for Psychology (2004).

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.

Quick tips to improve writing

   1. Always create an outline before beginning to write anything, whether it is an essay, an article or a memo.
   2. Begin to write well in advance of your deadline--no one writes well when racing to finish a piece of writing.
   3. Spread your writing across several sessions rather than engaging in a bout of binge writing at the last minute.
   4. Revise and edit as you go along from session to session.
   5. Revise your work from start to finish before beginning a new writing session.
   6. Ask a peer to read what you write before submitting it.
   7. Incorporate peer comments into the final version.

Important issues for educators to consider when helping students write

   1. Help students understand the purpose underlying their writing.
   2. Identify the audience who will read and learn from (not just evaluate) the writing.
   3. Help students contextualize writing assignments and learn to identify the context for the writing (e.g., a class, the discipline, personal writing).
   4. Encourage students to describe a piece of writing to a friend or peer.  Telling someone about what you want to do is a good way to clear thoughts and clarify purpose.
   5. Besides getting into the habit of writing more frequently for shorter periods of time, students should get into the habit of editing and revising at the start of every writing session.  There is no better way to get back “inside” a piece of writing than to start reading it again—from beginning to end—and to edit as you go.
   6. Write for shorter periods of time, complete one section rather than several at one sitting, and always leave a place to start again at the next writing session.
   7. Break complex assignments into do-able parts. Begin with the easy, familiar, or comfortable sections first, save the tougher parts for later.