Find your article writing MATE in the “Most Awesome Tool Ever”
Are you a beginning author looking for help in developing academic articles worthy of publication? Do you find the process of organizing your academic journal articles challenging? Perhaps you’ve been successfully writing and publishing articles but are looking for a tool that can help you get better results, faster.
In her presentation at TAA’s 31st Annual Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, Katherine Landau Wright shared the “Most Awesome Tool Ever” – MATE – that she developed with TAA member Patricia Goodson to help anyone learn how to write for academic journals.
Founded in the idea that “academic writing is a unique genre that must be/can be learned”, the MATE tool is designed to facilitate learning through social interaction and emulating the work of others. This idea is grounded in the theory that “The process of writing can serve as interaction with one’s self, and help an individual organize, reformulate, and essentially transform existing knowledge into new concepts” (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987).
While it is commonly proposed that to write better, you need to read more, Wright states that reading, alone, cannot improve writing. Writing requires practice. Further, having models facilitates a better, more effective writing practice. This is where the MATE tool is helpful.
From the session description, “The MATE tool combines the techniques of copying and deliberate practice (using a model, slowing down, paying attention, obtaining feedback) to facilitate composing a journal article for publication. The MATE tool is especially useful for academics who are inexperienced in writing research reports for publication, as it teaches how to follow adequate models. The tool is structured for articles using the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion), but can be adapted to fit other formats/structures, as well.”
So how exactly does this work?
In a four-column structure, the MATE tool guides the researcher through a series of questions about both the model article and their own writing. Those questions make it easier for the researcher to search for specific information and model responses in the source article and consequently develop emulated responses for their own writing.
For example, one of the critical elements in the Introduction section of an article is a statement of purpose. When examining the model article, the researcher looks for the answer to the questions, “What is the purpose of the study? What verb(s) does the author use to identify this purpose?”
After reading and identifying the way that the model article answers these questions, the author is then guided to think about their own research and answer the questions, “What is the purpose of your study? What verbs will you use to identify the purpose?”
A series of 17 question sets following the IMRAD format provide a foundation for learning the unique genre of academic writing.
Not only is the tool effective for use by beginning academic authors for this process of learning, but it can be used in the review of manuscripts for journals, as a checklist for assessing logic/presentation quality of published articles, and for providing feedback to students.