About the Organisation
In 2017, Mendlife Foundation started working for the cause of educating and empowering the underprivileged youth of Delhi to help them attain sustainable livelihood. As it has flourished and flies on the goodwill of many, it not only focuses on the cause of education and livelihood but also works towards making a radical change in the lives of people from other marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community, economically disadvantaged children, and women. In their effort towards equipping young minds with skills to aid their cause, they organized a workshop on January 8, 2022 for 25-odd individuals, facilitated by Dr. Gerald Walton on the topic “Academic Writing”.
Dr. Gerald Walton
Dr. Walton is a professor in the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University, Canada. His primary research interest lies in the sociological aspects of violence and bullying in society. He has published and edited the volume, The Gay Agenda: Claiming Space, identity, and justice (2014), and co-authored the book, Being boys: Shaping gender norms to weaken rape culture (2021). Over the years, she has gathered significant experience in writing and publishing research work. They mentor many young scholars and continue to hone their writing skills with each passing day.
Proceedings of the Workshop
Academic writing is a form that expresses and helps disseminate academic knowledge. It is a systematic form of communication that typically follows prescribed formats, guidelines, and normative standards. It helps communicate essential findings that academicians and researchers discover. This form requires skills like analyzing, paraphrasing, summarising, citing, and referencing.
After a brief introduction by members of the foundation, Dr. Walton had the floor to himself. They were pleasantly surprised with their introduction and mentioned it was the first time mixed pronouns were used to address them! Having been in the education field for years, Dr. Walton shared a few snippets of his journey so far. Recalling a particular instance in his educational career that he described as being a “sink or swim” moment in his life, he mentioned being
particularly challenged by the demands and expectations of one of his professors back when he was studying.
He then began the formal session by introducing the concept of academic knowledge, describing it as “a form of knowledge that is a product of systematic procedure of steps taken to investigate phenomena”. Academic knowledge is scientific as it is based on empirical evidence. Dr. Walton argued against the notion that academic knowledge is always objective and stated that it was a myth. According to him, all research is clouded with a bias to an extent. Furthermore, he also asked that academic knowledge be dethroned from the high status and position it occupies relative to other forms of knowledge.
After explaining the essence of academic knowledge, the session's focus shifted gears towards teaching skills required to write academically. Sir explained the vitality behind proper writing skills due to the common practice of loading write-ups with complicated jargon instead of understanding the audience a write-up is intended for. He also critically mentioned the importance of acknowledging the sources that one refers to for their write-ups. He highlighted the importance of giving credit where it was due to depict authenticity and truthfulness. Authenticity is generally reflected in the form of citations and references. Citations are placed in the body of the work while references are in the form of a list, placed at the end of the write-up.
Sir particularly focused on paraphrasing and summarising skills. He pointed out an unethical practice yet the standard error of rewording text using synonyms in the name of paraphrasing. Paraphrasing instead is a tool used to rephrase in one’s own words. It is an interpretation of the text that one is referring to. On the other hand, summarising compiles all the critical aspects of a large body of text into a shorter, concise, coherent version.
Towards the end, Sir conducted a small practice session wherein members were segregated into groups and assigned either summarizing or paraphrasing a body of text. Each group member brainstormed and bounced ideas off of each other. They wrote down their own versions and then discussed which was the most appropriate. This version was then fine-tuned, edited, and finally presented by a volunteer. Sir provided constructive feedback to each group and gave them tips to improve their work in the future. He made sure to highlight the correct and incorrect aspects of each group’s presentation.
Finally, sir addressed technical questions from the participants. The formal session concluded after the Q & A segment.
Members of Mendlife Foundation wrapped up the session with an expression of gratitude and appreciation through artwork and messages for Dr. Walton’s valuable teaching, time, and effort in the workshop.