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 John Ramsay
visits since 9th January 1997        Page last modified: 6.5.13 by Dr. John Ramsay

Site contents (sorted alphabetically by title):

Assessment material  Critical Thinking  Critical Writing & Reading 
CV writing Grammar, punctuation and spelling Group working skills
Health matters          Job interview techniques    J. Ramsay's Potted CV   
 J. Ramsay's other sites J. Ramsay's Bulletin Board     J. Ramsay's publications   
Learning Style Preferences Presentation techniques  Reading techniques 
 Reading List - learning skills Research techniques        Teaching Techniques
The trouble with Porter  Time management  Writing (assignments etc.) techniques  
Surf's up    

Dead link warning

Some of the links on this site take you to pages in a variety of locations around the world. I  have no control over them. The average life span of sites on the Web is around 45 days. There are not enough hours in the day for me to run around checking every international link on every web-site every morning. Consequently, it is quite possible that some of the links will be dead when you get to them. If you find such a dead link I would be grateful if you would let me know:

John Ramsay

Links to John Ramsay's other sites

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Further Reading

Recommended Readings for Writing, Reasoning, Researching and Learning - (J. Ramsay)

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Writing techniques

Referencing skills

Adding non-electronic quotations and references to your written work - (J. Ramsay)
How to make an entry in a reference list  (J. Ramsay)

How to make a reference list  (J. Ramsay)

How to cite a website in your written work - (J. Ramsay)

Adding references to newspaper articles found on websites - (J. Ramsay)



How to write business reports

If you are unsure about the details of business report writing, you may like to invest in Morton, G., Effective Business Writing: Principles and Applications, Harcourt Brace, Orlando, 1996

Review: This text is American, consequently some of the language used has to be translated back into English. However, it is an extremely clearly written book that covers an enormous number of topics including basic things like the use of verbs, and how to construct paragraphs. It also covers the usual skills of letter writing (including how to write job application letters). If your need is more pressing than that, you may find this site useful:

How to write a business report    - (Kenneth Beare)

Critical writing

The following link takes you to a document offering examples of different methods of criticising the published work of others:

Critical literature review techniques (J. Ramsay)

Warning: the links below take you to the views and procedures of other universities. These are not offered because we think you should follow their procedures slavishly, but because these sites also contain general information about how to read and write in a critical manner. So, ignore the detailed procedures and read critically (see the critical reading link!) looking for the general information:

Article critique guidelines I  - (Dr. Margaret Procte &Jerry Plotnick,, University of Toronto, University College Writing Workshop)

Article critique guidelines II - (New Jersey Institute of Technology, College of Computing Sciences)

Writing Critical Literature Reviews - (Junghyun An, College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

See also the 'critical reading' link below.

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 Critical Thinking

The words people use to express their ideas frequently have a persuasive effect that the unwary reader may fall prey to without realising that they have been subjected to persuasion. The following extract from an excellent text by D. McCloskey illustrates one example of this kind of effect:

....Wesley Clair Mitchell wrote, “it must never be forgotten that the development of the social sciences (including economics) is still a social process. Recognition of that view….leads one to study these sciences…[as] the product not merely of sober thinking but also subconscious wishing”…The passage contains at least these half-spoken hierarchies ready for liberating deconstruction (reading back to front, the terms in square brackets being those implied but not mentioned): sober/subconscious; thought/wishing; products/[mere ephemera]; sciences /[mere humanities]; study/[beach reading]; one/[you personally]; leads/[compels]; view/[grounded conviction]; sciences/[mere] processes; development/[mere chaotic change]; and must/[can]. The first term of each is the privileged one…Mitchell is …claiming the commanding heights of compelling and grounded conviction, not the soft valleys of merely gently leading ‘views’. Literary people speak of “deprivileging “ the superior term in such pairs....(p. 16)

McCloskey, D., (1998), The Rhetoric of Economics, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, USA

Moral: Be careful out there and keep your wits about you. Language is not simply a neutral medium of information transmission.

Constructing a sound argument - (J. Ramsay)

Critical thinking skills - (Critical Thinking across the Curriculum Project, Longview Community College)

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 Critical Reading

Reading critically  (Writing at the University of Toronto)


Becoming more critical

An overview on how to adopt a more critical approach in your reading, thinking and writing - (J. Ramsay)


There is some more critical reasoning material on this sister site:

Reasoning skills - (J. Ramsay)


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Grammar, punctuation and vocabulary

If you are trying to find out what a word means in English, then try this:

If you are trying to find out what a word written in American-English means in English then try this:

 If you want to translate from American into English, then try this: If you are writing and want to check up on a point of grammar, you could do worse than consult the following handbook which (according to the authors):

'....explains and illustrates the basic grammatical rules concerning parts of speech, phrases, clauses, sentences and sentence elements, and common problems of usage.'

Warning: This is a link to an American site, so remember that although the grammatical rules are the same, the meaning and spelling of some of the words they use over there differ from those in Standard English. (see English-American dictionaries)

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Reading techniques

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Presentation techniques and assessment

Powerpoint makes the creation of bullet-lists particularly easy and thus encourages their use. However, if your presentations consist mainly of bullet-lists of information the end result will be extremely boring for the audience.  

The trouble with Powerpoint

Bullet-lists are particularly problematic, but there are many shortcomings with Powerpoint in general. These have been discussed in detail in an essay called ‘The cognitive style of Powerpoint: Pitching out corrupts within’ written by Edward Tufte.

 Unfortunately he wants paying for the thing:

However, there is an interesting commentary on the essay here:


and a good (ironic) bullet-list summary of it here:


One of the reasons why Powerpoint and bullet-lists are so seductive in teaching is that it is possible to turn almost anything into a bullet-list. You can find one famously amusing illustration of this point here:   (NB this particular example, although pretty damn funny, does not have the resonance for us that an American audience might experience, since I understand that many of them believe it to be an outstanding example of high quality America-English prose, and will even have memorised it at school.  Absolutely finally, if you want to have a look at an intermittently humorous video illustration of the bad use of Powerpoint, then try this link and see if any of your slides are similar:


Suggested Improvements

Here is a presentation called: Presentation skills for Business


For some more ideas on how to do presentations with slides but without bullet-lists try this one:


This is a good example of how to do it without any slides at all:

If you like looking at other people’s presentations you might like to look at this site:

Finally, here is an example of a presentation created by some SU students where the material was screaming out for bullet-lists, but they managed to devise a whole range of different ways of presenting it that made the whole thing much more interesting for the audience - bullet-list avoidance example.

If you would like to obtain an alternative piece of software that approached presentations in a radically different way to Powerpoint, then try this:



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Assessment material 

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Research techniques

If you have occasion to search the British press for data the following sites may prove useful:


Using Google to access academic work

Google have a facility for searching only academic sources. It is called Google Scholar. You are an intelligent person; go and find it. 

The following links may be of use as a starting point if you are searching for news-based material relating to real business cases:

BBC news    ITN    CNN    Reuters    Times    Guardian     Observer    Independent    Sunday Times    Daily Telegraph   Financial Times    Wall Street Journal    Newsearch(Google)    NewsNow    Search engines looking at newspapers and magazines only (JournalismNet)
NB the mass news media are routinely riddled with various biases that undermine the reliability of their reports. If you are of the opinion that the last statement is fatuous or exaggerated then I recommend that you have at look at this site and read some of their empirical work:
The Glasgow Media Group

Research design and methodologies

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Time management 

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Group working skills

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Health matters


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Writing CVs

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Job Interview techniques

This link takes you to an article entitled 'Let your body do the talking' in which the author Kate Youde suggests eight ways to ensure you get it right at interviews.

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  Further material

This link takes you to a site with a lot of further material on learning and assessment techniques:  Brainware


Teaching Techniques

This site is primarily dedicated to helping students to improve their learning and thus grades, but there is a sister site containing information on teaching at this URL:



Surf's up

One of the biggest waves ever seen in the British isles (2006).

New record wave in December 2007:

John Ramsay's CV

The trouble with Porter - value chains and value

Following the publication in 1985 of Michael Porter's microeconomics textbook 'Competitive Advantage: creating and sustaining Superior Performance', the concept of 'value' swept through several academic fields including, most notably, Marketing and Strategy. In the former it generated a host of deeply confused discussions about customer value and in the latter it spawned much specious pontificating about the bizarre metaphor of value chains. This discussion paper 'The trouble with Porter' considers what 'value' might actually be, and concludes that there can be no such thing as a value chain. NB Students: it is not a formal academic paper, and should not be used a source of reference in assessed academic work, It is just intended to make you think. The arguments it contains may be incorrect! Are they?

This formal, published academic paper that can be quoted covers some of the same arguments:

The real meaning of value in trading relationships

Full-text, pre-publication versions of some JR papers:

Link to Incl. Electronic Paper Trope Control: The Costs and Benefits of Metaphor Unreliability in the Description of Empirical Phenomena
British Journal of Management, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 143-155, June 2004
John Ramsay

Staffordshire UniversityStaffordshire University Business School
Leek Road
Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DF
United Kingdom

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