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Surveying and engaging with a text

Remember that in your academic writing you need to include references to source texts you have read. Once you have found a text which is useful for your writing purpose, you will need to read it carefully again in order to extract the information you need for your writing assignment.

Remind yourself of the essay question:

“Evaluate the success or failure of the World Bank in water privatisation in the global south”

Before you start, take a look at the example of a set of notes which relate to the essay question. These notes are based on a text that a student has found and decided is relevant. This text is entitled “Utility Privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa: A case study of water” and was written by Kate Bayliss of the University of Greenwich, London. It was published in the Journal of Modern African Studies in 2003.

The selected text

The last two decades have witnessed a transformation in development policy, as state-led practices have become increasingly discredited and growing emphasis has been placed on the private sector. As part of this trend, privatisation has become a cornerstone of reform programmes which are adopting a ‘market-oriented’ policy agenda. Despite the realignment from structural adjustment to poverty reduction as the focus of the development framework in the late 1990s, privatisation remains a core policy throughout sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). While many governments have taken steps to implement privatisation programmes, progress has been slower than was anticipated in the early 1980s, and for a long period such programmes only featured smaller-scale enterprises. Now, due in part to donor pressure, governments are beginning to privatise larger enterprises and address the more contentious sales.

The student’s notes

An example of the student's notes which reads: 
**Notes on Bayliss, sub-Saharan Africa:**
•State-led practices discredited
•Privatisation -  market oriented policy agenda
•Change in focus from structural adjustment -  poverty reduction
•Monopolistic (requires effective regulation, yet weak state infrastructure)
•Foreign investment essential (but difficult to attract investors)
•Political interference in control and operation
Reasons for privatisation - poor performance under public ownership 
•old infrastructure 
•illegal connections > high leakage levels
•weak billing/revenue collection (government institutions not paying)
Donors are key reason for push to privatisation.

You can see that the student has engaged with the text. They have read actively, keeping their reading purpose in mind – the reasons for water privatisation.

After reading through the selected text and the student’s notes, which of these questions do you think the notes relate to?

  1. What is water privatisation?

  2. What is the World Bank’s role in water privatisation?

  3. Why is water being privatised?

  4. What are the implications of water privatisation?

Check the answer here or in the PDF at the bottom of this Step. In the next Step you are going to look at different techniques you can use for taking notes.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading