Janene van Loon, Arnoud Thüss, Nicole Schmidt and Kevin Haines - Academic Writing in English

Academic Writing in English

A Process-Based Approach

Janene van Loon, Arnoud Thüss, Nicole Schmidt and Kevin Haines

u i t g e v e r ij


c o u t i n h o

Academic Writing in English

Academic Writing in English

A Process-Based Approach

Janene van Loon Arnoud Thüss Nicole Schmidt Kevin Haines

Third, revised edition

c u i t g e v e r ij

c o u t i n h o

bussum 2018

For teachers This book is accompanied by a Teacher’s guide with didactic suggestions and sample answers to the tasks, as well as Vocabulary exercises . To ob- tain this material, teachers can fill in the request form on www.coutinho.nl/ academicwritingenglish .

© 2011/2018 Uitgeverij Coutinho bv All rights reserved.

No parts of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storing in an information retrieval system or otherwise, without prior permission from the publisher, unless it is in accordance with the exemptions established in the Copy- right Law of 1912. For reprographic reproduction as permitted on the basis of Article 16h of the Cop- yright Law of 1912, the legally required fee should be paid to Stichting Reprorecht (PO Box 3051, 2130 KB Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, www.reprorecht.nl). Enquir- ies concerning the reproduction of parts of this publication in anthologies, read- ers and other compilations (Article 16, Copyright Law 1912) should be made to the publication and reprographic rights organization: Stichting PRO, PO Box 3060, 2130 KB Hoofddorp, the Netherlands, www.stichting-pro.nl).

First edition 2011 Third, revised edition 2018

Uitgeverij Coutinho PO Box 333 1400 AH Bussum The Netherlands info@coutinho.nl www.coutinho.nl

Cover design: Steef Liefting, Amsterdam

Note from the publisher Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders. Persons or organizations wishing to assert specific rights are kindly requested to contact the publisher.

ISBN 978 90 469 0649 1 NUR 632


The Language Centre of the University of Groningen is experienced in pro- viding academic writing courses in English to students from a variety of dis- ciplines. The challenge for many of these students is that they are learning to write in academic style at the same time as they are developing their language skills as writers of English as a second language. Such learners have the ad- vantage that they have access to authentic ideas and material from elsewhere in their curriculum, which provides them with excellent subject matter for their writing. With this in mind, we set about writing a book that would guide learners through the academic writing process, using their own material as the focus of this writing practice. This book aims to support student writers in the development of academic writing skills and strategies. The book takes a process-based approach, pro- viding students with the opportunity to produce one or more texts as they work through all the stages of the writing process from pre-writing to edit- ing. During this process, learners are encouraged to practise new techniques at various levels of difficulty and to reflect not only on their own written work but also on the work of their peers. This helps learners to become aware of their needs and to set themselves personal learning goals. The instruc- tor should see this book as a tool that can be used both to support general writing development and to target specific weaknesses in academic writing. Within the consistent framework of each chapter, the instructor can decide which materials best fulfil the needs of learners in their specific academic context. The book includes the following features: ■■ the continual development of one long-termwriting assignment through- out the book; ■■ scaffolding activities that practise key writing skills and support the devel- opment of learner autonomy; ■■ authentic samples of texts from academic journals and student writing; ■■ awareness-raising activities, such as goal setting, self-reflection, and peer feedback. In this third edition, some theory and exercises have been added. We have taken suggestions of users in higher education into account and also used this revision to add new insights. This has resulted in more information about resources supporting academic vocabulary, such as Google Ngram Viewer, more information about documenting sources, and a more elaborate section

on flow and designing for the reader. Moreover, we have updated example texts and added more practice material.

Acknowledgements We would like to express our appreciation to the Language Centre of the University of Groningen for the support it has given us in the writing of this book. We would like to thank all our colleagues in the English section for the inspiration and ideas that they have given us during this process. We would especially like to thank our colleagues in the Law team for providing detailed feedback on many of the tasks. We could not have written this book without you! We would also like to thank our students. The work of students has provid- ed us with the foundation for many of the tasks in this book; we have gained many insights both from the work produced by our students and from our observations of the way in which they have approached the writing process. Finally, thanks to our reviewers at other universities for supplying us with such useful and meaningful feedback. We greatly appreciate the time that you spent on our manuscript, and we have done our best to incorporate your ideas into our text. Janene van Loon, Arnoud Thüss, Nicole Schmidt, and Kevin Haines Summer 2018

For teachers This book is accompanied by a Teacher’s guide with didactic suggestions and sample answers to the tasks, as well as Vocabulary exercises . To obtain this material, teachers can fill in the request form on www.coutinho.nl/ academicwritingenglish .




1 Purpose 2 Method 3 Framework 4 Chapter guide

12 12 13 14 15 16 19

5 Coded practice tasks 6 Peer feedback

7 The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)


Introduction to academic writing


1.1 Orientation 1.2 Goal setting

22 22 23 26 27 29 33 37 40 46 48 52 57 57 58

1.3 Perspectives on the writing process 1.4 An introduction to academic style 1.5 Academic papers: circular organisation 1.6 Academic papers: the expository essay 1.7 Academic papers: the argumentative essay 1.8 Academic papers: the research report 1.9 Business texts: the investigative business report 1.10 Plagiarism and abused quotations

1.11 Academic vocabulary

1.12 Resources supporting academic vocabulary

1.13 Developing your text 1.14 Peer feedback

1.15 Evaluation


Pre-writing and the rhetorical situation


2.1 Orientation 2.2 Goal setting 2.3 Brainstorming 2.4 Defining scope

59 60 61 63 65

2.5 Researching and active reading

2.6 Note-taking

68 69 73 74 80 87 88 90

2.7 Pre-writing: topic analysis 2.8 Documenting sources

2.9 Developing a rhetorical situation: purpose, audience, genre, register, and style

2.10 Register and style 2.11 Developing your text 2.12 Peer feedback

2.13 Evaluation




3.1 Orientation 3.2 Goal setting

91 94 94 99

3.3 The thesis statement 3.4 The introductory paragraph

3.5 The outline

103 104 105 111 115 127 128 131

3.6 The structure of a research report

3.7 The business report 3.8 Reporting verbs 3.9 Integrating sources 3.10 Developing your text 3.11 Peer feedback

3.12 Evaluation




4.1 Orientation 4.2 Goal setting

133 134 135 141 143 144 148 154 155 158 159 162

4.3 Paragraph requirements 4.4 Drafting a paragraph 4.5 Internal paragraph structure 4.7 Connectors and punctuation 4.8 Paragraph length 4.9 Concluding paragraphs 4.10 Developing your text 4.6 Paragraph levels

4.11 Peer feedback 4.12 Evaluation




5.1 Orientation 5.2 Goal setting

163 164 164 166 170 174 177 179 180 182 183 184 185 186 188 191 194 196 200 204 210 211 214 215 216 217 219 221 222 224 227 227 183 215

5.3 Concluding sentences

5.4 Rephrasing for concluding sentences 5.5 Transition sentences 5.6 Connectors and punctuation 5.7 Paragraph structure review 5.8 Developing your text

5.9 Peer feedback 5.10 Evaluation



6.1 Orientation 6.2 Goal setting

6.3 Fine-tuning your feedback 6.4 Supporting claims 6.5 Logical argumentation 6.6 Critical thinking 6.7 Designing for the reader 6.8 Sentence structure 6.9 Connectors and punctuation

6.10 Being concise 6.11 Developing your text 6.12 Peer feedback

6.13 Evaluation



7.1 Orientation 7.2 Goal setting 7.3 The title

7.4 Vocabulary check 7.5 The reference page 7.6 Argumentation check

7.7 The final edit

7.8 Developing your text / Peer feedback

7.9 Evaluation







Sources of texts in examples and tasks




About the authors



This opening section gives an overview of the main features of this book as well as some important points of reference for the reader. In particular, we outline the following aspects:

■■ purpose ■■ method ■■ framework ■■ chapter guide ■■ coded practice tasks ■■ peer feedback ■■ the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR)

This book has its roots in the academic writing courses delivered at the Lan- guage Centre of the University of Groningen. The authors have been in- volved in teaching the writing of academic essays, reports, and papers to sec- ond-language learners of English with various levels of writing experience for many years. In this book, we draw together some common threads from these courses, which we offer at Pre-university, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD levels. Our starting point for all such courses is that academic writing is not an intrinsically straightforward process, and that consequently there are no easy answers to the question “How do I go about writing this paper?” A text develops over time and involves false starts and many revisions. Fur- thermore, writers are individuals with their own approaches, their own strengths and weaknesses, and a writing course often challenges them to reconsider deep-seated habits. The development of maturity as a writer re- quires a self-critical approach, which is encouraged throughout this book through peer feedback and self-reflection procedures. These procedures en- courage learners to reflect on the writing process in a structured way, ques- tioning the choices they make as they proceed through different stages of the writing process. We guide them through this process by focusing on key factors in the context for which they are writing, starting with purpose and audience. We recognise that academic writing in English will be particularly challenging for a second-language writer. Nevertheless, we believe that there are struc- tural, linguistic, and stylistic skills and strategies that provide a foundation to every writer when producing an academic text. This book aims to increase learners’ awareness and understanding of these skills and strategies, with the result that both a more mature text and a more mature writer emerge. Fur-


Academic Writing in English

thermore, we present a number of tools that can help second-language writ- ers to improve the quality of their texts: these include tools that increase learner awareness of specific academic vocabulary such as the Academic Word List (AWL). We also recommend an informed use of the Common European Framework (CEFR) Can Do statements as a means of establishing self-awareness at the start of the process. 1 Purpose The purpose of this book is to focus on the needs of learners in develop- ing academic writing skills through a process-based approach. This goal is achieved through a variety of tasks that promote language development, crit- ical thinking skills, and personal awareness of the use of writing skills and strategies. Throughout the book, learners are encouraged to examine and develop their own writing processes in the light of the genre-specific models or examples provided. In this way, learners will develop the appropriate use of English in the academic genre and consequently increase their overall con- fidence in writing at an academic level. 2 Method Each chapter takes the writer a step further in the development of an aca- demic text through coded practice tasks and the development of a long-term writing assignment or developing text . The book can be seen as a flexible resource that can be used in slightly different ways in different settings. We have therefore provided the instructor with two options: Option 1 The first option is to use the materials alongside the development of a long- term writing assignment , a process which is guided throughout the book. In this option, the instructor may provide students with instructions for an ex- tensive writing assignment such as a paper or an essay. The book can be used to guide the students through the complete writing process. This process is addressed explicitly in the Goal setting Section of every chapter, the Devel- oping your text Section, and other tasks that are marked with the Develop- ing your text icon . Learners who are involved in writing this long-term assignment will also make use of this developing text in the Peer feedback and Evaluation Sections at the end of each chapter. Through this option, learners will work on one developing text throughout the book, and this text will be finished on completion of the last chapter.



Option 2 If the instructor’s teaching context does not allow for a single long-term writ- ing assignment, the second option is to assign locally appropriate topics to learners using the open Four Wing tasks that are also provided towards the end of each chapter (for further explanation of the Wing codes, see be- low). These tasks will encourage learners to produce several pieces of their own writing either on the topics provided or on academic topics chosen by their instructor as relevant to the local academic context. The texts produced in these tasks can also be used as the basis for the Peer feedback and Evalu- ation Sections at the end of each chapter. Both of the above options are supported by the regular practice tasks that provide the bulk of the material in each chapter. Through these practice tasks, responsibility for the learning process is gradually transferred from the instructor to the learner, which is referred to in the literature as “scaffolding”. The coded practice tasks allow instructors to make informed choices regard- ing the types of tasks that are most appropriate for their particular group of learners. 3 Framework The chapters in this book closely follow the stages of the writing process. This enables the instructor to systematically teach learners the problem-solving skills that are required at each stage. Inspired by Seow (2002), the writing process described in this book incorporates six stages: pre-writing, planning, drafting, revising, fine-tuning, and editing. Pre-writing At this stage, the writer determines the topic and how it should be devel- oped within the academic genre. Consequently, the writer is urged to make decisions with regard to purpose and audience, and these decisions will be reflected in the chosen register and style. Planning During the planning stage, the writer develops a thesis statement and pre- pares an outline for the academic text. A referencing system is also estab- lished, allowing the source materials that have been gathered to be organised and integrated into the text. Drafting The drafting stage is the phase during which textual concerns such as para- graph structure and the use of connectors become increasingly important.


Academic Writing in English

Revising Revising involves the polishing of the paper, the review of paragraph struc- ture, and the reconsideration of aspects such as cohesion. During this stage, the paper should evolve into a well-structured, coherent piece of writing. Fine-tuning At this stage, the writer checks for consistency of argumentation in the paper and may rethink some of the decisions that have been made regarding lan- guage and structure. Editing The final stage of the writing process involves the writer reviewing the text in order to check it one final time, usually just before submitting it to meet a deadline. 4 Chapter guide The following section provides a user-friendly explanation of what to expect in each chapter of the book: Introduction Each chapter begins with a summary of what has already been learnt and what should be expected from the current chapter. Orientation task In the introduction to the chapter, a guided task urges learners to use their background knowledge to reflect on the next stage(s) of the writing process. This reflective task stimulates ideas that lead to a set of specific goals in the next section. Scaffolded goal setting After viewing a model text and completing an orientation task, students are guided towards choosing a set of specific short-term goals that they would like to achieve with their developing text by the end of the chapter. Goal set- ting involves the transfer of the thoughts that are activated in the orientation task to the learners’ own piece of writing. For this reason, this section is re- lated to the Section Developing your text. Theory and practice tasks Each chapter explains a set of skills, and it then challenges learners to apply these skills by completing practice tasks , which are coded according to Neu- ner’s typology (see below). These shorter tasks give learners a chance to prac- tise the writing techniques discussed in the model samples of the chapter. As



described above, these practice tasks shift gradually from heavily guided to more autonomous as each chapter progresses. Instructors can use this section in one of two ways: 1 Do all the practice tasks consecutively (One Wing to Four Wing tasks).

2 Choose only the level of task appropriate for their learners. For instance, in a mixed level group, certain learners could prepare One Wing tasks in preparation for a lesson, while for others this may be unnecessary. Developing your text The long -t erm writing assignment, or developing text , is produced gradu- ally, from chapter to chapter, in this section. The aim of the Developing your text Section is for the learner to further apply the skills developed through the practice tasks in each chapter, producing an academic paper by the end of the book. The learners build on their work on the developing text in previ- ous chapters and on other exercises in each chapter that may contribute to the long-term writing assignment. Each Developing your text Section is preceded by a corresponding Four Wing task for those learners who are not working on a single writing assignment. Peer feedback Each chapter provides learners with an opportunity to analyse and discuss their writing with each other. This section can be linked to the developing text and/or the corresponding Four Wing task, depending on the aims of the course. Evaluation In the final section of each chapter (Evaluation), learners are asked to reflect on previously defined goals, peer feedback, and writing samples in order to assess their progress and future needs. This section can be linked to the de- veloping text and/or the corresponding Four Wing task, depending on the aims of the course. 5 Coded practice tasks All the tasks in this book have been labelled with Wing icons. The number of wings in the icon symbolises the degree of autonomy required for the task. One Wing tasks are the most heavily guided, demanding little autonomy on the part of the learner. Four Wing tasks, on the other hand, offer very little guidance, giving the learner more freedom and the opportunity to take more


Academic Writing in English

responsibility for the product. This system is based on Neuner’s typology (Neuner, Krüger & Grewer, 1981). The Wing icons should be interpreted as follows: One Wing tasks are receptive tasks for reading comprehension and are only used in the presentation phase. At this stage, the emphasis is on recog- nising and understanding the material that is offered. Two, Three and Four Wing tasks are productive tasks . Of these, Two andThree Wing tasks belong in the repetition phase and Four Wing tasks in the transfer or exploitation phase. Two Wing tasks are strongly guided productive and reproductive tasks . The learner is encouraged to reproduce elements of language (sounds, words, structures, functions) in the same context as the one in which they are offered. Typical examples are: reciting or copying texts; spelling exercises; and the reproduction of meaning-directed exercises, such as selecting giv- en words or sentences and using them for blank-filling on the basis of their meaning in the context provided. Three Wing tasks are less guided productive tasks . At this stage, the learner is expected to (re)produce the language elements in a different con- text than that which was previously provided. Typical tasks include finishing sentences or texts, answering questions about a text, and describing or writ- ing what is shown in diagrams. Although Three Wing tasks are still focused on form, they may be called more “communicative”, as situational meaning are always focused on meaning and may be seen as fully communicative tasks . These tasks are hardly guided or not guided at all (open). At this stage, learners are expected to produce pieces of writing in a context that has not been predefined. The composition of parts of a text is a typical Four Wing task. 6 Peer feedback This section explains the peer feedback procedure that can be found towards the end of each chapter. It is possible to use this book without the peer feed- back procedure if time constraints make such use impossible. However, we strongly recommend the use of peer feedback both as an alternative source of information for learners and as a means for them to develop self-critical and reflective skills. Peer feedback also functions as a very useful opportunity for instructors to gauge the needs and development of individual learners. plays a bigger role. Four Wing tasks



What is a peer review? A peer review is a systematic way for learners to view and comment on each other’s work. The kinds of commentary that can be offered vary greatly, and the three most helpful comment types are categorised below (Cho, Schunn & Charney, 2006, p. 268). Directive = specific change suggested Praise = positive description of a specific part of paper or language function Summary = recaps main points without offering suggestions Why is peer reviewing an important part of the writing process? There are numerous advantages to incorporating a peer review in the writing classroom. First of all, the opportunity to review the work of peers in a guid- ed fashion can increase awareness of different aspects of one’s own writing. Style, technique, vocabulary, and syntax are just a few areas that might be considered by the peer reviewer. The act of text analysis could also sharpen logical and critical thinking skills which are crucial to the writing process in terms of structural organisation. Another advantage of the peer review is that it is an opportunity to practise the lessons discussed in class. If, for example, transitional sentences are discussed in class one day, and a learner is expect- ed to conduct a peer review that evening, this learner might be more likely to notice and compare the application of this skill in his/her peer’s writing with that of his/her own. When consistently guided by the instructor in this way, learners can develop into more autonomous writers. Defining the partner and carousel approaches Each peer review section will offer two possible approaches to organising a peer review: (a) the partner approach and (b) the carousel, or team writing, approach. Whereas the partner approach consists of two learners exchanging and com- menting on each other’s work, the carousel approach involves a team of four to six learners collaborating on the reviewing process. The partner approach allows each author to receive just one review, while the carousel approach utilises a multiple peer review. In other words, in the team writing approach, each author’s work will be reviewed once by every peer in the “carousel”, or three to five times in total. The added value of multiple feedback sources is that each learner in the carousel will receive a richer variety of comments, and certain points will be reinforced several times. The instructor should bear in mind that the carousel approach is more time-consuming for learners.


Academic Writing in English

How do we teach learners to peer review?

a Scaffolding It is imperative that learners receive training on how to do a peer review (see the Peer feedback Sections of Chapters 1, 2, and 3). In our experi- ence, a lack of prior training can lead to a superficial use of the procedure, which in turn results in a loss of credibility in the approach. Firstly, the instructor explains that conducting a peer review will enhance the writing skills of the reviewer as well as the author. Secondly, learn- ers are familiarised with the kinds of comments that are considered most helpful and effective. Finally, learners are guided on what aspect of writ- ing to focus on. Learning how to review academic writing is a gradual process that is highlighted systematically throughout this course. A main aim of the peer review is to develop learner autonomy, meaning that the instructor will gradually play a more peripheral role in this process as learners progress through the book. b Method As you can see in the Table below, this book will integrate a multiple step approach to peer feedback. In each Peer feedback Section, there will be options for both the partner and the carousel approach.

The five steps to effective peer feedback Step 1:

First draft (Learners write papers.)

Feedback (Each learner provides peer feedback.)

Step 2:


Two learners exchange commentary on each other’s writing and discuss the comments. A group of four to six learners exchange and review each other’s writing. For a group of four, each learner will do three reviews. For a group of six, each learner will do five reviews, and so on. The group will then meet during or outside of class to discuss their writing with each other. Revision (Authors revise their first drafts, using both verbal and written peer feedback.) Helpfulness rating (Authors rate the written peer review com- ments: 1 = not at all; 5 = very.) Reviewers and authors reflect on their comments and discuss why these were not helpful, thereby training each other to target their individual needs.


Step 3:

Step 4:

Partner and Carousel:



Feedback (Peers provide feedback for revised drafts.)

Step 5:


Two learners exchange commentary on each other’s writing and discuss their feedback. A group of four to six learners exchange and review each other’s writing. For a group of four, each learner will have done three reviews. For a group of six, each learner will have done five reviews, and so on. The group will then meet during or outside of class to discuss their writing with each other.


7 The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) It is common practice in Higher Education to relate the work produced in language-related courses to the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). The process-based approach means that the materials in this book can be used with the broad band of students studying in High- er Education through English as a Second Language (ESL), English for Aca- demic Purposes (EAP), or English as the Medium of Instruction (EMI). The material in this book will be challenging to learners entering writing courses across the broad B2 and C1 bands of the CEFR, with the ultimate aim of rais- ing a course participant’s active use of English in academic texts to a consis­ tent C1 level. This aim is in line with current understanding of the linguistic demands of academic environments as described by Green in relation to the English Profile project (Green, 2008): “Passing from B2 to the C level should enable the learner to access higher ed- ucation, professional fields of employment and the literary culture associated with a language.” The CEFR contains general Can Do descriptors for the writing of reports and essays. These descriptors (see below) provide a useful point of reference when considering these levels (Council of Europe, 2001, p. 62), drawing at- tention to the need for greater linguistic skills as subject matter becomes more complex. This also highlights the need to challenge learners at these levels with tasks of sufficient complexity for them to be able to demonstrate their individual proficiency in English.


Academic Writing in English

C1 Can write clear, well-structured expositions of complex subjects, underlining the relevant salient issues. Can expand and support points of view at some length with subsidiary points, reasons, and relevant examples. B2+ Can write an essay or report which develops an argument systemati- cally with appropriate highlighting of significant points and relevant supporting detail. Can evaluate different ideas or solutions to a problem. B2 Can write an essay or report which develops an argument, giving rea- sons in support of or against a particular point of view and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of various options. Can synthesise information and arguments from a number of sources.



Introduction to academic writing

This Chapter provides an overview of many of the issues that will be ad- dressed in this book. We provide introductory information and exercises (we will call them Tasks) on the following topics, which will be dealt with in greater detail as the book progresses: ■■ writing as a process ■■ academic style ■■ circular organisation: introduction, thesis statement, main body, conclu- sion ■■ types of academic texts: the expository essay, the argumentative essay, the research report, the investigative business report ■■ plagiarism ■■ academic vocabulary and resources supporting academic vocabulary ■■ peer feedback One of the biggest challenges for students in higher education is to write an academic paper that may be reviewed by one or more peers and then will be submitted to their instructor to be assessed. Writing a paper is particularly demanding if the language in which you are writing is your second language. In that case, you are engaged in two complex processes simultaneously: 1 You are becoming familiar with the processes involved in academic writ- ing, so you need training in the strategies that are required to become a good writer. 2 You are learning to write English for Academic Purposes (EAP), a specific form of your second language, which is in many respects quite unlike the spoken English or other forms of written English with which you are fa- miliar. This book addresses the writing issue from both of the above perspectives. Firstly, it takes you through the series of steps that comprise the writing pro- cess. Starting with the pre-writing stage, this book guides you through the several stages of drafting and revising that every text should undergo in order to produce a quality that is thoroughly convincing to the reader. Secondly, this book introduces you to the conventions of written English in the aca- demic genre, encouraging you to be your own critic by comparing your work both to the representative models presented in the book and to the work of your peers.


1 Introduction to academic writing



TASK 1 Answer the following questions.

1 What experience do you have in writing in the academic genre (in English or in your first language)? What have you found most difficult or challeng- ing about it? What was easiest? 2 Before reading on, what do you think are typical features of academic writ- ing? Mention at least four features of academic writing that are not usually found in journalistic text or in speeches and lectures.


Goal setting

Before writing an academic paper, there are some preliminary steps that should be taken. It can be helpful to break up the writing process into smaller sets of goals. It is important to remember that a goal should be specific and achievable within a realistic time period.

TASK 2 In order to make your own goals for this Chapter:

1 Read through the introduction one more time. Review your answer to Task 1. 2 Based on the introduction and the Orientation Section, make a check- list of writing skills, strategies, and processes that you think you will have learnt by the end of this Chapter (see example below). 3 Now formulate a specific goal for yourself concerning each item on the checklist. 4 Finally, place a tick beside each goal later on , when you feel that it has been achieved.


1.3 Perspectives on the writing process

Goal checklist Writing skills, strategies, and processes

Your specific goal

Tick when complete








TASK 3 Once you have created your checklist, discuss it with a fellow learner. Look at the goals that your learning partner has listed. What advice might you give? Consider adding the advice of your learning partner to your checklist.


Perspectives on the writing process

The writing process has been studied in many different ways, for different purposes. Most studies of the writing process distinguish pre-writing activ- ities, writing activities, and post-writing activities. Many models have been developed for teaching the writing process, and they represent the writing process as a linear process. This book is organised in accordance with such a model. The linear model used as a basis for this book distinguishes pre-writing, drafting, revising, fine-tuning, editing, and post-writing. These stages are re- flected in the titles of the chapters. Following the steps in this process, you will learn what is important at each stage. The book will guide you through


1 Introduction to academic writing

each stage of the writing process, informing you where you are, what you should pay attention to, and what will come next. For many authors, however, the writing process is chaotic and messy rather than linear and neat. Ideas do not always come up in a conveniently logical way. This means that, as a writer, you may be busy writing different parts of the same document simultaneously, and you may return to the pre-writing stage even after the first draft is complete. To make you more aware of the cycle of phases that many writers experience, we present a more recursive model of the writing process below. The recursive model distinguishes exploring, structuring, polishing and pub- lishing, incubating, and unloading – it is a non-linear dynamic process that takes time (Haas, 2009). Although this recursive process cannot be used as a structure for this book, the Developing your text Section towards the end of each chapter does aim to allow you to process your writing in this recursive way. This will be particularly evident starting with Chapter 4 as we ask you to take a layered approach to your text that involves drafting, revising, fine-tun- ing, and editing (Seow, 2002, pp. 315-320). This layered approach will be im- plicit in the Peer feedback and Evaluation Sections that appear at the end of each chapter, during which you will see how your text develops through sev- eral drafts and revisions. The model reflects the idea that experienced writers do not write each part perfectly before moving on to the next; rather, they work with different parts at different stages of development simultaneously as they move towards a final version of their text.

Polishing & publishing





Figure 1.1 The writing process: Spinner Model (Haas, 2009)


1.3 Perspectives on the writing process

In order to give you a better understanding of each part of the recursive writ- ing process, we now briefly summarise the modes presented in the diagram above. We refer those readers who would like a more detailed explanation to the original article (Haas, 2009). ■■ Exploring: includes pre-writing activities like searching for literature, finding a topic, reading or refining a research focus etc. ■■ Structuring: includes moves at the global text level (e.g. outlining) and at paragraph and sentence level (e.g. choosing structures that will be appro- priate to the audience) ■■ Polishing and publishing: adding layout and design features that make the text aesthetically accessible to the reader (e.g. typeface), including il- lustrations (e.g. tables, diagrams, etc.). ■■ Incubating: setting aside one’s books, notebooks, or computer, and let- ting one’s brain work on the writing; for instance, you may have a great idea while out riding your bicycle and you may decide to record it using your mobile phone. ■■ Unloading: transferring ideas to written language without worrying about whether the resulting text is attractive or grammatically correct (brainstorming is one approach: see Section 2.3 below). The Developing your text Section towards the end of each chapter explicitly aims to allow you to process your writing in this recursive way, but we hope that you will consider the recursive nature of the writing process throughout each section of this book. TASK 4a Reflect on the writing process. Write a paragraph of about 200 words advis- ing a friend on how to write an academic paper. You can base your advice either on your past experience or on how you imagine that you might write a paper if you have never done it before. You may also make use of the modes described in one of the models above. If the names used in the model do not work for you, you might like to come up with your own names for modes in the writing process. TASK 4b Share the paragraph that you have written for the previous Task with a group of at least two other learners and compare your text with theirs. Then try to combine the best ideas from each paragraph and agree on one “ideal writing process timeline” in which those ideas can be brought together. Share the timeline with the rest of the class.


1 Introduction to academic writing


An introduction to academic style

Although we recognise that there are many different types of academic writ- ing, we will start with the idea that academic writing tends to be formal, ob- jective, and conventional. Academic writing is formal in the sense that many words that are common in casual spoken English, such as slang , are avoided. Contractions and abbreviations are avoided as well; for instance “did not” is used rather than “didn’t”. Academic writing is objective , as opinions are often avoided or at least clearly labelled as such. Moreover, speculation, especially without solid argumentation, should generally be avoided. Another charac- teristic of academic writing is that it is conventional; it often uses predefined structures and a specific type of documentation format to indicate when an- other writer has been summarised, paraphrased, or quoted. The style is often impersonal and tentative. In academic texts the focus is on the subject that is being studied rather than on the person who is studying it. Authors may use the passive form to avoid referring to a person and take care that the way in which the message is formulated leaves some room for doubt. For example, you may say “deterioration of the ecosystem may be caused by pollution” rather than “deterioration of the ecosystem is caused by pollution”. Nothing is really certain in the academic world. In the Model text below, which is an abstract for a study regarding the politi- cal side of textbook creation, the author selects formal, objective language to express opinion, rather than subjective or emotional language. This creates a credible foundation from which to build the text. 1A This article describes how biology textbooks can work to discursively con- stitute a particular kind of “ethical subjectivity.” 1B Not only do textbooks constrain the possibilities for thought and action regarding ethical issues, they also require a certain kind of “subject” to partake in ethical exercises and questions. 1C This study looks at how ethical questions/exercises found in four Ontario textbooks require students and teachers to think and act along specific lines. 1D These include making ethical decisions within a legal-juridical frame; deciding what kinds of research should be publically funded; optimiz- ing personal and population health; and regulation through policy and legis- lation. 1E While engaging ethical issues in these ways is useful, educators should also question the kinds of (ethical) subjectivities that are partially constituted by discourses of science education. 1F If science education is going to address twenty-first century problems such as climate change and social inequality, educators need to address how the possibilities for ethical engagement afford- ed to students work to constitute specific kinds of “ethical actors.” Model 1  Academic writing


1.5 Academic papers: circular organisation

Different types of academic texts exist because authors have different pur- poses and audiences in mind when they write. Purpose and audience are therefore central themes that will appear throughout this book.

TASK 5 Discuss the following points.

1 Mention five types of texts with which you are already familiar. 2 Discuss the content of three academic texts that you have read recently. 3 Give three examples of non-academic texts that you have read in English (these might include literature, newspapers, magazines etc.). 4 How do the non-academic texts differ from the academic texts?


Academic papers: circular organisation

At this stage, we would like to introduce some basic concepts that are central to the organisation of academic writing. We will return to all of these aspects in more detail later in the book. In an academic text, your writing should be formulated in a clear and log- ical manner. Each paper needs to have an introduction , a main body , and a conclusion . Every paper begins with an introduction in which the writer clarifies the topic of the paper. This introductory paragraph usually ends with the thesis, or main point, of the paper. The main idea of an academic text is contained in this single sentence, referred to variously as the thesis state- ment , problem statement , research question , or hypothesis , depending on the type of academic text you are writing. The argument presented in the thesis will be supported throughout the paper and addressed again in the conclusion. Consequently, the paper is circular in argument; the conclusion re-examines the original purpose in the light of the arguments presented in the body of the paper. In the main body, the arguments are arranged in paragraphs, and these are presented in a logical order. Sentences should flow smoothly and coherently. This is achieved by repeating important words, using synonyms and substi- tutions for the main subject, and using words that make a transition between sentences, such as “however”, “for example”, and “therefore”. Such connectors glue your ideas together and show how they are related.


1 Introduction to academic writing

TASK 6 Match the following concluding statements to the corresponding thesis state- ments below. Concluding statements 1 In conclusion, there has been a steady decrease of funding for NASA’s re- search efforts in the past few years. As a consequence, equipment, main- tenance, and facilities are no longer sufficient for conducting research planned a few years ago. Due to the fact that the continuity of these projects is in serious jeopardy, NASA has been forced to reconsider its plans for the future. 2 In conclusion, NASA’s research can give humanity a better understand- ing of its relationship to the universe. This new understanding, in con- sequence, places life on earth in a wider context and raises awareness of the logic behind planetary and solar activity. Moreover, due to the often parallel nature of macro- and micro-systems, the work of astronomers can teach us much about life on earth. 3 In conclusion, it is important that NASA directs its attention to matters concerning planet Earth rather than to deep space exploration. Money invested into these ventures is not likely to yield any return in the next few decades. Investigating the complexities of our own planet, however, may result in both useful and economically beneficial insights. In other words, studying Earth from space is much more likely to produce profit- able results than studying space from Earth. 4 In conclusion, it is important that NASA begins investing more mon- ey into space colonisation research. This may contribute to a solution regarding the limited supply of natural resources on Earth, therefore ensuring the survival of the human race when these finite resources are no longer available. Clearly, NASA should invest in space colonisation in order to ensure a more sustainable future. Thesis statements a Budget reductions have severely impacted NASA’s research abilities and its ability to achieve future goals. b In order to ensure the survival of the human species, to save the Earth’s en- vironment, and to gain access to the abundance of raw materials in space, NASA should start investing more funds in space colonisation research. c NASA’s exploration of the boundaries of the universe is of great existen- tial importance. d Therefore, from an economic point of view, NASA’s research can be made much more effective if the focus is shifted from planetary science to earth science.


1.6 Academic papers: the expository essay

TASK 7 Discuss the connection of the preceding conclusions to the thesis state- ments. 1 Was the link between the thesis statement and the conclusion in the pre- vious Task easy to make? If not, why was it difficult? 2 Write down the keywords for each thesis statement and compare your keywords to those of other learners. How are these words related to each other in the text? Although many different types of academic texts are similar in tone and structure, they have various purposes and address distinct audiences, result- ing in multiple designs of layout. For instance, your aim may be to explain something, to defend a point of view, or to prove something using scientific methods. In the first case, you might write an expository essay; in the second case, you could write an argumentative essay; in the last case, you may opt to write a research report. In the next Section, we discuss several different text types and layouts of academic papers, and in the next Chapter we will further explain the relationship of text type to purpose and audience. Academic papers: the expository essay The expository essay is essentially explanatory , aiming to acquaint the reader with a body of knowledge. It presents other people’s views objectively or pro- vides a report of an event or a situation. Expository writing presents a subject in detail ; it is written using facts and statistical information in logical order (see below), with examples. This type of essay is designed to convey information to the reader and explain what is difficult to understand. It is usually an analysis based on preliminary research, which allows you to place what you have researched into a wider context by referring to books or articles. It should provide your reader with a clear understanding of your analyses and conclusions.



1 Introduction to academic writing

Model 2  Introduction of an expository essay

1A The study of politics has been characterised by a divide between the many who study the state and the few who study social movements. 1B By contrast, the field of women’s studies has been divided between the many who study popular culture, civil society, and cultural politics, and the few who study the state. 1C If scholars who study women’s movements risk ignoring the ways the state shapes, promotes, and circumscribes civil society activism, scholars who confine their attention to participation within the state risk construing poli- tics so narrowly as to exclude important forms of civil society activism. 1D The chasm between scholarship on the state and on social movements has pre- vented scholars from adequately exploring the vital effects of movements on institutions and of institutions on movements. 1E In the process, the contribu- tions of activists to institutional change and the embeddedness of the state in civil society activism have been ignored. 1F With the growth of postmodernism, feminist critiques of power, and studies of women’s resistance, many scholars have rejected monolithic conceptions of the state (Randall, 1998: 186). 1G They have explored the ways women “play the state” from within, as “femocrats”, by acting subversively within dominant institutions and through their own in- dividual creativity and resourcefulness. 1H A range of questions flows from this research. 1I What are the conditions under which movements enter institutions without forsaking their oppositional character? 1J How can we determine when movements have been co-opted? 1K Are institutional gains necessarily move- ment losses? 1L And what are the implications for democracy of movement ac- tivism both within and outside the state? 1M This paper explores the fuller, rich- er conception of governance that emerges when the implications of women’s activism for women’s participation in state institutions are considered.

TASK 8 Discuss the text of the expository essay in Model 2.

1 Which logical order is used in the Model introduction? Is it (a) general to specific or (b) specific to general? Try to define the structure in your own language. 2 Which sentence is the thesis statement?


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