Acquiring good academic research and writing skills early on is essential for your success both at university and in your professional life.
This course aims:
- to give you an understanding of the conventions of academic writing in English and to teach you the components and benefits of what is called process writing.
- to help you to put together your own “toolbox” of academic writing skills, as well as to give you a chance to test out these tools and to reflect on your own development as a writer.
- to encourage reflection on discipline specific conventions; although the course deals with generic skills, you will be able to apply these generic skills to meet the particular needs of your own discipline.
The course consists of four modules:
1. Writing in English at university: An introduction
2. Structuring your text and conveying your argument
3. Using sources in academic writing
4. The writer’s toolbox: Editing and proofreading
In each module you will find video lectures and reading assignments and assignments, such as quizzes, reflective self-assessment questions, as well as some peer review exercises in which you will have an opportunity to interact with other students taking the course.
The course is free of charge, and learners have access to a free electronic textbook written to complement the MOOC: Writing in English at University: A Guide for Second Language Writers.
Writing in English at University: An introduction
Welcome to the MOOC course Writing in English at University! This course has been designed as a resource for university students who are currently involved in writing assignments or degree projects as well as for students who wish to learn about academic writing in order to prepare for future writing at university. Although the course will provide guidance and useful tips and tricks to all student writers, it is specifically useful to those who are writing in second language contexts and whose native language is not English.
Structuring your text and conveying your argument
In module 1 we looked at some of the aspects that you will need to consider before embarking on an academic writing project. In module 2 we will build on this knowledge when we explore issues of building and shaping an academic text. In this week’s module you will learn about argument, types of essay structure, and also how to structure information within paragraphs and sections. Structuring a text so that it is coherent and makes sense to your target audience requires a great deal of thought, and we will guide you through the decisions that you will have to make in composing a text. Though the information in this module will be of interest to anyone looking to improve their academic writing competencies, you will find the material here especially helpful if you have a particular writing project of your own in mind to reflect on, and to which you can apply the ideas that we present here.
Using sources in academic writing
Academic writing does not happen in a vacuum, but rather builds on scholarly work that has come before. When you compose a piece of academic writing, it is necessary to show that you have done your homework and read up on the subject. Sometimes you will be given specific texts to read, and sometimes you will need to go and find these sources for yourself. The kinds of sources that you will be expected to use, and the manner in which you use them, will vary depending on the discipline that you are writing within and the level at which you are studying. Though a Master’s level student will be expected to have acquired a more sophisticated approach to using secondary sources than, say, a student on an introductory undergraduate course, the basic set of skills required is the same. Using secondary sources in your writing relies on developing this particular set of skills. In this module, which has been developed in collaboration with the librarians, we will talk about how to go about acquiring these skills. The competencies that we discuss here are ones that require practice, and you shouldn’t expect to simply acquire them overnight. However, the tasks that we have set are designed to set you on the right path to honing your skills. This module is divided into three separate lessons. In the first lesson you will learn about reading strategies. In the second lesson, called "Integrating sources: positioning and stance," we will explore how to situate your own arguments and ideas in relation to secondary sources. In the third lessons, called "Referencing and academic integrity," we will explore issues surrounding referencing, academic integrity and plagiarism.
The writer’s toolbox: Editing and proofreading
Welcome to module 4 of the course. In this module, we will focus on editing and proofreading a text. In our earlier discussion of the writing process in module 1, we have seen that many experienced writers view revising and editing as important parts of the actual writing process, and they intend to revise and edit virtually everything they write. Instead of only correcting mistakes in a piece of text, revising and editing are ways for writers to evaluate their ideas, to generate and test new ideas during the writing process, and to polish and tighten the overall argumentation and presentation. Although revising and editing are parts of the creative process, we recommend that you save them until you have a piece of text – a section, subsection or paragraph – that you view as complete, in that the ideas you discuss and the organization into an introduction-part and a body-part (for sections) or a topic sentence followed by development (for paragraphs) are relatively stable. That way, you do not end up wasting your time correcting mistakes in a piece of text that does not seem to fit in or serve a purpose, and is therefore likely to be deleted later. Before you start revising and editing a passage, you should also have clarified to yourself how important the passage in question is going to be for the essay as a whole. If the passage contains ideas that are directly relevant for your research question and thesis, you should allow yourself enough time to revise and edit and possibly rewrite the text several times. A passage that only contains extra information that is not directly linked to your thesis will need less time and attention, and some cases you may get away with only proofreading such passages quickly. This module is divided into three lessons, all of which focus on issues that you should be aware of, when you revise, edit and proofread your text. The first lesson, "The need to revise and edit one’s text," introduces you to issues that require both large-scale and small-scale revision and editing. Following, the lesson "Revising and editing for language" focuses on issues that affect the style and tone of your writing. The third lesson, called "Some tips and tricks on common errors," gives you practical advice on issues that are often problematic for writers.
Satu Manninen, Ellen Turner and Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros