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Developing academic writing skills in English

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
Developing academic writing skills in English

Writing is an art which helps a person to express himself effectively. It is one of the ways that we translate our thoughts for other people. Some people are better at expressing themselves in writing than any other way, and we thus get a better translation when we read what they have to say rather than hearing them speak. In the academic arena, whether we are students, teachers, researchers or other professionals, academic writing skills are necessary for producing essays, reports, presentations, research papers, reviews, articles and so on. Academic writing skills encompass strong composition, excellent grammar, and a consistent stylistic approach. Academic writing, when used appropriately, presents a polished and professional image. It requires extensive reading and critical thinking as well as expressing oneself cohesively and coherently using a cautious language style. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, many university students, teachers and researchers are still confused about how to write good academic papers of various kinds in English. Needless to say that lack of well-designed books is a major cause for this unwarranted situation. In this regard, the book 'English for Academic Purposes 2: Essay and Report Writing' is a great initiative from the British Council Bangladesh and the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh.

With the aim of supporting universities in delivering better quality English language training modules for their students and faculties, the British Council, UGC and consultants from Canterbury Christ Church University, UK, have sought to develop materials to strengthen English language skill in higher education in Bangladesh. These materials have been developed following an extensive Needs Analysis Survey on the current situation of teaching English language and the use of English as a medium of instruction in the higher education sector in Bangladesh. The survey covers both public and private universities (general, technical and specialised ones) as well as colleges under the National University from all geographical regions of the country. Based on the findings and recommendations of the Needs Analysis Survey, four books/modules have been developed, and 'English for Academic Purposes (EAP) 2: Essay and Report Writing' is one of them.

The book is designed in the modular style which contains 20 units, and each unit contains two sessions. The first 11 units guide readers through each stage of the process of writing an academic essay or report: from brainstorming ideas, finding suitable sources, making notes from the sources, planning and structuring an essay/report, writing a draft using paraphrasing and referencing, integrating data and finally editing and proof-reading using an appropriate academic style. As the readers progress through each unit, they put what they have learnt into practice, collecting ideas and data for a group project essay/report which they can write together in the Review (Unit: 12) as part of the module assessment. Unit: 13 builds on the presentation skills students learnt in the previous units by focusing on the writing skills required for effective presentations and provides opportunity for students to present their group project.

The subsequent units (14 to 19) focus on specific types of academic essays and writing students may need to write at university level: argumentative writing, the problem-solving mode of writing, writing book and article reviews, writing for examinations etc. The final Review unit, at the end of the book provides the opportunity to revise important aspects of the units as well as checking learners' understanding and progress. Examples to illustrate the different types of essays and a report, as covered in the book are incorporated in the Appendices and are referred to in the units. A glossary of grammatical terms that are used in the units is provided for student reference at the end of the book.

The book aims to facilitate meaningful and real communication by encouraging learners to complete tasks and develop their skills in writing as well as English for academic purposes rather than simply studying the language. It tries to encourage critical thought rather than rote-learning or other more mechanical approaches to learning. What is remarkable is that all the topics/units of the book put students at the centre of the learning and teaching, by emphasising students' needs and goals, as identified by the needs analysis, such as building students' confidence in writing English effectively not only in an academic context but also in the wider world. Although the book is designed to improve the academic writing skills of university students, it can be a useful and effective resource guide for individuals interested to develop their writing skills in English. Chinese philosopher Confucius has said: "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." This means learning about writing is not enough; we also need to do it. Hence, we should not forget that 'the best way to improve our writing skills is to write'!


S.M. Rayhanul Islam is an independent researcher.

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