Academic Writing
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Academic Writing

A Handbook for International Students

Stephen Bailey

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eBook - ePub

Academic Writing

A Handbook for International Students

Stephen Bailey

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About This Book

Now in its fifth edition, Academic Writing helps international students succeed in writing essays and reports for their English-language academic courses. Thoroughly revised and updated, it is designed to let teachers and students easily find the topics they need, both in the classroom and for self-study.

The book consists of five parts:

  • The Writing Process

  • Elements of Writing

  • Language Issues

  • Vocabulary for Writing

  • Writing Models

The first part explains and practises every stage of essay writing, from choosing the best sources, reading and note-making, through to referencing and proofreading. The four remaining parts, organised alphabetically, can be taught in conjunction with the first part or used on a remedial basis. A progress check at the end of each part allows students to assess their learning. All units are fully cross-referenced, and a complete set of answers to the practice exercises is included.

New topics in this edition include Writing in Groups, Written British and American English, and Writing Letters and Emails. In addition, the new interactive website has a full set of teaching notes as well as more challenging exercises, revision material and links to other sources. Additional features of the book include:

  • Models provided for writing tasks such as case studies and essays

  • Use of authentic academic texts from a wide range of disciplines

  • Designed for self-study as well as classroom use

  • Useful at both undergraduate and postgraduate level

  • Glossary to explain technical terms, plus index

Written to deal with the specific language issues faced by international students, this practical, user-friendly book is an invaluable guide to academic writing in English.

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The Writing Process

Part 1 explains and practises all the stages of producing a piece of academic writing, from analysing the title, reading the sources, note-making and referencing, through to rewriting and proofreading the final draft.

UNIT 1.1

Basics of Writing

Most academic courses test students through written assignments. These tasks include coursework, which may take weeks to write, and exam answers, which often have to be written in an hour. This unit deals with:
  • The names of different writing tasks
  • The format of long and short writing tasks
  • The structure of sentences and paragraphs

1 The purpose of academic writing

Students should be clear why they are writing. The most common reasons include:
  • to report on a piece of research the writer has conducted
  • to answer a question the writer has been given or chosen
  • to discuss a subject of common interest and give the writer’s view
  • to synthesise research done by others on a topic
Can you suggest any other reasons?

2 Features of academic writing

Although there is no fixed standard of academic writing, and style may vary from subject to subject, academic writing is clearly different from the written style of newspapers or novels. For example, it is generally agreed that academic writing attempts to be accurate, so that instead of ‘the metal was very hot’ it is better to write ‘the metal was heated to 65°C’. What are some of the other features of academic writing?
Working alone or in a group, list your ideas here.
  • Impersonal style – generally avoids using ‘I’ or ‘we’

3 Common types of academic writing

The main types of written work produced by students are presented in the following table.
Match the terms on the left to the definitions on the right.

4 The format of short and long writing tasks

Short essays (including exam answers) generally have this pattern:
  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion
Longer essays and reports may include:
  • Introduction
  • Main body
    • Literature review
    • Case study
    • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendices
See Unit 5.3 Longer Essays
Dissertations and journal articles may have:
  • Abstract
  • List of contents
  • List of tables
  • Introduction
  • Main body
    • Literature review
    • Case study
    • Findings
    • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • References
  • Appendices
In addition to these sections, books may also include:
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Bibliography/Further reading
Discuss the meanings of the preceding terms.
  1. a) A short summary which explains the paper’s purpose and main findings.
  2. b) A list of all the sources the writer has mentioned in the text.
  3. c) A section, after the conclusion, where additional information is included.
  4. d) A short section where people who have helped the writer are thanked.
  5. e) Part of the main body in which the views of other writers on the topic are discussed.
  6. f) A section where one particular example is described in detail.
  7. g) A preliminary part of a book usually written by someone other than the author.


There are thousands of academic journals published in English and other languages around the world. The purpose of these journals is to provide a forum for academics within a specific discipline (e.g. education or civil engineering) to share cutting-edge research. Most journals publish several issues a year and are often available either online or in a hard copy.
One important feature of journals is that the articles they publish are generally peer-reviewed. This means that when an article is submitted the editors ask other specialists in that field to read the article and decide if it is worth publishing. Reviewers may make comments that lead to the article being modified.
Students need to get to know the leading journals in their subject, which are generally available via the university library.
See Unit 1.2.5 Reading: Finding Suitable Sources

5 The components of academic writing

There are no fixed rules for the layout of written academic work. Different schools and departments require students to follow different formats in their writing. Your teachers may give you guidelines, or you can ask them what they want, but some general patterns apply to most formats for academic writing.
Read the following text and identify the features underlined, using the words in the box.
sentence heading subtitle paragraph title phrase
  1. a) A Fishy Story
  2. b) Misleading health claims regarding omega-3 fatty acids
  3. c) Introduction
  4. d) There has been considerable discussion recently about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
  5. e) It is claimed that these reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and may even combat obesity. Consequently food producers have added omega-3s to products ranging from margarine to soft drinks in an attempt to make their products appear healthier and hence increase sales.
  6. f) However, consumers may be unaware that there are two types of omega-3, The best (long-chain fatty acids) are derived from fish, but others (short-chain fatty acids) come from cheaper sources such as soya. This latter group have not been shown to produce the health benefits linked to the long-chain variety. According to Tamura et al. (2009), positive results may only be obtained either by eating oily fish three times a week, or by taking daily supplements containing 500mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
    (Source: Health Concerns, March 2016, p. 17)
a) Title b) c) d) e) f)

6 Some other common text components

  1. a) Reference to sources using citation: According to Tamura et al. (2009)
  2. b) The use of abbreviations for convenience: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  3. c) Italics: used to show words from other languages or add emphasis:
    Medical research companies know ex ante that these citizens cannot afford medicines.
    (= Latin fo...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Academic Writing
APA 6 Citation
Bailey, S. (2017). Academic Writing (5th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2017)
Chicago Citation
Bailey, Stephen. (2017) 2017. Academic Writing. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Bailey, S. (2017) Academic Writing. 5th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Bailey, Stephen. Academic Writing. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2017. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.