Academic Writing

Author(s) Zemach Et Al
Publisher Macmillan ELT
Published 2005
Pages 136
Price £11.95
ISBN 1405086068
Reviewed by Mrs Kerstin McClenaghan
University of Teesside
Review published 17 November 2005

The book ‘Academic writing from paragraph to essay’ is a combination work and textbook which is aimed at non-native English speakers who seek to improve their academic writing. It is targeted primarily at university-level students with an intermediate ability in English as a foreign language and can be used either in class or as a self-study book.

However it is used - the strengths of this book are the clear and coherent structure of the chapters, which makes it very easy to engage with, as well as the pragmatic approach to process writing with ample opportunity for focused exercises. As the title suggests, the book is divided in two main sections, with the second one – essay writing - building on the exercises and outcomes of the first one – writing paragraphs. There are 12 units in the book in addition to extra samples (e.g. sample CVs, punctuation rules), answer key and photocopiable materials for class use (e.g. feedback and evaluation forms). The study aims are clearly stated at the beginning of each unit. This combined with short but concise explanations for, “what is an introduction”, “what is peer-editing” …, makes it easy for the learner to associate the relevant explanations and exercises with the learning outcomes.

The opening unit identifies the steps used in process writing which are being practised throughout the book. Up to unit six, the book focuses on analysing and writing those kinds of paragraphs that are generally used in an academic writing context. These units address key issues such as identifying and writing topic and concluding sentences, tips on (peer)-editing, organising and writing paragraphs expressing opinions, arguments and comparisons while practising appropriate vocabulary and grammar. Unit seven can be seen as a bridge between writing single paragraphs and preparing for essays or longer assignments as it deals with writing a two-paragraph text with linking phrases.

In the second part of the book students can apply what they have learned about writing and organising paragraphs to essay writing. Here, issues like writing a thesis statement, introduction and conclusion are addressed. In unit nine there are particularly useful exercises on outlining essays, and in unit eleven strategies for creating coherence and coherence devices are discussed efficiently. The last unit focuses on advice for essay tests including how to deal with instructions, organising information and timed essay writing.

In summary, I consider this book equally valuable to student teachers in the UK and overseas and to students who want to learn about academic writing from scratch. It is obviously pitched at college or undergraduate students; its clear, fresh and uncluttered style breaks down the task of academic writing into very manageable and easy to follow sections while plenty of illustrative examples and motivating exercises make the instructions and aims self-explanatory. Still, speaking from my own experience as a non-native English speaker, when used as a self-study device the book could have benefited from the inclusion of more annotated sample essays as a reference. Nevertheless, the exercises for group work and partner tasks definitely add to the experience of writing and editing. I would expect students and lecturers alike to find this book very useful and to be able to develop further writing tasks, topics and exercises based on it.