A 5 day course on Academic Writing in English

Can we think of a short 5 day introductory course on ‘Academic writing in English’ which will familiarize the participants to the relationship between the forms and practices of disciplinary genres and will empower them to articulate their ideas and perspectives as per the established norms of academic writing in English? Postgraduate and M.Phil. students, research scholars working for their PhDs. across India and young writers interested in getting their papers published in international journals often feel the need for undergoing a short course on Academic Writing in English and keeping in view the felt need of a large number of Indian scholars and postgraduate students, the present course has been designed as a skill development exercise. It is meant for developing writing skills in Academic English, not for awarding a degree in Academic Writing in English. It is a 30 hour face to face course followed by online support as per the needs and the areas of interest of the participants.
1.Introduction: As a topic of inquiry and pedagogy, writing has been gaining increasing importance in the language classrooms throughout the world. Writing is no more viewed as a mere non-verbal means of communication, it is viewed as an index of the writers’ ability to interpret, analyze and express themselves clearly, correctly and vividly. It is the culmination of a language user’s repertoire in the target language.
Writing, whether academic or non-academic is always interactive, it is the interaction between the writer and the reader. Writing becomes meaningful and communicative only when the writer has an audience and a purpose for writing. The notion of writing as an organic interactive process is based on three solid blocks: audience, purpose and topic and these three blocks are equally important in all types of writing, shared writing, interactive writing, guided writing and independent writing. In order to sharpen the cognitive processes involved in process writing, language teachers have to use ample practice techniques for generating ideas, such as keeping a journal, brainstorming, free writing and to help the learners to understand the difference between revising and editing.
2. An Academic Writing Course in English:
In spite of the important role played by writing in the diverse fields of human interaction, academic institutions in India often ignore the importance of cultivating higher order writing skills among the students and the professionals. There is a paucity of institutions that run certificate, diploma or degree courses in academic writing in English. Some English Departments of a few Indian universities have papers on ‘Written English’ at the major or the post-graduation level, but these papers hardly equip the students with the specialized skills of writing in English. Postgraduate Departments of Modern Indian Languages in the colleges and universities in India often take it for granted that basic writing skills learnt in schools are enough for writing any discourse in the mother tongue at the graduation level. The absence of adequate academic literacy skills often poses serious problems for Indian undergraduate and postgraduate students who are required to conduct research, summarize, paraphrase and cite sources and adopt genre specific writing conventions. Writing tasks even in the first language involve a highly creative use of composing processes and a good command of the language.
3. Objectives of the Course
The present course aims to introduce the participants to the theory and practice of academic writing and to equip them with the tools necessary for writing academic essays, reports, articles, research papers and dissertations in English as per the accepted principles and conventions of academic writing in English. The course will enhance the participants’ conceptual understanding of the nature and scope of academic writing and will enable them to communicate their ideas in English in an appropriate manner, thematically as well as stylistically.
Topics like how to write the abstract of a research paper, how to present an argument and validate it with supporting evidences, how to reflect and write down the findings, how to paraphrase without resorting to plagiarism and how to maintain structural and thematic cohesion of a written text will be explored during the course.
There is a lot of controversy on the nature and scope of teaching, learning and assessing writing in English in an international context. The contrastive rhetoric theory propounded by Kaplan(1966) presumed that L2 students wrote in English according to the rhetorical conventions of their home cultures. Connor (1996) tried to explain why L2 students’ writing lacked linearity, logic and coherence of well-written English texts. But the findings of Kaplan and Connor received a great deal of criticism as ‘many novice L1 writers also exhibit nonlinear and digressive rhetorical patterns, implicating a developmental stage’ ( Casanave,2012:286).The present course on academic writing in English is based on the assumption that improvement in writing comes in developmental stages and in order to help the learners in acquiring the skills of writing academic English, we should provide them with adequate practice, through reading and through exposure to the models of academic writing. The second language writing development is neither linear nor monolingually achieved. Nurturing the cognitive and linguistic resources of the L2 learners can alone help her write competently in the target language.
4. Course content:
(a) What is academic writing, Basic elements of academic writing, relationship between writing and speaking, writing as a social and cultural phenomenon, writing as a cognitive activity
(b) Models of the writing process, integrating knowledge of topic, knowledge of audience
(c) Approaches to writing: genre based approach, Product based approach, Process based approach
(d) Language and rhetorical style, writing in first language and writing in a second language, Exploring the linguistic features of the written communication in English, semantic and ideological considerations in academic writing
(e) Presenting the stylistic features of English, helping the learners to navigate through genre specific written works in English, explaining relevant written styles with the help of exemplars.
(f) Stages of Writing: Generating ideas, Focusing on ideas, organizing ideas, drafting
(g) The Essentials of Writing: Thesis Statement, Topic Sentences, characteristics of body paragraph, conclusion, hands on experience, responding to the learners’ writing, focusing on content and structure, making the learners’ aware of the correlation between the global content and organization of ideas, prompting the learners to reflect on their own writing
(h) Writing with sources: Types of sources, locating sources, taking notes from sources, avoiding plagiarism, documenting sources

5. Course Strategy
The course strategy is based on the models of enhancing advanced writing skills which prompt the participants to produce relevant ideas, evaluate these ideas, organize and structure the ideas, conform to grammatical and stylistic conventions, write a draft, revise it and produce a final version.

(Anyone interested in organizing a 5 day course on Academic Writing in English in their institutions/organizations may write to misrapartha@yahoo.co.in)