Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Tag: Academic Culture

“Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing” by Paul Murphy

“Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing”, written by Paul Murphy, is Prosperity Education’s latest publication with it being geared towards learners on pre-sessional university courses or for teachers who are teaching the principles of academic writing and skills. The author, Paul Murphy, is a teacher who has taught on various English for Academic Purposes (henceforth EAP) programmes in the UK as well as abroad. Paul has also co-written the “IELTS Academic Reading Practice”, along with Peter Clements, for Prosperity Education.

Contents list of “Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing” by Paul Murphy (2023 pp.4-5).

There are a total of ten chapters within this book, with each unit focusing on a particular skill in relation to academic writing. Prior to the ten separate units, there is an Introduction which guides the student (or teacher) into the intricacies of referencing: in-text citations, reference lists, the different reference styles, as well as the use of sources used in the publication being fictitious (purely used to demonstrate and offer opportunities for the reader to practise academic skills). The topics selected for each unit offer students the breadth of reading that would be expected for undergraduate or post-graduate studies. It is no wonder that Murphy has selected a variety of engaging topics to guide each of the skills, with those including World Languages, Human Rights, Film, or Business.

The introduction to the book is possibly the most important aspect for academic writing as it provides a suitable reminder for the teacher, should they feel a little out of practice about the intricacies of academic writing and style. For the student, it helps explain the rules surrounding in-text citations, reference lists (or bibliographies), as well as the different styles of citation and referencing.

A brief explanation by Murphy (2023) about the expected style of in-text citations within academic writing (p.7).

In fact, while preparing for an academic skills lesson, I referred to the introduction as it was logically organised and structured effectively. This helped me develop a lesson and it was a useful source to refer to. What is helpful for both tutor and student is the fact that examples are provided, much like above, with Murphy also including the particular differences, which are sometimes assumed or missed, between the differences and similarities between quotations and paraphrasing, and its implication towards in-text citations. Nevertheless, more detail is obviously provided in the main chapters within the book.

Within each unit for this book, the reader is introduced to the related skill or topic with the example above related to the various parts of speech (p.37).

As you will recognise from this publication, the author attempts to present information in a logical and predictable format with more emphasis on presenting key information. After the presentation of this information, the reader is guided into practising that related skill. For example, within the third Unit, about Climate Change, the reader is introduced to reviewing different parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. This leads naturally on to an activity where students must complete a word family table.

After the introduction or presentation of the task, the reader is then provided with ample opportunity to practise that corresponding skill, much like the task above asking EAP students to complete the word family table (p.38).

The predictable connection with this area of English and, in the context of EAP, is the aspect of paraphrasing and using greater use of noun forms, particularly within an academic context. The following tasks within Unit 3 provide greater practice for the EAP student to look at rewriting a paragraph from an essay on page 41 – something that will aid learners to develop the skill related to paraphrasing sources, which obviously conclude within this chapter.

Reference list unscrambling task (Murphy, 2023 p.138).

Each Unit follows the anticipated format with key information being introduced initially, followed by further practice and consolidation of such information. The Units themselves guide the EAP tutor or student through the complexities of academic writing, whether it is using suitable academic sources, paraphrasing sources or referencing using the expected style.

The final chapter, which is connected to the topic of Business, encourages readers to combine all skills, that have been covered previously, so they are able to complete an essay. There are a total of three practice activities before the reader/student is guided to complete an essay. One of my favourite activities within the final chapter must be the referencing unscrambling task, where students have to organise their references by the expected standard – refer to the image on the right.

After the final chapter, there are recommended or suitable answers for all the various tasks throughout all the ten units. Once students have completed their task, they are able to review them using the suggested answers within the final part of the publication.

Some Final Thoughts

The key components that make this a very good book for those involved in EAP include:

  • The predictable and logically organised structure
  • Various explanations and practice exercises which are provided throughout
  • The logical development for the EAP student where they enhance individual skills related to academic writing until they are able to complete an essay
  • How the book is suitable for either experienced or inexperienced EAP teachers as well as EAP students
  • The possibility of utilising the tasks and activities within the publication during a pre-sessional programmes or academic development courses

However, despite the positives, which there are many, I do hope that there is some development in future editions towards the following:

  • A potential Unit on analysing essay questions (i.e., noticing keywords which would aid search skills with synonyms, common question words in essay questions, or developing ideas about the topic of the essay)
  • How to plan and structure an academic essay (i.e., the different parts of a paragraph such as topic statement, argument for, argument against, conclusive statement)
  • A glossary of terms or language used within an EAP-context, such as common question words used for academic essays or with more specific language used throughout the book (i.e., synonyms, word family, paraphrasing, etc.)
  • A short aspect about the grammar of writing within an academic context (i.e., noun phrases, hedging, cohesion, etc.)
Adapting material from ‘Academic Writing’ (2023) with UK students that are on an academic development course.

Nevertheless, Academic Writing is certainly a useful resource for EAP tutors and students, and it will certainly assist those teachers that are keen to get involved within academic courses at higher educational institutes.

Funnily enough, I decided to trial some of the material within an academic develop class with students from the UK, and the response was immediately positive. Students were required to discover the mistakes with in-text citations and referencing, and attempt to correct this. It certainly helped develop learner awareness and demonstrated that this publication could be suited for not just international students but for UK-based students that are completing academic development courses. Overall, I recommend Academic Writing for those involved with EAP courses and it will provide some inspiration towards developing engaging activities.

Total Score: 4.9 / 5

Developing Academic Awareness: Lesson Plan

One of the biggest challenges which was discovered is ensuring that the awareness surrounding academic culture with international students is accessible and that students, regardless their nationality, understand of what is expected of them in an academic setting. This lesson is best suited for international students first on their journey with UK academia.

Activity 1

Place students into small groups to discuss for 5 minutes:

  • What do you think are the biggest differences between studying at university in your home country and in the UK?
  • What do you think are the similarities between studying at university in your home country and in the UK?
  • What do you do to develop cultural awareness in the UK?
  • What clubs or associations could you join in a UK university? Have you joined any yet?

Once students have discussed, elicit and board up their ideas and answers to share as a class. Try to find out more information about a student’s home country and their academic culture.

Activity 2

Move students back into a small group again and hand out the following worksheet attached below. Allow students to discuss in their small groups, before checking answers as a whole class (suggested answers are included on page 2 of the worksheet and much depend on each individual institute).

Activity 3

Get students to compare academic behaviour and culture with their home countries to the UK. Get students to consider the potential drawbacks of cultural misunderstanding while studying at their undergraduate or postgraduate courses. Here are some suggested questions below to prompt discussion.

  • What advice would you give other students studying in your home country to help them understand academic culture?
  • What do you think are the differences between tutorials, seminars, and lectures?
  • How could misunderstanding hinder your studies and progress?
  • What is the best way to integrate into UK academia?
  • What resources are available to help you with your academic studies at university and how do you find this?

Activity 4

Introduce students towards what services or support is available for their academic studies or study skills to help them understand what is expected while they study at their university.

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