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Bailey, S. 2011. Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students. Third Edition. London: Routledge

Reviewer: Dr Norman L. Butler

28 April 2012

The purpose of Stephen Bailey’s text, which is now in its third edition since it was initially published in 2003, is to assist international learners in their academic written tasks in English during their university studies.

At the beginning of the book, the author tries to generate student interest in the subject matter of his work by trying to determine their prior knowledge of it – learners are asked to answer twelve multiple choice questions about academic writing. The questions are challenging, however, it is difficult to assess their effectiveness.

The book consists of four parts (1. ‘The writing process’; 2. ‘Elements of writing’; 3. ‘Accuracy in writing’; and 4. ‘Writing models’), and in each part there are exercises for students to complete providing them with an opportunity to practise their understanding of the material in the text. Furthermore, more tasks can be found on the book’s website allowing for additional practice.

Genuine material taken from various areas of study is used throughout the volume making it attractive to readers. For example,  ‘Citizenship Norms and the Expansion of Political Participation’ (p.22) is  from a text about politics,  ‘Railway Manias’ (p.33)  originates from a history tome, and ‘Climate Change’ (p.73) comes from a scientific publication. So, Mr Bailey’s text appeals to learners from various disciplines.

It should be noted that a whole section is devoted to plagiarism, which is a popular topic of discussion amongst educators. In addition, there are activities to do with referencing, summarizing, and paraphrasing.

Unfortunately, the book has limited use in the classroom. Correct responses to exercises are readily available to learners on the book’s website making it easy for them to avoid actually doing the activities thus compromising the teaching process – it is difficult for teachers to assess their students. Furthermore, no teacher’s manual or teaching aids are provided.  Therefore, the book is more suitable for independent study than for use with an instructor.

According to the author, the current edition of his text is an improvement over previous ones. However, he welcomes feedback from both students and teachers suggesting that it is ‘a work in progress’. We can, thus, look forward to future editions of his volume.

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