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DELTA: Academic Writing Skills

Reviewed by Gemma Stansfield

24 March 2014

DELTA Academic Objectives: Writing Skills is part of a series that aims to help students adapt to the ‘challenges of studying academically in the English language’. This book aims to prepare students for academic writing at undergraduate and postgraduate level and is pitched at CEF levels B2 to C1.

The book has 12 units, two of which are for revision. Each unit is based around a theme, which the author describes as common to both academic and everyday life. Ranging from education, language learning and culture to crime, ethics and nutrition, the topics are generally accessible rather than subject specific. The book is nicely designed, the activities are well presented and the use of colour, pictures and small ‘study tip’ boxes make it attractive and user friendly.

Each unit includes activities on five major areas of writing development: essay structure and organisation; critical thinking; using the text; language focus and evaluating writing. The book therefore offers a useful integrated approach to writing development and breaks these major areas up into manageable chunks. A feature of the book that I particularly like is the push for reflection on writing. Good examples of this are a writing checklist, which students use to check their work before submission, and a feedback checklist, which students use to record comments they’ve received on written work. Both activities encourage students to evaluate their writing and the checklists can work as feed-forward for future tasks.

The book also includes exercises on the Academic Word List for language development. The list is introduced in Unit 2 followed by two pages of exercises. There are then 10 pages at the back of the book (one page dedicated to each of the ten sub-lists) with exercises focusing on word meaning, word forms and collocations. This section could serve as additional practice or a jumping-off point for independent study.

In terms of how to use the book, the author recommends completing whole units rather than individual sections as the exercises are often interrelated. Units are also free-standing and so do not have to be studied in order, but do watch out for the odd exercise which builds on something in an earlier unit. It is also worth remembering that the exercises are thematically linked to unit topics and therefore if, for example, you wanted to use developing and organising ideas from Unit 2 together with structuring paragraphs in Unit 7, you would have to merge ‘leadership’ and ‘culture’ topics.

The book covers key elements of writing development, has additional materials online and would be particularly effective for use with a group of multi-disciplinary language learners at the B2/C1 level with little prior experience of academic writing.

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