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Zemach, D.E. and Rumisek, L.A. 2005 [2003]. Academic Writing from Paragraph to Essay. Oxford: Macmillan.

Reviewer: Yasmin Dar

10 July 2011

The coursebook is aimed at international students who are studying at an intermediate level. Its purpose is to offer guidance on how to write essays at an appropriate level for an academic environment such as a college or university. Its aim is to teach how to write sentences and then progress onto providing a framework for structuring paragraphs and essays. The model is a step-by-step process which includes clear examples and appropriate explanations followed by exercises which have an answer key. The coursebook is presented in a clear and logical way, e.g., the start of each new unit clearly and concisely sets out the intended learning outcomes. Each unit builds on the learning outcomes that have been covered in the previous units. Within each unit there are clear explanations of key terms and the system of recycling previous texts should ease the burden on students to process new topic- or context-specific information. There are useful topics related to the type of writing expected to be carried out at college e.g., personal statement for application to a university, two sample essay drafts as well as two sample CVs. However, these particular topics are placed in the additional materials section. Students are provided with relevant language structures that are useful for improving their grammar in essay writing, as well as useful photocopiable material that should help students to self-evaluate specific areas of their essay.

Potential issues could be related to the type of texts used in the coursebook to teach the following elements for academic writing: firstly, to learn how to develop a paragraph, the reader is presented with a text which is written for a brochure in a health club context. It could be argued that this type of writing is typically informal and not normally written for an academic audience. Secondly, to illustrate paragraph development the reader is presented with a style of text (p.18) in a context of ‘a first date’ where the writer draws on personal experience. This is a potential pitfall due to the inappropriate context for certain cultures. In academic contexts, students are usually expected and encouraged to illustrate/support their opinion by citing an academic source. Students would have benefited from a unit on how to find and reference academic sources in an academic text. Thirdly, to learn how to write a ‘compare and contrast’ essay, students are presented with an email context, which is not normally used for this purpose. Finally, to learn how to write a ‘process paragraph’ (p.29), the context of a recipe is presented for students to find topic and concluding sentences. Thus, there appears to be a contradiction with the authors’ claim that in units 1 to 6, students will ‘analyse and write the type of paragraphs that commonly occur in academic contexts’ (iv) due to the specific concerns highlighted in this section.

Overall, however, there is clear evidence of classroom exercises that are underpinned by process writing methodology and I would recommend Academic Writing from Paragraph to Essay.

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