Professional English Writing for Academic Purposes

Professional English Writing for Academic Purposes

English Writing for Academic Purposes may sound like a very serious and esoteric course. Oftentimes, students wonder about this course: Is this course really helpful for doing academic research? I could write my thesis or dissertation by copying the moves and steps commonly seen in published research papers, so is it necessary for me to take this course? In fact, what graduate students need is not just pure English writing training; what this course teaches is more than English writing.

Sometimes you wonder if you can kill two birds with one stone. One the one hand, there will be someone who helps you identify your writing weaknesses. On the other, there will be someone who knows your field of study. With these two working together with you, you can definitely master the writing of your research paper. If you have taken AWEC courses and have a foundation in language, writing skills, and discipline-specific knowledge, AWEC offers Professional English Academic Writing for Academic Purposes, a course that kills two birds with one stone.

This course is a collaboration between AWEC and the department that makes the request. The class is composed of students from a single department or discipline and co-aught by one AWEC instructor and one department professor. This course offers two distinct advantages for students.

First, student homogeneity is high in this course; students have similar academic backgrounds. All the course materials are tailor-made, focusing on a specific area of expertise. Because the coursework is closely related to their field of study, students can effectively use what they have learned, thus enhancing their motivation for learning. More importantly, writing is inseparable from critical thinking, so writing is an excellent way to help students internalize their professional knowledge. Through the coursework, students can not only improve their writing abilities but also familiarize themselves with discipline-specific mode of thinking.

Second, a discipline-specific expert and a professional writing instructor co-design and co-teach this course. The former gives instruction on what constitutes each section in papers published by high-quality journals, how research problems are put forth, how data are processed, how literature reviews are conducted, and how results are interpreted. The latter teaches universal writing rules, such as sentential structures, paragraph organizations, and moves and steps in a research paper. The writing instructor will also analyze linguistic features observed in articles provided by the department professor, such as discipline-specific word choices and verb tenses and aspects. They also both read students’ assignments, with the former pointing out content problems and the latter focusing on language and organization.

This co-teaching results in efficient teaching and effective learning. Department professors who wish to offer academic writing courses but feel discouraged by writing instruction are more than welcome to contact AWEC for more details about Professional English Academic Writing for Academic Purposes.

Course Objectives

This course trains students to write a publishable article in economics. The course includes teaching fundamentals of English writing, introducing the structure of a research paper, reading path-breaking papers in economics, and actually writing and submitting a research article to a journal. Students will also learn how to make an oral presentation of their research in English.

Course Description and Requirements

The first semester focuses on English writing basics, and the second on research paper writing. In the first semester, vocabulary lists and grammar review material will be assigned and quizzed weekly in class. Class lectures focus on writing techniques, including paragraph writing and five different essay formats related to academic writing: cause/effect, process, classification, comparison/contrast, and argumentation. Students will be required to write three essays and make appropriate revisions before submitting the final draft.

The second semester will consist of eight two-week blocks, each focusing on one aspect of academic writing in economics. Each block consists of two hours of lecture on general writing techniques, two hours devoted to reading novel papers, and two hours on interactive discussion of students’ own writing (homework assignments). These eight blocks include:

  • Outline / Thesis Statement
  • Paragraph Writing / Summary
  • Article Writing / Introduction
  • Data Collection Methods and Model
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Abstract

Weekly writing assignments will be given to students. By the end of the term, these assignments can be combined into a research paper ready for submission. In addition, students are required to give a 20-minute oral presentation of their paper.


Preliminary results on a specific topic in economics are required to enroll. Basic English composition ability, such as satisfactory grades in“English Composition I (英文作文一)” is also required and will be tested in the first week (placement test).


  • Weekly writing assignments (50%): to be submitted before midnight on the following Sunday (via CEIBA). No late assignmentsaccepted.
  • Class Evaluation (50%): Oral presentation and journal submission (due on June 24, 2011) in the Spring.
  • Attendance and class participation: 10% is deducted for each unaccounted absence


For the Fall semester:

  • Oshima, Alice, and Hogue, Ann. 2006. Writing Academic English, 4th edition. NY: Pearson Education Inc. (東華)
  • Supplementary handouts.

For the Spring semester

  • Swales, John M., and Christine B. Feak. 2004. Academic Writing for Graduate Students, 2nd edition. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.(文鶴)
  • Weissberg, Robert, and Suzanne Buker. 1990. Writing Up Research. London: Prentice Hall.
  • Supplementary handouts.


  • Arnaudet, Martin L., and Barrett, Mary Ellen. 1990. Paragraph Development: a Guide for Students of English, 2nd edition. NJ: Prentice Hall Regents
  • Daiker, Donald A., Kerek, Andrew, and Morenberg, Max. 1990. The Writer’s Options: Combining to Composing, 4th edition. NY: Harper Collins
  • Donald, Robert B., et al. 1996. Writing Clear Essays, 3rd edition. NJ: Prentice Hall Regents
  • Langan, John. 2005. College Writing Skills, 6th edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  • Liao, Posen(廖柏森). 2008. Grammar for the Writing of English Research Paper(英文研究論文寫作:文法指引). Taipei: Jong-Wen Books(眾文圖書).
  • McCarthy, Michael, and O’Dell, Felicity. 2008. Academic Vocabulary in Use. NY: Cambridge University Press
  • Smalley, Regina L., Mary K. Ruetten, and Joann Rishel Kozyrev. 2001. Refining Composition Skills: Rhetoric and Grammar, 5th edition. Boston: Heinle and Heinle. (文鶴)
  • Strunk, William Jr., and White, E. B. 2005. The Elements of Style. NY: Penguin Press.
  • Tibbetts, Charlene, and Tibbetts, Arn. 1997. Strategies: a Rhetoric and Reader with Handbook, 5th edition. NY: Longman.
  • Tyner, Thomas E. 1996. College Writing Basics: a Progressive Approach, 4th edition.Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company

Required Reading (Journal Article Samples)

  • Wang, Spezio and Camerer (2010), “Pinocchio’s Pupil: Using Eyetracking and Pupil Dilation to Understand Truth-Telling and Deception in Games,” American Economic Review, 100(3), 984-1007: This is a recent article of one of the instructors; we will provide excerpts of earlier drafts to investigate how later drafts improved on earlier mistakes. [Theory, Accounting, Experiments]

Optional and Other Interesting Types of Papers: (You can and should propose your own!)

  • Dal Bó and Fréchette (2011), “The Evolution of Cooperation in Infinitely Repeated Games: Experimental Evidence,” American Economic Review, 101(1): 411–29. [Theory, Experiments]
  • Pope and Schweitzer (2011), “Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience, Competition, and High Stakes,” American Economic Review, 101(1): 129–57. [Labor and Sports Economics, Empirical]
  • Lange and Ratan (2010), “Multi-dimensional reference-dependent preferences in sealed-bid auctions – How (most) laboratory experiments differ from the field,” Games and Economic Behavior, 68, 634–645: Theory interpreting others’ experiments. [IO, Theory]
  • Bosch-Domenech and Vriend (2008), “On the Role of Non-equilibrium Focal Points as Coordination Devices,” mimeo. [Experiments]
  • Kagel, Lien, Milgrom (2010), “Ascending Prices and Package Bidding: A Theoretical and Experimental Analysis,” American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming. [IO, Theory, Experiments]
  • Bossaerts, Plott and Zame (2007), “Prices and Portfolio Choices in Financial Markets: Theory, Econometrics, Experiments,” Econometrica, 75 (4), 993–1038. [Theory, Finance, Experiments, Econometrics]
  • Palfrey and Levine (2007), “The Paradox of Voter Participation? A Laboratory Study,”American Political Science Review, 101, 143-158: This is a paper on voting experiments, published in one of the two top political science journals (APSR and AJPS).
  • McAfee (1983), “American Economic Growth and the Voyage of Columbus,”American Economic Review, 73(4), 735-740: This is literally a joke published in the most prestige journal of economics. Can you figure out how dare an assistant professor submit this?
  • Roth (2007), “Repugnance as a Constraint on Markets,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(3), 37–58: This is a journal article with no math or econometrics, specifically because it is published in a top (but invited) journal that the AEA decreed for college students.
  • Wang (2010), “Pupil Dilation and Eye-Tracking,” in Handbook of Process Tracing Methods for Decision Research: A Critical Reviewand User’s Guide, ed. by M. Schulte-Mecklenbeck, A. Kuhberger and R. Ranyard, Psychology Press, 185-204: This is a handbook chapter on pupil dilation and eyetracking. A typical review article for beginners.