Learn to write better academic essays
Els Van Geyte
Collins 2013

Part of the Collins Academic Skills series, this is essentially a self-study book aimed at international students studying or preparing to study at English-medium colleges or universities, though it could also be used with a teacher on study skills courses. 

Learning to write well-structured essays, reports and case studies in the style expected by academic institutions is probably one of the hardest tasks that such students face. This book takes the students step-by-step through the process of producing an acceptable piece of writing, from the basics of interpreting an essay question or understanding a writing task set by a tutor, through to structuring a piece of writing correctly, getting the register right, referencing sources, avoiding plagiarism and tailoring the writing to the expected reader. Along the way, the book also addresses language issues, such as punctuation, the use of articles and common errors. 

Throughout the book, there are examples of good writing style, and poor examples to be corrected. However, examples alone are seldom enough to help students navigate the minefield of academic expectations. They need to know why they are required to present their work in a certain way and why one expression or sentence is better than another. The explanations here are very helpful because they are not only easy to understand, but they also go into the reasons why something is wrong or why another way of expressing it would be preferred. The answer key also provides full explanations, rather than simply listing the answers. 

The annotated essays in Appendix 1, which is called ‘Taking your writing up to the next level’, will be extremely useful to academic students. There are both positive comments and negative comments in the margins of these essays, so students can see both what they can use as a model and what they should avoid. There is also help in Appendix 2 on interpreting marking criteria and understanding and responding to feedback received on a piece of writing. 

The emphasis is always on making it clear what university staff expect from their students and how the students can make sure that they meet these expectations to the best of their ability. Because of this, I believe that this book will be invaluable in helping international students take on the challenge of academic writing.  

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