A lack of confidence… slow progress… trouble organizing ideas…. worries about accidental plagiarism… These are concerns international graduate students, employees, and post-doctoral fellows share about writing and publishing research papers in English for their courses or for publication to advance their careers. But students who have completed the Graduate School’s elective course, GRD 727, Academic Writing II, say they have acquired important strategies and techniques for success.

“Before taking Academic Writing II, I never paid attention to how an article was structured. Now I know how to organize my ideas in longer articles, moving from more general information to specific details in a logical fashion,” says Kyounga “Cecilia” Cheon, D.M.D., from South Korea, a student in Pediatric Dentistry & Oral Biology. “By understanding typical research text structures, I can also read and understand articles faster.”

Because academic writing is different from undergraduate or even clinical writing, it’s important to have a strategy for approaching the process, she adds. “It has to be more orderly, more focused, and the language more precise. I like the fact that I can use specific techniques, such as writing with powerful verbs, to make my writing authoritative. Now, as I work on a paper and get feedback from my colleagues, I feel like I am getting stronger.”

Zekai Demirezen, from Turkey, a graduate assistant in Computer and Information Science, says he was fairly confident about his writing abilities and only thought he needed to work on minor grammar points and improve his vocabulary. Then he took Academic Writing I and II, GRD 726 and GRD 727. “I thought that I could basically write every kind of academic article regardless of its type and length,” he recalls. “In these courses, after some period of time, I understood that I had more problems than I imagined. There were missing elements in my articles, such as organization of ideas, appropriate tense usage, and clear summarizing to avoid plagiarism.”

Demirezen adds: “Understanding how to design articles, how to use sentence structure, employing linking words and formal academic rhetoric enabled me to develop advanced writing skills… Now I feel more confident. I systematically approach academic writing in steps, starting with outlining and finishing with reviewing and proofreading. I have started to spend more time in the reviewing step, and I can accurately evaluate my articles to produce quality papers. I pay attention to rephrasing and plagiarism.”

GRD727 or Academic Writing II is a 3-credit hour graduate elective course. The course helps international graduate student or professional writers learn to write more effectively and efficiently with practice in the area of paraphrasing, avoiding plagiarism, writing summaries, critiques, and review articles as well as constructing a research brief. For information, contact the instructor Jennifer Greer at jlgreer1@uab.edu.