English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is very different from the English we use in our everyday social contexts and because of this there are courses which focus specifically on this area of the English language. Whilst EAP courses will still examine language skills such as reading, listening, writing, speaking and vocabulary, these skills will tie in to academic contexts.
This series of articles will examine the components of Academic English courses and areas to focus on and we start with the writing component of EAP. Writing in Academic English can be particularly challenging, particularly because the format and level of English required in an academic essay. Another reason it can be difficult is because it may be different to any type of writing you have done before in English.
It is always important to start by carefully analysing the title and checking what it is asking you to do, for example writing about advantages & disadvantages or comparing two ideas. Spend time doing this to help you avoid writing off-topic. Once you know what type of essay to write and what information to include, you can brainstorm on the topic; quickly jotting down as many ideas as you can think of which relate to the subject.
Decide on the structure of your essay; how many paragraphs you will write and what information you will include in each. Your essay will start with an introduction and academic essays should include a thesis statement, telling the reader what the essay will be about. The main body of the text will be broken into paragraphs, and each paragraph should be on a separate topic. Each paragraph needs to begin with a topic sentence and it is important to remember these sentences should not be too detailed or include examples or reasons. There might be two or three main ideas in a paragraph and it is important to remember there needs to be supporting sentences with details backing up the main idea. Your essay will finish with a conclusion, summarizing the main ideas of the essay, but without including new information.
It often helps to write two or three drafts of an essay and you may find you change ideas as you write. This is fine as writing is a process which takes time. Once you have finished your first draft, read it through or ask someone else to check it for you before writing a second draft, improving on what you have written and correcting any possible mistakes you may have made. The language in Academic English is more formal than conversational English so try to remember this as you are writing. If you have a course tutor, you can ask them to look over your work and give you some feedback. This is usually very useful and can help you improve in future writing tasks.
The British Council Malaysia offers Academic English courses year round which focus on development of writing skills, as well as others, and are particularly relevant for those intending to study at university in Malaysia or abroad.