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Using English for Academic Purposes: Academic Writing

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


Website Example:

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Computer(s), Internet access, projector (optional)

Activity Description

The comprehensive guide has readings with some integrated exercises that include an introduction to academic writing, the process, questions, research, organization, functions, paragraphs, plagiarism, reporting, genres, reference, citation, punctuation, spelling, features of academic writing, a check list, and multiple interactive exercises to apply all. Assign students whose goal is transitioning to higher education to work through the guide independently, assign specific parts, or use specific sections in class to prepare students for the demands of academic writing in college and university. Use the sample exercise when teaching students how to identify and write topic sentences for paragraphs.


  1. Make sure that the site is not blocked at your school before using it with students.
  2. If you would prefer to use an activity other than the one on teaching students how to identify and write topic sentences for paragraphs, go through the site’s writing exercises to find one that suits your teaching objectives and to ensure that it is appropriate for your students’ abilities. (Select the Exercises button in the left-hand navigation pane.)
  3. After you choose an activity, complete it yourself in order to plan an introduction to the exercises and anticipate students’ questions and difficulties. If you use the activity on Paragraphs, you may want to print Example Document 1 or put Example Document 2 on the Desktop of all you lab computers, so students can use it for the exercise.
  4. Some exercises run in a new window (or a new tab depending on your settings). Make sure pop-up blocker is disabled or set it to allow pop-ups from this site.
  5. Any audio you may encounter is provided in a variety of formats: RealPlayer (RP), Windows Media Player (WMP), Quicktime Player(QT) or Flash Player (FP). For the exercise you select for students to do, make sure the computer(s) have the appropriate audio player installed.
  6. Java is also required for some of the site’s exercises, so make sure it is installed, too, if the exercise you select requires it.


  1. Visit the Example Web Site above. Select Exercises from the left hand navigation pane. Select Paragraph from the navigation at the top of the page and then in the Writing Paragraphs column, select exercise 4 "Choosing topic sentence."
  2. Students will look at the text about Leonardo da Vinci. The first sentence of each paragraph has been removed. The sentences are listed in the box below (or to the left in the printed document) the text. Students need to match them with the correct paragraphs. We have copied the exercise onto a document (Example Document 1, above) that you can print, photocopy, and distribute to students if you use the exercise as a whole class activity. If you have students do the exercise individually in a computer lab, explain the activity and use Example Document 2. Then they can copy and paste the text into it's proper position in the Word document.
  3. Have students compare their answers in pairs or small groups.
  4. Select “Answers” (on the Exercise page) to see the correct answers for the exercise. Go over incorrect answers students selected and provide explanations.
  5. Follow up by having students find short biographies on the Internet and identifying topic sentences of paragraphs.

Teacher Tips

  • The site is from the United Kingdom, so British English is used (spelling and pronunciation)
  • There are multiple exercises on the following writing skills:
    • Questions: Understanding the question in a writing assignment prompt
    • Research: Doing research
    • Functions: Describing, reporting and narrating, defining, writing instructions, describing processes and developments, classifying/categorizing, including tables and diagrams, writing critically, arguing and discussing, evaluating other points of view, comparing and contrasting, reasons and explanations, providing support, identifying voices, taking a stance
    • Paragraphs: Writing paragraphs
    • Avoiding plagiarism
    • Report: Reporting - paraphrase, summary & synthesis
    • References: Writing a reference list
    • Citation: Citing sources
    • Punc: Punctuation
    • Spelling: Common spelling mistakes, computer-induced mistakes, homophones
    • Features of academic writing

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  • Advanced


Basic Communication

  • (7.2) Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
  • (7.3) Demonstrate ability to use problem-solving skills
  • (7.4) Demonstrate study skills
  • (7.7) Demonstrate the ability to use information and communication technology
  • (7.6) Demonstrate the ability to view the media critically
  • (7.1) Identify or demonstrate effective skills and practices in accomplishing goals
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.