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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

9. The study of student academic writing

Thorsten Pohl


This chapter examines research conducted on problems students have with academic writing, the changes over time in the institutional framework in which such writing takes place, the acquisition of academic writing skills, and university support measures. In the literature, difficulties in meeting the requirements of producing academic texts are repeatedly noted, both with respect to the writing process and to the written products. However, complaints about the quality of student writing have a long history, and are connected to what has been and is expected of students. In the early 19th century, when German university institutes (Seminar) were first created, only a handful of students were required to write texts at all. Only by the early 20th century did academic writing become a compulsory part of university study. Academic writing is interpreted here as “polydimensional”, which helps explain some of the especially challenging aspects of such text production for students. Mastering this skill, this chapter argues, is part of a developmental process students undergo throughout their course of study; secondary school does not fully prepare them for this task. The final section discusses some approaches - oriented to instruction, communication, reception, or curriculum - which have been suggested for supporting the process of acquiring academic writing skills.

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