February 2014 – Volume 17, Number 4
Longman Academic Writing Series 5: Essays to Research Papers
|Author:||Alan Meyers (2014)||
|Publisher:||Pearson Education, Inc.|
|249 pages||978-0-13-291274-7||$46.67 USD|
Level 5 in the Longman Academic Writing Series is the most advanced writing textbook in the five-level series. As with the other books in the Longman Academic Writing Series, this volume aims at preparing English language learners for academic coursework. The unique feature of Level 5—different from the other books in the series—is its focus on academic essays and research papers. Thus, this textbook would be particularly helpful to advanced English learners in English for Academic Purposes courses as well as first-year undergraduate students.
The book is fairly easy to follow. There are a total of nine chapters; each chapter is built around a particular type of essay: expository, classification, process, cause/effect, extended definition, problem/solution, summary/response, argumentative, and research. In addition, each chapter tends to focus on a particular topic, which is introduced in a model essay at the beginning of the chapter. Therefore, vocabulary exercises, sections on grammar and sentence structure, and examples illustrating composing skills are all related to the topic of the chapter.
Looking at each chapter individually, I noticed that the author effectively balanced both theoretical material and practice tasks and activities, both guided exercises and independent writing assignments. Each of the book’s chapters is nicely organized and follows the same organizational pattern that adopts a step-by-step approach to help the learner gradually develop the skills introduced in the chapter.
The structure of each chapter is coherent, which enables students see the importance of every step in the process of composing a writing piece. The activities and exercises are organized in a logical manner by building on each other, which allows the teacher to simply follow the material in the order presented in the chapter. Each chapter starts with Objectives that I found particularly helpful, as they present the list of skills covered in the chapter and give the teacher a quick overview of instructional goals of the chapter. At the same time, the Objectives are directed towards the learner (i.e., “In this chapter, you will learn to…”), which allows students to draw a clear picture of the academic writing skills they will master by the end of the chapter. Writing Models, which are adapted from authentic sources such as magazines, journals, and newspapers, can give students a better understanding of the type of rhetorical genre addressed in the chapter.
To help students build their vocabulary, each chapter includes two types of vocabulary activities—Noticing Vocabulary and Applying Vocabulary. The former type of exercise directs the students’ attention to the most common vocabulary items from the writing sample, whereas the latter type allows students to practice these items, so they can use them in the writing assignment found at the end of the chapter. What’s more, the Applying Vocabulary tasks specifically aim at helping students expand their academic vocabulary needed not only in writing, but also in reading academic texts. The examples of this academic vocabulary include collocations, words with negative prefixes, nouns of Greek and Latin origins, to name a few.
As each chapter focuses on a different rhetorical genre, Organization sections provide explanations and examples of the rhetorical patterns related to the target genre explored in the chapter. In addition, in the Organization sections, students will also find exercises for practicing different elements of essays such as introductions, thesis statements, and transition words. The book also nicely demonstrates connections between rhetorical patterns and language elements. Thus, each chapter includes either sections on Grammar or Sentence Structure with the grammar elements and sentence structures that students are most likely to use in the target genre of the chapter. For example, in the chapter on extended definition essays, the grammar section contains exercises on noun clauses and adjective clauses, which are frequently used when giving definitions.
Preparation for Writing sections include activities that will help students develop research skills needed in writing. By completing the activities of these sections, students can learn, for instance, how to research a topic in multiple sources, how to paraphrase and synthesize material from sources, how to support an argument, to name a few. Just like with the other types of exercises in this book, the activities in Preparation for Writing sections can be used by students independently. The accessible language and clear examples make these activities a very friendly resource for autonomous use.
The culmination of each chapter is Writing Assignment, in which students are able to apply the skills and knowledge acquired from the chapter by composing their own essay. Each writing assignment consists of seven major steps: 1) exploring the topic, audience, and purpose, 2) prewriting to get ideas, 3) organizing the ideas, 4) writing the first draft, 5) revising the first draft, 6) editing and proofreading, and 7) writing a new draft. The Writing Assignment section is particularly helpful for students to understand the importance of every step in the process of composing a draft. Moreover, two steps of the writing process presented in this section—revising the first draft, and editing and proofreading—provide additional documents found in the Appendices—Peer Review and Writer’s Self-Check. I found these documents particularly effective because instead of giving the reader generic evaluation sheets, each chapter has its own Peer Review and Writer’s Self-Check that are tailored to the specific writing skills introduced in the chapter.
On the back of the book, the reader will find Appendices, which include: 1) Writing Guides, which provide writers with the tools they need to improve the flow of the ideas in their essays, 2) Connecting Words and Transition Signals, 3) Article Usage, which gives exceptions to the rules governing the use of the articles, 4) Common Phrasal Verbs, 5) Commonly Confused Words, 6) Commonly Misspelled Words, 7) Citation Guidelines on MLA and APA Formats, 8) Correction Symbols that the teacher can use to provide grammar corrective feedback on students’ drafts, and 9) Peer Review and Writer’s Self-Check worksheets.
The best features of Longman Academic Writing Series 5: Essays to Research Papers, in my opinion, are the easy-to-follow organization, the balance of structured and autonomous activities, the interactive tasks, including pair work, group work, and full-class activities, which allows the teacher to engage students in the learning process, and a variety of supplemental documents that can be used both by the classroom teacher and by students for their individual study. If the primary objectives of your course are to emphasize composition as a process and prepare students for writing in academic settings, Longman Academic Writing Series 5: Essays to Research Papers is a great textbook to use.
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