Understanding U.S. Academic Writing as a Process
Write early and write often. This advice is important for understanding writing as a process. Language and writing skills are acquired over time. Moreover, acquiring American academic English is an even more time-consuming part of the process. Numerous researchers have noted that daily English and academic English are two distinct skill sets (Braxley, 2005; DiCerbo et al., 2014; Hyland, 2016; Langum & Sullivan, 2017; Lucas et al., 2008; Mallia, 2017; Scarcella, 2003). In fact, Cummins (1983, 1984) proposed that after becoming generally fluent in English, it takes another 5 to 7 years of specific study to be able to write a document meeting American academic writing standards. Thus, writing needs to become a habit rather than something that happens right before a deadline. In addition, no writer can produce the best text on the first try. Remember that writing is an iterative process that will require many, many revisions, especially at the capstone level.
Walden has several resources available to help:
- The Doctoral Capstone Form and Style site hosts a variety of sources to help understand and employ reading, writing, and revision as a process:
- SKIL Courses and workshops are available to help writers acquire the essential skills required to write at the capstone level and to help with the individual parts of the project study/doctoral study/dissertation.
Following the Expected Rhetorical Structure (Organization) of American Academic Writing
To write a successful doctoral study/project study/dissertation, it is necessary to follow the expected rhetorical structure—in other words, the expected organization—of American academic English. Analyzing published Walden capstone documents in a specific program or field of study is a great place to start. Published capstone documents are accessible through the links below:
- Dissertations and Doctoral Studies
- Hodgkinson Award Winning Dissertations
- Dilley Award Winning Dissertations
Multilingual capstone writers should analyze the examples not just for content but also for organization, development, and linguistic features (such as topic sentences in paragraphs, transitions, verb tenses, and field-specific expressions and vocabulary). The more the multilingual capstone writer reads in the genre, the easier it will be for them to write their own capstone document, following the organizational expectations of American academic writing.
Organizing the Document as a Whole
To organize the project study/doctoral study/dissertation as a whole, follow the appropriate premise guide, prospectus guide, and checklist for the program. Also be sure to use the program-specific study/dissertation templates.
Organizing the Document in Sections and Paragraphs
To organize the individual sections and paragraphs of the document, keep in mind that American academic writing tends to be linear in structure, and the United States tends to be a writer-responsible rather than a reader-responsible culture. This means that the writing should be clear and straightforward, and the reader should not have to work too hard to understand connections made between the ideas in the text.
See this video on Following the Expected Rhetorical Structure for more explanation and examples:
See these other resources from the Doctoral Capstone Form and Style website for more information on paragraph organization and following a linear structure:
- Multilingual Writing Tip: Rhetorical Structure
- Multilingual Writing Tip: Cohesion
- Multilingual Writing Tip: Conjunctions in Equal and Unequal Clauses
- Multilingual Writing Tip: Word Choice: Sentence Connectors
- MEAL Plan paragraph organization
Another part of following the expected rhetorical structure of American academic writing is developing academic arguments with evidence and analysis.
See this video on Developing Your Arguments With Evidence and Your Own Analysis for more explanation and examples:
Also see these resources for more information:
In addition, part of writing using evidence-based arguments is incorporating citations properly. In American academic English, it is necessary to cite all ideas that come from other sources. See this video below about citing all ideas that come from other sources:
See this video about Citing All Ideas That Come From Other Sources for more explanation and examples: