From story to argument: The Acquisition of Academic Writing Skills
FROM STORY TO ARGUMENT: THE
ACQUISITION OF ACADEMIC
WRITING SKILLS IN AN OPEN-
Examines the acquisition of academic writing skills by
adult students studying by distance learning in the
United Kingdom. Results indicate that the text-based
nature of distance learning affects both the way in
which students acquire writing skills and the
development of their identity as academic writers.
1. Sociocultural approach: views universities as social institutions. It provides
a framework for analyzing the students’ experience and their identities as
2. Sociolinguistic approach: teaching academic writing in face-to-face
The study focused on student perceptions of learning academic writing skills
measured through interviews and questionnaires.
At the initial, students were asked about their educational
and occupational experience and their expectations of
writing on the course.
Results found: Writing played a minimal role in most of
these students’ lives.
After six months study , students were helped to develop
their academic writing skills in the best way through
By the end of the study, all students had grasped the basics
of essay-writing, although levels of confidence varied.
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
Students and teachers see academic writing in
terms of argument and analysis and the use of
evidence and illustration
Students arriving to academic study from
vocational courses can meet special concerns
in the process of learning to use academic
The majority of tutor observations were more
critical than constructive.
This showed that they were concerned about
teaching skills for writing argument instead of
There is a lack of linguistic training
of the tutors.
Factors that influence Open
University teaching methods:
1. The design of Open University
2. The nature of Open University
3. The development of personal
identity as Open University
The course organization determines the differences
between the courses interpretation of “multi-
The lack of time to develop writing skills in a multi-
disciplinary course and the unfamiliarity with them is
a difficult situation that students have to face.
Course design has a tough impact on how and in
what order students learn academic writing skills.
Students who are part of Open University foundation
courses are in an alike position to those on modular
THE NATURE OF OPEN UNIVERSITY
Open University students
have less opportunities in
learning because they study
by textbooks, not in a oral or
Students are unable to attend
tutorials or self-help groups
for practical reasons.
The text is interactive and a form of
dialogue between tutor and student.
Students are more engaged in the text.
The text is mediated by the pedagogic
Students are more motivated in what
they are learning.
An effect on students’ writing skills,
especially in relation to inter-
Negative Facts: Distinction in Open University Text
OPEN UNIVERSITY STUDENT IDENTITY
students acknowledge the
discontinuities between their
previous experience and the
demands of academic study, but
they regard the acculturation
process positively and do not
appear to be suffering from the
alienation or disorientation
reported in other studies.
A combination of sociocultural
factors rather than simply linguistic
The university’s methods as different
from those of other universities.
Learners prefer non-traditional
Learners have part-time jobs.
The main difference is their positive
desire to gain an ‘academic’ identity
and the fact that after six months of
study they do not feel demotivated.
How do students acquire an identity
as student or ‘apprentice’ academic
Features of Open University students
The way multi-disciplinary courses are structured and particularly the
way in which the individual disciplines they include are linked together.
The pedagogic and linguistic structure of distance-learning text.
Students’ perceptions of themselves as text-based learners and the
relationship between this and their confidence and identity as adult
How students start to position themselves as academic writers by
acquiring sets of skills that enable them to construct part or all of
academic texts such as introductions and conclusions.
For this reason, the study is continuing with sociolinguistic analysis of
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