May 8, 2019Print | PDF
Students in France were the first to use a new textbook co-written by Wilfrid Laurier University instructor Jordana Garbati.
Mastering Academic Writing, co-authored with Boba Samuels of the University of Toronto, provides practical solutions to the potential pitfalls of academic writing.
The book engages readers by introducing them to a cast of characters – inspired by real students – who are experiencing typical challenges in the writing process.
“From both learning and teaching perspectives, this approach brings the content to life, making the theories more accessible and the task of writing less overwhelming,” says Kristie McGowan, the first professor to use the book in a classroom setting.
McGowan is director of the Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) dual-degree program at the North Carolina State University (NC State) Poole College of Management.
In fall 2018, her GLAM students had completed their first semester at NC State as part of the program, offered jointly with SKEMA Business School. Students later spent part of their winter semester at SKEMA’s campus in Paris, France, where they met Garbati.
“A hybrid between a workbook and textbook, Mastering Academic Writing allowed my students to consider lessons from various real-world writing scenarios and apply them to challenges they were facing in their own writing projects,” says McGowan.
For two days in February, Garbati led one-on-one consultations and in-class workshops focusing on the foundations of academic writing during the students’ thesis and research session.
“The questions the American and French students had about their writing and research were the same we hear from students at Laurier,” says Garbati. “When faced with an onerous writing task, such as a master’s thesis, my goal is to help break down each step of the writing process, so the large task is more manageable.”
Garbati has worked as a writing consultant in Laurier’s Teaching and Learning department since 2013. As a consultant, she supervises teams of undergraduate and graduate student writing tutors and works with faculty members to develop writing assignments and integrate writing instruction in-class and online.
She is the first to admit that academic writing is challenging. It is a skill honed over time that takes continuous practice, even after students think they have mastered the basics.
Garbati notes some of the potential pitfalls writers face and offers advice on how to avoid them:
Garbati also recommends taking regular breaks during the writing process. Time away allows writers to revisit their work with a clear mind and fresh eyes.
Ultimately, Garbati says all writers should embrace the inevitable “mess” ahead of them.
“It’s going to be messy,” says Garbati. “Nothing will be perfect at the beginning – nor should it be – because the process relies on revision and reflection on the imperfections.”
In fall 2016, Garbati was hired to develop and teach Writing and Presentations in Economics. She developed the course to focus on techniques and strategies for effective written and oral communication of economic ideas – skills that some of her Department of Economics students find highly relevant to their career goals.
“I’m walking away from this course with real, transferable life skills,” says economics and financial management student Hanna Mahmoud. “The ability to clearly present my work during a meeting or properly construct a report will help me find a job within my field.”
While some of the course topics, including grammar fundamentals, active versus passive voice and the foundations of public speaking may not seem exciting, Jaimin Jethva came away from the class with insights he didn’t expect.
“Examining the grammatical features of academic writing more closely has taught me how to use active voice to avoid 'hiding' behind my writing and be more clear in my message,” says Jethva, a second-year student in the Department of Economics.
Mahmoud says Garbati’s practical course design and passion for the subject matter helped her become a stronger and more confident presenter.
“My presentation skills have drastically improved from what they were previous to this course,” says Mahmoud. “Her charisma and passion radiate throughout the classroom.”
Whether honing communication skills in a Laurier classroom or starting the first draft of a dissertation abroad, Garbati maintains the path to mastering academic writing requires the identification and reflection on both one’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
We see you are accessing our website on IE8. We recommend you view in Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE9+ instead.×