Teaching academic writing skills and support during studies

University students are expected to master a wide range of academic reading and writing skills in their mother tongues as well as in other languages if they hope to succeed in their studies, do research as required in their own field and operate in working life at a level that matches their education. During their studies, students become familiar with the demands of the various texts related to their degree through reading and writing and aided by the feedback received from their supervisors. The academic writing specialists at the Language Centre support this assimilation process and also offer students the possibility to deepen and broaden their academic writing skills through specially focussed courses and other support services.

Academic writing skills in the mother tongue

The Native Language Unit provides teaching in Finnish and Swedish academic writing skills at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level as well as to post-graduates and researchers.

The aim of the academic writing courses that are offered to Bachelor’s degree students is to develop writing communication skills needed during their studies (e.g. Bachelor’s thesis and the so-called Maturity Test) and in working life, and above all to focus on the various stages of the writing process. The writing communication studies at the Bachelor’s level are an important support in the development of mother tongue writing (and thinking) of all students in their own fields. It is of particular importance to those Swedish-speaking students who are studying in a Finnish-language degree programme.

In addition to the Faculty and subject-based writing courses at the Bachelor’s level, there are writing courses open to all. Writing courses for Master’s and Doctoral thesis writers concentrate on supporting the writing process, learning effective working habits and above all producing and improving the thesis. Our courses on grammar and textual analysis for future professional writers are open to all students who are interested in developing and improving their own writing. The emphasis here is on the central areas of textual analysis and the factors that influence the fluency of texts.  Also on offer to Master’s students, post-graduates and researchers, there are workshops on popularising scientific texts, which aim to develop skills in popularised writing and promote the students’ own production of such texts related to their own field or other related scientific areas of interest.

In addition to these courses arranged by the Native Language Unit, there is also support for academic writing skills provided by the Second National Language Unit. Students who are taking bi-lingual degrees in Finnish and Swedish can work on the language of their Master’s thesis under the individual guidance of a Finnish or Swedish teacher and can also take a course in academic writing in the second national language.

In addition to these courses, our teachers have developed self-access materials on academic writing in the two national languages, which are available to everybody: Kielijelppi, Språkhjälpen, Gradutakuu, Tohtoritakuuand Plotti.


Academic writing skills in English

The English Unit and the Language Services ensure that the teaching of academic writing in English is provided at different stages of the studies in the same way as it is for the native language. In fact, the English teachers and the native language teachers cooperate when planning themes and approaches: the aim is that their courses support and complement each other.

For students studying for their Bachelor’s degree, the English Unit organises Faculty-specific courses in English Academic and Professional Skills. These courses include a focus on the vocabulary and academic style of the specific field. In addition, there are different levels of courses in Writing for Study Purposes, campus-based or integrated into the studies, which cover academic writing conventions and other central topics related to writing; students on these courses can be at very different stages of their studies, from Bachelor’s level to post-graduate.

Students on English-medium Master’s degree programmes have their own courses. Academic Writing 1 is a course for first-year students and consists partly of contact teaching for the whole group and partly of individually-tailored activities and guidance. When they are writing their Master’s theses, students get support and guidance on the Academic Writing 2 course.

Having taken the above-mentioned courses, students who are interested in further developing their English writing skills can get guidance on their thesis or other study-related texts in individual consultation sessions as part of the course Feedback on Academic Writing. In addition to this, writing related to working life can be developed on the course Writing in English for Career Purposes.

The Language Services Unit organises, as University staff training or as tailored courses for graduate schools, courses such as Academic Writing and Editing, Scientific Writing and Grant Writing, which are aimed at post-graduates and researchers. The language revision service is another essential part of the support given to post-graduates and researchers for their writing and publishing in English (and other languages). The language revisors who work for the Language Services are native-speakers specialised in the academic writing of different scientific fields. They ensure that Helsinki University research written in a foreign language is linguistically impeccable and according to the required conventions.

Carolyn Brimley Norris, PhD, with her personally-revised, 25 years’ worth of doctoral dissertations from the field of Medicine.