Aiming for excellence in academic writing

The Academic Writing Centre was founded at Athlone Institute of Technology  in 2015. The centre’s aim is to promote excellence in academic writing, through a variety of means: individual support, small group sessions, large group classes, seminars and class presentations.

By Emer Connolly Academic Writing Skills Tutor,  Athlone Institute of Technology

ACADEMIC writing has become an integral part of the support provided for all learners at third level colleges. Structured learning support is available to students in a supportive learning environment.

A strong emphasis is placed on academic writing skills and ensuring that all students are afforded adequate support, to ensure their writing requirements are met.

The Academic Writing Centre was established at Athlone Institute of Technology – under the auspices of the Student Resource Centre – in 2015. The centre’s aim is to promote excellence in academic writing, through a variety of means: individual support, small group sessions, large group classes, seminars and class presentations. There is a strong focus on ensuring there is an inclusive educational experience.

Tailored support

It is important that the support offered is tailored to individual needs, catering for students across all years of study and across all disciplines. Some students prefer a one-to-one approach with a lecturer or tutor; others benefit from learning in small or large groups; other students enjoy attending one of the workshops designed to meet the demands of the students.

We, in the Academic Writing Centre, work closely with lecturers who are teaching across the college, to ensure we can deliver writing packages specific to the various disciplines. We also liaise with class representatives, as they are aware of the difficulties experienced by their classmates when it comes to academic writing.

Areas where support is requested include grammar, punctuation, paragraphing, essay structure, planning assignments, literature review, language, referencing and citing, paraphrasing, reflective writing, using research in academic writing, time management and writer’s block.

Students in some subject areas are required to write more than others and essay length varies across disciplines. Some learners need more support with their writing than others, while other students are more eager to engage with the Academic Writing Centre than others.

Transforming writing

Some students arrive at the Academic Writing Centre in the early stages of their first year studies looking for help on a range of writing-related issues, including transforming their writing from Leaving Certificate English to lengthier academic essays. Many of them continue to visit the centre on a regular basis throughout their studies, while others are happy with one or two visits in total.

Other students don’t engage with the centre until they hear about a literature review or dissertation! Writing literature reviews or tackling referencing for the first time, is, for many students, daunting and it is important that students are supported along the way. 

Some students embrace referencing and literature reviews, but their weak points might be grammar, punctuation or the basics of structuring an academic essay. Others have difficulty grasping referencing, but are strong on essay structure and sentence construction.

It’s important that students are aware that the support afforded by the Academic Writing Centre is free of charge and available to all registered students. In some cases, students, who may have been detached from the education system for several years or who may be leading busy lives, are struggling to get started with an assignment.

The idea of tackling an assignment features in several queries at the Academic Writing Centre, along with time management. 

At the Writing Centre, no query is too small; we offer tips on valuable aspects of the writing process including time management, overcoming writer’s block, preparing for examinations and progressing with course work. 

Our lecturers and tutors – who have a wealth of experience teaching and learning at third level – focus on constructive feedback, in a positive and engaging environment.

Bookings during the academic year

A total of 1,761 students engaged with the Academic Writing Centre at Athlone Institute of Technology during the 2018/2019 Academic Year: 1,561 students attended classes or workshops and 200 students attended individual appointments.

Bookings were made through drop-ins, through the online booking system and through email: academicwritingcentre@ait.ie.

Students from all disciplines engaged with the AWC, both for individual sessions and classes. Students across every year of their studies engaged with the AWC, particularly 4th year students. There was good interest, in particular, among students in Social Care and Health Science and Nutrition.