Fundamentals of Academic Writing

Research Skills B1

Nagoya University
Professor Chad Nilep

Course Objectives

The course introduces basic skills of academic research writing and logical thinking to help graduate students develop from readers into academic writers. Students produce a preliminary abstract for a major paper—typically their graduation thesis—and deliver an oral presentation analyzing a research paper in their own field.

The course uses group discussion among students and the instructor. For this reason, all participants must be able to communicate in spoken and written English. Participants should be prepared to discuss actively. This includes asking questions and sharing ideas.


Students who enroll for course credit are required to meet the following conditions: attend at least 80% of meetings; write one abstract; deliver one oral presentation. See assignments here. Students who wish to observe the course for no credit may request to do so.


Any graduate student, researcher, or professor may schedule a tutorial with Mei-writing faculty (including professor Nilep) or Mei-writing tutors. Click here to make an appointment.


This schedule is tentative and may change. Please read the readings and complete the assignments before that day's class (except lecture notes).

Date Topics Readings Other assignments
4/16 Introduction, registration;
What is academic writing?
none Optional reading: Irvin, "What is academic writing?"
4/23 Audience and purpose in academic writing Nilep, "Audience, purpose, and tone"

Lecture notes
Register at the administrative office of your department. (Deadline varies by department.)
5/7 What is a research question? SUNY Empire, "Developing research questions";
Hamlitsch, "Necessities for building a thesis statement"

Lecture notes
5/14 What is a thesis statement? Online Writing Lab, "Developing strong thesis statements";
Kabara, "Data laundry-listing"

Lecture notes
Preparation for assignment 1: Choose a research project to present. It may be your own project or a paper you have read.
(make-up) What is plagiarism? Why is it a problem? WTS, "Plagiarism";
Nilep, "Distinct varieties of plagiarism"
Write a 1~2 sentence definition of plagiarism. (not graded)
5/21 Logical argument (I)
Deductive reasoning
Van Heuveln, "Arguments" (Other chapters are also helpful.)
Nilep, "Deductive logic"

Lecture notes
Group discussion: What is the thesis or conclusion of the project you will present? How does the data support the conclusion?
5/28 Logical argument (II)
Inductive reasoning
Online Writing Lab, "Using logic in writing";
Van Heuveln, "Inductive reasoning"

Lecture notes
Optional reading: Gasson, "Rigor in qualitative analysis"
6/4 Research design Grand Canyon U., "Basic research design";
Optional: Bhattacherjee, Social Science Research (Provides a good overview of research design)

Lecture notes
Preparation for assignment 1: Analyze the paper you selected. What argument supports the thesis? What are the paper's weaknesses or strengths?
6/11 Writing a strong thesis statement Lai, "What is a thesis and how to build one from scratch"

Lecture notes
6/18 What is an abstract? Lai, "How to build an informative abstract"

Lecture notes
Preparation for assignment 2: Write a (one sentence) thesis statement for your abstract project. If you want feedback from the class & instructor, email it before midnight 6/22 to Put "Fundamentals of academic writing" in the subject line.
6/25 Writing the abstract U. Queensland, "Writing an abstract"
Sano-Franchini, "Writing the Academic Conference Proposal"

Lecture notes
Find two abstracts that you think do a good job communicating what the paper is about. Bring them to class. You will discuss in your group what makes them effective.
7/2 Logical, rhetorical, and statistical fallacies Choose at least one: Lecture notes Preparation for assignment 2: Make an outline or plan for your abstract. Be sure to include information about your research question, methods or reasoning, and your thesis statement.
7/9 Student presentations none Major assignment 1: Oral presentations
7/23 Student presentations;
Peer review
none Major assignment 1: Oral presentations

Peer review: Write a draft of your abstract. Bring two copies to class. You will read your peers' abstracts and offer advice on anything that is unclear. They will do the same for you.
7/30 Major assignment 2 due. Email your abstract to

Note: PDF files can be opened using the free Adobe reader. Get Adobe reader here.

TBA = "To be announced" (決めていない)

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