Christine Tardy, Writing for the World: Wikipedia as an Introduction to Academic Writing

As students move from writing personal essays to writing formal academic texts in English, they face several new challenges. Writing tasks in higher education often require students to draw upon outside sources and to adopt the styles and genres of academic discourse. They must conduct research, summarize and paraphrase, cite sources, adopt genre conventions that meet audience expectations, and select words and grammatical patterns that are characteristic of less personal and more formal genres of writing. These academic literacy skills can pose challenges when first introduced. To conduct research, students must learn to search for and evaluate sources in terms of credibility and reliability, developing skills of informational literacy. An additional challenge faced in academic writing is the issue of expertise. Academic writing often requires students to write from an expert position, even when they do not consider themselves to be experts on their topics. This article describes an approach to introducing the skills of academic writing for L2 writers through the process of composing an article for the web-based encyclopedia site Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org). After providing a description of Wikipedia, the article outlines stages for carrying out a Wikipedia research project. The author describes an assignment that can be easily scaled to a range of contexts and levels but may be best suited for undergraduate-level writing students. (Contains 3 figures.)

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