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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

Publication details for Dr Jacquie Robson

Bruce, M. L., Coffer, P. K., Rees, S. & Robson, J. M. (2016). Write on the edge: using a chemistry corpus to develop academic writing skills resources for undergraduate chemists. Chemistry Education Research and Practice

Author(s) from Durham


Many undergraduate students find the production of an extended piece of academic writing challenging. This challenge is more acute in the sciences where production of extended texts is infrequent throughout undergraduate studies. This paper reports the development of a new English for Academic Purposes (EAP) workshop and associated resources for third year undergraduate chemists to support their dissertation module. The workshop is designed to utilise a searchable database of student texts (a corpus) developed as part of the FOCUS project at Durham University. This novel use of data-driven learning (DDL), common in second language pedagogy, transfers well to the chemistry classroom as the processes of research and discovery (of words rather than chemicals) involved in DDL parallel similar processes in chemistry research. Our workshop and online consolidation activities have been positively evaluated by both staff and our current cohort of students. The project is being rolled out across other departments at Durham as well as the corpus tool being utilised at other UK HEIs. This corpus-based approach to academic writing in chemistry offers a unique perspective on the interplay between language and scientific literacy.