The Creation of a Transitional Discourse Community to Enhance Academic Writing in a Resource-Poor Environment

Karin Zotzmann


The difficulties students face when writing academically in an L2 have been widely acknowledged (Dudley-Evans 2002 et al., Paltridge 2001 and Swales 1990). While many higher education institutions in English-speaking countries have started to offer modules that support non-native (and native) students in their academic writing, very little is being done in this respect in developing countries, for example in Latin America (Carlino 2007 and Vargas 2007). In this paper, a project will be presented that aimed at fostering academic literacy in an M.A. course on research methods in a Mexican public university. Different pedagogic strategies, such as a needs analysis, explicit instruction on the target genre (the literature review), collaborative writing, a research journal, peer-reviews and group discussions were combined in order to achieve rapid improvement in this resource-poor environment. Through constant mutual feedback from, and communication with, peers, this transitional discourse community (Bruffee 1999) of twenty-four students moved towards the norms and conventions associated with the respective genre. The strategies employed might be of interest to instructors in academic writing who work under similar difficult conditions and/or time constraints.

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