Writing essays in English language and linguistics

Writing essays in English language and linguistics: Principles, tips and strategies for undergraduates. By Neil Murray. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. 248. ISBN 9780521128469. $27.99.

Reviewed by Ferit Kılıçkaya, Kocaeli University

Writing is one of the most challenging skills in language learning and teaching. It requires not only a well-grounded knowledge of the target language but also a particular set of conventions and styles. This book, divided into two parts, includes ten chapters and aims to provide students enrolled in language and linguistics departments with a quick but efficient guide for writing essays.

The first part, entitled ‘The basics’, begins with a chapter that touches upon several points, including different writing styles, originality, and length. In Ch. 2, the author presents the most important elements of writing. This chapter describes how a paragraph can be constructed to better represent and convey ideas, and punctuation is discussed in detail, with clear examples to illustrate usage, which will be of great help to students.

The second part, entitled ‘Getting down to writing’, starts with Ch. 3, which deals with ways that a student can approach assignment questions and provides clear examples to describe different types of writing, such as defining, describing, and arguing. In Ch. 4, the author presents the key stages of writing a good essay: information-gathering, note-taking, planning, drafting, checking, and revising. Ch. 5 discusses how to write a good introduction, addressing the development of a thesis statement, length, and paragraphing. In Ch. 6, the author reviews some formatting essentials, including headings and line spacing.

Ch. 7 discusses how to construct summaries and conclusions and also how they differ, providing clear tips and examples. Ch. 8 is devoted to referencing and quotations. This chapter explains how plagiarism can be avoided, what is required to paraphrase, and how to cite sources in an essay according to different conventions. In Ch. 9, the author deals with stylistic issues and aims to provide clear answers to several questions that arise while writing, such as the use of first-person singular, humor, and formatting. Ch. 10 provides tips, examples, and key points to students who will write small-scale research projects and dissertations. Moreover, this chapter provides a quick review of quantitative approaches (e.g. survey research and experiments), qualitative approaches (e.g. case studies and ethnographies), and mixed-method approaches

A section entitled ‘Frequently asked questions’ provides answers to some commonly asked questions about essays. These answers are organized according to the several themes, such as developing one’s voice and citing sources. The glossary provided toward the end of the book presents definitions of some of the terms frequently referred to in language and linguistics studies.

Overall, the author provides an invaluable resource not only for undergraduate but also graduate students enrolled in language and linguistics departments. With clear examples and advice on various issues linked to writing, ranging from how to write an introduction to citing and referencing, the book will undoubtedly aid students in improving their writing. The book can also serve as a quick reference book for revisiting some of the issues that might emerge while writing essays.