Review: Academic Writing – Mastering Citation and Referencing

Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing is the latest publication from Prosperity Education. The book is aimed at learners on pre-sessional university courses, who are looking for a clear introduction to academic writing skills. The resource is suited to self-study, but may also be used by teachers/lecturers who run academic writing courses. The author of this book is Paul Murphy, an EAP specialist at Mahidol University, who has extensive experience of training learners in academic writing.  

In general, most of the content in this book is probably pitched at B2 or above. The book includes 10 units which focus mainly on topics within the humanities or social sciences. A comprehensive range of academic writing, reference, and citation skills are introduced and practiced – here’s the contents:

The activities for practising each skill are varied, but there are some common features across the units:

  • Each skill is concisely introduced and explained, with clear examples given.
  • Good models and WAGOLLs are provided and there are some excellent ‘talk throughs’ showing why particular responses may be appropriate/inappropriate.
  • Practice stages are very well-scaffolded – tasks are broken down into sentence construction, paragraph construction, and text completion activities where relevant.

As the unit topics show, the author frontloads the early part of the resource with activities related to language reviews (reporting verbs, passives), language transformation activities (changing parts of speech, word order), and tasks related to vocabulary building (e.g synonyms). These are really important components of paraphrasing as a main skill, and the author refers back to these in later units. For this reason, I would say that the resource might be best studied cover to cover – although that very much depends on the context. If learners are looking for a quick ‘How to…’ fix for a particular skill then it could still be a dip-in resource.

Regarding the main topic of the book, the author has included tons of useful activities and guidance on a whole range of conventions and styles. The activities for in-text citations cover citing a range of different texts, citing multiple authors, ways to introduce quotes, paraphrasing, so much! Later activities on referencing provide some great go-to details for compiling reference lists, plenty of information on reference list conventions, and a useful checklist to use while compiling your references.

While the book does focus a lot on citation and referencing (as you would expect!), it also covers more general aspects of academic writing. For example, tasks like planning a discursive essay, complete the essay, evaluating sources, and summarizing are more generally useful, and are more than just a vehicle to practise referencing and citation.

I’m amazed by how much is covered in this resource, and just how beneficial it could be for learners in my context (EAL). While the book is aimed at undergraduate and graduate university students, there are plenty of activities which I could use with EAL learners at KS4 and KS5. I typically use Great Writing as a resource for developing general writing skills with EAL learners, and have made my own resources to help learners develop more academic writing skills such as citation. However, this resource is without doubt an enhancement on the support I’ve provided for my learners in the past – far more comprehensive and transferable to a range of subjects too.

The level of scaffolding is what really makes it. I like how the skill is explained clearly and directly (not ‘explored’), and the gradual increase in challenge as the activities progress. Here’s an example (in this case, about effective paraphrasing):

This is something I often see in notes or answer sections with teacher notes – it’s good to see it clearly directed at the learners here, and explained well!

This leads to identifying further good examples and justifying why these are effective (based on criteria taught):

(There were a serious of examples, obvs). Followed by some timely input on plagiarism, with examples, just as learners will go on to attempt their own paraphrasing. Then there’s learner practice, which calls upon skills taught in earlier units (transformation, use of synonyms, changing word order, etc):

And importantly, the challenge is not made too demanding by having to produce topic sentences too – just focusing in on paraphrasing evidence.

Things progresses to adding relevant paraphrasing to complete a text:

… and then onto further practice, again with appropriate scaffolding. I can’t really show all the stages of support leading up to these tasks as it would be a lot of screenshots, but you get my point. The author hasn’t scrimped on space at all  – they’ve provided comprehensive support at all stages to help move learners that one step further along.

This book matches ‘Great Writing’ from Cengage for its depth and range of practice, and maybe goes one better in its level of technicality, while remaining accessible. However, one of the challenges in writing this resource was probably making it academically relevant to a range of learners. The preference for social science / humanities-oriented topics in some ways makes this relevant to broader audiences (as mentioned, KS4 and KS5 learners) who may need to reference in discursive essays. However, a few topics from the core ‘STEM’ sciences may have added balance, and exposure to different writing conventions and styles. Where these topics do exist in name (Unit 6: Technology), texts are more about the social issues (the impact of technology) and less about, say, more technical research in this field.

That said, all critique from me is instantly discarded when I find activities with embedded references to football. It seems I’m not the only author who does that…

My favourite activities in the book are:

  • Unscrambling items in a reference list to appear in the appropriate format – cool idea.
  • Spot the citation / reference errors – a useful task that (*broken record*) is again well-scaffolded.


An incredibly useful resource. A comprehensive range of skills covered, and the right balance between challenge and support throughout. Well worth buying as a learner for self-study, or for teachers as a supplementary resource for pre-sessional courses.

Rating: 4.7/5

You can check out the resource here (not an affiliate link).

Categories: General, reviews

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3 replies

  1. Hi Pete,

    Thanks for this. I’ve moved back to the UK and now work for De Montfort University international college so I’m interested in books about EAP at foundation/pre-sessional/pre-masters level.

    Can you recommend any good books on teaching writing craft e.g. complex sentences, participle clauses etc?

    Best wishes,


    Sent from my iPhone



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