Essential Actions for Academic Writing

Essential Actions for Academic Writing

University of Michigan Press

Print / Ebook / Amazon / VitalSource (rental)


Essential Actions is a genre-based writing textbook for “novice” undergraduate and graduate writers. By novices, we mean students who haven’t yet learned how to write for college and university contexts, including (but not only) ESL/multilingual learners.

Essential Actions combines genre research, proven pedagogical practices, and short readings to help students develop their rhetorical flexibility by exploring and practicing the key actions that will appear in academic assignments, such as explaining, summarizing, synthesizing, and arguing. 


Part 1: The Rhetorical Planning Wheel, genre, register, and an introduction to academic writing

Part 2: Seven units each exploring one key “action” that academic writers take – explain, summarize, synthesize, report/interpret data, argue, analyze, and respond.

Part 3: Four multi-stage projects that invite students to write in multiple genres combining several actions (exploring bilingualism, inquiry project, empirical research paper, and personal statement).

Online Resources

A companion website provides free resources for teachers:

  • Teacher’s manual with detailed notes about each unit and answers to the exercises
  • Online Source Use Appendix: a free extra unit that guides students how to find, evaluate, use, cite, paraphrase, and reference sources
  • Handouts in Word format for class or online use
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