Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 606

Academic Writing for Graduate Students (Revision 1)

MAIS 606
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


This three-credit, paced-learning course engages students in writing at a graduate level and helps them develop the research, composition, and argument skills they need to succeed in graduate programs. It is intended for all Athabasca University graduate students who need to improve their writing skills. It will support and provide practice for those graduate students who wish to enhance their ability to write effectively at the graduate level and to do so in a graduate course for elective credit.

Writing is a process. Specifically, learning to write in the academy is in part a process whereby students are socialized into the conventions and requirements of their disciplines. This means that when learning to write in an academic context, one must identify the conventions of academic writing through exposure and analysis, through practice applying those conventions, and through feedback from peers and instructors. This course, through readings that make graduate-level reading and writing processes explicit, and by requiring practice in a number of genres typical to graduate assignments, provides necessary tools for the development of writing skills needed in graduate work.

The course will focus intensively on academic literacy: fundamentals of composition, argumentation, critical thinking, and research skills. You will practise these fundamentals by drafting, workshopping, and submitting two assignments: a critical review and a literature review. These assignments are divided into smaller tasks that comprise the learning objectives and activities of most of the course’s weekly sections. You will also have opportunities to discuss assigned readings about academic writing with your classmates, and you will reflect on the readings and your own writing process in an individual writing blog.

Course Objectives

When you have successfully completed this course you will be able to:

  1. understand and recognize strengths and weaknesses in your research and writing processes
  2. write a critical review and literature review, and understand the purpose of and relationships between these genres in graduate work
  3. identify academic genres (summary, research essay, book or critical review, literature review, etc.) and develop research and writing strategies appropriate to the genres
  4. assess your own writing for patterns of errors that come up frequently
  5. state and demonstrate the role that critical thinking plays in research and graduate writing
  6. design an editing guide to improve your writing and identify where to find resources
  7. demonstrate the use of informal logic to construct a cogent argument

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the graduate grading policy at Athabasca University. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from their respective programs.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Assignment Weight
Writing Conference Must Complete
Discussion Forum and/or Blog Posts 30 %
Critical Review 30 %
Literature Review 40 %
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for MAIS 606: Academic Writing for Graduate Students are provided online with the exception of one textbook:


Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills. 3rd ed. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Moodle course page: that includes a course information guide, study guides, and digital readings. This MAIS 606 Moodle site is also where students will engage in discussion and debate with the course professor and their fellow students.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, January 9, 2012.