Welcome to Advanced Writing Skills for Graduate Study in Mathematics, which is, as the name suggests, a writing-focused course with the specific focus of improving your skill in crafting academic essays for publication in the math world.

The aim of this course is continued development of students' English writing skills. In addition to time spent on vocabulary, style, and structure, this course includes learning about and using language corpora. Having written a total of five essays that will constitute his or her writing portfolio, each student should complete this course with both the knowledge and confidence to create various types of high-quality academic essays.

If you would like (for some inane or perhaps insane reason), here is the course syllabus for your reading pleasure. Of course, I reserve the right to amend it, so please treat this as a guideline.

For those of you that have taken courses from me, you will recall that we have had no textbooks, and in the present course we will also have no textbook. Class material will be available on both Dropbox and Google Drive, and feel free to download, save, print, or otherwise use it. I seldom make paper handouts, but if you prefer paper, please take care of printing files yourself.

You will find course requirements near the bottom of this page.

Hereafter you will find a reasonably detailed synopsis of the various class meetings ("sessions") that we will enjoy this term.

Sure, you were about to ask, right? That, Good People, is a sextant, a very necessary tool for navigation in the days of sailing ships (i.e., in the pre-GPS age). There is, in a most appropriate nod to our faculty, a strong mathematical background to this beautiful tool.

Session #1 (September 21, 2017) — Introduction; Paper Format; Word Advice 

As often happens on the first day of class, we'll be speaking in somewhat general terms about our course and some of the topics therein. First, note that this course includes all four skills that appear in academic work: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. There are, of course, certain requirments for this course, as is true for every course; please scroll down to the specific courrse requirements for your enlightenment.


  • ✔ Assign self-introducation (due on Sept. 28)
  • ✔ Add 10 words to your page in the Class Word Bank.
  • ✔ Bring ...

Session #2 (September 28) — Paragraph Structure 

In the second half of our session this afternoon, I'd like to provide a brief introduction to corpus linguistics. Because this is a large and growing area in our field, I've opted to add a separate page to only begin to scratch the surface. Follow this link to our resource page with some information on corpus linguistics.


Session #3 (October 5) — Basics of Description; Common EFL Errors; Punctuation 

One seemingly simple yet often poorly-done area is description, a skill which requires a good command of ...

In my years of teaching in Japan, I've come across errors that occur repeatedly in students' writing, and today we will talk some about those.

Our final goal today is to talk briefly about the proper use of punctuation in English, which is naturally somewhat different than its usage in Japan


Session #4 (October 12) — Narrative Flow; Transitions 

Today we will spend most of our time looking at the notion of flow in academic writing. This morning I would like to have you good people consider how your fine paragraphs work together. Recall that we spent some time on topic sentences, with which you should all be quite comfortable. Those will, of course, begin your magnificent series of paragraphs, but those paragraphs must fit together into a coherent entity that will be transparent both to and for your reader.

Good afternoon, everyone. Today we will look more closely at writing and the language of academic papers. This is an area in which students can sometimes get perilously close to the register used in oral communication, which is generally much more casual. Here we have a useful chapter on academic style, courtesy of Scott Bailey and his book titled Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students. Below you will also find two of my articles, which we will glance at to check for my use of academic style.

Class Material:

Session #5 (October 19) — Corpus Analysis: Theory & Basics 

In the second half of our session this afternoon, I'd like to provide a brief introduction to corpus linguistics. Because this is a large and growing area in our field, I've opted to add a separate page to only begin to scratch the surface. Follow this link to our resource page with some information on corpus linguistics.

Let's begin with a look at the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), which comes to use courtesy of Brigham Young University in the US. You will recall that I mentioned a series of very helpful YouTube videos on using this corpus, the first of which is at this link.

Class Material:

Session #6 (October 26) — Complex Sentences 

and for your reader.

Class Material:

Session #7 (November 9) —  Corpus Workshop: Online Tools; Polite E-Mail 

A point for your consideration today: As you're crafting your magnum opus, consider using the strength of corpus data to enhance your work. One source is, of course, your basic dictionary, which will provide you with concise definitions, examples of usage (to an extent), as well as synonyms and antonyms. If you google your search term using "define [term]", you'll find several online dictionaries, among which the Free Online Dictionary and Merriam-Webster are quite useful. For a more extensive set of examples, you would do well to consult some of the corpora available online; I would suggest BYU's corpus resources, the Compleat Lexical Tutor, and finally the myriad tools from Laurence Anthony.

A small sidelight I'd like to address today is writing polite email (or emails if you prefer the plural form with that distinctive S). These are, of course, of considerable importance, and the skill to craft effective messages is an often overlooked skill.

Class Material:

Session #8 (November 16) —  Relative Clauses; Hedging 

Good morning, everyone. Today our class will be devoted to considering cause-and-effect papers, which are an important tool in the writer's arsenal.

Class Material:

Session #9 (November 30) —  Corpus Development 

This class will be devoted to consultations with individuals. While I am working with another student, you are to use your time to work on your cause-and-effect paper.

During class today, please complete the usage worksheet below. We will check this before we finish today.

Your homework is to begin working on your masterpiece, which will be due on the final day of class, January 18.

Class Material:

Session #10 (December 7) —  Visual Elements 

We will also delve some into the world of tables and figures, which is more art than science, I think. Here we have a useful chapter on the use and presentation of visual material.


Session #11 (December 14) —  Corpus Analysis: Genre 

In today's class we will be examining a simple yet productive type of analysis called genre analysis. This begins with a sample (dare we say a corpus?) of texts, in which we want to find trends or patterns. The essence of this type of analysis is that we cut the text into sentences or similar units and search for moves, which are ...

 Class Material: 

Session #12 (December 21) —  Genre Analysis, Part 2 

Good morning, everyone. Today we will walk through two genre analyses. The first is of my work, which includes the three articles below. The second is an analysis of a small corpus of math articles, which were suggested by some of our esteemed professors.

Recall that I

Session #13 (January 11) —  Citations; Avoiding Plagiarism 

Class Material:

Session #14 (January 18) —  Consultations


  • Technical (math) paper due (to include genre analysis)
  • ✔ Schedule a final consultation by e-mail.

Course Requirements

  1. In principle, three absences will be allowed, beyond which the student's overall grade will be reduced.

  2. Regular and active participation in class is expected. (10%)

  3. Required writing will include the following (70%):
    • ✔ Self-introduction (5%);
    • ✔ Descriptive paper (15%)
    • ✔ Cause-and-effect paper (20%)
    • ✔ Technical (math) paper (25%)
    • ✔ Genre analysis (5%)

    Note that you may revise and resubmit any paper for additional credit.

  4. Personal Word Bank (10%)

  5. A portfolio consultation with Dr. Elwood (10%)
URL: www.jimelwood.net/students/meiji/gradwriting/gradwriting.html

The logos were created on Cool Text.

Date last updated: January 4, 2017 * Copyright 2017 by Midas, Cyrus, and all the other lunatics.