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Table of contents


Scope and Sequence vi
Introduction 1

Part I: Understanding Texts and Contexts 11
Unit 1: The Rhetorical Planning Wheel 13
Unit 2: Everyday and Academic Genres and Their Registers 33

Part II: Exploring Essential Actions 49
Unit 3: Explain 51
Unit 4: Summarize 86
Unit 5: Synthesize 112
Unit 6: Report and Interpret Data 138
Unit 7: Argue 168
Unit 8: Respond 198
Unit 9: Analyze 226

Part III: Integrating Actions 249
Project 1: Transforming Texts 251
Project 2: Problem/Solution Inquiry 273
Project 3: Research Paper 290
Project 4: Personal Statement 317

Grammar Glossary 335
Online Source Use Appendix (see Companion Website)

Look Inside


Essential Actions for Academic Writing is a writing textbook for all beginning academic students, undergraduate or graduate, to help them understand how to write effectively throughout their academic and professional careers. Essential Actions combines genre research, proven pedagogical practices, and short readings to help students writing in their first, second, or additional languages to 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 I:

  • Introduces students to rhetorical situation, genre, register, source use, and a framework for understanding how to approach any new writing task.
  • Demonstrates that all writing responds to a context that includes the writer’s identity, the reader’s expectations, the purpose of the text, and the conventions that shape it.

Part II:

  • Explores the essential actions of academic writing (explain, summarize, synthesize, report and interpret data, argue, respond, and analyze).
  • Provides examples of the genres and language that support each action. 

Part III:

  • Offers four extended projects that combine the essential actions in different genres and contexts. 

Nigel A. Caplan is an Associate Professor of English as Second Language (ESL) at the University of Delaware English Language Institute. 
Ann M. Johns is Professor Emerita of Rhetoric and Writing Studies and Linguistics at San Diego State University.

"Overall, we believe Essential Actions for Academic Writing is an excellent textbook for teachers who want options and choice in how they build upon their students’ writing skills. . . The book’s accessibility, content structure, and relevance to college students are particularly strong. Essential Actions in the classroom will likely guide instructors to be more intentional in building students’ understanding of rhetorical decisions, language flexibility, and their agency as writers."

- Journal of Second Language Writing, Ann DeCiccio, Donna McNiff Brown, Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Read: Author blog post " Teaching Students to Write . . . Anything" | 03/09/2022
Watch: CATESOL Webinar | 09/09/2022