New 'picture book' to help university starters with essay writing

"In my experience essay writing can be a huge source of anxiety for first year students. While they might have written essays at school, they realise that they need to step up their game in terms of research, objectivity and academic conventions."

Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener, Associate Professor of Creative Academic Practice

An illustrated workbook featuring polar bears, sea creatures and icebergs has been published for the new academic year with the aim of helping degree students get to grips with academic writing.

Writing Essays by Pictures is an illustrated activity book created by Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener, Associate Professor of Creative Academic Practice at Staffordshire University.
It provides a step-by-step journey through the process of researching and writing a basic academic essay, using easy to understand analogies to make it accessible to university starters.

“In my experience essay writing can be a huge source of anxiety for first year students. While they might have written essays at school, they realise that they need to step up their game in terms of research, objectivity and academic conventions. And while there is a lot of help out there, all the books that I have come across are predominantly text based.” explained Alke.

“So what I set out to do was put together a 'painting by numbers' approach (that's where the title comes from) but apply it to essay writing. And what I believe was missing most were simple explanations of what I call 'hidden academic practice' – conventions and processes that are crucial for researching and writing academic essays, but that students often simply aren't aware of and thus end up ignoring, to the detriment of their grades.”

Based on Alke's own teaching of art and design students at Staffordshire University, the included analogies and activities have been well-tested in a seminar environment. Writing tips include visualising essays as icebergs or understanding the concept of a literature review by thinking about playing cards.

Alke initially produced a run of 100 test copies of Writing Essays by Pictures last year following a successful Kickstarter campaign. It was so well received that she decided to produce an extended version which was released by Innovative Libraries Press earlier this month.

Reviewing the original version, Zhandra Belgasmi wrote in Innovative Practice in Higher Education (Vol.2 (3) April 2016): “The formula that this book teaches, works exceptionally well and I particularly loved the metaphors and analogies the author uses; I wished that I had had this book when starting my own first research essay, but I have it now and it is an invaluable tool and the lessons it teaches are much like 'riding a bike' that once learnt, they are never forgotten. This is a 'must read' for all academics, students and lecturers alike, as it teaches and refreshes the introduction to academic research like a breath of fresh air.”

Writing Essays by Pictures can be ordered via the Innovative Libraries Press website.  

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