78912 - Laboratory A (1) (LM). English Language Writing

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Peter Grenville Taylor

  • Credits 6

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Semiotics (cod. 8886)

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The aim of the workshop is to allow students to gain worthwhile experience of writing in English (both formal and less formal texts), and to do so under ‘controlled conditions'.

‘Controlled conditions' means (i) that the tasks which students will be asked to perform will have been carefully selected so that they have clear communicative aims (clear guidelines and model texts will be provided, together with linguistic analysis), (ii) that the instructor and/or a tutor will be on hand during the workshop to give advice and deal with linguistic uncertainties; (iii) that feedback and (where appropriate) detailed correction will be offered.

The approach followed seeks to place the student at the centre of the learning process, and allow each individual to proceed at his/her own pace.  

Course contents

The central aim of the workshop is to give students as much practice as possible in producing expository and argumentative text. The ability to write a clear paragraph, either to represent a complex state of affairs or to present a coherent argumentative position, is essential if one's long-term aim is to use the English language to produce texts ranging from academic articles or business reports, through ‘presentation' texts of various kinds, to comments on web blogs. The exercises are designed to be compatible with a range of linguistic levels, but the initial reference level is B2 (see below). Many of the exercises offer practice that will be useful to students preparing for the writing tasks in the IELTS exam (for UK university admissions). Most of the time during the workshop will be devoted to actual writing activities; very little time will be spent on formal instruction.

Some of the specific types of real-world text that will be produced by students during the workshop:

Mainly expository:

- short article summary/abstract

- ‘presentation text': for presenting people (‘About me/us'); for presenting a project or event (short description of a new music festival, brief introduction to next weeks' public lecture, etc)

- ‘personal statement' text (often used as a 'covering letter' to accompany applications for university graduate programmes)

- FAQ texts (‘What are podcasts and how do they work?')

- ‘instructions text' (‘How to pack your computer so as to avoid unnecessary damage during shipping')

- email circular (‘Informing all clients: 15% reduction on all foreign language books until the end of May')

Mainly argumentative:

- letter to review/newspaper citing and objecting to the position adopted in an editorial

- short argumentative essay ('saggio breve')

- academic writing

- reader's comment on newspaper comments webpage


- interview/profile text (profile based on interview with brief extracts from interview included)

The various ‘text modalities' involved in argumentative text (‘distancing', when presenting the arguments used by others; the ‘impersonal stance' with use of evidential elements/impersonal formulas when presenting one's own leading idea) will be carefully explored and practised. And time will also be spent experimenting with the various linguistic devices that can be used to trigger evaluative messages (compare the neutral The economy returned to its pre-war levels in the mid-1950s with the evaluative message produced by It was not until the mid-1950s that the economy returned to its pre-war levels).

Much attention will be devoted to lexis: in order to write effectively one needs to master a large range of expressions, knowing exactly how to use such key elements as actually, unlike, as opposed to, depending on, irrespective of, apart from, albeit, on the contrary, far from, etc). Many of the writing exercises in the workshop will involve students in experimenting with expressions like the above, thus learning through ‘trial and error' to use them correctly. Stylistic differences (formal letter to a newspaper vs. web blog) will also be taken into account.

Important - linguistic level:

The entry level  for the Workshop is B2 (though the exercises can be done with profit by students at higher levels).


A guide to argumentative writing in English is in preparation for this workshop.

Teaching methods

Workshop sessions take place in the computer laboratory, where students work under the supervision of the professor in charge and/or the course tutor. For most writing tasks a clear outline is first of all agreed on; other tasks may be completely free. The sessions are interactive, and students are encouraged to read each others' draft texts and make suggestions. Draft texts will be corrected during the sessions (or occasionally after them, if necessary).The Workshop has its own website labscritturainglese@wordpress.com, and students are encouraged to post comments on the articles displayed there.

Ten workshop sessions are planned (with one extra session to allow for make-up). Before each session students may be asked to read a text (or a small number of short texts) concerning the subjects of the planned writing tasks. Each session lasts 3 hours, and a variety of different writing tasks will normally be undertaken during this time.

The number of places is limited to 20.

[ NB: before including the Workshop in your official study plan, you should contact the MA degree course Tutor (ddctutor.dsc@unibo.it) and also the professor in charge(peter.taylor@unibo.it)]


Assessment methods

Continuous (informal) assessment - no examination.

In order to gain the credits (6), students must attend the sessions and complete the writing tasks. All work must be done during the workshop sessions themselves and must be completed before the end of the 1st semester (= 18/12/2018). There will be one make-up session.

The Workshop will be held during the 1st semester (October-December). It consists of one meeting a week lasting 3 hours:

Tuesdays, 13.00-16.00

Location: Sala Wolf (Via Azzo Gardino, 23).


2/10, 9/10, 16/10, 23/10, 30/10, 6/11, 13/11, 20/11, 27/11, 4/12

[11/12 - make-up session ]

Students intending to enrol in the Workshop are asked to scrutinise the above calendar and make sure that they are available on those dates.

Please note that it is not possible to join the Workshop after the second session.

Teaching tools

A monolingual dictionary especially designed for non-native learners of English, such as:

The Oxford Learner's Dictionary of Academic English Oxford U.P.

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary Oxford U.P.

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Cambridge U.P.

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Longman

The Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, Collins.

A guide to English usage (also specially written for non-native speakers) such as:

Swan, M. Practical English Usage, Oxford U.P.

Office hours

See the website of Peter Grenville Taylor