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Effective English for Postgraduate Research Students (EEPRS)

Effective English for Postgraduate Research Students (EEPRS) is an advanced academic English programme launched in September 1998 by our Department, to provide support, advice and guidance to postgraduate research students at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Since its inception in 1998, EEPRS has offered help and support to more than 1,900 workshop and mentoring session participants from various departments at the PolyU, through more than 170 one-to-one, face-to-face mentoring sessions, and more than 100 general, department-specific and faculty-specific workshops and tailored courses. The feedback from research students and staff has been extremely positive, and awareness of the value and contributions of the EEPRS programme continues to grow.

In addition to generic workshops, EEPRS offers three non credit-bearing subjects: "Communication Strategies in Research Contexts in English" (in conjunction with the ELC), ‘Writing Research Articles’, and ‘Advanced Oral Skills’.

You can contact EEPRS

at this email:
at this phone: +852 3400 3497 (Ms Zoe Mak)
at this fax: +852 2333 6569

  • Provide EAP (English for Academic Purposes) support to PolyU postgraduate research students
  • Raise awareness of the existence of this new programme through a variety of different means Gather and analyze needs analysis data from PolyU research students themselves
  • Develop a more extensive series of workshops based on the needs identified by the research students
  • Provide individual, face-to-face mentoring to develop research students' writing skills
  • Create tailored, departmental/faculty programmes for those which have a large number of research students
  • Identify niche areas in EAP research for postgraduate students
  • Embark on research studies based on data collected and analyzed from the programme
Programme Coordinator

Dr Victor Ho
+852 2766 7539

Clerical Support

Ms Zoe Mak
+852 3400 3497

Non Credit Bearing Subject - CSRCE

Writing Research Articles

Information for students

Code: ENGL 6005 
Status: Non-credit bearing 
Prerequisite: None 
Semester: 1 and 2 
Hours: 39 seminar hours (3 hours per week for 13 weeks) 
Mode of Assessment: 100% coursework


This subject aims to develop postgraduate research students' ability to plan, write and revise research articles related to their PhD/MPhil studies.

Why you should publish research articles

As a research student, your main objective is to write and defend your thesis and thereby obtain your PhD or MPhil degree. This subject will not only help you accomplish this objective, through its sharp focus on academic writing skills, but will also show you how to publish the findings of your research in key refereed journals in your field.

There are five very good reasons why you should publish research articles while you are studying for your PhD/MPhil:

  • If your department requires you to publish your work before submitting your thesis, you clearly have no choice but to develop the ability to plan, write and revise research articles. You will therefore find this subject extremely relevant and practical.

  • If you publish research articles in refereed journals before you graduate, you will be fulfilling one of the fundamental criteria that examiners consider when assessing research students' work, namely that it is of a publishable standard. If your thesis contains references to your own publications, you will already have gone a long way towards convincing your examiners that you are a professional researcher.

  • If you wish to pursue a career in the higher education sector after graduation, your chances of securing your first academic position will be greatly enhanced if you already have publications, particularly if they are in reputable international journals.

  • If you intend to enter the business or professional worlds, you will find that having a track record in research will impress prospective employers as it will not only indicate that you possess an in-depth understanding of your subject, but also the ability to communicate your ideas effectively in English.

  • If you write research articles during the course of your PhD/MPhil studies, you will be able to obtain valuable feedback on your work from editors and reviewers, which you can then use when writing your thesis. Writing research articles will also help you to sharpen your academic communication skills in English.

Subject content

This subject focuses on the content, organisation and language of the key sections of a research article. The indicative syllabus is as follows:

  • Analysing research articles: generic structures, linguistic features.

  • Selecting appropriate journals.

  • Planning research articles: title, headings, sub-headings.

  • Writing effective introductions: introducing the problem/issue to be addressed, creating a research space, stating objectives.

  • Writing critical, purposeful literature reviews: referencing conventions, summarising, paraphrasing, synthesising and critiquing sources.

  • Describing research methods: ‘clipped' and ‘elaborated' approaches, cohesion, citing standard methods.

  • Reporting and interpreting research findings: presenting quantitative and qualitative data.

  • Discussing the implications and significance of the findings: relating findings to the purpose and aims of the article and key references in the literature review.

  • Drawing conclusions: summarising and evaluating the study, discussing limitations, making recommendations.

  • Writing abstracts.

  • Revising and proofreading an article before submission: grammar, vocabulary, style and tone, cohesion.

  • Addressing editors' and reviewers' comments: redrafting and resubmitting the article.

Learning outcomes

After successfully completing the subject, you will be able to:

  • identify suitable specialist journals for your research articles.

  • analyse and apply generic structures and linguistic features in research writing.

  • exercise critical judgement in relation to your own and others' work.

  • present and discuss your research findings in clear, accurate and appropriate English.

  • prepare your articles for publication in light of comments from editors and reviewers.

Classroom approach

Teaching and learning will focus on analysing and discussing the content, organisation and language of research articles related to your field of study. You will then be encouraged to apply what you have learned when writing your own articles. The seminars will be highly interactive and you will be asked to share your own experiences and writing samples. These seminars will also be a very good opportunity to meet research students from other PolyU departments.


This subject will be taught by Dr Stephen Evans. Dr Evans is a highly qualified and experienced teacher and researcher. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh . He has an excellent track record in publishing research articles in major international journals.


This is a non-credit bearing subject. However, you will receive a grade for the subject, which will be recorded on your PolyU transcript. Your grade will be determined by your performance in four written assignments (each worth 25%) which you will prepare outside class.

  • Introduction

  • Research methods

  • Findings

  • Conclusion

These assignments will be directly related to your PhD/MPhil studies. You are encouraged to plan, write and revise a research article during the 13 weeks of the course (although this is not a requirement). If you adopt such an approach, you should be in a position to submit an article of a publishable standard to a relevant specialist journal by the end of the course. The four assignments should therefore be seen as key stages in the process of writing a research article.

Contact details

If you would like more information about this subject, please contact Ms Zoe Mak (, AG428, 3400 3497) or the programme coordinator, Dr Victor Ho (, 2766 7539)

Click here to download the subject outline.

Advanced Oral Skills for Research Students

Code: ENGL 6004 
Status: Non-credit bearing 
Prerequisite: None 
Semester: 1 and 2 
Hours: 39 seminar hours (3 hours per week for 13 weeks) 
Mode of Assessment: 100% coursework

Course outline


It is hoped that the subject will generally enhance students’ confidence in English speaking in an academic context.


  • To help students overcome their difficulties with English pronunciation by concentrating both on common and individual pronunciation problems;

  • To help students appreciate the difference between spoken and written communication in English;

  • To enhance students’ ability to structure and deliver academic oral presentations in English;

  • To develop students’ ability to participate in seminars, workshops and other kinds of academic discussions.

Syllabus Outline:

  • Introduction to the sounds of English, and those that cause the greatest problems for non-native speakers;

  • Ways to correct fossilized errors in speech;

  • Pronunciation

  • The differences between oral and written communication in English;

  • Structuring and delivering oral presentations;

  • Participating in seminars, workshops and tutorials which require spoken English.

Learning & Teaching Pattern


  • The whole class will meet every week for 1 hour

  • We will discuss from pronunciation to presentation

  • We will look at presentation skills and techniques


  • Half of the class meets every other week
  • All participants will give a 5 to 10 minute presentation on a topic of their choice
  • Everyone will give constructive feedback to each other in order to improve their skills and build up confidence 

PolyU postgraduate research students are invited to submit to us parts of their written work for advice, from one of the EEPRS team members.

Work submitted by students will first be read by us, then there will be a face-to-face, one-to-one session with the research student and the EEPRS team member. In the session, the students will be helped to develop their writing skills, through an increased awareness of their own writing strengths and weaknesses.

We recommend that students start taking advantage of this service at the beginning of their writing process so that areas needing improvement could be identified as early as possible.

As we do not provide a simple surface-correction proofreading service, requests to proofread chapters or the complete thesis will be declined.

General guidelines:
- Dissertation Chapters / Students' Research Papers based on Dissertation
- Each one-hour session covers around 10 pages*. You may book up to 6 sessions.
- Font size: 12 points
- Spacing: Double-line spacing

* You can submit more than 10 pages each time, but with the possibility of having it divided into several sessions.

Here are some comments from students who have been to EEPRS mentoring sessions:

  • "clearly provides alternative of words and suggests the ways to rewrite the sentences"
  • "This service is very helpful to understand some viewpoints and requirements of the reader. It can improve the flow of my thesis. I will highly recommend this service to other students."
  • "wholeheartedly concerned by the mentor on my writing"
  • "I found the mentor nice and helpful"
  • "the discussion session is useful that provides a chance for me to discuss with the mentor"
  • "gave me some useful general suggestion on how to express ideas clearly in thesis"

 If you are interested in booking a mentoring session, please click here.

  • Allen, G. (1973). The Graduate Students' Guide to Theses and Dissertations: A Practical Manual for Writing and Research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cantor, J. (1993). A Guide to Academic Writing. London: Greenwood Press. Huff, A. (1999). Writing for Scholarly Publication. London: Sage Publications.
  • Meloy, J. (1994). Writing the Qualitative Dissertation: Understanding by Doing. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associate.
  • Rudestam, K., & Newton, R. (1992). Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. Newbury Park: SAGE Publications.
  • Luey, B. (1990). Handbook for Academic Authors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Maden, D. (1983). Successful Dissertations and Theses: A Guide to Graduate Student Research from Proposal to Completion. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Swales, J., & Feak, C. (1994). Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Tasks and Skills: A Course for Nonnative Speakers of English. Michigan: Ann Arbor.
  • Thomas, L. (1985). Completing Dissertations in the Behavioral Sciences and Education: A Systematic Guide for Graduate Students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Alley, M. (1996). The Craft of Scientific Writing. New York: Springer.
    This book is in quite large print making it very readable. About a third of the book is devoted to discussion on how to make technical writing "precise, clear, concise, forthright, familiar and fluid". A lot of authentic samples have been used to illustrate the points raised. As this book doesn't talk in detail what is in a paper, it is useful for those who already know the basics of technical writing but would like to improve on their language and writing skills.

  • Barrass, R. (1978). Scientists Must Write. London: Chapman And Hall.
    The purpose of this book is to explain why writing is important to scientists and engineers. According to the author, who is a scientist himself, writing helps scientists and engineers "to remember, to observe, to think, to organize and to communicate". Though this book is not meant to be a guide on technical writing, there are a few sections which discuss the use of language, suggesting what words or phrases are more preferable in scientific writing.

  • Day, R. (1995). How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    This is a very easy-to-read book with short chapters (usually not more than 10 pages). Apart from the four standard IMRD sections, it also covers items like the title, the acknowledgments, effective use of tables and illustrations. It has only a short chapter on thesis writing, emphasizing the fact that there isn’t a "right" way to approach thesis writing as the rules and guidelines vary among institutions or even supervisors. This book makes a good starter for novice writers who are thinking of publishing their work.

  • Huchin, T., & Olsen, A. (1991). Technical Writing and Professional Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English. New York: McGraw Hill.
    Students who are thinking of having a revision on their grammar will find the last section of this book useful. There are exercises using authentic texts, and answers to most of the questions are also provided. The section on improving the readability of writing is also recommended. Good and bad examples are given for comparison, sometimes with the suggested revised versions of some badly written texts.

  • Kirkman, J. (1992). Good Style: Writing for Science and Technology. London: E & FN Spon.
    This book talks about how simple, clear and accurate technical writing could be achieved through effective and correct use of language features like tense, voice, vocabulary, sentence structure and even punctuation. Styles for writing procedures, instructions, descriptions and explanations, the core sections of most technical writing, are discussed. Results and comments from two surveys on what style of writing technical readers preferred are included to demonstrate the good and bad features of technical writing. The texts used in the surveys are provided so that readers can analyze them and compare their comments with those previously collected.

  • Michaelson, H. (1990). How to Write and Publish Engineering Papers and Reports. Phoenix: The Oryx Press.
    The organization of this book is very much like Robert Day’s How to Write and Publish a Scientific paper with short chapters on a wide range of topics. There is a little more description on issues related to readership and authorship in the beginning of the book. The chapter on thesis/dissertation very briefly talks about the process of achieving a Master’s or PhD and describes what is in a thesis. The author also encourages the readers to seize the opportunity to transform their theses into published articles.

  • Wilkinson, A. (1991). The Scientist’s Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
    All the sections of a scientific paper are described in detail with many authentic samples included to support the discussion. Use of tenses within the different parts of the paper is explained. Additional or alternative requirements for social science papers or dissertations are included where necessary. There is also an in-depth discussion on the use of visuals like graphs, photos, tables, and equations. This book is best used as a reference book where writers can look up advice and detailed information on what constitutes a good technical paper.
  • Cryer, P. (1996). The Research Student's Guide to Success. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Delamont, S., Atkinsons, P. & Parry O. (1997). Supervising the PhD: A Guide to Success. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Philips, M. P., & Pugh, D. S. (1994). How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Salmon, P. (1992). Achieving a PhD - Ten Students' Experience. Staffordshire: Trentham Books Limited.
  • Postgraduate Research, Supervision and Training. (1992). [Videorecording]. Brisbane: University of Queensland.
  • Postgraduate Research, Supervision and Training, Series 2. (1994). [Videorecording]. Brisbane: University of Queensland.

The aim of these two video series is to provide supervisors and postgraduate students with information that can help them understand and improve their postgraduate study process in their department or institution.

The first series contains the following 11 video programmes:

  1. The role of the postgraduate supervisor
  2. How to identify major issues and concerns using the nominal group technique
  3. Expectations and standards in postgraduate supervision
  4. Induction into research application culture
  5. How to design a research project
  6. Supervision of the programme  
  7. Supervision of the writing process in the social sciences and humanities
  8. Getting into print
  9. Creating a supportive environment for postgraduate study
  10. How to design departmental workshops on postgraduate supervision
  11. Proceedings

The second series contains the following 6 video programmes:

  1. Communication in postgraduate research, supervision and training
  2. From thesis writing to research application: learning the research culture
  3. Gender issues in postgraduate education
  4. Supervision and thesis writing process
  5. Staff development in postgraduate supervision
  6. Managing the quality of research in postgraduate supervision


by Dwight Atkinson & Andy Curtis

This Handbook is designed for postgraduate research students who are required to write either an MPhil thesis or PhD / doctoral dissertation as their main degree requirement. The Handbook is based on the accumulated experience of the EEPRS Programme. The main audience for this Handbook is therefore MPhil and PhD research students. There are, however, other groups that we hope will also find it useful, including supervisors of research students, full-time academic staff completing their own research degrees part-time, and research associates and assistants who need to write for publication, as well as others. You can now download the handbook here:


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