Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab: BusyTeacher's Detailed Review

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab: BusyTeacher's Detailed Review

Andrei Zakhareuski
Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab: BusyTeacher's Detailed Review

This website is the foremost web resource for academic writing.

For those teaching English as a Second or Foreign language in academic settings, this site is an absolute necessity. Students should also become familiar with this site, especially those who are pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies at American colleges and universities. The website was created and is maintained by the Writing Lab at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Here’s the description on the site itself: “The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Teachers and trainers may use this material for in-class and out-of-class instruction.” Purdue OWL has resources available for all things writing-related. This a professional, well-formatted site with thorough explanations and exercises to be used by both teachers and students. The site includes everything you need for teaching grammar in writing, academic genres, thesis statements, organization, and formatting using MLA and APA style.

The site includes everything you need for teaching grammar in writing, academic genres, thesis statements, organization, and formatting using MLA and APA style.

There is a particular section devoted exclusively to English as a Second Language. The websites explains that “These resources will help ESL students in second language writing. This section includes resources on writing across the curriculum, writing in the disciplines, and it contains links to OWL workshops and exercise useful for ESL students. This section also included links to ESL resources on the Internet”. This component is broken down further into two categories: one for instructors and one for students: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/5/

Some of the ESL writing topics included are grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, sentence style, spelling, paraphrasing. Students can independently complete exercises for each of these here.

For students, there is quite a bit of essential information on academic culture in the United States. For students studying here or preparing to study here, this is a great place to direct them to learn more about things like plagiarism and academic integrity in “North American Academic contexts”. Moreover, there is information about the writing process, citation and references, and academic expressions used frequently in writing. All in all it’s a tremendous resource for students to directly find pertinent information about writing academic according to Western conventions.

There are number of exercises that students can print out or complete right on the site. Some of the topics included are grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, sentence style, spelling, paraphrasing, and summarizing. Students can independently complete exercises for each of these here.

The section devoted to teachers is equally impressive, and will surely serve as an excellent resource for instructors in the U.S. and abroad. As the website explains, the information available is both theory-based and practical. It strikes a nice balance between the two. As the site explains, “the professional resources listed below are both theoretical and practical. The list includes links to organizations and journals of interest to language teachers and language policy developers, as well as to a selection of online teaching and reference materials. Each of these links is a portal to an extensive collection of further resources for the professional ESL community.

PROS:

  1. 1

    Quick online tutorial for ESL students headed to a writing lab

    One of my favorite resources on Purdue OWL is a short workshop presentation that can be shown to English Language Learners who will be using a Writing Lab. The OWL describes the workshop presentation as being “designed to introduce English as a Second Language writers to writing center pedagogy, especially some basic concepts in writing center pedagogy. It also familiarizes them with the idea of agenda-setting so that they may come to a writing center with their concerns and issues. The last issue addressed is grammar and dictionary use. This presentation can be used as part of writing center orientation program for ESL classes or as part of orientation at an ESL students’ first writing tutorial.” The great thing about this tutorial is that many of the points made within it are just plain good practices for students in general, particularly those for who autonomy is a struggle. Self-responsibility is encouraged, and students will be reminded that they themselves are ultimately responsible for the written work they are producing. It’s a good lesson in how to get appropriate help, be it from a tutor in a writing center, a teacher, or a friend.

    Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (known as OWL) is the standby resource for academic writing. For those of you teaching writing to intermediate to advanced level students, the site is the ultimate resource. IT can be used by both instructors and students, and is a site that students should be introduced to in order to use it as a resource throughout their academic careers.

  2. 2

    Free and easy to access

    The Purdue OWL website is undeniably a very polished and professional site. Teachers and students will both find it easy to navigate, and the information contained within it is extremely credible. It’s truly the authority on all things academic writing, in one place. If instructors are working with advanced students, particularly scholars preparing to undertake their studies in the U.S., this is a website that cannot go unrecognized. Even if teachers do not choose to utilize the materials for their own lesson-planning purposes, students must be made aware of the OWL; it’s an absolute necessity for any serious student who will be doing any kind of writing in an academic context, particularly research.

CONS:

  1. 1

    Not ESL-specific

    As I mentioned earlier, the website has a section of it devoted to ESL learners, and many of the resources are useful for secondary or college-level ESL and EFL student needs when it comes to writing, but in general, much of the material on the site may be too advanced for your typically ESL student. Those working with international graduate students or other academic will find it most useful, but those not teaching academic English will have little use for the resources available on the OWL.

  2. 2

    May not be suitable for non-academic and non-Western contexts

    This site is very appropriate for teachers working with students for whom American education is a current reality or a goal. The content is strictly academic and intended for the advanced writing student. It would not be a good choice for instructors working with beginners or in a context in which writing is not a major focus.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is the standby resource for academic writing.

For those of you teaching writing to intermediate to advanced level students, the site is the ultimate resource. It can be used by both instructors and students, and is a site that students should be introduced to in order to use it as a resource throughout their academic careers. As a writing teacher in an Intensive English Program, it is absolutely necessary. Has anyone else teaching academic writing gotten by without using this? If you didn’t already know about this site, what do you think now that you’ve explored it?

This is a guest review by an independent author. This review reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of BusyTeacher.org as a publication.

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