Academic writing in English

Short description

This course is designed for people who are starting to write or are in the midst of writing their dissertations. Writing a dissertation is a time-consuming, long-term process that can frequently feel paralysing in the face of the writer's responsibilities and ultimate goals. Indeed, the looming dissertation can sometimes seem like a soul-swallowing monster. This seminar is designed to reduce the size of that monster, to break through moments of writer's block, to give the doctoral student the necessary support to continue and finish the process and to provide valuable suggestions regarding the production of academic texts.

Target group

1st year PhD researchers



Participants learn:

  • Academic English stylistics and conventions
  • Academic English concerns regarding punctuation, grammar and structures
  • Individual strategies on how to overcome writer's block
  • How to give and receive helpful academic advice concerning both writing and content
  • How to address dissertation-related feelings of helplessness and isolation


Seminar sessions begin with a 15-minute writing exercise which is returned in the next session. One or two specific academic writing issues will then be addressed by the instructor. The final hour will be dedicated to a participant who will present two pages of a current work in progress, for discussion. By initiating regular writing episodes, both structured and unstructured, the course will help break down the fear which feeds writer's block, for example. The discussions will enable the participants to gain valuable feedback regarding their work and give them the chance to participate in a supportive environment with a cohort facing similar challenges. In addition, important academic writing concerns will be explained and reviewed, which will ultimately elevate the quality of the participants' dissertations.



  • Dr. Luita Spangler has a Doctorate in English Literature from the University of New Hampshire and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Academic English at the Freie Universität Berlin. In addition to the Hertie School, she has offered workshops and courses at the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung; the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies; the Graduate School of Public Health, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; the Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum; and Potsdam University.