Introduction

This module, like others in the USP Writing and Critical Thinking domain, has the primary objective of helping you to become a better writer of academic essays. There are different kinds of academic essays, but some might suggest that what makes an essay “academic” or “scholarly,” regardless of its discipline, is that it analyzes evidence in a primary and original fashion, in order to put forth a motivated argument. That, at least, will be our working definition of an academic essay, though one goal in the module will of course be to understand that definition, which will require us to think about the meanings and even the nature of terms like “motive,” “thesis,” “analysis,” and “evidence.”

In order to learn to write academic or scholarly essays, we will focus—at least at the start of the module—on a delimited subject. Ours can be expressed by this question: what are the possible relationships between clothing and fashion, and identity? In order to craft academic arguments about this question, we will first need to read and think critically about materials that also deal with it. This is because a precondition of scholarly work is a familiarity with existing knowledge: thus, we will need to spend some time engaging with what other writers, with whom we are essentially entering into a dialogue, have already said about the topic.

In this class, writing is not just a way to represent or communicate the solutions that you formulate in your head; writing is instead a way of helping you come up with those solutions and arguments. Writing will be a way of thinking through the problems. In addition, this module will help you acquire some “technical” skills: not so much grammar, but the protocols of academic writing (citations, formatting, working with sources), as well as methods of conducting research. These are all important skills that should come in useful for the rest of your time at NUS, and perhaps beyond.