American Cultural Center – Academic Writing Project for Graduate Students

The goal for the Academic Writing Project (Created in February, 2016) is to introduce graduate students in China to basic procedures as practiced in the United States in preparing a research paper. It is hoped that this short course will help improve participants’ academic writing skills. The project is part of Amerian Cultural Center program between Appalachian State University and Northeastern University sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

  • Nine video recorded lectures by Dr. Matthew Robinson focus on the definitions, types, structures, and process of academic writing.
  • One video by Professor Allan Scherlen addresses the importance of the literature review for writing a research paper.
  • Two videos by Dr. Xiaorong Shao cover evaluating internet sources and challenges facing Chinese students in writing academic papers.
  • The American Cultural Center at your university has a collection of books related to academic writing and topics related to sustainability and the environment.
  • Articles and Internet resources are also provided through this site.
  • Watch all videos, complete all assignments, and write a research paper following the Guidelines for the Final Paper Assignment below to receive a Certificate of Completion and to enter the Writing Contest. Ten scholarships (ranging from $50 to $200) will be awarded to the winning papers. 
  • Two Appalachian professors,  Dr. Shao ( and Professor Scherlen (, will travel to China and discuss academic writing between May 15–24 at your university. During the visit we hope to address your writing needs and any specific questions you may have after you study this short course. If you have any questions about the videos or assignments please contact any of the professors.
    NOTE: Teachers for 2017 undergraduate students writing course please use:
      Link to Academic Writing Project for Undergratuate Students 2017

Video 1 – Introduction

Video 2 – Characteristics and Purposes of Academic Writing

Video 3 – Academic vs. Non-Academic Writing

  • Who wrote it and where was it published?
  • "Blind" peer review process
  • Example types of academic writing
  • Examples on non-academic writing
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

Video 4 – Major Types of Academic Writing

Video 5 – How to Writie Like an Academic

Video 6 – The Outline!

Video 7 – Writing a Paper: How to Begin

  • Locate an article & review it
  • Locate a book & review it
  • Locate more sources
  • Reverse outline each source
  • Write an annotated bibliography
  • Write an outline
  • Use the outline to write the paper
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

Video 8 – Writing a Paper: Helpful Strategies

Video 9 – Parts of Your Paper

  • Part 1 - Introduction
  • Part 2 - The body of the paper
  • Part 3 - Conclusions
  • Part 4 - References
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

Video 10 – The Importance of a Literature Review in Writing a Research Paper

  • Scholarly writing builds on a literature review
  • Why we do a literature review
  • Literature review in a formal research study
  • Types of sources for a literature review
  • The literature review process
  • Selecting databases for the literature review
  • Searching the library database
  • Evaluating library sources found
  • Examples
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

Video 11 – Evaluating Internet Resources

  • Why to evaluate websites
  • Criteria for evaluation (CRAAP Test)
    • Currency
    • Relevance
    • Authority
    • Accuracy
    • Purpose
  • Further resources to study CRAAP test
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

Video 12 – Challenges and Issues in Writing Academic Papers in English

  • Definition of academic writing
  • Problems for second language writers
  • Problems for Chinese students
  • Chinese writing style differences
  • English academic writing style
  • English writing standards
  • Chinese writing conventions
  • Colloquial habits in writing
  • Telling vs showing in writing
  • PPT Slides & PDF Slides

1. Avoiding Plagiarism:

2. Online Resources on Sustainability and Environmental Issues

3. Writing and Editing – Grammar and Style Tips (PPT Slides and PDF Slides)

4. Writing for Publication (PPT Slides and PDF Slides)


Biographical Notes on the Presenters

Matthew B. Robinson

Dr. Matthew B. Robinson is a Professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University. He specializes in issues of social justice, criminological theory, and injustices of the criminal justice system, and he is an expert on capital punishment and US drug control policy. Robinson is the author of 18 books and 100 other publications including articles and book chapters. He is Past President of the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association and Past President of the Southern Criminal Justice Association as was a counterterrorism fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Robinson also regularly teaches classes on academic writing.

Xiaorong Shao

Dr. Xiaorong Shao is an Associate Professor and Information Literacy Librarian at Appalachian State University. Dr. Shao is a co-director of the American Cultural Center between Appalachian State University and Northeastern University, Shenyang, China. She has been involved in many international activities and research projects on campus and beyond. Dr. Shao was a reviewer for three international journals. She has published more than 20 articles in several major academic journals during recent years. Dr. Shao earned four degrees from three countries in the fields of soil science, chemistry, curriculum and instruction, information and library science.

Allan Scherlen

Prof. Allan Scherlen is a Professor and Social Sciences Librarian at Appalachian State University. He has co-managed the American Cultural Center grants with Dr. Shao for the last three years and has been active in other international exchange programs. He currently serves as an associate editor for the North Carolina Libraries journal and editorial board member of the journal Library Collections, Acquisitions and Technical Services. For five years he was the co-editor of the Balance Point section of the international journal Serials Review. Allan has published over thirty articles in major academic journals on topics related to libraries, scholarly publishing and international issues.