Students in the dual degree Global Luxury and Management program (GLAM), taught jointly by faculty in the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management and SKEMA, had the unique experience of learning directly from one of the authors of their new textbook – “Mastering Academic Writing.” For the author, it was a chance to get first-hand student feedback.
The students have completed their first semester at NC State and are now in their final semester at SKEMA’s Paris, France campus. They will graduate with a Master of Management degree with a concentration in global luxury from NC State and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA.
The SKEMA degree requires a thesis – and that requires a different approach to writing than most college students are used to, unless they are on an academic research path, said Kristie McGowan, director of the dual degree program. To help all the students start on solid footing for their final semester, she developed and is teaching a new NC State course during the spring semester – Academic Research and Thesis Writing.
Focus on organizing research, critical thinking
“The class focuses on students developing a research proposal that will serve as a guide for their thesis research or business plan,” McGowan said. “This proposal is a tool to help them organize their research, think critically about their topic and provide an outline for the stages of their research. It is also an important communication tool for them to use with their thesis mentor, to ensure they are on the same page and the right track,” she said.
“Writing and research can be tedious discussion topics, so I wanted a textbook that would engage students and force them to think critically about their own writing skills and research process,” McGowan said.
She also wanted one “that would be informative and helpful for all my students, half of whom are international with English as their second language,” McGowan said. It also was important that the textbook had an international perspective – “not just an American or French approach to writing,” she said. And, it needed to work in an online setting.
What she found is a new textbook, published in December 2018: “Mastering Academic Writing.” Its co-authors, Jordana Garbati, Ph.D., and Boba Samuels, Ph.D., utilize a ‘cast of characters’ who are facing very typical writing dilemmas , and breaks down the scenarios with concrete and practical solutions for addressing common writing challenges and mistakes, McGowan said. “This is a fresh approach to writing and research that I hadn’t come across before,” McGowan said.
“The book allows students to immediately put into practice the research and writing skills, as they learn them, to successfully complete their thesis or business plan. It gives concrete recommendations, ranging from focusing a research topic to writing a literature review and writing about data,” she said.
The final chapter focuses on writing collaboratively, which is particularly relevant to GLAM students, as they are required to write their thesis in pairs,” she said. “This book perfectly aligns with the GLAM program, SKEMA thesis requirements and my goals for the course,” McGowan said.
Knowledge and skills that transcend markets
While neither of the authors have connections to the luxury market, McGowan said, “they are providing knowledge and skills-building content that transcends markets. The students are actively applying the skills they are learning in my course towards their thesis or business plan and related literature review, as they develop skills that are essential, regardless of their career path.”
“This online course is different than most, in that all of the students are together in Paris while I am in the United States. It was important to me to have a face-to-face engagement and discussion so they could ask questions and receive personalized feedback on their research topics,” she said.
McGowan was able to arrange for Garbati to co-teach with her two sessions of the course at the SKEMA campus in early February, while McGowan was in Paris for a Global Luxury and Management industry event with SKEMA.
Garbati had received a grant through her university, Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, to join McGowan in Paris, “since I am the first professor to adopt her book,” McGowan said. “That allowed her the opportunity to see how the book was being received and interpreted by students. In turn, I was honored to introduce GLAM students to the author of their textbook and provide them the opportunity to learn from her writing expertise in person.”
On the first day of their on-site session, Garbati taught students about developing strong research questions. On the second day, she began with a lesson about literature review writing, and moved on to paragraph writing and sentence-level issues in the afternoon. On both days, she and McGowan met individually with individual and pairs of students to provide feedback about their theses and business plans.
“While students already had an introduction to drafting research questions and literature reviews, going further into detail and utilizing their own draft research questions and draft annotated bibliographies, they were able to refine their topics or research questions and understand more of the purpose and goal of a research proposal and literature review,” McGowan said.
Clarifying research, writing goals, finding their voice
“I hope that students walked away from my two days of writing workshops with a stronger sense of what they want to research and write in their program,” Garbati said. “I hope they were able to narrow down their research questions so that their projects would be more significant and manageable.” She said she also hopes their discussion of literature review writing enables the students to recognize the “importance of situating their work within a scholarly conversation or debate,” she said.
“They should note that their voice is important, and it becomes stronger when they acknowledge their audience and provide relevant context for their own contributions,” Garbati said.
Beyond meeting their dual degree program requirements, she said, “writing is a skill that will serve them well in their future careers. They will be able to draw on their skills of critical thinking, argumentation, and paragraph structure, for example, in their production of written texts for their academic and professional endeavors.”
About their textbook, she said, “I hope the students see ‘Mastering Academic Writing’ as a text that will guide them as they develop their written skills now and in the future. They can refer to the chapters on argumentation or writing about data, for example, for written tasks outside of their academic work. And when they feel like they have mastered academic writing, I hope they will pass it on to others who may need some writing guidance.”
Garbati said she also benefited from the experience. “It was a pleasure for me to receive feedback from students about the book, especially since the NC State GLAM program was the first to adopt it as a course text,” she said.
“One student told me that she appreciated the tone of the book,” Garbati said. “ She said that since it’s a book that doesn’t take the form of a traditional textbook; it’s enjoyable to read and the information is accessible. Another student shared her appreciation of the content in the book as it would help her achieve the writing demands of her academic program.”