Promoting the reading-writing nexus: how teachers can guide students in becoming academic writers across the curriculum

01 June 2023

Educational project

Promoting the reading-writing nexus: how teachers can guide students in becoming academic writers across the curriculum

In collaboration with students, teachers, and coordinators from five faculties and support services, this project aims to reveal how students learn to write academic synthesis texts, and what teaching activities and feedback they need when to self-regulate and promote their academic writing progress. Ultimately, this project enables teachers and coordinators to shape the writing curriculum in a more evidence-informed way and tailored to students’ needs.


Synthesising information from different sources into a new and meaningful text is a key competence of academics. It requires various subskills: reading, understanding and integrating scientific literature, and writing in a structured, concise and convincing way using the conventions of the discipline. Many students struggle with mastering these skills. This becomes most apparent when they write their bachelor’s thesis, resulting in severe study delays and supervisors who must devote all their effort to helping students with their writing instead of discussing the content.

To become strong academic writers, students need effective teaching in academic reading and writing skills right from the start of their studies. This includes explicit instruction and feedback to master the various sub-skills as well as strategies to cope with process-related issues such as motivation struggles. The need for a focus on the students’ underlying reading and writing processes has even more increased since the recent emergence of open AI techniques such as ChatGPT. Education that primarily and solely focuses on an end product risks that students use these tools to create new texts without learning how to write these themselves. Despite many initiatives within the faculties aimed at improving the writing curriculum, students’ progress in writing still lags behind.

Project description and goals

The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to systematically bring together existing knowledge and teaching and learning examples in a roadmap that reveals how reading and writing skills ideally develop across the curriculum. To realise this roadmap, there will be close collaboration with the Skills Lab, the Utrecht University Library (UBU), Educational Development & Training (O&T), the Legal Skills Academy and the Communication Skills Academy (Coska). This roadmap will contain evidence-based materials and interventions for the effective teaching of academic synthesis writing in both Dutch and English, as well as best practices from previous research- and practice-based projects. This will empower teachers to better understand the challenges of their students in the journey of becoming skilled academic writers and to adapt their teaching accordingly. It will also promote programme coordinators to shape a more effective reading and writing curriculum.

The development of this roadmap for academic synthesis writing requires in-depth insight into how students across faculties and bachelor years write synthesis texts, and what kind of instructional support they need from their teachers at what point in their developmental path to becoming critical and independent academic writers. To this aim, and following expertise theory, we will bring together our knowledge on each of the following three domains:

  1. Expertise: students’ (meta)cognitive knowledge, skills, and motivation that underlie effective synthesis writing in both Dutch and English.
  2. Learning: development of students’ expertise in synthesis writing throughout the bachelor, illustrated by authentic texts written by students.
  3. Teaching: educational materials and tools to effectively monitor, evaluate and improve students’ progress in synthesis writing.

Intended results

This project will result in a roadmap for academic reading and writing skills consisting of:

  1. concrete examples of authentic writing products and insights in the underlying processes and self-regulation strategies for reading and writing that distinguish novice from experienced academic writers;
  2. a visualisation of the opportunities and pitfalls of students in the learning trajectory for academic synthesis writing across the curriculum;
  3. effective teaching materials that they are easily accessible for teachers. These teaching materials will be collected from previous projects, both inside and outside Utrecht University. Where needed, we will also develop new teaching materials that meet current blind spots in the writing curriculum.


The online platform will become available to all UU educators and faculties. We will disseminate the platform in the following ways:

  1. Launching the roadmap during the OnderwijsFestival, Teaching and Learning Inspiration Days and SIG Academic Writing.
  2. Professionalisation programme in the UTQ/BKO track for junior teachers and masterclass for curriculum coordinators and directors of education on how they can use the roadmap to ensure effective implementation within their own faculty or department.
  3. Presenting at the (inter)national Network for Academic Communication Skills (NACV) and the biannual European Association of the Teaching of Academic Writing (EATAW).


  1. Vandermeulen, N., De Maeyer, S., Van Steendam, E., Lesterhuis, M., Van den Bergh, H., & Rijlaarsdam, G. (2020). Mapping synthesis writing in various levels of Dutch upper- secondary education. A national baseline study on text quality, writing process and students’ perspectives on writing. Pedagogische Studiën, 97(3), 187-236.
  2. Mateos, M., & Solé, I. (2009). Synthesising information from various texts: A study of procedures and products at different educational levels. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 24(4), 435-451.
  3. De Jong, J. & Van Kruiningen, J. (2022). Geef ze het nakijken. Over activerende feedback en schrijfbegeleiding in het hoger onderwijs.
  4. Graham, S. (2018). A revised Writer(s)-Within-Community Model of writing. Educational Psychologist, 53(4), 258-279.
  5. Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112. doi: 10.3102/003465430298487
  6. Corte, E. de (1991). Recent onderzoek over leren en instructie: een selectief overzicht. Tijdschrift voor Hoger Onderwijs. 9(1), 2-17.
  7. Leijten, M., & Van Waes, L. (2013). Keystroke Logging in Writing Research: Using Inputlog to Analyze Writing Processes. Written Communication 30(3), 358-392.
  8. Baaijen, V. M., Galbraith, D. & Glopper, K. de. (2014). Effects of writing beliefs and planning on writing performance. Learning and Instruction, 33, 81–91.
  9. White, M. J. & Bruning, R. (2005). Implicit writing beliefs and their relation to writing quality. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30(2), 166–189.
  10. Bruning, R., Dempsey, M., Kauffman, D. F., McKim, C. & Zumbrunn, S. (2013). Examining dimensions of self-efficacy for writing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(1), 25–38. doi: 10.1037/a0029692
  11. Bouwer, R., Van Steendam, E., & Lesterhuis, M. (2022). Assessing writing performance: Guidelines for the validation of writing assessment in intervention studies. In F. De Smedt, R. Bouwer, T. Limpo & S. Graham (Guest Eds.). Conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and evaluating writing interventions. Brill: Studies in Writing Series.
  12. Sun, M., Penuel, W. R., Frank, K. A., Gallagher, H. A. & Youngs, P. (2013). Shaping Professional Development to Promote the Diffusion of Instructional Expertise Among Teachers. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(3), 344–369. doi: 10.3102/0162373713482763





You are free to share and adapt, if you give appropriate credit and use it non-commercially. More on Creative Commons


Are you looking for funding to innovate your education? Check our funding calender!