Argumentative essay question for chemistry students (2016)

Researchers have developed man-made diamonds that when in close proximity of radioactive field, can generate electric current as a nuclear battery. They claim to have paved the way to a new clean ‘Diamond-age’ of power generation as, despite their low power, their batteries appear to be highly efficient as well as emission and maintenance free.

Read more here or watch the following video and then answer the following question:

Some researchers claim that when it comes to energy-harvesting the risks posed by tampering with radioactivity and the energy required to build nuclear batteries cannot be offset by their potential benefits. Argue for or against this claim and provide up-to-date scientific evidence to support your stance. 


Chemistry Mnemonics in an EAP class

Mnemonics are often used by chemistry students to enable them to regurgitate information. Associating chemical reactions, groups of elements in the periodic table  or orbitals with images to boost one’s memory can also be quite handy for international students grappling with new vocabulary.


Today I used this drawing as an example of what happens at the cathode and anode of redox relations regarding loss or gain of electrons in electrolytic cells. The picture itself was self-explanatory and everybody seemed to understand what I was trying to say.

Plus, the smile on my students’ face was priceless.

On Argumentative essays

This week we looked at causes and effects of laboratory accidents as well as laboratory equipment uses and tips. E1 students will have to write their first 300 word argumentative essay on a relevant topic (check out post on online platform).

Just a quick reminder to those of you writing this type of essay for the first time. In science you cannot “prove” anything as “proof” is a mathematical term. Instead, you can provide evidence of recent, relevant, measurable and verifiable data to support your claim. Plus, writing an argumentative essay is about perspective (not truth) which might explain why you need to include counter-arguments and use solid evidence to back up your claims; just make sure your claims are based on facts and logical deductions (not just opinions).

The following link is about being critical and providing counterarguments; it clearly describes how you should use counterarguments to provide a well rounded analysis of perspectives and views on the issue discussed: How to build your critical response using argument-counter argument

This essay should also meet the following criteria listed here

I will be posting more on this next week. For now, just remember: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response.” Viktor E. Frankl

Kallia Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts
In-sessional EAP/ESP instructor/lecturer
School of Science and Engineering, University of Crete


In a bid to explain writing conventions for different audiences to students

I came across this really interesting article from MIT which featured a pertinent example of the impact of cutting edge research, experimentation and serendipity. This discovery could lead to cost-effective and environmentally friendlier metal-production systems than those involved in most traditional metal smelting. With this process, researchers paved the way for the potential fabrication of more abundant and economically important metals such as copper and nickel.

When I read the actual paper in nature communications  and a few other science-related but not always scientific websites, I noticed stark differences between the writing style, wording, structure, argumentation and evidence.

In a bid to introduce fine nuances between academic and journalistic writing i.e. writing for different audiences, I put together a selection of articles on the same topic and asked my students to find similarities and differences. Then, I asked them to come up with “guidelines” or “rules” regarding academic/scientific writing. Following contentious discussions of “do’s and don’ts”, I then asked them to rank their rules in terms of importance, which created havoc among them as they could never reach consensus.

It worked out to be a great but time-consuming activity that enhanced not just students’ noticing skills but critical thinking. At the end of the lesson, students had to write a critical comparison of the scientific and the not-so-scientific articles.

Paraphrasing that makes teachers cringe (2016)

I often find myself reminding my Chemistry and Material Science students that they are not supposed to use direct “quotations” from scientific papers they read but they should paraphrase and cite what they consider the most important information element. I also give them a list of paraphrasing techniques simplifying them down to:

  1. Technical vocabulary (terminology) cannot always be paraphrased (e.g. mobile or stationary phase in chromatography)
  2. Using  synonyms or antonyms can be handy as long as you make sure the meaning is the same
  3. Transforming verbs into nouns (differ–difference) and adjectives into adverbs (and vice versa) can be very helpful
  4. Change the order of information or change from active to passive voice
  5. Acknowledge the authors or you will be plagiarising e.g. Smith et al. (2016) reported that…
  6. Summarise the content leaving out details (keep only what is really relevant to what YOU are trying to say)
  7. Add your own evaluative comments e.g. The main weakness in this report  …

Then, I ask my students to choose one paragraph of their own from our textbook and paraphrase it legitimately. Yet, things do not always work as I have planned. Despite my sincere efforts to guide my students and hopefully contribute to more effective academic writing, I am always in for a surprise when some students still come up with texts like this:

Original paragraph
Adsorption chromatography was developed first. It has a solid stationary phase and a liquid or gaseous mobile phase. (Plant pigments were separated at the turn of the 20th century by using a calcium carbonate stationary phase and a liquid hydrocarbon mobile phase. The different solutes travelled different distances through the solid, carried along by the solvent.) Each solute has its own equilibrium between adsorption onto the surface of the solid and solubility in the solvent, the least soluble or best adsorbed ones travel more slowly. The result is a separation into bands containing different solutes. Liquid chromatography using a column containing silica gel or alumina is an example of adsorption chromatography. The solvent that is put into a column is called the eluent, and the liquid that flows out of the end of the column is called the eluate.

Adsorption chromatography was developed first. It has a true to life hidden era and a cleaner or gaseous mobile period. (Plant pigments were summarize at the operation of the 20th century by employment a calcium carbonate hibernating phase and a Flakes hydrocarbon mobile phase. The choice solutes travelled option distances browse the existing, carried along by the douse.) Unexceptionally solute has its react to poise between adsorption onto the come overseas of the true and solubility in the animation, the smallest soluble or best adsorbed ones travel more slowly. The deliberation is a contravention into bands containing substitute solutes. soap powder chromatography application a cohort containing silica jell or alumina is an example of adsorption chromatography. The solvent cruise is pile into a cadre is suspect the eluent, and the liquid wind flows out of the repeal of the division is supposed the eluate.

Ways to Enhance Critical Reading and Writing of Scientific Articles


By Kallia Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts (2016) University of Crete
International postgraduate students are often equipped with substantial content knowledge when they enter an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) class. Having said that, more often than not a key issue which needs to be addressed is their ability to think, read or write critically when faced with a wide range of sources of information. EAP tutors should be prepared to raise students’ awareness over a number of lessons so as to mitigate differences between a higher and a lower level group.
Drawing students’ attention to how sources are cited or acknowledged can be a useful stepping stone. Through this, students should be able to jot down key phrases or ways employed to acknowledge authors and they should be able to notice different referencing types according to source, i.e. book, scholarly article, website. Yet, by being exposed to a variety of genre samples, students should also be able to classify sources as primary and secondary which can often be a crucial predicament for young researchers.
Following this, students should become aware of sequences and patterns in scientific texts, identifying similarities or differences, and arguments favouring or un-favouring views. As such, they should be invited to notice the difference between interpretation and description in scientific papers. Writing For and Against essays could also be a good way to introduce them to the use of evaluative language and drawing logical conclusions rather than summative ones….You can read the whole article here

Critical reading and writing with international students EAP 2016

Kallia Katsampoxaki-Hodgetts
In-sessional EAP/ESP instructor/lecturer
Academic Writing Specialist
School of Science and Engineering
University of Crete

Tel. (0030) 2810 545102


Read the text on Alkanes in your book and watch the videos on alkane confomational analysis and alkane reactions. Write a well-organised and concise essay on “Alkanes” focusing on your essay’s COHERENCE and COHESION. This is to do with your ability to connect paragraphs and sentences in a logical order that enhances the flow of your essay (You can watch a video for this too). References and in-text citations should also be included. (No word limit)

NB. Feel free to look for additional resources or videos before writing your essay.

Alkanes conformations video

Alkanes reactions

Coherence and Cohesion video