Skip to content



Discourse styles

Your feedback needs to take into account that students from diverse cultural backgrounds may structure oral and written texts differently. We need to know what genres and skills may be new to students and how students can learn these new genres and skills.

Watch one of our international students talking about the different way writing is structured in her culture compared to her experiences at RMIT.



The structure of writing over here was very different. I found it a real struggle here because the expectation of the teachers was quite different from what was expected in my country. For example in our sub continent in India and Pakistan the way we are taught to structure our essays is we don't come to the point directly we have to develop this major build up, and before coming to the point so that unless and until we don't have that huge context coming to that point, our lecturer wouldn't think that we have put enough effort into that, so but over here the thing was to go bang! Go to the point directly. And then you can start explaining...

— Umbreen


Structuring assignments

Direct linear approach: “Here’s the flower. Here’s where I got it from. Now I will explain it...”
Indirect inductive approach: “Let me take you for a walk in the garden and I will show you something...”

It is not common knowledge that the structure of written and oral texts is embedded in a particular culture’s patterns of thinking, speaking and writing. For example, the academic style in Australian universities is linear and focuses on presenting the main point or thesis at the beginning, followed by supporting points leading to a conclusion.

However, students from many cultures, particularly Asian cultures, can find this structure unsophisticated. They value a high-context, circular discourse style, where there is a detailed explanation of context before coming to the main point. This is an indirect and inductive style where digression is highly valued, a bit like peeling an onion.