Monthly Archives: October 2020

Learning how to write through storytelling

By Hossein Ghanbari Odivi

I was born into a crowded family. Up until I turned 6, we had been living in a village in the southeastern part of our country where we cultivated our land and looked after our flock. The only language I knew was Bakhtiari, which is different from Farsi, the lingua franca of Iran.

I remember waking up to this beautiful country morning and based on my recollection of previous days, I thought I’d have lots of fun on that day as well. However, that was a short-lived wish as I was told to pack up as we were moving house to Ahvaz, which turned to be my birthplace! I had no recollection of the city whatsoever. However, I learned that Ahvaz is the capital of the oil-rich Khuzestan province, and it proved itself to be a lively city for sure. Cars and people were everywhere in abundance. I was mesmerized by the unknown.

After we had moved in and settled down, I was told that I was going to school along with my elder brothers. Little did I know about schools and homework. At school, I heard different languages that later on were deciphered to me as Farsi and Arabic. At the time, a considerable percentage of the population in Ahvaz was Arabic speakers. In other words, it was expected to hear Arabic at school as many of my schoolmates were Iranian Arabs who would interact with each other in Arabic. Just like many other places in the world, where education is conducted in a certain language, classes were taught in the standard Farsi, which was all Greek to me. However, as I found myself in this new context, I had to adapt and adopt, which fruited in my learning Farsi.

With this little synopsis of my background, I aim to say that it takes effort and persistence to master new endeavours. In my personal life, writing in an academic setting was hard for me. Although I am a teacher and am in love with reading, I found academic writing a challenge as I did not know how to approach it appropriately. That is why I always make sure that my students know about essay structure and paragraph development. As long as we start from there, the rest will be easier to do.

Similar to stories that have a setting, theme, and a central message, academic writing also has its own framework. Thus, to write acceptably in an academic setting, one should follow the rubrics of academic writing. That is how I learned to write in an academic context. I learned that every academic essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

To write an introduction, one should break the ice to the reader with enough and not too much information. When the ice is broken and the reader’s attention is directed toward the message that the writer intends to convey, it is time to present a thesis statement. See? It is a fancy word for the central meaning in your essay. Your thesis statement is the main argument that you are presenting for or against another argument and in the form of some paragraphs, called body paragraphs. Each body paragraph has a topic sentence or a central meaning. These central messages help develop the argument in the thesis statement from one or two angles in a structured fashion. Every topic sentence is supported by sentences, which are explanations, other writers’ ideas, and references to previous findings on the topic. These sentences are connected through transition words. When the writer feels they have made an acceptable argument on the topic, they draw a conclusion, which is the final section in an academic essay. A conclusion is a brief recount of the thesis and the highlights of the arguments made throughout the essay.

With that being said, I believe the takeaway of this short anecdote-essay is, just like the time I adapted myself to my new life as a child and adopted its new rules to usher myself around, academic writing can and will bring you joy when you learn to adapt and apply its rules. It is at that time that  you will feel at home.

Thank you,


Odivi is a tutor at the Centre for Academic Communication. You can book an appointment with Odivi at

Odivi is a Ph.D. student in Education at UVic with a concentration in Indigenous Language Revitalization. He is also a certified English Teacher in Canada. He wrote his MA thesis on the study of moves and steps in Farsi and English Academic Recommendation Letters. Odivi taught English in Iran for 12 years. Before he came to Canada, he lived in Turkey where he taught English and IELTS to Turkish and international students.