Background. Graduate students, especially those writing in a second language, have specific writing needs. Previous research suggests that intervention might be more didactic than writing instruction frequently is. Aims. 1. To adapt a knowledge x levels x process model of writing (Biggs & Moore, 1993) to conceptualise the writing needs of graduate students. Students need to know certain rhetorical knowledge, and to apply cognitive space-saving strategies at the appropriate place and level of ideation during writing. The model integrates the didactic and eclectic elements of Torrance, Thomas & Robinson's (1993) interventions with graduate students' writing. 2. To develop and trial a workshop based on the model, addressing the writing needs of graduate students to whom English is a second language. Samples. Eighteen students from science-related disciplines, and 16 from nonscience, participated in the workshop. All were enrolled in research higher degrees in a Hong Kong university where English is the required medium for the dissertation. Method. The workshops ran for 2 1/2 days each, focusing on dissertation writing, and writing for an academic journal. Before/after measures were taken on the Inventory of Processes in College Composition (IPIC) (Lavelle, 1993), and students completed an open-ended questionnaire at the end of the workshop. Results. Three IPIC scales showed significant pre-/post-change: lower procedural and spontaneous/impulsive scores (surface-related), higher elaborationist (deep-related). Open-ended feedback supported the view that positive change had occurred. Students particularly appreciated didactic instruction within the context of formal requirements of academic writing. Copyright ©1999 British Psychological Society.