Students often worry about academic writing. They often comment that they have done little writing since school, or that the types of writing they have done are very different from the academic assignments they are expected to produce in their programmes.
When reading articles from your specific subject look out for the types of features described below and note down any discipline specific conventions that may be prevalent in your field. Next time you are completing an assignment try to remember to include some of those features in your own writing. In an attempt to address some of these questions and concerns, we have identified what we consider to be the key features of academic writing. We have grouped these features under six headings:StructureIdea developmentAnalytic approachUse of sourcesExplicitnessLanguage
Correct use of grammar and punctuation are important. They show that you care about your work and have adopted a disciplined attitude to writing academically. They also help to make sure your meaning is understood. Most common mistakes by inexperienced writers include: incomplete sentences; the wrong use of semicolons and colons; the wrong use of apostrophes; nouns and verbs where singular /plural do not agree; and inconsistent use of tenses.
A note about academic writing.Use plain language - you don't have to search for a more "academic-sounding" word when a simple one will do. Markers are looking for clear and accurate expression of ideas, not jargon or confusing language. Shorter sentences are usually clearer than long complex ones, but make sure it is a whole sentence and not just a clause or phrase.
Integrating evidence and your own ideasYour argument is your reasoned answer to the essay question, supported by evidence. The books, articles, and research material that you read for your essay provide this evidence to back up your points. The way in which you select and interpret the evidence, and explain why it answers the question, is where you demonstrate your own thinking.For each point that you make in your essay, you need to support it with evidence. There are many different kinds of evidence, and the type you use will depend on what is suitable for your subject and what the essay question is asking you to do.For example, you might back up a point using a theory (one kind of evidence) then show how this theory applies to a specific example in real life (another kind of evidence).Good writing makes a point clearly and may illustrate it to help the reader's understanding. To avoid rambling, plan the points that you wish to convey and the evidence that you will use to illustrate. Include only necessary detail.When presenting a point of view, such as a line of argument for an essay, decide on the main points that you want to communicate. Plan one main point per paragraph. A paragraph can be planned (like a mini- essay) as follows:Sentence introducing the point Sentence making the point with necessary detail. Illustration of point using reference: research example, case study, figures, etc. Critical analysis of point Sentence summing up the point and showing how it addresses the question or contributes to your argument.
There is no fixed, one-fits-all template for structuring academic work. Different types of assignment have different overall structures. For example, essays typically consist of an introduction, body and conclusion; reports, on the other hand, usually have four or five sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion and, in some cases, a separate conclusion.
A very common complaint from lecturers and examiners is that students write a lot of information but they just don't answer the question. Don't rush straight into researching – give yourself time to think carefully about the question and understand what it is asking.Is the question open-ended or closed? If it is open-ended you will need to narrow it down. Explain how and why you have decided to limit it in the introduction to your essay, so the reader knows you appreciate the wider issues, but that you can also be selective. If it is a closed question, your answer must refer to and stay within the limits of the question (i.e. specific dates, texts, or countries).Underlining key words – This is a good start point for making sure you understand all the terms (some might need defining); identifying the crucial information in the question; and clarifying what the question is asking you to do (compare & contrast, analyse, discuss). But make sure you then consider the question as a whole again, not just as a series of unconnected words.Re-read the question – Read the question through a few times. Explain it to yourself, so you are sure you know what it is asking you to do.Try breaking the question down into sub-questions – What is the question asking? Why is this important? How am I going to answer it? What do I need to find out first, second, third in order to answer the question? This is a good way of working out what important points or issues make up the overall question – it can help focus your reading and start giving your essay a structure. However, try not to have too many sub-questions as this can lead to following up minor issues, as opposed to the most important points.
Why plan?Planning your essay makes it much more likely that you will end up with a coherent argument.It enables you to work out a logical structure and an end point for your argument before you start writing.It means you don't have to do this type of complex thinking at the same time as trying to find the right words to express your ideas.It helps you to commit yourself to sticking to the point!You need to work out what to include, and what can be left out. It is impossible to cover everything in an essay, and your markers will be looking for evidence of your ability to choose material and put it in order. Brainstorm all your ideas, then arrange them in three or four groups. Not everything will fit so be prepared to discard some points (you can mention them briefly in your introduction).Outline what you are going to include in each section (Introduction, main body, conclusion)
Citing authorities in your own or related disciplines gives credibility to your work and provides the evidence you need to support your claims or criticise claims made by others. As this suggests, different reading sources may provide contradictory evidence. Reporting that this is the case is not enough. You have to evaluate the evidence and decide how to use it to develop your argument.
No mayonnaise on chips – ensure that you introduce quotations or develop on them. Don’t float them.
Indent, single line space, no quotation marks, smaller font, Rest of text double spaced, 12 font, no fancy text styles, name, footer, page number, word count etc
For the LNG the could spend the first hour preparing individually https://studentcentral.brighton.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1754162-dt-content-rid-3321206_1/courses/K2/Guidelines%20for%20the%20Use%20of%20References%2C%202013-14.pdf
InLNGsw/c 4/11 bring along your 500 words to share. w/c 11th of November all groups have a timetabled session with Rick. They can upload their writing to PP in this session.
Session 3 - Academic Writing
What are your concerns about academic writing?
• What is academic writing like?
• How does it differ from the types of writing I do in
Academic Writing Style
Read each of the extracts and decide whether they include the
• Subject specific words
• Formal tone/language
• Examples of writing in the third person
Writing Style – Activity
Compare the following extracts from essays.
1. Which extract is a better example of critical writing?
2. What features are more apparent in the better extract?
The style of writing you will be expected to use for
academic work is likely to be different to other styles you
use every day.
Think b4 u rite! :>)
Avoid shortened forms:
•Shouldn't, it's for it is
Avoid popular phrases or cliches such as:
•at the end of the day; in a nutshell; when it comes to the
•Replace with: finally, in summary, in a crisis
Avoid casual everyday words such as really, okay, maybe.
Academic essays should be written in a formal style. Avoid:
• clichés ("the flaws in this argument stand out like a sore
• contractions ("don't", "aren't", "it's")
• phrases that sound like speech ("well, this bit is really
• subjective descriptions ("this beautiful sculpture")
• where possible use the third person (“it can be argued”
rather than “I think”)
Academic writing – including evidence and
your own ideas
A suggestion on how you can construct a paragraph
that includes evidence and your own ideas:
• Introduce your point (your own words)
• Add the evidence to support your point (quoted or
paraphrased evidence that needs to be referenced)
• Explain how and why this evidence supports your
point and what you think of it (your own
interpretation and critical thinking)
• Explain how the point helps answer the question
(your own argument)
Academic writing is clearly structured.
A clear structure is important for several reasons:
• It is the framework around which you construct
• It enables you to present your material in a
coherent, logical manner.
• It gives your work a sense of direction and aides the
flow of your writing
Planning and structuring
• Answering the‘question’ (Essay Title)
Is the question open-ended or closed?
Underline key words
Try breaking the question down into sub-questions
Set the question in context – how does it fit with the key
issues, debates and controversies in your module and
your subject as a whole? An essay question often asks
about a specific angle or aspect of one of these key
debates. If you understand the context it makes your
understanding of the question clearer.
Planning and structuring
Introduction: Address the question, show why it's
interesting and how you will answer it.
Main Body: Build your argument. Put your groups of ideas
in a sequence to make a persuasive argument. One main
point in each paragraph.
Conclusion: Summarise your arguments and evidence, and
show how they answer the original question.
Essay - Activity
In small groups, read through an example essay.
Look for the following features:
Referencing is the acknowledgment of all the sources you have cited in
your assignments, whether you have quoted directly or paraphrased.
The Harvard system uses the author – date method; the references in
the assignment text are given in brackets and the list of sources is given
in a bibliography (or reference list), attached to the assignment.
Referencing enables you to:
• show you have researched your topic, for example, articles, books,
reference works and electronic resources;
• direct your readers to the information you have used;
• avoid plagiarism.
Totraku’s, (2014) study set out with the
aim of assessing the importance of
group working skills in the learning
Direct reference - short
This finding corroborates the ideas of Burton and Turvey (2014),
who suggested that “In successful groups all students equally
contributed towards the final product.” (p35)
Setting ground rules and expectations can help to facilitate a
shared sense of responsibility. Although people will sometimes
have different viewpoints it is how that conflict is handled which
“determines whether it works to the team's advantage, or
contributes to its demise.” (Bundock, 2014, p19.)
Direct reference - long
Wiliam's (2008) views on the benefits of learners working in
group situations and the importance of group goals and
individual accountability is clearly recognised in Bundock’s
review of the literature. However, there is an inconsistency
with her argument as William points out:
Within-class grouping also makes little difference, because
what really matters is not how students are grouped. It’s
what happens in the groups, and that depends crucially
on the quality of the teacher.
(William, 2014, p201)
References (not bibliography)
• Just include those references you’ve included in your
• List all references in alphabetical order according to
• Don’t separate out books, journals, web sites etc
Totraku, P. (2014) Succeeding in academic
essays Brighton: Bracken Publishing
Read: Guidelines for the Use of References. Student Central >
my school: BA Primary education>School of Education
handbook for students teachers 2013-2014 > section 5.1
Within the two hour allotted time, each member of the group
must prepare and then present a 5 minute presentation on
one of the following areas:
Planning an assignment – strategies
Structuring your assignment – approaches
Use of academic language to frame your writing
Proof reading strategies
• Before Friday 15th of November you will need to upload onto
Pebblepad, in the Support Tutor folder, a 500 word piece of
academic writing titled “Strategies for effective group work”
• In w/c 25th of November you will meet with your support tutor for a
second time. They will have read a selection of your work and will
provide general feedback.
Assessment task 1
• In response to this feedback you will reflect on your writing and
prepare an academic action plan, together with the steps you need
to take to improve in this area. This will form the first assessment
task for this module and will need to be available for EP404 tutors to
view via Pebblepad no later than 6/12/13. This will be marked on a
Pass/Fail basis and returned to you by 17/1/14
• It will posses an academic tone
• It will make sense, be accurately
punctuated and spelt correctly
• Your ideas and points will be supported
by drawing on and making reference to
your reading and personal experience.
• It will demonstrate your ability to use the
Harvard reference system
• It will be critical rather than overly