Writing your assignment
You'll need to write many different kinds of assignments at university, ranging from essays to reports to dissertations. Sometimes this can cause stress and difficulties! However - there are ways to develop your ability to write good assignments at university and get yourself good grades.
The University of Essex created a booklet that can provide a reference guide to some of the most common mistakes in academic writing and heighten your appreciation of the logic and beauty of language, a good command of which will help you to think more clearly and deeply, and have a positive impact on every aspect of your academic work, not just assignments.
Further resources from Middlesex University
One of the key characteristics of studying at university is developing your abilities to understand and use academic language. This can take time, and can be quite difficult sometimes. It doesn't need to be impossible though!
Watch our introductory video to find out more, and work your way through the guide to develop and perfect your use of academic language.
Further resource from Middlesex University
Stages of writing an essay
Download a copy of 'Stages of writing an essay' created by London Metropolitan University from here!
Writing your essay
This useful and interactive resource from the My Learning Essentials team at the University of Manchester Library explores the purpose and process of writing an essay, highlighting how you can ensure that your themes run throughout your work, and that every section of your essay supports your argument to help your reader to understand your ideas.
The Alex essay writing tool
Academic writing can feel like a daunting task. The Alex Essay Writing Tool created by Dr Anna Barker from Teesside University and the Royal Literary Fund can help take you through all the stages of producing your essay from essay title through to the final draft.
Alex Essay Writing Tool is a step-by-step guide to writing an essay with ten easy steps that’ll get you from blank page to the final draft. No more staring at the blank page not knowing how to begin.
Understanding your task
This interactive tutorial from the University of Manchester takes you through the process of analysing your assignment task to ensure that you're clear about what you're being asked to do, giving you some useful techniques to ensure that your work remains focused on directly addressing the question at hand.
Planning your work
This worksheet created by Nottingham Trent University is designed to help you to produce a coherent and well structured piece of writing. Planning your work will help you to organise your ideas into linked themes and then to develop a reasoned and well structured argument.
Download a copy of worksheet from here; it provides lots of useful information including note-making styles which you could use to help get your ideas down on paper and to structure your thoughts.
Creating an outline
Before beginning writing or preparing a presentation, it is essential to create an outline. The video below, 'Writing a paper: Outlining' from The Writing Center at University of North Carolina provides a description and examples of components of an outline for a research paper. Other types of academic writing (case study, dissertations, etc.) will require more complex outlines but the process of outlining is the same.
Basic writing principles
This resources below examine the features of academic writing and provides some advice on how you can develop your ability to write clearly and authoritatively.
Writing a paragraph
The skill of structuring paragraphs and building effective connections between them is one that will allow you to develop and sustain a compelling argument in your written work. By setting out your ideas and evidence with a natural flow, you will make your work much more readable. This important technique will help you work towards higher levels of attainment in assignments and help to improve the quality of your everyday writing.
Access the worksheet created by Nottingham Trent University here. The resource is designed to help you to write paragraphs which contain all of the necessary parts to construct a well–evidenced and coherent argument.
This short video from the university of Sheffield introduces the WEED method for structuring paragraphs.
Academic style and tone
As you read and write more, you will develop your own writing style. Your style should reflect the reasoned and objective tone of your argument. You are trying to persuade your reader. You can refine your style as you edit your writing. If you stumble over words or get lost in long sentences when you read your work, this is a sign you need to improve your style.
Download a copy of the academic tone and style guide to save for later from here!
This factsheet from Middlesex University gives a useful overview of the typical features and key points on academic style. This will enable you to write clearly and precisely. Access the resource here.
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation
It is true that language is dynamic, so conventional rules about grammar and punctuation change all the time. It is also true that experts often disagree amongst themselves about correct spelling and punctuation. The fact is that there are different conventions about some things, and some academics will tell you one thing, and others will tell you something completely different. Many of the errors found in student assignments are usually straightforward, however students may be criticised, or even lose marks, because they have neglected some basic rules. Effective academic writing requires good grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
This comprehensive guide created by the University of Kent provides helps you to understand the basic rules of English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Download and save your own copy from here!
In academic writing, your claims should be supported by reliable evidence. Evidence gives your writing authority, and allows your reader to evaluate the basis of your assertions: whether they are just a personal opinion, or whether they are backed up by extensive research.
You should use evidence to illustrate and support your points. Evidence may be the opinion of an expert or the results of a study or experiment. It may be written or in diagram format. Use the evidence to:
Whenever you refer to someone else's ideas or opinion you must acknowledge your source through referencing.
Editing and proofreading your work
You are more likely to spot your errors if you allow a gap between finishing writing and proofreading. It is best to do this as a staged/stepped exercise: read through first to make sure your writing makes sense and then to check for spelling and grammatical errors. Making a checklist of your own typical errors, for example there/their confusion, can help because it is always easier if you are checking for specific things.
The University of Leicester have created a study guide that addresses the process of editing an extended document such as a dissertation or a thesis. There are lots of tips and ideas that can be applied to other academic assignments such as reports or essays. Access the study guide here!
Proofreading is one of the most important but often overlooked stages of the academic writing process. This video from the University of Sheffield provides advice and techniques on proofreading your own work, allowing you to identify and correct a range of common mistakes.
This interactive tutorial from the University of Manchester explores three vital elements to review when proofreading your work - flow, clarity and accuracy - and gives you a chance to learn about and apply some techniques to ensure that you check your work properly.