Introduction to academic writing

If you are reading this, you are likely to be a student in a college on an undergraduate or post-graduate course. You may be a native speaker of English or English may be an additional language for you. When preparing your essays, you may have found difficulties with self-expression, essay structure, paragraphing, referencing, writing a bibliography and even punctuating correctly and this may have veiled some of your good ideas. You may not have achieved the grades that you hoped for. When your essays were marked you may have found comments reflecting the marker's uncertainty about precisely what you were trying to say.

  • You need to think more carefully about word order.
  • Check your punctuation in this paragraph.
  • This sentence is not clear.
  • This is not academic language.
  • Is this relevant?
  • Reference?
  • Is this a new paragraph or a continuation of the last one?

Sometimes you may have been unsure why your lecturer has made a particular comment in the margin of your essay.

If you are in a college or university and you wish to improve your academic writing, skills and achieve higher marks in your assignments, you may need to work carefully on some or all of the following areas:

  • your basic writing skills
  • planning your writing
  • paragraph writing
  • structuring your writing
  • run-together sentences
  • sentence fragments
  • sentences, clauses and phrases
  • making links in your writing
  • writing in a formal style
  • punctuation
  • summarising and paraphrasing
  • quoting, referencing and plagiarism
  • parallelism and consistency
  • preparing a bibliography.

If you wish to achieve high scores in your course, you will need to be able to:

  • plan your essay
  • write a good introduction with a clear statement of intent
  • structure your essay clearly
  • write paragraphs with clear topic sentences
  • write grammatically coherent sentences
  • use an appropriate academic style reflecting the conventions of academic writing
  • use appropriate academic vocabulary
  • punctuate your essay correctly
  • write a good conclusion.


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