Introduction to academic writing

What is academic writing?

Learning how to write in an academic style is one of the skills you will develop further at University.

The process of planning academic writing looks like this:

Messy Plan Your initial thoughts on the question or assignment
Read To inform and support your arguments and make sure that you are not missing anything. Start with lecture notes, module reading lists and reading recommended by your tutors.
Identify key points Pick three or four key points that are particularly relevant to your argument to explore in detail in your writing.
Structured plan Organise key points, research and comments into a logical order for writing up your assignment.

For academic work, academic sources will usually be required – so academic journal articles and books from the library, reputable website and your module reading list, not just the first thing you see on google.

Tip: A good academic assignment is often based on a range of different source types, to give an argument a broad and reliable base.

Academic writing is quite formal, not using informal abbreviations or slang. It usually has a clear argument running through it, with an introduction and a conclusion, and using evidence to support what it is saying. Different styles of writing are required for different assignments. For example, essays are different to reports.

It is key at university to be critically analytical rather than descriptive. Being critical does not necessarily mean being negative and finding fault. It means to analyse and evaluate arguments and theories. It is also about presenting convincing reasons in support of conclusions.

Look at the sentences below and decide if they are descriptive or critical.

The process of planning academic writing looks like this:

Messy Plan Your initial thoughts on the question or assignment
Read To inform and support your arguments and make sure that you are not missing anything. Start with lecture notes, module reading lists and reading recommended by your tutors.
Identify key points Pick three or four key points that are particularly relevant to your argument to explore in detail in your writing.
Structured plan Organise key points, research and comments into a logical order for writing up your assignment.

For academic work, academic sources will usually be required – so academic journal articles and books from the library, reputable website and your module reading list, not just the first thing you see on google.

Tip: A good academic assignment is often based on a range of different source types, to give an argument a broad and reliable base.

Academic writing is quite formal, not using informal abbreviations or slang. It usually has a clear argument running through it, with an introduction and a conclusion, and using evidence to support what it is saying. Different styles of writing are required for different assignments. For example, essays are different to reports.

It is key at university to be critically analytical rather than descriptive. Being critical does not necessarily mean being negative and finding fault. It means to analyse and evaluate arguments and theories. It is also about presenting convincing reasons in support of conclusions.

Look at the sentences below and decide if they are descriptive or critical.

Example table header Header Header
Example table cell content 98.058 98.058
Example table cell content 2482.22 509.90
Example table cell content 54.365 0.002
  98.058 520.00