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What is academic writing?

"Writing is physical work. It's sweaty work. You can't will yourself to become a good writer. You have to work at it."

- Will Haygood 


In general, markers of essay assignments in most disciplines expect the following: 

  • Relevant content
    • Has the student answered the question? Are all ideas relevant to the question?
  • Logical structure  
    • Are ideas organised clearly and easy to follow?
    • Is there a clear introduction and effective conclusion?
    • Are paragraphs in the main body of the essay developed logically?
  • Clarity of written expression and appropriate style
    • Are grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary correctly used?
    • Are conventions of academic writing style observed?
  • Solid evidence of research
    • Are reference sources used effectively and cited correctly?

So where do you start?

This resource is separated into five sections that follow the process of writing an essay from understanding the question through to checking the essay before submission.

  • Planning the essay - Understand the question and organising ideas
  • Building the essay -Introductions, paragraphs and conclusions
  • Achieving coherence - Pronouns, repetition, transitions and parallels
  • Essay types - Expository, discussion and argument essays
  • Checking the essay - Revising, editing and proof reading

You do not have to work through all the sections in order or at one time. If you have already received feedback on academic essays you may want to look at the suggestions below. If you have never written an academic essay for university before then you may want to work through the different sections as you write your essay. Student Learning Services also offers a number of workshops that you can attend on academic writing. To do this go to the Libraries and Learning Services workshops page. Select Academic reading and writing from the list of topics to see the workshops on offer.

Improving writing skills based on marker feedback

Click on the comments below to see which section of this resource may be helpful.

“Your answer has limited relevance to the question.”

“There's no logical development of ideas; the introduction and conclusion are weak.”

“You need to discuss your examples, not just describe them.”

“Your written expression contains basic grammatical errors and faulty sentence structures.”

“Your quotes are not well integrated into the essay.”

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