Writing at university can be a challenge for a number of reasons. You not only need to consider the content of your writing, but also how you organise it, what language you use and writing conventions which may be very different to the conventions used in secondary school, your previous field of study or a different academic culture.
Writing is a process which can help you to develop and improve your thinking. It takes time, and many of the key stages of the writing process happen before you write your first word. For example, to successfully write an assignment, you will need to:
understand the assignment brief (the task)
brainstorm your ideas
find relevant and appropriate academic source texts
read and understand these texts
engage with and think about these texts
organise your ideas into a plan
write your first draft
revise and edit your draft... and so on
Writing well is a skill that all university students need to develop, and the resources on this page are available help you.
Study Skills Success is an online resource which can help you to develop the academic study skills you will need to be successful at university. This resource is designed for non-native English speakers and can help you not only with a range of study skills, but also with the academic English that underpins them. To improve your writing skills, try the Writing, Working with Visuals, Critical Thinking and Research sections in Study Skills Success.
In these activities you will explore how academic writing can be organised at these different levels. You will practise recognising some commonly used organising principles and you will also examine the structure of a short academic text.
In these activities you will learn what the characteristics of a good topic sentence are; study some examples of effective and ineffective topic sentences and practise composing a topic sentence yourself.
In these activities you will identify the precise meaning of some of the more commonly used key words in essay questions and then consider some general problems concerning the interpretation of essay titles.
In these activities you will check your understanding of the term 'cohesion', explore the use of different kinds of cohesion in a piece of academic text and then practise adding cohesion to improve a paragraph.
In these activities you will focus on the use of examples to support general statements. You will choose some appropriate examples to support written statements, and you will identify the key words and phrases commonly used to add examples to statements and practise using them appropriately.
In these activities you will explore some of the common features of effective introductions and examine examples of them in context.
In these activities you will analyse the structure of some example paragraphs, and then you will reconstruct a selection of effective paragraphs from formal writing contexts.
In these activities you will consider what an effective conclusion to a piece of academic writing should contain and review some advice about writing conclusions to decide how to approach writing them yourself.
In these activities you will review some useful signposting language found in conclusions and then evaluate two conclusions to student essays.
In these activities you will consider what shared needs academic writers in different subject areas may have in terms of organising and expressing their ideas. You will also explore examples of language that can be used to express different but common relationships between ideas in academic writing.
In these activities you will focus on exploring the difference between fact and opinion and consider where support is necessary for statements in your writing.
In these activities you will listen to a recording of a student talking about revising a piece of written work. You will also review the key requirements when revising your academic written work.
In these activities you will practise carrying out two important procedures in revising written work, checking the relevance of what has been written and improving the cohesion of written work.
In these activities you will consider what aspects of your writing need to be checked at the proofreading stage, and you will practise proofreading and correcting the first part of a written assignment produced by a student for her university course.
In the following activities you will consider how data should be presented within your writing, and you will examine and practise the language used to describe and refer to data in a graph. Much of the vocabulary is similar, whether you are referring to a graph, table or chart.
In these activities you will study some of the vocabulary used to talk about change, and then you will examine how this vocabulary is used.
In these activities you will analyse a description of data displayed in a graph and you will practise applying appropriate language to describe trends shown by a graph.
These activities will introduce some of the language typically used for comparing and contrasting information in graphs and tables. You will see how different information contained in a graph can be compared. You will also explore how to describe, compare and comment on data from two related graphs.
In these activities you will explore what is meant by the term 'plagiarism'. You will listen to a tutor talking about the causes of plagiarism, reflect on some different scenarios to decide what you can and what you can't do, and consider why plagiarism is a problem in an academic context.
In these activities you will consider the differences between some key methods involved in using source material appropriately in your written academic work. You will also practise recognising examples of poor and good practice in other students' written work so that you can avoid committing plagiarism in your own work.
In these activities you will learn about the main uses of quotation as oppose to paraphrase in academic writing.
In these activities you will learn about the use of quotations in academic writing. You will consider some statements about the use of quotations and practise producing quotations in the correct format for academic writing.
In these activities you will consider some of the advantages of paraphrasing over quotation, evaluate two paraphrases produced by student writers and, finally, practise paraphrasing for yourself.
Spotlight workshops are short interactive sessions on a range of topics which run repeatedly throughout the year. Workshops are free, fun and can help you develop your academic language and skills, enabling you to succeed on your course. The following Spotlight workshops can help you with your writing:
A number of our Spotlight workshops are available as Spotlight Video Workshops. This means you can access the workshop at a time convenient to you, and work through it at your own pace. If you have already attended a Spotlight workshop and would like to review the content, the Spotlight Video Workshops below can help.
If you need to improve your academic writing, the following resources are available in the library for self-study:
You can click on the images above to access the books through Locate the Library catalogue, or use the reference list below.
Bailey, S. (2015) Academic Writing for International Students of Business. Oxon: Routledge
Greetham, B. (2018) How to Write Better Essays. Palgrave Study Skills. London: Macmillan
McMillan, K. and Weyers, J. (2011) How to Write Essays and Assignments. Essex: Pearson
Geyte, E. V. (2013) Writing: Learn to Write Better Academic Essays. London: Harper Collins Publishers