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Academic Writing. Learning Development Service Student Guidance Centre. What attracts good marks?. Lowest marks Weak structure Shows little research Mostly descriptive Considers only one point of view Better marks Evidence of background learning Answers the question

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Academic Writing

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Academic writing

Academic Writing

Learning Development Service

Student Guidance Centre

What attracts good marks

What attracts good marks?

Lowest marks

  • Weak structure

  • Shows little research

  • Mostly descriptive

  • Considers only one point of view

    Better marks

  • Evidence of background learning

  • Answers the question

  • Organises information into a logical structure

  • Develops an argument

  • Draws conclusions

  • Provides evidence to support arguments

The writing process

The writing process

  • Defining the question/area of research

  • Good quality reference material

  • Read, make notes, think critically about material, formulate an argument

  • Create your plan

  • Write draft

  • Edit

  • Proofread and presentation

The question

The question

  • Define each word in the assignment/essay title

  • Keep your assignment title/task in front of you as you are reading and writing

Key words in essay titles

Key words in essay titles

  • Account for

  • Analyse

  • Critically discuss

  • Discuss

  • Illustrate

  • What do these terms mean?

Key words in essay titles1

Key words in essay titles

  • Account for – give reasons for, explain why

  • Analyse – examine in close detail

  • Critically discuss– weigh arguments for and against something, assessing the strength of evidence on both sides

  • Discuss – write about the most important aspects of, give arguments for and against

  • Illustrate – make something clear and explicit by giving examples

Next steps

Next steps

  • What do I know already?

  • What do I need to find out?

  • Where will I get the information? (library session)

Main topic

Key areas



  • Find appropriate sources – read and make notes

    Keep all bibliographic details(referencing session)

  • Decide what information is relevant (title)

  • Discard what you do not need – don’t be tempted to quote from everything just to show that you have read widely

Academic writing


Academic style http www qub ac uk directorates sgc learning academicskills writingskills

Academic style

  • Precise, objective language

  • Grammatically correct

  • Properly punctuated

  • Formal

  • Lists in essay use appropriate layout

    The causes of migration include:

    • Drought

    • famine

    • Disease.

      (McMillan, K., and Weyers J., How to write essays and assignments Pearson 2nded 2011)

Academic writing is precise


Academic writing is precise


A woman ruled the country for over 10 years

Some people believe …

At the time

Margaret Thatcher served as British Prime Minister between 1979 and 1991

Who exactly?


Always check that you have given your readers enough detail so that they know exactly what you are talking about

Non academic


  • In this country, we have changed the law so that the King or Queen is less powerful since the Great War. But he or she can still advise, encourage or warn the Prime Minister if they want.

    What could be improved?

    Write this in an academic style

Academic writing

  • In this country (non-specific),we have changed (active voice) the law (not precise) so that the King or Queen (duplication of nouns, better to use a singular term) is less powerful since the Great War. But he or she can still (informal) advise, encourage or warn the Prime Minister if they want. (If who wants? Not clear who ‘they’ refers to – the King or Queen? The Prime Minister?)

Academic style

Academic style

  • In the United Kingdom, legislation has been a factor in the decline of the role of the monarchy in the period since the Great War. Nevertheless, the monarchy has survived and, thus, the monarch continues to exercise the right to advise, encourage and warn the Prime Minister.

Abbreviations and contractions

Abbreviations and contractions

Avoid abbreviations such as:

  • e.g. - for example

  • i.e. - that is

    Avoid contractions such as:

  • Isn’t – is not

  • Couldn’t - could not

Academic writing

  • Acronyms – an abbreviation that takes the initial letters of a name or procedure to form a word in its own right.

  • World Health Organisation becomes WHO.

  • The first time the term is used it should be written out in full, followed by the acronym or abbreviation in brackets. Thereafter, the acronym or abbreviation can be used.

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) states …

    The National Health Service (NHS) was established …

Do not doubt yourself

Do Not Doubt Yourself

  • ‘In this assignment I will try to analyse/ endeavour to demonstrate/ attempt to argue that’…

  • When you do this you are implying that you may not be able to do what you have set out to do and you are inviting your reader to pass judgement on the success or otherwise of your attempt.

  • It is better to state confidently that ‘in this assignment I will analyse / demonstrate / argue that’…

  • Or to say, ‘This assignment will critically analyse differing perspectives on …’

Technical register jargon specialist terms

Technical register (jargon, specialist terms)

  • Do not use technical jargon to try to impress; however, become comfortable with the language of your discipline and use it confidently.

  • If you are having difficulty understanding some of the terminology, create a personal learning dictionary; this will be useful for exam revision.

Academic writing can be

Academic writing can be:

  • Descriptive

    • Being precise about methods used in a procedure

    • Giving essential background information

      While most assignments will have an element of descriptive content, an essay that is only descriptive will usually get a lower mark

Argumentative analytical critical


  • Highlights a point of view or opinion and a line of reasoning to support it.

  • highlights an alternative point of view and demonstrates an understanding of the debate.

  • Offers evidence and examples to support a particular view in order to convince the reader that it is the right view to hold.

  • For more detailed help on critical writing, attend an LDS workshop.

  • Descriptive versus analytical writing


    Descriptive versus analytical writing


    States what happened

    States what something is like

    Explains what a theory says

    Gives information

    Explains why what happened is significant

    Evaluates strengths and weaknesses

    Shows why the theory is relevant or how it relates to practice

    Draws conclusions

    Features of academic writing

    Features of academic writing

    • Use source materials – do not simply state your personal opinion. Use material from books, articles, reports, lectures

    • Use the most up-to-date research

    • Show that you are aware that answers are not always clear cut. State clearly where there are flaws in an argument and back up what you say by referring to research

    Features of academic writing1

    Features of academic writing

    • If there are difficulties coming to a firm conclusion about a controversial subject, show that you understand the complexities of the debate

    • Make sure that one point follows logically from another

    • Be objective

    Essay structure

    Essay structure

    • Introduction (10%)

      • Engage the reader by introducing your topic.

      • Identify the issues you are about to explore and preview how you plan to answer the question.

    • Main text

      • Divided into paragraphs.

      • Structure set out by introduction and approach to question.

      • Must cover everything you said you would cover in the introduction.

    • Conclusion (10%)

      • Summarises your argument and the main themes.

      • Do not present new arguments.

    Academic writing

    90%     High / Excellent 1st80%     Definite 1st 75%     Low 1st -------------------------------- >=70%  1st 68%     High / Excellent 2-1 65%     Definite / Solid 2-1 62%     Low / Clear 2-1 -------------------------------- >=60%  2-1 58%     High 2-2 55%     Definite / Solid 2-2 52%     Low / Clear 2-2 -------------------------------- >=50%  2-2 48%     High 3rd 45%     Definite / Solid 3rd 42%     Low 3rd -------------------------------- >=40% 3rd 35%     Marginal Fail 25%     Weak Fail 15%     Poor Fail 0%     Bad fail  / no answer / Nothing of merit



    • Comments on your assignment

    • What are your strengths

    • What do you need to develop

    • Action you have taken to follow up on feedback given



    • Acknowledge your sources

    • Check you module handbook for guidelines

    • Clear

    Academic writing

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