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Academic writing

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Published: 14 December 2020

Student writing on paper

As a University of Sunderland in London student, you’ll be spending a lot of time writing.

But academic writing is quite different from things like posting on social media, putting together a blog or texting friends.

Even if you’re an experienced writer, it’s worth brushing up on your skills to make sure your assignments are getting top marks.

What is academic writing?

Simply put, it’s a style of writing aimed at presenting professional academic work in the clearest, most concise and accurate way possible.

The main aim should always be to help your reader understand what you’re saying – your lecturer can’t give you marks for something they don’t understand!

It has a formal, professional and informative tone that shouldn’t be complex or use unnecessarily long words or sentences.

Don’t forget as well that each discipline will have its own technical terms and styles of writing you’ll become familiar with as you get further into your degree.

Who are you writing for and why?

The first thing you need to do is work out why you’re writing the pieces and who’ll be reading it.

With your assignments, most of what you’re doing will be set by and marked by your lecturers who will give you guidance on what they expect to see.

Then you’ll need to work out what the question is actually asking you and how you’re going to answer it.

Structure your work

Once you know what you have to write, you’ll need to put it into some kind of order. Put together an overall structure that lays out your argument, including introduction, middle (made up of your points) and conclusion.

You should also be structuring your paragraphs with your key point being included in the first couple of sentences.

The rest of the paragraph is for explaining your point in greater detail, giving examples and counterpoints where relevant.

Signalling words

These help your reader understand the structure of your work and give them clues on where your argument might be going.

You can use them to:

  • Provide further detail e.g. ‘moreover’ or ‘additionally’
  • Compare two points e.g. ‘in comparison’ or ‘in contrast’
  • Show effect e.g. ‘in conclusion’ or ‘therefore’
  • Emphasise e.g. ‘significantly’ or ‘particularly’
  • Reflect a sequence of points e.g. ‘firstly’, ‘secondly’, ‘thirdly’

When you first get here no one expects you to be the perfect academic writer straight away. But it is a skill that you’ll have to pick up if you want the best marks.

Use the tips above to check your work and speak with your lecturers if you need more help.

You’ll be able to find loads of guidance out there for you. Visit the University of Sunderland in London Library website for Study Skills resources or take a look at our Growth Mindset news section for more. Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.