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Study Skills- Academic Writing

A study skills guide to support the development of academic writing skills at university

Breaking Down your Brief

Academic writing is writing that you undertake at university in order to advance an argument. To do this it is important to state your position, use evidence and be clear throughout.  

It is important that your academic writing is relevant to the question set. 

When you receive an assignment title, break it down. 

  • What are the key words in the question or statement? 
  • Which words indicate the scope of the topic and what you are being asked to do?
  • What do you need to do? Critically analyse or discuss.

These factors will influence your planning and reading material to inform assignment content. Why not highlight the sections in different colours?

  1. When assessing your assignment question highlight the words relating to format and structure to enable understanding of what you are being asked to produce. For example, for a report you may be asked to include headings, an essay would be written in continuous prose or if asked to write a reflection you may be asked to write in the first person, "I think..." rather than "the evidence may suggest..." which is written in the third person. 
  2. Highlight the core themes in your brief, including specific limitations or strategies you should cover in order to answer the question. 
  3. Highlight any optional themes in the brief that will influence your research.
  4. Highlight any critical tasks, these will influence your approach to the assignment. In this case an analytical approach is needed so you would need to provide alternative viewpoints to identify strengths and limitations to evidence your points. 

Test yourself by identifying definitions for the correct command words in the quiz below.

Look at the document below to explore critical evaluation and expectations in academic writing. 

Play the academic writing game below to test your academic writing skills. 

Look at the university Generic Assessment Criteria below to develop your understanding of general university writing expectations.