Skip to main content

Academic Writing Overview

In a recent survey, academic tutors identified the interrelated skills of writing and reasoning as the two most important skills for success in higher education (University of Essex, 2008)

5 things you need to know...

At University you will write assignments in many formats but most require the same standard of academic writing. You need to grasp two main concepts what it is (Academic Writing) and how to write it (Academic Language) but, to get you started, there 5 key features: 

  1. Objective - based on facts and research rather than feelings or opinions.  
  2. Formal language - make your point clearly and accurately, and develop language appropriate to your subject.
  3. Passive voice - this means concentrating on the action which has taken place rather than who performed it. This involves not using personal pronouns (for example: I, we, me, our) unless you are writing a reflection.
  4. Structured - you need to plan your work so that it guides the reader step by step from the introduction, through your argument supported by evidence, to the conclusion.
  5. Includes citations and references - an essential part of academic writing is to provide evidence of research and acknowledge your sources. 

Need to know more...

We have produced resources to help you to develop your skills in this area.  You will find a factsheet on this topic below, plus others you may find useful.  See also the Online and Books tabs above.  

Related factsheets

Additional resources to help you to improve your confidence and grades:-

  • Writing Effectively demonstrates the importance of: clarity, structure, relevance, argument and precision.
  • Writing Mechanics gives further examples and resources on areas including: sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Staffordshire University (2015) Refzone.  Referencing (Harvard style) explained with interactive quizzes to make sure that you get it. 
University of East Anglia (2014) Academic writing and study skills resources . 

There are many books concerning academic writing, look around Dewey number 808

Need more advice?

You can also discuss your development of this skill with a member of the Academic Skills Team.

Make an appointment for an online discussion or email support  by using our online booking form.

Personalising your device and using assistive tools

There are many assistive technology tools which can help you choose how you want to access material and these can really improve your productivity.

The University has made some applications available on the student PCs within the library and IT Centres; others are free for you to download and use on your own devices (phone, tablet, laptop or computer) .  Find out more on our personalising standard software guide and our assistive tools and software guide.