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Essays are the most common type of written work you will be asked to submit but they are not the only one. We will focus on essays in the Pathway guide but there are lots of other types of assignment you might be set.

Lots of the suggestions and links we make in this section of the Pathway guide can be applied to these other types of assessed work.

Why not begin by looking at the academic writing guide and its links for more support. 


Basic building blocks

It might be a while since you wrote an extended piece of work and you might be worried about various aspects of academic writing. You might want to brush up your understanding of various concepts. Try looking at our guides on 

Terms and definitions 

Commonly confused words 

Linking/transition words 


What is description, application, analysis and evaluation 

Checklist for writing


  • Read your work carefully.
    Use spelling and grammar checkers. Use a dictionary!
  • Check that your writing is:
    • Clear: you want to be sure your tutor understands what you say.
    • Simple: never make the mistake of thinking that a long word is more impressive than a short one.
    • Well punctuated: poor punctuation can change your meaning.
    • Well structured: the paragraphs should be ordered correctly. They should flow one to the next, linking between the ideas where appropriate.


  • Use overlong sentences.
    Very long sentences which use a lot of clauses such as 'and', 'but' or 'which' can make it more difficult to follow your arguments.
  • Use slang or colloquial language. When writing your assignment a neutral, formal style is appropriate. Think about the style of the books and journals you used while doing your research and try to follow their examples.
  • Use jargon for the sake of it!
    Use abbreviations without giving the name in full the first time it is used.

Tips for tricky situations

Writers’ block

Don't sit staring at a blank piece of paper or screen. Just start writing something even if it is just notes and ideas. You'll be surprised how the ideas start to flow. You may need to go back and edit what you have done later but at least you have something down.

Can't fill the word limit

This may be because you do not know enough about the subject. Go back and look at your initial plan and maybe do further reading.

Don’t pad out your words by using long, complicated sentences and phrases with lots of adjectives.

Can't keep inside the word limit

If this is a problem, read through and see if you can be more concise. Maybe you are trying to cover too much. Read through your plan again and try to focus on a narrower range of issues that you can discuss fully or cover the same range of issues but at a broader level.

Thinking critically

If you aren’t sure that you are thinking critically enough then you might find it helpful to look at our guide to critical thinking