Academic writing skills

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Academic writing skills

  • Writing, referencing & using electronic resources
  • “Care in the choice of one’s words is the respect that the mind pays
  • to the instrument of its own being”


  • Writing
    • What is academic writing
    • Research reports Vs. Essays
  • Referencing
    • Books
    • Articles
    • Others
  • Electronic resources

Academic writing

  • What is it all about?
  • Research reports vs. essays!


  • Academic writing is Formal
    • No exaggeration (Not: extremely important)
    • Impersonal (no use of “I am”)
    • Direct to the meaning
    • No final judgment!! Always allow for arguing and accepting other opinions!!


  • Focus on the issue, not the writer   Keeping your writing objective and impersonal can make it more convincing
    • It will be argued that the benefits of sales promotion outweigh the disadvantages.
    • I will argue in this essay that ...

Choose words with precise meanings

  • Avoid words with vague meanings
    • Compare: 
      • The writer looks at the issue 
    • with 
      • The writer examines the issue. 
  • The second option is more formal.
    • Formal choices:
      • He states … maintains … argues
    • Informal choices:
      • He says … talks about …

Make your claims tentative rather than definite

  • This leaves the door open for further discussion and/or research. After all, it’s unlikely that you’ve reached the only possible conclusion! 
  • 1. Television viewing causes reading problems in childhood.
  • 2. Excessive television viewing may be a contributing cause of some cases of reading problems in childhood.  

Research reports Vs. Essays

  • You are requested to read research reports and write essay
  • Therefore it is important to understand both!!

Research reports

  • Any report should have the following sections


  • Your essay should have the following sections:


  • The title page should contain information to enable your lecturer to identify exactly what the piece of work is. It should include:
    • Your group names and
    • Course;
    • The title of the assignment

Main text

  • The main text of the essay has three main parts:
    • An introduction
    • A main body
    • A conclusion

The introduction.

  • The introduction consists of two parts:
    • It should include a few general statements about the subject to provide a background to your essay and to attract the reader's attention. It should try to explain why you are writing the essay. It may include a definition of terms in the context of the essay, etc.
    • It should also include an indication of how the topic is going to be tackled in order to specifically address the question.
  • It should introduce the central idea or the main purpose of the writing.

The main body

  • The main body consists of one or more paragraphs of ideas and arguments, together with illustrations or examples.
  • The paragraphs are linked in order to connect the ideas.
  • The purpose of the essay must be made clear and the reader must be able to follow its development.

Flow of information in paragraphs

  • Paragraphs are usually structured as
    • Topic Sentence    
      • This is the first sentence and it expresses The main idea.
    • Supporting Sentences 
      • details that expand your main idea.
    • Concluding Sentence 
      • a rounding off, possibly by summarizing what has been said or drawing a logical conclusion from it.

Flow of information in paragraphs

  • Use linking words
    • also, as well as, firstly, next, then, finally, so thus, as a result, because, therefore, for example, for instance, in contrast, on the other hand.

The conclusion

  • The conclusion includes the writer's final points.
    • It should recall the issues raised in the introduction and draw together the points made in the main body
    • and explain the overall significance of the conclusions. ((What general points can be drawn from the essay as a whole?))
  • It should clearly signal to the reader that the essay is finished and leave a clear impression that the purpose of the essay has been achieved.


  • There should be a central question the essay is trying to answer!!!
    • E.g. What are advertising appeals and how they are effective?
    • Investigating the effect of using different color in advertising
    • What are the different factors that could affect brand positioning?
    • The effect of the self theory on consumption?
    • Culture differences and the effect on ads/consumption/consumer preferences…etc.

So how do I plan this essay?

  • What is the answer to your question?
  • What points do you need to make to support or give evidence to prove your answer?
  • What is the best order to arrange these points? Are they relevant to the topic? These points become your paragraphs in the body of your essay. Remember you are arguing your point of view, showing you are aware of their views, but maintaining your stance (position).

Skeleton outline of an essay

  • Topic: Analyse the value and adaptability of the banana as an ingredient in a range of menus.
  • Using note form, write your plan using headings for main points, and sub-headings under them (such as evidence and examples you are using to support each point). Use heading for main points and subheadings explanation? example? supporting evidence? concluding sentence idea? NB Next paragraph should connect to ideas in previous paragraph- it could refer back to it, or move on from an idea in it.
  • Introduction: wide range of uses -sweet/ savoury, raw/cooked, main/dessert/snack/beverages, low cost
  • Body Points/Paragraphs 1. desserts-origins, international uses, eg banana split, trifle 2. beverages- smoothies, cocktails 3. children's snack - TV shows promoting, eg banana man, bananas in pyjamas 4. hot dishes - accompaniments- fried chicken, curry, main courses- fritters, flambe 5. cost- available all seasons in Australia, low cost
  • Conclusion - international use, abundance and versatility well demonstrated, good value very adaptable, worthwhile ingredient

Add some style

  • Writing is a very logical exercise, adding style to it will enhance clearness and power of convincing…
    • Phrases for transition
    • Phrases for emphasis
    • Phrases for counterpoint

Phrases for transition

  • Regarding
  • Admittedly
  • Consequently
  • As a result
  • Ultimately
  • According to
  • For this reason

Phrases for emphasis

  • Moreover
  • In fact
  • Additionally
  • For example
  • In point of fact
  • As a matter of fact
  • Indeed

Phrases for counterpoint

  • Conversely
  • On the other hand
  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Notwithstanding
  • Nonetheless
  • Yet
  • Despite
  • Although
  • Instead

Conclude writing

  • Writing = logic + style
  • You should always concentrate on the objective
  • Good writing skills needs a lot of READING and exercise
  • Writing is important for, university assignments, exams (TOEFL), real life (writing convincing reports!!)


  • What does referencing mean?
  • Why should I include references in my work?
  • How do I reference my work?

What does referencing mean?

  • When writing an academic piece of work you need to acknowledge any ideas, information or quotations which are the work of other people. This is known as referencing or citing.

Why should I include references in my work?

  • You should include references in order to:
    • acknowledge the work of others
    • provide evidence of your own research
    • illustrate a particular point
    • support an argument or theory
    • allow others to locate the resources you have used
  • And most importantly:
    • avoid accusations of plagiarism

How do I reference my work?

  • Your references should be consistent and follow the same format. Various systems have been devised for citing references, but most Schools use the Harvard system

Referencing while writing

  • References will be cited in your work in two places: -
    • 1) Where a source is referred to in the text (Citation)
    • 2) In a list (the Bibliography/List of references) at the end of the assignment.

Citing references in the text

  • Citing the author in the text
  • Whenever a reference to a source is made, its author's surname and the year of publication are inserted in the text as in the following examples...

Citing references in the text Cont.

    • Dogs were the first animals to be domesticated (Sheldrake, 1999).
  • If the author's name occurs naturally in the sentence the year is given in brackets .>>
    • Sheldrake (1999) asserts that dogs were the first animals to be domesticated.

Using direct quotes

  • If you quote directly from a source you must insert the author’s name, date of publication and the page number of the quotation.
    • ‘The domestication of dogs long predated the domestication of other animals.’ (Sheldrake, 1999, p.5).
  • The page number should be given at the end of the quote, in separate brackets if necessary, as in the example below.
    • Sheldrake (1999) asserts that the ‘domestication of dogs long predated that of other animals.’ (p.15).

Citing works by more than one author

  • If your source has two authors you should include both names in the text.
    • Anderson and Poole (1998) note that a ‘narrow line often separates plagiarism from good scholarship.’ (p.16).

Citing works by three or more authors

  • If there are three or more authors you should include the first named author and then add et al. in italics followed by a full stop. This is an abbreviation of ‘et alia’ which means ‘and others’ in Latin.
    • In the United States revenue from computer games now exceeds that of movies (Kline et al., 2003).

Citing works by the same author written in the same year

  • If you cite two or more works written in the same year by the same author, then you must differentiate between them in both the text and your List of references by listing them as a,b,c etc.
    • Natural selection can cause rapid adaptive changes in insect populations (Ayala, 1965a) and various laboratory experiments have been conducted to assess this theory (Ayala, 1965b).

Citing secondary sources

  • When citing secondary sources (i.e. an author refers to a work you have not read) cite the secondary source, but include the name of the author and date of publication of the original source in the text. Only the secondary source should be listed in your references. You should only cite secondary sources if you are unable to read the original source yourself.
    • Sheff (1993) notes that Nintendo invested heavily in advertising (cited in Kline et al.,2003, p.118).

Writing a Bibliography or List of references

  • The List of references appears at the end of your work and gives the full details of everything that you have cited in the text in alphabetical order by the author’s surname

Printed books

  • Printed books should be referenced using the following format and punctuation.
    • Author/editor’s surname and initials.,
    • (Year of publication).
    • Title of book: including subtitles. (in italics or underlined)
    • Edition. (if applicable)
    • Place of publication: (followed by a colon)
    • Name of publisher.

Reference to a book with one author

  • Reference to a book with one author
    • Sheldrake, R., (1999). Dogs that know when their owners are coming home: and other unexplained powers of animals. London: Arrow Books.
  • Reference to a book with two authors
    • Anderson, J. and Poole, M., (1998). Assignment and thesis writing. 3rd ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Print journals and newspapers

  • Print journals should be referenced using the following format and punctuation.
    • Author's surname, initials., (or Newspaper title where there is no author,)
    • (Year of publication).
    • Title of article.
    • Name of journal. (in italics or underlined),
    • Date of publication (if applicable e.g. 18 June)
    • Volume number (in bold) (if applicable)
    • (Part/issue number), (if applicable)
    • Page numbers.


  • Britton, A., (2006). How much and how often should we drink? British Medical Journal. 332 (7552), 1224-1225.
  • OR
  • Britton, A., (2006). How much and how often should we drink? British Medical Journal. Vol. 332, No. 7552, pp.1224-1225

E-journal article accessed via website on the open Internet

  • Britton, A., (2006). How much and how often should we drink? British Medical Journal. 332 (7552), 1224-1225. [online] Available from: [Accessed 2 June 2006].

Websites, web pages

  • Websites, web pages and PDF documents downloaded from the Internet should be referenced using the following format and punctuation.
    • Author/editor’s surname, initials., or name of owning organization e.g. University of London)
    • (Year of publication).
    • Title. (in italics or underlined)
    • Edition. (if applicable, e.g. update 2 or version 4.1)
    • [online]
    • Place of publication: (if known)
    • Name of publisher. (if known)
    • Available from:
    • [Accessed (enter date you viewed the website)].
    • Holland, M., (2005). Citing references. [online] Poole: Bournemouth University. Available from: [Accessed 2 June 2006].
    • University of Westminster, (2007). Harry Potter fans to cast spell over Westminster. [online] London: University of Westminster. Available from: [Accessed 24 July 2007].


  • Writing and referencing are important skills that are critical to academic writing.
  • Learning it is REALLY important and will ensure you will get a high grade in every written paper (assignments, homework, exams…etc)

Searching electronic resources

  • EBESCO & Ebrary
  • How to find an article
  • How to “efficiently” read an article
  • Brief example on writing an essay.

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