Guide to Academic Writing

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Learning and Information Services

Guide to Academic Writing
What is academic writing?
Academic writing is a style of writing that makes your work easier to read and understand. There are rules and guidelines that you can follow. These rules and guidelines will cover the way you write, the language you use and the format of your assignment.
Why is academic writing important?
The purpose of academic writing is to make your work clear and understandable to whoever is reading and/or marking it. Another important part of academic writing is ensuring that your work is fully and correctly referenced.
Areas to check:
Academic writing covers many different areas. You need to pay attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You also need to consider sentence and paragraph structure, as well as the layout of your work.




Use, but don’t rely on, the spellchecker in Word - this won’t pick up “typos” such as from/form or been/bean.
Use a dictionary to check spellings - don’t guess at a spelling.
Pay particular attention to ‘subject’ words – these are specialist words that are used in your subject area that may not be in the Word dictionary. This is most often the case when dealing with medical terms but can also apply to other areas.


Does the subject match the verb?

Are tenses used consistently within sentences?

In your introduction you should write about what will happen. In the rest of your assignment write about what has happened.


Have capitals been used where necessary? - e.g. for personal names, organisations, the start of a sentence.
Have some words been used frequently within a paragraph or an essay? - if so, consult a thesaurus for alternative words to use.
Is the language suitable for an academic essay? – no text speak!
Do not use contractions such as don’t, can’t etc. Write out the words in full.
If you need to use acronyms or abbreviations write them out in full the first time you use them, putting the abbreviation in brackets. On subsequent occasions you can then just use the abbreviation, i.e. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This is not necessary for very common abbreviations such as BBC.
Unless you are writing a reflective piece of work you should try and avoid using personal pronouns such as I, we, he, she, and they.


Each paragraph in your assignment should contain one idea or argument. You should begin the paragraph with a topic sentence, this introduces the idea you are about to discuss.
You should then expand upon the subject, including evidence to support your case.
The final sentence should be a brief summary of the paragraph.
Try to sequence your paragraph so that ideas build upon each other. If your work flows it will be easier to read.


correct style

Are you using the correct style? – for example Harvard or APA. Check your School guidelines for which style you should use.


Is the referencing consistent?


Have quotations been fully referenced? i.e. have you included quotation marks and page numbers if appropriate?


Have you included all the items you have cited in your text?

Are the references complete?


line spacing

Does the module specify particular line spacing?


Are there any requirements regarding margins?

font size/type

Do you need to use a particular font size or type?

typing errors

Have all corrections been made in the final version of the essay?

Ten Tips for better academic writing

  1. Analyse the question – make sure you are answering the question set, not the one you think has been set.

  1. Plan your essay – Planning your workload will help you get your work done on time. Make a plan, be realistic, stick to it.

  1. Keep sentences short and straightforward – By keeping your sentences simple you will lessen the chances of errors of grammar and punctuation.

  1. Take care with spelling, particularly subject specific words – if you are not sure how to spell a word, check a dictionary.

  1. Only include one argument or point of information per paragraph – this will make your work easier to read and understand.

  1. Do not include any new information in your conclusions – the conclusions of your work should draw only upon what has already been written. If there is new information to be presented, it should be included in the main body of your assignment.

  1. Ensure all information is correctly referenced – any ideas you have taken from others, whether quoted directly, paraphrased or summarised, must be referenced.

  1. Proofread your work – check our guide to Proofreading to see what an important step this is.

  1. Check your assignment brief for any specific format requirements – if specific format requirements have been set, i.e. for line-spacing or font, then you must adhere to them.

  1. Proofread your work - this is included twice but it is important!

Help and Advice

The Skills Development Team will not be able to proofread your essay but can provide guidance on proofreading. For more details about the type of help that is available please refer to the Skills for Learning website at

Further reading

Books offering advice on proofreading, grammar and essay writing skills are available in the Study Skills collections in the Learning Centres. Several titles are also available online as ebooks.

Copus, J. (2009) Brilliant writing tips for students. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peck, J. (2012) Student’s guide to writing. 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cite this work:

Learning and Information Services (2013) Guide to Academic Writing [online]. Wolverhampton: University of Wolverhampton. [Accessed give date accessed]. Available at:.

To request this document in an alternative format please contact

Ref: LS012 | Skills Development Team | August 2014

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