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Guidance on academic writing

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Time Model

  • Writing an assignment takes time, more time than you may expect.  Just because you find yourself spending many weeks on an assignment doesn’t mean that you’re approaching it in the wrong way.
  • It also takes time to develop the skills to write well, so don’t be discouraged if your early marks aren’t what you’d hoped for.  Use the feedback from your previous assignments to improve.
  • Different types of assignments require different styles, so be prepared for the need to continue to develop your skills.

We’ve broken down TIME into 4 key elements of academic writing: Targeted, In-depth, Measured and Evidence-based.

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Your assignment needs to be targeted.  It should:

  • Be focused on the questions and criteria
  • Make a decision
  • Follow an argument


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Your assignment needs to be in-depth.  You should consider your questions and criteria thoroughly, thinking about all possible aspects, and including the argument both for and against different viewpoints.

You should:

  • Identify topic areas
  • Research
  • Plan your assignment
  • Think about your introduction and conclusion

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An academic writing style is measured. By this, we mean that it’s:

  • Cautious
  • Emotionally neutral
  • Formal – written in the third person and in full sentences

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Your assignment needs to be evidence-based. You should:

  • Reference all the ideas in your work
  • Paraphrase your evidence
  • Apply critical thinking to your evidence

Once you’ve found all your evidence, and have decided what to say in each section, you need to write it up as paragraphs.  Each paragraph should be on a single topic, making a single point.  A paragraph is usually around a third of a page. 

We find Godwin’s (2014) WEED model very helpful for constructing paragraphs.

W is for What

You should begin your paragraph with the topic or point that you’re making, so that it’s clear to your lecturer.  Everything in the paragraph should fit in with this opening sentence.

E is for Evidence 

The middle of your paragraph should be full of evidence – this is where all your references should be incorporated.  Make sure that your evidence fits in with your topic.

E is for Examples

Sometimes it’s useful to expand on your evidence.  If you’re talking about a case study, the example might be how your point relates to the particular scenario being discussed.

D is for Do

You should conclude your paragraph with the implications of your discussion.  This gives you the opportunity to add your commentary, which is very important in assignments which require you to use critical analysis. 

So, in effect, each paragraph is like a mini-essay, with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

Allow yourself some TIME to proofread your assignment.  You’ll probably want to proofread it several times. 

You should read it through at least once for sense and structure, to see if your paragraphs flow.  Check that your introduction matches the content of your assignment.  You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve been concise in your writing style. 

You’ll then need to read it again to check for grammatical errors, typos and that your references are correct.

It’s best if you can create some distance from your assignment by coming back to it after a few days. It’s also often easier to pick out mistakes if you read your work aloud.

Academic Skills

Learning Hub Guides

Tips for Success

You are in control of your learning but to be effective you will require a very high degree of self-discipline. In Particular you need to:

  • Understand the amount of work and time that you will need to set aside for the course,
  • Develop a 'habit of study' with scheduled times to undertake the work when you will not be interrupted.
  • Have a place to work.
  • Produce and stick to a study plan and a schedule for completing the formative (self assessments) and the formal assessments for each module.
  • Organise your books and notes.
  • Produce a regular output of written work and make sure you are aware of and stick to deadlines for completion and submission of work.
  • Regularly check targets.
  • Maintain regular contact with your module tutor and programme leader.

Background Study

Although the course materials are largely self-contained, students are actively encouraged to read outside the material provided with their modules. Further reading can be both enjoyable and also help you to link together disparate aspects of the course. Many successful students will tell you that reading widely is a good way of improving your understanding of the taught material.

Guidelines for Assessment Format

Essay/literature review-based reports

The essay must be written in clear and concise English, normally in the past tense, and should comprise: (a) Title; (b) Summary; (c) Introduction; (d) Main Body of Text; (e) Discussion with Conclusions if appropriate; (f) References.

Practical-based reports

The report must be written in clear and concise English, normally in the past tense, and should comprise: (a) Title; (b) Summary; (c) Introduction; (d) Methods; (e) Results; (f) Discussion with Conclusions if appropriate; (g) References.

Guidelines on Referencing & Citation

For modules delivered by the School of Science & Engineering you are required to use the Harvard System unless the module specification states otherwise. You will be given clear guidance if you are expected to use alternative referencing systems.  The School of School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies has specific guidelines on referencing and citation available at

Abbreviations, Units & other details

Abbreviation should be defined at first mention in both summary and main text.


Academic Phrasebank

Student Support

The University offers a wide range of support services to help you. Details are available here