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Academic writing

Posted by & filed under Careers and Beyond.

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For anyone who has spent little or no time in higher education, the form and function of academic writing can be hard to grasp. The rules and best practices of academic writing go beyond the simpler, formal style of business or workplace communications. Help is at hand, however; these tips will cover the main points including setting out your academic piece, review and style. By the end of the blog, you should know your essays from your articles.


It seems sensible to start with structure. At this stage, you should have a vague idea of what you’re going to cover and should have started your research. Your research should inform your essay, but the modules you’ve studied and the activities you have completed will have given you a good enough background to inform your basic argument.

Introduction – 1 Paragraph

This is where you frame your essay. Here, you should be addressing the question and contextualising it briefly so you have a good starting point. You may also want to state how you will answer the question, briefly mentioning the points you will elaborate on in the main paragraphs. In the introduction, you may also want to define some key terms you’ll be using. The use of the introduction will vary depending on your subject area and question, so remember to ask your module tutor for guidance.

Main Body – 3-4 Paragraphs

This is where all the hard work goes in. An average essay will have 3-4 points to make and you should make one point per paragraph and suitably back each point up with research. It is also good practice to add a concluding sentence to each paragraph, which briefly mentions the subject of the next paragraph, thus improving the flow of the essay.


A general rule is to summarise the main points covered in the essay and bring them together in a way that neatly answers the question.

Answering the question

Throughout your essay, you should be framing and answering the question. It is common for students who are new to academic writing to get so wrapped up in the research they forget to relate it back to the question. Books and resources will not always cover exactly what you need to know, but may have some relevant paragraphs, or chapters; the trick is to find the relevance in the research!


Referencing is essential unless otherwise specified. It is, however, too much to go into in this blog. Fortunately, we have covered this in a previous blog and Coventry University has a great guide.

Avoid over-quoting

When you see a perfect quote in a text you may be tempted to use it straight away, but quotations are best used sparingly. An essay littered with quotations gives the marker the impression that you lack understanding or have not made an attempt at original work. When you feel you want to use a quotation, paraphrase instead e.g.

The quote:

To manage is to forecast and plan, to organise, co-ordinate and to control.’ (Fayol 1916)

Cited in: Gerald A. Cole (2003) Management theory and practice. p. 6

Could easily become:

Fayol (1916) postulated that management consists of the ability to forecast, organise, plan and control.

Maintain the objective third person

Academic writing should be objective and impersonal. Phrases such as ‘I think’, ‘my research’ or any variety of phrase that references yourself in the first person may be negatively reviewed by lecturers and examiners. The third person shows that you are being objective in your answering of the question and the presentation of your research. An example:

Instead of:

My research shows that


This research shows that.

Read aloud

This is a good rule of thumb for any form of writing. In order for a piece of writing to be read easily and naturally, the sentence structure needs to be clear, the punctuation accurate and the text to be free of typos and other errors. A good editing tool is to record yourself reading your essay and listening to where you hesitated in the reading; revisit these areas.

Academic writing is a formulaic style that can work for you as its style makes it easy to plan and structure your essay. A great academic writing resource can be found on the Coventry University website.

All CUC Online students can benefit from direct contact with their module tutor in order to ask any academic questions, so even though you’re a distance learner, you always have support. If you’re interested in studying with us, you can view our courses, fill out our enquiry form, or call our recruitment team on +44 8081 789 636 (charges apply for international calls). International students can contact us via Whatsapp: +44 07493 511472.


Image source: https://gjismyp.wordpress.com/teaching-resources/teaching-cartoons/

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