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Academic writing

Shout about your academic voice!

Discover and develop your written 'academic voice' to better articulate critical argument in the context of wider disciplinary discourse, and in doing so flag to your assessors that your ability to demonstrate higher order assessment criteria and marking descriptors.

What is academic writing?

Academic writing is a formal and structured method of written communication used in higher education. As a student you will be expected to adhere to the conventions of academic writing in most written assessment contexts. Within academic research and discourse contexts, it is used as a means of communicating findings, participating in formal published academic debate and as a means of academic intellectual exchange. Academic writing and written content adheres to specific conventions, aiming to convey complex ideas, arguments, and research findings in a clear, organised, and objective manner. Key attributes of academic writing include precision, coherence, logical flow, and the use of formal language. The primary objective is to contribute to the collective body of knowledge by sharing insights, advancing theories, and engaging in intellectual discourse within a particular discipline. Academic writing is characterised by reliance on evidence-based argument, critical approach to evidence and argument and importantly, the proper citation and attribution of sources. It necessitates critical analysis, synthesis of existing knowledge, and the development of original insights. It also demands rigorous research and a commitment to ethical practices, including the avoidance of plagiarism and the correct and proper attribution of ideas to their original authors. As a method of assessment at university, academic writing a number of forms including essays, research papers, theses, and scholarly articles.

Why is it important at university?

Academic writing is a crucial skill in the university environment for several reasons. It cultivates critical thinking by requiring the application of analytical and evaluative abilities, it encourages students to synthesise information from diverse sources and then process and articulate their understanding or interpretation of these critical processes clearly, precisely and with clarity. This of course all takes practice and it is through repeated coverage of a subject area that students refine their understanding of the more complex concepts that structure their subject area whilst also enhancing their ability to engage in higher order discussion of it and more widely their general communication skills. Academic writing also fosters a learner's ability to study and research independently as they learn to explore topic areas, identify key authors or common ideas whilst gathering and critiquing evidence and ultimately learn to contribute their own findings or ideas to the existing body of subject knowledge.

Academic writing is the primary means through which students engage in written scholarly discussion. Developing this skill equips learners to participate actively in academic conversation, contribute meaningfully to debates, and present their insights to a broader audience whist also researching and acknowledging the work of others, and in doing so promoting integrity and ethical research practices. Many careers demand effective written communication and therefore mastering academic writing can equip students with a valuable professional skill. Overall, academic writing empowers students to delve into subjects deeply, express their ideas effectively, and make meaningful contributions to the academic community and beyond.

Benefits of developing your academic writing skills

  • Language proficiency: Engaging in academic writing refines your language proficiency, expanding your vocabulary and enhancing your grasp of grammar and syntax.
  • Attention to detail: Precision and accuracy in language are vital in academic writing, instilling in you an appreciation for detail-oriented work.
  • Clarity of expression: Academic writing teaches you how to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively, enhancing your overall communication skills.
  • Literature engagement: Academic writing encourages interaction with scholarly literature, helping you stay current with the latest research and ideas in your field.
  • Influence and impact: Well-crafted academic writing has the potential to influence policies, practices, and perceptions, contributing to the advancement of society as a whole.
  • Credibility: Proficient academic writing lends credibility to your ideas, as it demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter and a commitment to intellectual rigor.
  • Discipline: The process of drafting, revising, and refining your work fosters self-discipline, patience, and perseverance.
  • Reach: Academic writing enables you to share your ideas with a global audience, contributing to cross-cultural exchange and collaboration.
  • Confidence: Mastering the art of academic writing boosts your confidence in expressing complex ideas and engaging in scholarly discourse.
  • Peer interaction: Sharing your academic writing with peers and receiving feedback nurtures a sense of community and helps refine your ideas through constructive critique.
  • Structured thinking: Learning to write academically helps you structure your ideas logically, enabling readers to follow your thought process easily.
  • Critical thinking: The process of organizing your thoughts and arguments in academic writing hones your critical thinking abilities, allowing you to analyse and evaluate information more deeply.
  • Effective argumentation: Academic writing teaches you to develop and present convincing arguments, an essential skill in persuading others and making informed decisions.
  • Analytical skills: Crafting well-structured arguments in academic writing demands a high level of analytical thinking, which can be applied to problem-solving in various contexts.
  • Intellectual growth: Engaging in academic writing encourages you to explore new concepts and expand your intellectual horizons.
  • Research skills: Academic writing often requires extensive research, fostering your ability to locate, assess, and integrate information from various sources.
  • Documenting your learning: Writing academically allows you to document your learning journey and reflect on your evolving understanding of a subject over time.
  • Academic success: Strong writing skills are crucial for academic success, influencing grades, evaluations, and overall performance in educational settings.
  • Publication opportunities: Mastering academic writing can open doors to publishing research papers, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in your field.
  • Professional development: In many professions, the ability to convey information clearly through writing is highly valued, leading to better career prospects.

Academic writing - technique and style

Academic writing - This useful guide distinguishes academic writing from other forms of writing and in doing so explains its defining characteristics which you will be seeking to demonstrate to your assessors.

Writing techniques: Constructing a paragraph - This guide explores the role and structure of the paragraph as used within academic writing. Use it to better understand what it is you need to achieve prior to writing as well as a means of self-evaluating your written draft paragraphs during the review and editing phase of assignment or research project writing.

Using the active and passive voices - This guide explores an important means of developing a more precise academic writing style. By recognising the differences between passive and active voices (or written styles) in sentence structure. An active voice is characterised by more assertive, precise and thus meaningful sentence structure that leaves your reader in no doubt as to your intended meaning.

Common writing errors - Use this important guide! It explores several extremely common writing errors encountered by assessors. Read this guide as is to raise your awareness of these mistakes and apply the advice it offers during the drafting and final editing stages of a written piece of work in order identify whether you are committing these errors without realising and remedy them before submission.

Writing your assignment - a suggested process - This guide suggests a seven step process with associated tips and advice for planning, researching, writing and editing an assessed written assignment. Use it as is, or as a basis for developing your existing approach to academic assignment and essay writing.

Academic writing - structure and grammar

Sentences, clauses and phrases

Sentence structure: SVO

Plan your paragraphs, structure your essay - Use these concise paragraph topic template prompts to think about how your piece of academic writing will flow coherently, with your written discussion of various sub-topic matters each leading in to the next.

Using the apostrophe

Blogging: Writing an effective blog post

Academic writing and the assessment process

Decoding assessment task titles - what are you being asked to do? - This guide offers advice on both establishing the skills you need to evidence within written assessment tasks as well as tips for developing your academic vocabulary and writing style.

Academic writing self-assessment 1: Am I writing in an academic style? - Use this series of reflective prompts to self-assess just how academic your writing really is? Does it fulfil these common characteristics and qualities of good academic writing?

Academic writing self-assessment 2: Does my work meet key academic writing marking criteria? - Extending the ideas raised in the above worksheet, this useful checklist can be used to self-assess your own academic writing against a range of commonly used criteria types, forms of which are often found within marking descriptors to aid in assessing the quality of academic writing. Assess yourself! How well have you done? What mark would you award yourself?

These external links are provided with respect to the quality of general information and advice they provide about this particular academic practice subject area.

A small disclaimer: be aware that the resources linked to on this page are created and authored by institutions and individuals outside of Cardiff Met and that specific information and advice given, particularly with regards to the policies, services, provision and practices of other universities does not refer to those of Cardiff Met. We highly recommend visiting the Cardiff Metropolitan University Academic Handbook to clarify relevant policies, processes and procedures that apply to students of Cardiff Met should you need to.

Developing your academic writing


Essay writing