While academic writing can seem daunting at first, with a clear understanding of the process and what’s expected, you can undertake your assessment with confidence. Below are my top tips and resources for successfully writing your assignments.

Start early
Whether you’re writing 500 or 5000 words, ensuring you have enough time to plan, research, draft, and edit your work is essential. It’s best to err on the side of caution and allocate more time than you think you will need to complete your assessment. Create a plan allocating time to each stage of the essay writing process to make the task more manageable.

Stay organised
In order to ensure you don’t lose any references or notes, create a folder for each essay you have to write, and keep all related materials – logically labelled – there. Consider using a table to organise your notes based on themes (and include references!): this will keep your notes organised, and help you critically think about the relationships between your sources.

Draft (and redraft) your essay
The key to a well written essay is the drafting process, and by this I don’t mean you write it once, give it a quick re-read, and hit ‘submit’. Drafting is the process through which you write and rewrite your essay to improve not only the composition (i.e. using clear signposting and academic language), but also to ensure the structure has a clear and logical flow. This means you may need to rearrange parts of your assignment, add or remove sentences and paragraphs, and potentially do more research to fill in any gaps in your line of reasoning. Remember to save each new draft with a different name (i.e. Draft1, Draft2), so you can go back to previous drafts if necessary.

When structuring your essay, think about how you would explain your topic to someone who knows nothing about it: what order would the information need to come in for it to make sense? If someone read the first sentence of every paragraph, could they understand the flow of your essay, and the overall point? Remember that when writing a paragraph, ensure it only covers one topic or issue, and that this is introduced with a clear topic sentence.For more on academic writing (including using academic language, establishing your position, writing in your own voice, writing clearly, and signposting), check out the Research and Learning Online modules ‘Features of academic writing’ and ‘Clear Communication’.

Reference as you go
While it’s not everyone’s favourite thing to do, citing and referencing is a necessary part of academic writing, as it demonstrates both the amount of research you’ve done and your commitment to acknowledging the research which has inspired and influenced your own work. I recommend adding your citations and references as you write, in order to avoid potentially forgetting a citation and accidentally plagiarising. For more on how to cite and reference, check out the Citing and referencing Library guide.

Proofread (and then do it again)
The easiest way to lose marks is to not proofread your writing: spelling and grammar mistakes, messy citations, and missing references all add up when deducted from your final mark. To make sure you don’t get marked down, leave enough time to carefully proofread your work. I like to have a day where I don’t look at my work at all, so when I go to proofread and edit the next day, I’m looking at my writing with fresh eyes. After you’ve proofread it once, go through it again – and make sure you use spellchecker!

Speak to a learning skills adviser
If you’re unsure about the structure and clarity of your writing, or have questions about citing and referencing, feel free to come to one of our Zoom drop-ins and speak to us. We’re always happy to help! We’re here Monday-Friday, 12-6pm.

Best of luck with your assignments!


About the author: Dr Stephanie Jury is a Learning Skills Adviser at the Pharmacy Library, Parkville campus.