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Academic writing can be really tricky. There are lots of things that we can do to improve our writing technique and here are a few of my top tips.

  1. Before you start writing your assignment, read the marking guide and identify what it is that the examiner wants you to do. This might help you avoid writing content that cannot be given marks in the marking guide.
  2. Work out a plan and a timeline by which to prepare your assignment. Make sure it’s not over ambitious.
  3. Of the total word count, donate no more than 10% to the introduction and 10% to the conclusion, the remainder is spent on the main body.
  4. Introduction – the aim of any introduction is to tell the reader what you are about to tell them. For example – ‘In this assignment the management of pain is critically discussed. The discussion is delivered in three parts, this first presents the pathophysiology of pain. This is followed by a discussion of the methods by which pain can be assessed. The final part presents a discussion of the management of pain. Each aspect of the assignment is underpinned by best evidence, which will be analysed and synthesised in order to identify best practice”. You might also consider providing some context to the issue that you are discussing by presenting some statistics or general background to the issue – but keep it short. For example, in relation to pain management you could present the percentage of people who experience pain and the types of pain they experience.
  5. Main body – this is where you will tell the reader what you said you were going to tell them. Ensure this section is well organised and I recommend using subheadings to signpost the reader to the focus of each section of your writing.
  6. Conclusion – this is where you tell the reader what you have told them. For example ” This assignment has critically discussed the assessment and management of pain. The assessment of pain is complex and requires a holistic approach to care. Whilst there are many ways to manage pain, both pharmacological and non pharmacoligical, identifying the optimal approach can also be challenging.” Never present any new information in the conclusion, simply re-emphasise the main points from your main content.
  7. Proof read your work – it is very important that you look out for typographical and grammatical errors. I recommend using some software to help you, perhaps something like grammarly.
  8. Sentences and paragraphs – avoid, writing long paragraphs and really long sentences. In relation to sentences, I recommend one fairly short one followed by one longer one.  In relation to paragraphs, focus on one concept per paragraph – this should mean that your paragraphs are no longer than half a page.
  9. References – be careful to use the appropriate referencing style. Avoid referencing the lecture notes, and only reference primary sources. For example, avoid referencing a source as ‘cited by or cited in’. Also, most assignments are looking for you to present the best evidence available. This means that if a study is less robust in it’s design then you might choose to not present that one in your assignment and instead, only present the higher levels of evidence.  I also recommend that, where possible, you avoid directly quoting from published sources. It is really difficult to mark an assignment that is jam packed full of quotes because it obscures the students own understanding of the topic. Instead, write in your own words and write your own interpretation of the evidence or literature you are using to support your content.
  10. In focusing your mind on the assessment try to look at it this way – the course coordinator will have established the assessment task to make sure that you focus your learning on a certain aspect of the course. Rather than thinking of the assessment as an assessment, think of it as an opportunity for learning and then make sure that you do your absolute best to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding and present them in a way that you can maximise your grade in accordance with the marking guide.  Good luck!