Academic writing

This page contains a range of resources and links for the development of academic writing style and essay/report structures.

Academic writing style

Paragraph structure and development of argument

The Power of the Paragraph by Dr Courtney Hopf (Brunel University) is a very good reminder of the benefits of creating a simple, focused structure for each of the paragraphs you write. If your paragraphs are too long consider splitting them with this principle in mind. If they are too short, consider what could be added. This is often a key factor in managing word counts for essays and reports.

Source: The Power of the Paragraph from ASK Academic Skills on Vimeo


Eight tips for good essay writing is a practical guide for essential advice on:

  • Answering the question
  • Planning before you write and planning while you read
  • A good introduction
  • The body of the essay
  • A good conclusion
  • Citations, quotations, references and bibliography (some information also appears in EAAP guide in the good academic practice page)
  • Writing in your own words (some information also appears in EAAP guide in the good academic practice page)
  • Effective layout, presentation and style


The Academic Phrasebank at The University of Manchester provides an extensive list of phrases and expressions that can be used in essays, reports and other documents. These include strategies for:

Introducing work Referring to sources Describing methods Reporting results
Discussing findings Writing conclusions Being critical Being cautious
Classifying and listing Comparing and contrasting Defining terms Defining trends
Defining quantities Explaining causality Giving examples Signalling transition
Writing about the past      


Essay and report structures

Essays and reports: a comparative guide  gives a simple structural overview of the differences between essays and reports.

It begins with a general Management and Business essay question and considers how that may be adapted for a report.

It includes some focusing questions on:

  • topic interests
  • information and opinion
  • controversy and critical opinion
  • narrowing the focus

It presents a sample structure for an essay and a report side by side.

NOTE: General advice on academic writing always needs to be individualised to the subject and structure you are working with. Always ask the following three questions of any advice you see or receive:

  • What can I use?
  • What do I need to adapt?
  • Is there anything I should reject? If rejecting advice, consider what you could replace it with, before dismissing the advice as not relevant to your context.

Resources for writing development

Aberystwyth University has a Writer in Residence from the Royal Literary Fund. The RLF Writing Fellow is available for individual appointments to discuss your writing. E-mail The RLF place professional writers in over 60 UK universities. Here is some advice that has been developed through the experience of the writers working with students across those universities. 

For further comparison, The Open University guide to Assignments, covers preparing assignments, types of assignments, writing in your own words and writing for university

Here is a very useful exercise from the Open University on defining process words, e.g. analyse, compare, contrast, evaluate, etc.

Advice from academic departments

The advice below relates to specific subject areas. It may be useful in closely related subject areas.