Toggle navigation

Academic writing is a particular style of writing that you need to use when writing formal essays and other assessments for your course. To produce a good piece of work that attains a good grade, it’s essential that you use an academic writing style. Click here for our quick guide to academic writing

As with all writing styles, academic writing has a number of features. These include:

• Avoiding the use of the first person (I)

In academic writing, you should usually avoid using the first person; for example, never make statements such as: Based upon the literature I have read, I think that… Instead, you need to make it clear in your writing that you are being objective; use statements such as: Based upon the literature, it could be argued that…This shows your reader that you are not presenting your own thoughts and views but providing them with an argument that is based upon the research and evidence in the literature you have read. For more examples of academic phrases, have a look at: www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk. Important: if you are asked to produce a piece of reflective writing, the rules are different. Find out more about reflective writing.

• Using more formal and considered language

Academic writing is all about accuracy and your choice of words should be made carefully. Always avoid using informal words and colloquial expressions as these don’t look very professional. For example, try not to include contractions (can’t, isn’t) in your writing, simply write these out in full (cannot, is not). If you use any abbreviations, for example: OT, NC, make sure you have explained them in full first as well as showing your reader the abbreviation you will use: Occupational Therapy (OT), National Curriculum (NC).

• Presenting your work with accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar

Make sure you leave some time between finishing your writing and handing it in for proofreading. Help with spelling, grammar and punctuation.

• Using short sentences and clear paragraphs

It is a myth that academic writing has to consist of very long, complicated sentences. If you write in this way, your reader will forget what you said at the beginning of your sentence and will soon become lost. Your job as a writer is to present your information and argument to your reader clearly so they are not left wondering exactly what you mean.

• Simple, clear structure

Having a good structure to your writing is very important because it helps your reader to follow your argument. If you are writing an essay, your overall structure will be an introduction, main body and conclusion. More details on essay planning.

Examples of introductions
Examples of conclusions

• Support your writing with evidence (references) that are presented accurately

Academic writing is all about using the literature you have read to support the argument that you present to your reader. Avoid making any statements without supporting them with a reference; for example, if you make the claim girls are better than boys, you need to show your reader evidence of that claim being true, you will not persuade them simply by saying it. So, remember to include supporting evidence, usually references to published literature. Also, try to think about all sides of an argument – you will find that the authors you read don’t always agree and you need to present your own reader with a complete account of the topic. Therefore, you need to show you have considered the different views that exist.

You may find this referencing resource helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions:

I don't understand my essay title, what can I do?

Can I include long quotations in my essay?

Can I use 'I' in my essays?

Is there anything wrong with quoting an author directly?

I've been told that my essay lacks structure, how can I address this?

I've been told that my essays don't flow, what can I do to change this?

What is critical writing?

What do I need to write in an introduction?

What do I need to write in a conclusion?