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Academic reading and writing

Effective academic reading and writing contributes to the advancement of knowledge, your ability to think critically and sharing of scholarly work during your time at university. You will find that the process of both reading and writing is interconnected. You will start by reading, to gather information and develop a deeper understanding of a topic, which then transitions into writing in order to communicate your findings, insights and arguments effectively. The information and resources on this page will help you to develop and enhance your own style of writing, whatever your subject or level of study.

Academic reading

You will be expected to do a lot of reading during your time at university and this reading will benefit your studies in several ways. You may be asked to complete some reading before a lecture or seminar, this type of reading will help you understand more about the topic you are studying and allow you to contribute to class discussions.

You will also need to read to complete your assignments, this type of reading demonstrates evidence of how you have engaged in wider research. Reading widely will help you to:

  • identify different arguments
  • consider research methods and findings
  • spot patterns or themes, which will enable you to…
  • make connections between writers and sources, which will help you to…
  • form your arguments and reach conclusions

Reading is an essential part of your research and will usually account for the biggest chunk of your study time – and that’s okay. Reading should be carried out in advance of writing and carefully factored into your planning time.

Academic writing

Academic writing may seem different to other writing experiences you’ve had; however, it is important to realise that writing is a process and skill which you will develop over time (and not overnight). Your tutors understand this, and you are not expected to be a fully competent academic writer at the start of your course.

Planning and structure

Planning should be a crucial part of your overall approach to academic writing. By planning your assignments thoroughly, you ensure that your work has a consistent, balanced structure and that your arguments follow a logical flow with respect to the assignment in question. Make sure you are familiar with what each section of an assignment should look like. Our Essay Plan Guide explains what should be included within the introduction, main body and conclusion of an assignment.

Unpacking the assignment question
Learning outcomes
Assignment plans

Reflective writing

Reflective writing provides an opportunity to consider and explore a scenario or your own experiences. This may be in a specific setting such as on placement in a school or in an area of healthcare. It requires you to reflect, as a practitioner, on your own practice or a process and then link your reflections to further new knowledge. This then leads to the identification of actions, which can be implemented later, or suggestions to enhance professional practice or performance.

Writing style
Further learning

Report writing

During your time at university you may be asked to write different types of reports, depending on your field of study. Whilst both report writing and essay writing involve communication and organisation of ideas, report writing may be a style you are not as familiar with or not yet had opportunity to practice. Reports often explain the findings or results of a project, are structured with headings and sub-headings, and there are different types of reports, making report writing a complex task.

Explore the sections below for support on how to effectively plan, structure and write academic reports reports but you should remember to follow any guidance provided by your tutors, as the structure and content of reports can vary widely depending on your discipline and the specific assignment guidelines.

Report vs essay writing
Writing style

Critical thinking, reading and writing

Being critical during your time at university is an essential skill that you will be required to demonstrate. You will be asked to think critically and to show criticality when reading as well as throughout your writing. Being critical can help you to produce strong, logical arguments based on informed judgements and ensures you can independently justify that argument.

Explore our brand new Being Critical Toolkit to learn more about how to be a critical thinker, reader and writer.

Explore critical thinking, reading and writing in our Being Critical Toolkit


Whilst direct quotations have their place if you need to give an exact definition, paraphrasing demonstrates greater depth in that it shows you understand what you have read. If you are struggling to paraphrase, it may suggest you don’t fully understand the material, it is therefore not unusual to have to reread information a few times before you can paraphrase effectively.

Being able to paraphrase effectively within your academic writing is a key skill to develop. Not only does it show your tutor you understand the material you have read and are able to put it across in your own voice, it also helps avoid plagiarism and aids you to bring together different sources in your discussion.

Quoting, paraphrasing and referencing

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG)

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG) are important aspects of academic writing and any formal written communication. Paying close attention to these elements of your writing is part of cultivating the formal tone and reliable voice of good academic writing. The SPaG guide can help you find out more about how to do this and how to avoid making some of the most common mistakes when writing your assignments.  

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG) Guide


When you’ve spent a long time writing your assignment we understand the last thing you want to do is spend even more time looking at it, but valuable marks can be retained through development of your proofreading skills.

We all make mistakes, and your brain can easily trick you into missing obvious errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar when you’ve become accustomed to your writing. Therefore, it is important to set aside time at the end of the writing and editing process to have a break. Then come back to your work with fresh eyes to complete your proofreading.

Once you get in the swing of proofreading you will become familiar with the mistakes you make, and a good way to recognise and record these for your next assignment is to use a proofreading checklist. When using the checklist, it is easier to read and check your assignment for one thing at a time, rather than rushing to check for everything in one read through.  Remember to also consider academic style and tone of voice when writing. Plan in enough time to check your writing thoroughly, several times.

Top tools for proofreading
Top techniques for proofreading

Explore more tips, tools and strategies in our Proofreading Toolkit

Online submission (Turnitin)

We know that when a deadline is approaching, submitting your final piece of work can be stressful enough without unexpected hitches, so try not to leave your submission till the last minute. Remember to give yourself space to breathe by preparing in advance.

Plan in some time prior to your deadline to explore the Turnitin submissions videos. They will help you to become familiar with the submission process, and if followed correctly, will ensure that the final moments before you click ‘Submit’ will be as worry-free as possible.