In essence, academic writing is about fully understanding a question and responding to it. That sounds simple, but all too often students read one question and answer another.

So how can you write well at postgraduate level? A good piece of writing at postgraduate level will be:

Accordion 1

1. Informed by research and fully referenced

As a starting point, decide what information you need and then start gathering it, either through primary or secondary research. You should be able to evaluate whether your sources are credible and authoritative, and whether they display any bias. Skim the text quickly to pick out the relevant parts, and remember to paraphrase and reference your source using your department's preferred referencing style.

2. Driven by data and evidence

You will need to support and substantiate all of your conclusions and arguments. Use data, evidence, examples and credible reference sources to do this. Unsupported and unsubstantiated opinions are not acceptable.

3. Written in an appropriate academic style

Be aware of the acceptable academic style in your field. You may be required to write in an impersonal passive voice or take a more direct approach.

4. Organised logically

You should settle on the best way to arrange and present your findings in a report, using section headings where required. Your tutors may be able to guide you on the best way to do this. Your structure will most likely be influenced by the academic conventions in your field, but your ultimate aim is to organise your work in a way that makes it easy for the reader to navigate.

5. Written cohesively and coherently

It is very important that the text 'flows' so that the reader can quickly and clearly understand the points you are making in your work. You should ensure that each part of a sentence connects logically with the others, and that there are no jarring leaps within paragraphs or sections.

Your writing should also:

Accordion 2

6. Include an appropriate balance of description and analysis

In writing tasks, you will usually need to demonstrate clear critical thinking skills to earn high marks. Weaker writing is more descriptive, and tends to describe a number of facts, figures and definitions without using this information to support a greater conclusion or hypothesis. While some description is beneficial, the reader will expect you to go somewhere with it.

7. Use the writer’s ‘voice’

You will be expected to draw your own conclusions in your work, rather than simply parrot others. You will select the data and sources, and decide which evidence is stronger than others. As a result, you should not be afraid to make statements and judgements in your writing, regardless of whether you use the pronoun 'I' or not. Your views will also be reflected in your choice of language, and you are free to make statements such as "Smith convincingly argues that" as opposed to "Smith claims that". However, you should remember that your statements should always be supported by sufficient evidence.

Workshops to help you develop your academic writing are given by the Graduate School while the Centre for Academic English provides an extensive range of courses and workshops to develop your academic STEMM communication competence. Library Services also offers lunchtime workshops on subjects such as academic writing tips and writing literature reviews. Find more tips on writing here.