Learning how to express your own ideas and discuss those of others in writing is an important academic skill. You can plan your writing effectively by asking yourself a series of framing questions:

What is expected of me?

At the start of the work, consider the following:

  • What is the purpose of this piece of writing?
  • What have I been asked to do?
  • Who is the reader?
  • What are the marking criteria?

When planning your writing, think about these questions:

  • What is the best structure for this work?
  • What should I say at each stage of the document?
  • How should I emphasise the most important material?

After completing your written work, ask yourself:

  • Have I achieved my objectives?
  • Am I satisfied with the final document?
  • Can I get someone else to proofread this for me?


Remember that different course will have different requirements for the written work that you produce. For example, some assignments may require you to write in the passive voice, and others will want you to express yourself in the active voice:

Passive: "It is understood that..."

Active: "I understand that..."

There may be other requirements relating to word count, tone of voice, presentation of data, specific material to include, and a range of other possibilities. Make sure you check with your lecturers to find out what they want to see from each assignment that you submit.

Your work is your own

Your lecturers will want to see that you are able to express your own views – not those of someone else – so make sure you use you own ideas and words. You will need to know how to back up your argument with evidence, so make sure you know how to reference other people’s work correctly. Learning how to express your own thoughts in your work will also help you avoid accidental plagiarism.

Improving your writing skills

If you feel like you need to enhance your writing skills, some departments offer special classes to help you with this. Your personal tutor may also be able to advise you, or you could ask other students for tips. The Library also runs workshops on academic writing, and there are lots of writing and study skill books available which could be useful to you.

You should also visit the Centre for Academic English, a special resource for international Imperial students who want to improve their academic writing and communication skills. The Centre provides courses, workshops and consultations to help you develop your academic language and literacy.