Academic writing tutorial

In your courses, academic writing is the major way in which you will demonstrate your knowledge. Research shows that effective writing skills are related to better grades and greater academic achievement. The majority of instructors agree that writing skills are critical to academic success.

This tutorial was designed to help you develop your academic writing skills. Whether you need tips for getting started, a quick way to proofread, or assistance throughout your whole writing process, the resources provided here can help.

The tutorial is organized around the four stages of assignment preparation:

  • Section A: Understanding the assignment
  • Section B: Planning
  • Section C: Drafting
  • Section D: Revising and proofreading

You may choose to work through the tutorial from beginning to end, just like you would with a regular resource guide, or you may browse through the sections that are relevant for you at this time.

Most of the resources offered in this tutorial have been validated through research concerned with academic skills development.

Section A: Understanding the assignment

The first step in beginning any assignment is to make sure you understand the assignment instructions. Your instructor has developed the assignment so that s/he will be able to assess your understanding of the course material and give you an appropriate grade. Your instructor wants you to think about some aspect of the course in a particular way for a particular reason. If you go back and review the course introduction and the assigned readings, and then read the assignment instructions again, you may see the plan or purpose behind it. As you re-read the assignment instructions, ask yourself, “How does the assignment fit into the course?” “Which course or unit objective(s) is the assignment linked to?” “What do I need to focus on to complete the assignment?”

Use the Understanding Your Assignment materials to help you clarify your understanding of the assignment instructions.

If, after analyzing your assignment, you do not understand what you are to do, contact your instructor.

Resources in PDF

Section B: Planning the assignment

Once you have a clear understanding of the assignment instructions, you are ready to move on to the next stage – developing your ideas on the topic. Here are some resources to help you generate and organize your thoughts.

Generating ideas

How you come up with ideas for your writing assignment will vary from assignment to assignment and course to course. The main thing is to get down your ideas. This will help you:

  • Work out what you need to find out
  • Formulate questions that you will be able to answer through your reading
  • Focus your reading
  • Develop a rough idea of what the structure of your paper might be like

One or more of these resources may be useful for generating ideas, depending on the requirements of your assignment and your approach to it.

Resources in video

Resources in PDF

Resource links

Organizing Your Assignment

Your next challenge is to take all your ideas and organize them. The resources listed below can help you accomplish this. As you organize, be sure to refer back to your analysis of the assignment question to make certain you are on the right track.

Resource Links

Section C: Drafting the assignment

The process of drafting your assignment involves transferring your ideas into writing. A first draft does not have to be perfect, and you do not have to draft the sections of your paper in order. As you draft, be a critical writer. You may need to go back and re-read the assignment instructions or do further research. Drafting also includes properly citing in-text quotations from your research sources and preparing footnotes and your reference pages. For information on how to properly cite sources and avoid accidental plagiarism, check out the Academic integrity resources.

Resources to help you with drafting your paper and citing your research sources are listed here.

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Resource links

Section D: Revising and proofreading the assignment

The process of revising involves evaluating your draft’s content and organization and then rewriting your paper to be more clear and concise. You may need to return to earlier steps, such as planning and organizing, to achieve this goal. Once you are satisfied with your revision, take the time to proofread your paper. Evaluate the flow of your sentences and check your grammar and spelling.

Resources in PDF

Resource links