Writing at university

The importance of acquiring good writing skills at university should not be underestimated. Apart from being valuable within the university system (as will be further described below), writing is also one of the transferable skills (or generic skills) that is a goal of all university education.

As the term suggests, a transferable skill can be used in a situation other than the one in which it was acquired. Together with other communicative skills, as well as organisational and management skills, for instance, the ability to write well-structured texts in correct English (as well as in other languages, of course) is a valuable skill on the job market.

The role of writing at university

Writing to learn

Writing is perceived as a good way of learning; through writing, students are able to conceptualise the field that they are studying. In other words, students acquaint themselves with research and conventions within their discipline through writing about it, thereby improving their ability to communicate their ideas and knowledge.

Writing as an assessment tool

Writing is also a common assessment tool at university, for instance in the form of take-home exams, response papers and degree essays. For scholars applying for a position or a promotion, a fair share of the assessment will be made on the basis of the strength of their publications, that is, their writing. 

Writing to disseminate research

Writing is by far the most important way in which research results are presented, not only to other members of the research community, but also to practitioners, decision makers, the media, and other groups who wish or need to be aware of new knowledge.

Being able to present results and theories in ways that are appropriate for different kinds of readers is therefore an important skill for anyone involved in academia. This is not only a matter of writing texts that are clear and to the point; it also requires fairly detailed knowledge, for instance of how to give the right strength to theoretical claims and other claims that are made in scientific work.

Central demands on writing at university

In the writing of scholarly texts, whether intended for examination or for publication, it is important to be familiar with some basic characteristics of academic writing. These are described in the AWELU section on Genres and Text Types:

Writers must also have a basic command of the rules of academic integrity and know how to provide references in a correct way.

Follow the rules of academic integrity

Academic integrity is a term used to denote the professional honesty that researchers and writers of scholarly texts are expected to demonstrate in their work. The code of conduct related to academic integrity is stipulated by rules and practices concerning the way in which research is carried out and reported.

Before you start writing, we recommend that you read the following texts from the AWELU section on academic integrity:

Give proper references

Giving proper references is central to writing at university. Reference work starts already at the pre-writing stage, when writers collect material on which to base their written argument. A consistent and conscientious approach to the handling of references all through the writing process is important.

On the AWELU platform, a whole section has been devoted to referencing in academic writing:

We suggest that you read the following two texts from that section before you start writing: