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5: Writing for Higher Education


The quality of student writing in higher education has been the subject of critical attention in recent years. The topic was the focus of a major study by the Royal Literary Fund in 2006 that highlighted the struggle many students appear to have to write well-organised and cogent assignments and dissertations.

In particular, students struggle with issues of structure and paraphrasing, and also to resolve a tension they feel between expressing their ‘own voice’ in assignments, and satisfying the conventions of academic writing.

This is an issue that concerns many academics, and is currently being addressed by both the LearnHigher and the Write Now Centres of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs): the former, with the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) project in the Academic Writing learning area; and the Writing for Assignments E-library (WrAssE) project in the Critical Thinking learning area; and in the latter CETL, the Student Authorship project, which addresses the issue of the relationship between writers and the facts, ideas and arguments expressed in their work.

Both CETLs are interested in developing resources for students and staff that demonstrate how authorship in academic writing can be established.

These resources will include examples of cogent writing, as it has been argued that students need to be shown what most tutors would regard as effective essays to become more aware of what is expected of them.

This Section is divided into five Units:

  • Unit 1: Good Writing
  • Unit 2: Writing Essays
  • Unit 3: Writing Reports
  • Unit 4: Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Unit 5: Sample Essay

As with other sections, the units offer a mix of information and student exercises. Units1, 4 and 5 offers sufficient material for a 50-60 minute teaching session on each of these.

However, Unit 2 and 3 could be usefully combined over two teaching sessions; there are three student exercises in Unit 2, but only one in Unit 3.

Teaching tips are included, and these are drawn fro HE tutors who have successfully used the material in the past.

Answers to the quizzes and exercises are supplied in these notes, along with additional comment where relevant.

Guidance Notes for Tutors