Writing: becoming a confident writer

When asked to write an essay or a report you are being asked to engage in an active learning process – that also produces a product (the essay or report) that is then used to assess your progress on a course.










The PROCESS is the big learning opportunity. That is, when you are asked to write you are being asked:

  • to think (about all the different parts of the question: what do they mean? Who should you read?),
  • to revise (your course),
  • to research (elements of the question – taking the course work further),
  • to synthesise (conflicting arguments and evidence),
  • to understand (through writing) and
  • to communicate (your ideas and your thoughts about all your reading – to your reader).

The big tip here is to start writing BEFORE you fully understand. To write a little every day. To write to get ideas – and not wait to have ideas before you write…


Watch these Student's
talk academic writing...



So what’s the problem?
Instead of exploring writing as a learning process – and being happy to have a go, to make mistakes and to gradually get better at it… many of us face academic writing with tension, stress and fear of failure. We just do not ‘do’ writing the way we would do anything else that we wanted to get good at. For example, if we wanted to get better at cooking, driving or playing a musical instrument we would know that we would need to practise – a lot – in order to do so. But with our writing, rather than practise, practise, practise; we make sure that we only write under the most stressful of conditions: in a rush and at the last minute. Strangely enough, when done like this, we never get really good at academic writing – and our negative feelings do not go away.

In this section on WRITING we have placed downloadable ESSAY and REPORT packs designed to take you step by step through your written assignments. We have also put up a REFERENCING & NOTEMAKING resource to help you make useful notes of your reading so that you give your sources in the correct way and do not commit accidental plagiarism.

Group writing: form a group with some friends that you trust. Brainstorm and plan ‘perfect’ answers to your assignments together. This is especially useful when preparing for exams.

Practise brainstorming: sit down with a list of questions. Give yourselves ten minutes to brainstorm and plan each answer. Choose the question that you like the most – but use ideas from the other brainstorms in your answer. Remember – brainstorming and planning get quicker with practice.

Speed write paragraphs: once you have an assignment plan – sit down and use the paragraph questions to prompt your paragraph writing. Write quickly – put in lots of BLAH BLAH or ‘I need to find a source here’ … Use the first rough drafts to help you choose more material to read. Plug those gaps.

Do not aim for perfection: write something, anything… then change it.

Practise writing: do not just write for assessment – get into the habit of writing something every week, every day.

ESSAY and REPORT packs (click on the covers to open)

Essay Writing General
Planning your Essay
A quick guide to report writing




Start working through these interactive resources. Each one should take you about twenty minutes. Each contains in-depth information, resources and activities to help you gain the knowledge to help you progress.

Essay writing - first steps
Thinking about your essay topic
Writing an introduction



Cathy Malone and her students from Southampton Solent University have made these FOUR short animations. These animations are based on the audio clips from the AniMet Challenge and cover "Student Views on the Writing Process".


Want to get involved in the Animet Challeng,e access the link below:
animet challange



Watch the Prezi on "Ten Stages of Assignment Success" By Andy Mitchell



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Use these two interactive resources to help you. One to get you started thinking, the FREEWRITE tool and the other to help get you organised.

The Freewrite tool

Freewrite tool

How does your desk look?

Freewrite tool










Information, further research and reflection

Here are some additional writing resources that we have gathered together for you to explore. We have writing sites from our own ‘Free writing’ tool to links to ‘750 words’, a site designed to get you writing 750 words at a time and a great way to get that project or dissertation done, and ‘Written Kitten’, which rewards you with a virtual kitten every time you write a hundred words. Have a look at these resources – use them – play with them – and see if and how they help you. If you have something to say about them – why not share through our Twitter – or why don’t you blog about it?

Good luck!

Use our writing space, especially our Free Write tool & Essay Writing Pack:

750 Words: it does what it says on the tin:

Written Kitten – new kitten every 100 words!

So – how do you prepare an essay? Watch this short animation:

Fifty writing tips – just browse and see what you get:

Academic writing blog for international students:

Academic Phrase Bank – shows how to actually write an essay:

Referencing, grammar …

Worried about grammar?

Proof reading tips – try the following
(Good resource from UEL - WRITE it RIGHT)

If worried about writing in English – try this writing space (for international students):

Or if a PhD student:
Use JOAN BOLKER: Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day.
And from Natalie Struve ‘When delivering some talks to PhD students writing in English at the WWU Münster/Muenster, Germany, I put together some papers that have proven to be quite helpful; please feel free to make use of them: