writing exercise to develop your writing style

This information leaflet is designed to break down the process of developing your own
academic writing style whilst at university. Two steps have been broadly outlined to help
you to consider the main points to focus upon when beginning work on your assignment.
Select an article, book chapter, report, etc. that is appropriate for your assignment brief/question. You
could ask your tutor to recommend a particularly useful or relevant text.
Set aside regular times within your schedule to focus upon this exercise. It would be wise to concentrate
on one feature at a time.
What are the key things that I should consider within this process?
● How does the author present and handle information? Do they use questions, key issues/concepts,
seminal theories, methodologies and procedures in effective ways?
● How does the author apply information and evidence to effectively support their argument?
● Start to follow the flow of this argument and consider the ways the author synthesises different
ideas and pieces of information.
● Notice the various differences between how the information is presented and discussed.
● Examine the points at which references occur – look for differences in how paraphrased references
are indicated (this term describes the re-wording of an idea that is attributed to another author – a
really useful way to show that you are familiar with the literature and have formed your own clear
and evidenced ideas) and direct quotes (writing a point exactly how it was presented in the original
text – before you do this consider whether a direct quote is necessary to explain your point).
● Pay attention to the phrases, linking terms and vocabulary that is used by the author
● Does the author use the word ‘I’ in any part of the text? If so, consider why using the first person
pronoun is needed?
● Consider how the text is organised. This may be through headings that signal the information
analysed within this section. How useful are sub-headings in organising the flow of the essay.
● Consider other ways that the author ensures the information is well structured – how does one
idea lead onto the next to ensure maximum impact of your view?
● Does the author use any diagrams or images? Do you think they are necessary in conveying a
specific point?
● How does the author signal subsequent paragraphs or sections?
● Are there any original features of the text that are particularly appealing – how could you learn
from this and develop your own writing techniques?
Keep on practising this writing exercise as it is important to identify writing styles that are comfortable to
you in order to structure and interpret your ideas within an essay. Through using other texts and resources
within this exercise you can develop your own skills alongside familiarising yourself with key ideas within
the topic.
Adapted from: Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook, p. 154. 4th ed. London: Palgrave.