Mindmap (Eelke, 2009)

Writing is a big part of most degrees at Leeds and whether you write regularly for assessments or not, it’s well worth brushing up your skills in this area.

Academic writing has a formal style which doesn’t come naturally.  It requires careful referencing, structured paragraphs, critical thinking etc, and differs enormously from informal styles of writing like this blog post.

  1. Marking criteria. Every assessment that you’re set will have a document that outlines how it will be marked. The marking criteria show what is important, so always look at these before you start. 
  2. Written assignments range in style and format. A variety of assessments may be set at university, including reports, presentations, blog posts, reflections and scientific lab reports. 
  3. Evidence. You’ll be expected to read, absorb and integrate evidence in the form of academic research and other types of evidence into your writing and to reference this accurately. Academic staff want to know that you can use and interpret appropriate evidence to back up your points effectively.
  4. Critical thinking is vital! Academic writing is much more than describing ideas, events, theories etc. It’s also about demonstrating a deep understanding of the issues by for example, showing how a topic links to other ideas or events, be seen differently from another perspective etc. It can also be important to show your ‘voice’ in your writing at university. This might be through the language that you use, the sources that you choose to bring to the fore or the line of your overall argument. Developing your skills in critical thinking and writing will happen over time. 
  5. Essays may be much longer than you’re used to. Not everyone will write essays at university, but everyone will need to write extended pieces that go beyond what they’ve previously written. This gives you the chance to demonstrate your understanding by deeply exploring a topic in detail. You may need to develop an argument or analyse something in a structured way for example.
  6. Paragraphs. You might have been taught the PEEL structure (point, evidence, explanation and link) for paragraph writing, but this does not always apply. The way that you construct a paragraph is context dependent so don’t assume that they need to follow a set pattern. Want to know how to write really well? Read the items on your reading list not just for the information and ideas they contain, but also for the language used, the way that points are put together and how they are constructed.

To help you to develop your academic writing skills, Skills@Library have created a set of webpages which give you practical help, explanations and examples in this area.  Our writing webpages include sections on how to plan and focus your work, structuring your writing, language and style and editing and proofreading your work.   

If you’d like more support, look out for our very popular Skills@Library workshops or book a confidential 1-2-1 with one of our specialist Learning Advisors.


Eelke. 2009. Mindmap. [Online]. [Accessed 17 November 2022]. Available from: http://www.flickr.com