NAA Library

NAA offers library services for all staff and students. The library holds a collection of textbooks, as well as reference books, that supports the programmes we offer.


Library Policies

Loans Rules

  • Students are allowed to borrow up to a maximum of 3 books for a period of 14 days.
  • Books must be borrowed in person at the Student Services Counter.
  • Students must produce their Student Card, upon loan.
  • Students are responsible for all loans borrowed under their name and materials must be returned in good condition.
  • Returned items, which are mutilated or damaged, would have to be paid by the borrower.

Reservation

  • Books may only be reserved for a period of 5 working days; thereafter it shall be released for loan.
  • Reservation can be done through email at studentservices@naa.edu.sg.

Renewal

  • Renewal will be subjected to availability of books. Students may renew library books which are currently not being reserved.
  • Renewal period may be extended for only 14 days from due date.
  • Students may renew their books through email at studentservices@naa.edu.sg.

Due/Overdue Items

  • All loans should be promptly returned, otherwise, the library overdue fees would be applicable for each overdue item.
  • Books may be returned at Student Services during operating hours.


Online Student Resources

Students have access to the University online library resources.
Access the libraries below.


Campus Facilities

Room Floor area (sqm) Seating capacity
Classroom 45 30
Classroom 68.8 45
Classroom 75.2 50
Classroom 110 73


“Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Laozi

This section discusses the basics of putting together an item of written work. Here we will cover how to best make your plans of attack, how to get your ideas together and how to execute a body of work that is well thought-out and has the appropriate evidence available.

Before beginning your work it is sometimes worth reminding yourself that the purpose of an assignment is notto torture a poor, suffering student. Indeed it is designed to provide a valuable opportunity to learn skills such as critical thinking, research, analysis, problem solving and communication.

Assignments can be challenging at the best of times and this challenge can be amplified substantially when you find yourself have difficulties with the act of writing in the first place. Never the less, a very safe place to start is to always ask yourself a few questions to ensure that you understand what it is that you are actually expected to do.

What do I need to do for this assignment?

Nothing is worse than wasted effort. The moment that you are given an assignment always make sure that you understand the instructions that have been provided and the limitations that have been set. Some of the questions you should be able to answer before you start your work include:

  • When is the submission date(s)?
  • What is the word limit?
  • Are there any special formatting or content requirements?
  • Am I required to read/cite any specific work?
  • Is there a particular structure I should be using?

If you are able to answer all of these questions then you should have a good grasp of the expectations of the assignment.

What am I being assessed on?

Assessment tasks are generally designed as an opportunity for you to demonstrated your understanding or accomplishment of certain learning outcomes. In many instances these learning outcomes will be clearly illustrated to you in your lesson materials, tutorial sessions or assignment description.

Always make sure to review the assessment criteria in the description that is provided with your assignment. This will often be found on your Learning Management System (LMS) page and may include a series of basic instructions, dates and even, in some cases, recommended reading materials. Occasionally you may even be provided with the marking rubric that will be used to assess your work after you submit it. It is critical that you make use of all of these resources in order to apply your effort appropriately when doing your work.

How does this task relate to what I am currently learning?

In most instances you will find that the assignment relates directly to topics that have been discussed during class or in tutorials. This is important because it gives you a strong indication of the range of background information that will be expected in your work. More often than not the assignment is also a way for your assessor to understand whether you have learned to apply the information that you have learned in these classroom scenarios rather than simple memorising facts and figures.

Understanding the course material that the assignment relates to will help you understand which concepts you need to re-visit and what reading you will need to do. This will give you an excellent starting point for your work.

Critical Remember: As your understanding of the expectations that are in place for each of your assignments is important for your success makes sure you speak to your lecturer as soon as possible if you need advice or don’t understand what is expected.

In most cases you will find that the information detailing the requirements of the assignment can be divided into two separate groups:

  • Instructions on what is required of you (e.g. due dates, word counts, formatting, etc.).
  • Topic information telling you what you need to write the assignment about.

If you have trouble separating the different instructions being given try using different kinds of highlighters to highlight either instructions or topics. If you find certain keywords or instructions confusing consider using a dictionary to look up the terms or approach your lecturer.

Critical Remember: This step is important as it will allow you identify specific issues you may have with the assignment requirements. You will generally find that your lecturer is better able to help you if you are able to ask specific questions about the assignment requirements (e.g. “I am unsure about whether to place my figures into the text or into the appendices…”) as opposed to very general questions (e.g. “I don’t know what to do for this assignment…”). This  will, however, mean that you need to make an effort to dissect the instructions before seeking further assistance.

Important Pro Tip: A good way of doing this is to try and re-write the question in your own words. This can help you understand the question better and may also already help you begin formulating your discussion strategy in your mind! This is also an excellent way to discuss your understanding of the assignment with your lecturer.

For example:

  • Assignment: Examine the impact of American pop-culture on the modern cultural development of Western European nations. What are the implications of this influence?
  • Paraphrase: American pop-culture has had many influences on the cultures seen today in Western European countries. What are some examples of this influence? How has it affected current-day politics? How has it affected the perception of America in Europe?

Assignments at a graduate (and particularly at a post-graduate) level are typically designed to extend beyond the confines of the standard course material that is provided to students. This mandates that students develop their understanding of the topic and subject content. This may seem tricky at first but there are a number of strategies that can be employed to make this task a little more manageable.

Don’t leave it to the last minute!

Success in writing is all about planning. Start thinking about the project the moment you are issued with the assignment details and don’t put it off. Frequently the due date offers some clue as to the complexity of the work. A longer lead-time may seem luxurious, but it usually means that the assignment requires substantially more work than something which is only due in a few days.

  • Set target date for your progress. If you know that you tend to procrastinate or have trouble motivating yourself to get work done, include achievable milestones in your calendar. These may include things such as dates for certain activities, appointments to meet with class/group mates, meetings with your lecturer or draft completion/submission dates.
  • Start accumulating your necessary references as early as possible. Borrow books from the library, download articles on your topic or conduct any necessary interviews. Some resources may be limited and delaying their acquisition may leave you without access to them.

Work with your class mates.

In many cases you will find that your fellow classmates are an invaluable resource for your success in your chosen programme of study. Not only is it likely that you are, cumulatively, likely to fill the gaps in each other’s knowledge, your classmates will likely explain topics that they understand differently to the lecturer. Often a slightly different explanation style is the difference between struggling with a topic and a moment of sudden enlightenment!

Make sure that you take the time to:

  • Form regular study groups.
  • Discuss the topic of your assignment(s).
  • Brainstorm key ideas that would be of use in doing the assignment(s).
  • Discuss your approach, trade ideas and share key resources.

Critical Remember: When trading ideas or working with others it is usually still critical that you end up doing your own work. Do not copy off your classmates. Do not obtain copies of your classmates’ work and do not disseminate your own. Your work is your own intellectual property. Sharing your work with others places you into great risk of either instigating or being the victim of collusion. This is a very serious type of academic misconduct.

Relate your work the topics covered in the current module.

Assignments are generally closely related to the content being covered in the related subject of study. Fortunately this allows you to substantially narrow the scope of the work that you need to complete and gives you import clues as to the focus of the assessment task.

Think about the module that you are currently studying:

  • Begin by identifying the lectures, tutorial or practical sessions that relate to this particular assignment.
  • Identify an particular resources that were highlighted or used during these sessions.
  • Review your notes and pay attention to the concepts and ideas that were presented by your lecturer.
  • Examine where this assignment topic fits in relation to the issues discussed in this module.
  • Consider any related topics that may strengthen your understanding of this topic.

Critical Remember: Assignments represent an opportunity to communicate your ideas to the examiner. As such you need to pay attention to how this communication is implemented. Are you using the correct terminology? Are you demonstrating your clear understanding of the theories at hand? If necessary, are providing descriptions of how your study was constructed?

Decide on how you wish to present your argument.

In many instances your assignment will required you to take a stance on a particular issue. This may, for example, relate to the review of a political issue, the justification of a moral stance or the analysis and interpretation of scientific data. While each of these requires a substantially different style of writing it is still necessary in each case to provide a convincing, evidence-based discussion of the topic.

Ultimately, your decision on how you wish to present your argument depends on the perceived pros and cons of a particular stance and whether you feel that you are able to successfully present or argue the position you have chosen. Remember, you will need evidence to support any argument you make!

While your final assignment is expected to be a well-organised piece of academic writing, the truth is that our understanding of a topic rarely exists that way in our head. It is important that you identify the information available to you before you start writing your paper.

A common way of doing this is via a technique called “brainstorming”. Brainstorming allows you to get all the knowledge you have on a particular topic down on paper so that you can have a good overview and assemble the information into a coherent discussion. It is a lot like doing a puzzle!

How do I brainstorm?

Ordinarily brainstorming is performed by focusing on just getting all your ideas on paper in no particular order. As soon as you think of something that is relevant to the topic at hand just write it down. You will be surprised at how much you already know about the topic! Sometimes you will only have a vague recollection of a particular point. Don’t worry, this is completely normal and you can just go back and look up the information later on.

A common way of brainstorming employed by many people is to construct what is known as a “mind map”. Mind maps allow you to physically connect your ideas to a central topic or set of topics. This is incredibly useful because you will be able to use this mind map later on in order to structure your assignment in a meaningful way.

Fig 1. A typical “mind map” showing a number of sub-topics and sub-sub-topics connected back to the central theme of an assignment.

As you can see in the image above, a mind map helps you group your ideas into relevant segments. Now when it comes to writing your paper it becomes much easier to do so in a structured fashion because the arrangement of your ideas has already been completed!

Mind maps may be constructed graphically (as in the image above) or in a listed topic/sub-topic text format. Try different styles of mind mapping and find what works for you. If you prefer to do your mind mapping digitally (especially if you want to collaborate with others online!) there are a number of free, and paid, applications that can help you with this process. A common free tool to achieve this is offered by MindMup.

A mind map should be one of the first things you do before starting writing. It will make the whole process much easier and will make the finished product much easier to read.

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

When working on your assignment always bear in mind that you are not only being graded on raw content. A big portion of your grade will come from how you present your work. If you have all the facts in the world but present them in a disorganised way you are unlikely to do well.

How should I structure my work?
The answer to this question very much depends on the study area that you are writing the paper for. Assignments written for humanities disciplines will often have a substantially different structure as compared to science papers. It is important that you understand the expected structure for your work before starting work on your draft. For more details on how to generally style your work towards a particular study area do see the section on “Discipline specific writing styles.”

Regardless of the writing style it is important that you plan things in the correct manner. Ask yourself some questions:

  • When is my assignment due?
  • When must I complete/submit my draft by?
  • Do I understand the instructions?
  • Do I know what writing style to use?
  • Am I clear on the topic?
  • Have I brainstormed my knowledge on the topic?
  • Do I know what my best sources of information are?

Putting together a robust plan will also help you identify areas where you are unclear or and will allow you to ask your tutor or lecturer for assistance where necessary.

During the planning stages of your assignment you will likely find that you already know a good deal about the topic that you are going to be working on. Never the less, it is also likely that there are a number of areas where you may feel that you have gaps in your knowledge and simply do not know how to expand or build on a particular point. In addition you will need to gather evidence that supports the arguments that you will make in your assignment. Since doing your own research on the topic at hand is of critical importance writing an assignment is a learning experience. The idea is to assemble a body of work that demonstrates your understanding of the topic while simultaneously providing the reader a description of the sources you have used in order to educate yourself on the topic. As such this means that it is important that you can demonstrate that you have obtained your information from trustworthy sources.

Where do I find reliable information?

Finding good information from reliable sources is one of the challenges of academic writing. The good news is that the internet has made information much more readily available to anybody who seeks to acquire it. The bad news is that the vast majority of information available through web sources is opinionated, biased, unreliable or even fabricated – hardly good material for supporting an academic article. This means that common web resources such as Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs and opinion pieces are not generally regarded as being a valid form of evidence. Learning to identify reliable sources of information is one of the core aspects of tertiary education.

In most instances you will be searching for peer-reviewed articles to support your statements. “Peer-reviewed” means that the article was reviewed and approved by one or more experts in the field of publication prior to it being accepted by the publisher. This process substantially improves the confidence you may have in the information presented in such articles and makes them useful sources of evidence for your assignment. There are a number of locations where such articles may be located (e.g. Google Scholar or PubMed) but more often than not you may find yourself accessing such publications via your university’s library page.

When putting your work together it can be very helpful to ensure that you approach writing your report in a structured way. Above all it is important that your report matches the appropriate structure and style required by your assessor.

Things to pay attention to.

While the particular requirements for your assigned piece of work may vary there are some general things that you should consider paying attention to.

Topic

This mainly involves making sure that you have answered the question that the assignment calls for.

Abstract

An abstract may not always be necessary, but if it is it usually follows a very particular style:

  • It states the topic/question you have been asked.
  • It provides a brief/general answer to the question.
  • It provides a brief/general outline of your methodology.
  • It outlines the main findings of your research.
  • It outlines the main conclusion of your study.

Critical Remember: An Abstract should always be the last thing that you write for your report. This will make it much easier to structure it in relation to the points above.

Introduction

Your introduction is one of the most important parts of your assignment. Here you need to cover several things:

  • Provide a context for your research. What is the background? Why are you investigating this?
  • Set the focus for your work. What is the scope of your assignment?
  • Provide necessary background information with strong links to the available literature.
  • Include any key terms that the reader should know before proceeding to the rest of your report.
  • Provide a statement or summary that outlines your argument.

Main Body

The main body of your report will vary substantially depending on the style of your report. A literature review may simply cover content, whereas a scientific paper may cover materials, methods used and results of a study. Make sure use a appropriate style.

Some simple things to pay attention to may include ensuring that:

  • Each paragraph has topic and closing sentences.
  • Each paragraph explores a single idea and concept.
  • Each discussed idea has the appropriate evidence (citations) associated with it.
  • Statements are made with an appropriate level of certainty.
  • Appropriate terminology is correctly used.
  • A connection exists between individual paragraphs/concepts.
  • The writing style is appropriate.
  • The writing is done in your own words, not copied from an external source.

Pro Tip: If you have completed the mind-map portion of your preparation it can help separate your content into logical sections. This will make writing your report in a coherent manner much easier.

Discussion and Conclusion

Your discussion is the “sibling” of your introduction. These two sections should directly connect to each other and provide a coherent overview of your work. Indeed, where the introduction sets the stage for the context of your report, the discussion is your opportunity to tie all of your evidence together and provide a rational appraisal of what this means in context to the literature.

Some things to consider include:

  • Making sure you provide a summary of all of your arguments.
  • Ensuring that your discussion addresses and closes any questions proposed in your introduction.
  • Making sure you have sufficient references to back up your final comments.
  • Ensuring that you have answered the major question/topic of the assignment.
  • Ensuring that you have an appropriately phrased closing statement.

Referencing

Referencing is a critical component of successful academic writing. As such it is important that special care is taken when checking this aspect of your report.

Some things to consider include:

  • Making sure you have provided your citations and references in the correct format.
  • Making sure you have used sufficient references to support each of your statements.
  • Ensuring you have avoided copying directly from your sources.
  • Making sure that all quotations are in inverted commas.
  • Ensuring that your reference list is in the correct format (numbered or alphabetical).

More information on correct referencing can be found here.

Presentation and Formatting

The presentation and formatting of your report is important not just because it is required in order to meet certain academic standards (journals, for example, have very strict formatting requirements for articles accepted for publication) but also because it reflects on the care and effort taken to prepare the assignment. Poor formatting generally leads to a poor reader experience and will likely cost you marks.

Some things to consider here include:

  • Making sure you have used the correct grammar and tenses throughout the report.
  • Ensuring that you have used a cover sheet with the necessary information included (your name, the lecturers name, the subject name, the date, the title of the report, etc.).
  • Making sure that the page formatting is correct (margin widths, header/footer content, justified vs left-aligned justification, etc.).
  • Ensuring that you have used the correct fonts (font type, line spacing, font size, etc.).

Pro Tip: Many of the stylistic elements of your report may be described in the assignment instructions or the grading rubric (if you have been given access to it). Make sure to have these instructions within easy reach as you work on your assignment!

While it may be tempting work on your assignment right down to the last minute, doing so will deprive you of the valuable opportunity to review your work before submitting it. In addition to leaving sufficient time for the review of your submission, many online platforms that you may use for the submission of your work may require several hours to days to give you feedback (such as similarity reports) so it is important to be organised and leave yourself enough time to review your assignment.

At very least you should give yourself 24 hours to go over your work one more time so that you are able to review your draft with fresh eyes before submitting it for examination.

Some things to focus on:

Some common issues that may cost you marks in your assignment may include:

  • Typing and spelling errors that may garble your message or convey a lack of care in the preparation of your work.
  • Errors in grammar.
  • Errors in punctuation.
  • Missing citations/references.

Pro Tip: Due to the familiarity you will have you with your assignment (having written it yourself) it may be extremely difficult to catch spelling/grammatical errors in your text if you just read it quietly. A good way to catch these errors is to read your work out aloud! This will slow down your reading speed and will help you catch errors that you may otherwise have missed.

“Having knowledge but lacking the power to express it clearly is no better than never having any ideas at all.” – Pericles

This section discusses some of the best practice that should be employed when putting together a written assignment. This includes the way in which substantial subsections of a report should be put together and how evidence should be referenced in academic writing.

The process of putting together written work for a university assignment is very reliant upon the expected writing style to be used in your area of study. It is always important to carefully follow the instructions that are provided with your assignment.

Ultimately this means that you should maintain easy access to the instructions (and, where possible, marking rubrics) and refer to them often during the various stages of the writing process.

Together the introduction and the discussion/conclusion form two of the most critical parts of your assignment. The function of your introduction is to outline your topic and the core issues (and findings!) in such a way that it makes it easy for the reader to continue to read your report. After reading the introduction there should be no surprises waiting for the reader in the body of your report!

In an academic context the introduction provides you with an opportunity to immediately demonstrate to the assessor that you have understood the topic, have identified key issues related to the topic and have been able to provide evidence-based arguments that are supported by your key findings.

Introduction (things to include):
Your introduction, above all things, needs to get to the point quickly. You need to leave the reader in no doubt over your angle/stance on the topic at hand. This can be achieved by including a very direct statement that identifies your response. After this you should use the remainder of your introduction to explain this point of view and outline the argument that you will be making in the rest of the assignment that supports it. It is also the role of the introduction to outline the overall flow of your assignment. You should make sure that you raise topics and make statements in the same sequence that you will be following these in the body of your report. This method of “signposting” helps maintain a strong consistency between your introduction and your report and ensures that the reader knows what to expect.

In addition to laying the groundwork for your argument, it is very important that you use your introduction to demonstrate your understanding of the assessment’s context. This means that you need to identify how the assessment task fits into the broader academic discussions that have already taken place in regards to the topic at hand. This can best be done by discussing other studies/articles that have been published and referencing these in order to place your own work into the broader context.

Important Pro Tip: While it may be tempting to start immediately, only begin writing your introduction after you have completed the outline of your work. This will ensure that you are able to structure your introduction (and hence the rest of your report) in a meaningful way.

Discussion/Conclusion (things to include):
Your discussion is the second area of your report where demonstrating an understanding of the literature is critical to receiving a good score. The discussion should tie neatly to the introduction of your report and should provide the reader with closure in regards to the main points that were raised in the introduction. The primary difference between the introduction and the discussion is that your discussion should also demonstrate a direct link between the core findings of your research and the surrounding references and literature that you used to inform your work.

While, in many cases, a large part of your final analysis will be presented in your discussion it is important to remember that you are rarely expected to know everything about a given topic. Don’t be afraid to identify areas for further investigation that your research has not been able to cover. Depending on your study area there may also be aspects of an experiment or study that were ultimately flawed or weaker than intended; the discussion is a perfect place to suggest areas for further research that may address these weaknesses.

Depending on the requirements of your assignment you may find that the discussion and conclusion are required to be presented together or as separate sections. Regardless, you should endeavor to finish your conclusion with a strong final statement that clearly demonstrates your stance on the topic.

Important Pro Tip: Use the same basic structure/layout of information for the discussion as you used in your introduction. This will give the reader some familiarity with the sequence of your arguments and how you arrived at your conclusions.

All forms of writing exist in a series of sections. The most basic of these sections is referred to as a “paragraph”. Essentially your assignment will, in most cases, exist as a series of paragraphs each discussing a particular point or idea. Paragraphs typically consist of three main components.

Topic Sentence

The topic sentence provides the reader with a basic indication of what will be discussed in this particular paragraph. You should use your brainstorm to construct the overall structure of your report which will reveal to you the topic you should raise in the topic sentence of each paragraph.

Content Sentences

The content sentences of your paragraph need to contain explanations of the topic and evidence to support your statements. This evidence may come in the form of quotations, statistical analysis of data, information from witnesses (if appropriate) or the paraphrasing of primary sources. Take note that all evidence must be referenced according to the guidelines of your report.

Concluding Sentence

Your concluding sentence should restate the basic topic information used in your topic sentence (in different words) but you should also summarise the primary points you have made in the paragraph and provide linkage to the next paragraph.

When constructing your paragraph make sure you pay attention to the writing style you have been using in your report. Use appropriate terms to link together your ideas (such as: thus, however, consequently, therefore, etc.) and reinforce the purpose of each paragraph by reiterating how it relates to the paragraph’s topic as well as, where necessary, the overriding topic of the assignment.

In most cases writing an assignment requires that you find evidence to support claims or interpretations that you make over the course of your research. This evidence is necessary because it demonstrates both your ability to find relevant information to support your interpretation of a topic as well as the fact that it shows the examiner that you have conducted a sufficient amount of research to inform yourself of the issues at hand. Additionally, in academic writing there is a need to compare and contrast your views with those established in the literature.

Critical Remember: Depending on the discipline area of study some types of information, such as personal opinion, may or may not be acceptable. Take particular care to only make use of evidence sources that are appropriate for your area of study. Additionally, even when an evidence type is valid it may not be equally as valuable as another type of evidence. For example, a reference from a text book may not be as robust a source of evidence as finding a similar reference from a peer-reviewed journal article.

Your ability to provide adequate references to support your work is a key part of successful academic writing. This is because while it is, of course, necessary to write in your own words you need to demonstrate to your instructor that you have furthered your understanding of the topic via reputable sources.

Furthermore, referencing your work accurately demonstrates honesty in your approach to your work (as your instructor should be able to compare your written work to that of your references). This means that referencing is a key part of your displaying adherence to the conventions of academic writing and your ability to demonstrate robust academic integrity in your work.

Another aspect of referencing centres on the fact that research, in all its forms, is never a solitary accomplishment. It is a vast team effort that spans years, decades and even centuries. With such a concerted team effort it is important that credit for discoveries is given where it is due. As such you need to use your references to indicate to your instructor where you have obtained the information that you use to support your arguments.

Critical Remember: Whenever you make a direct statement of fact, or offer a qualified statement (one which expresses some level of uncertainty) you must provide a reference to support it!

Important Pro Tip: In order to simplify the referencing process, consider using key references for your work during your early planning stages. This will not only simplify your search for references when you write your paper but may also help guide you during the planning stages of your work!

Referencing guidelines come in many different styles and must be followed accurately in order for you to score well in your written work. Your assessment guides will always specify which referencing standard you should use for your work. If you are unsure about how to implement the standard a quick Google search can get you the information that you need. Alternatively, you may consider investing in a reference manager of some kind to assist you in maintaining and importing references into your document. Reference managers are particularly useful for extensive written work such as thesis projects. There are many different reference managers available such as Zotero (free) or Endnote (licensed). Be sure to try them out and see which one you like!

Important Pro Tip: Some universities provide free/discounted licenses to their students so be sure to check with your university’s library!

Being able to write clearly and concisely is a highly valued trait in academic writing. It is important to be able to get to the point of your writing as quickly as possible and avoid extraneous information.

Being concise:

There are a number of things to consider when trying to be concise in your writing style. Use the following pointers to help guide you in checking your work.

  1. Focus on the purpose of each paragraph and the sentences that make up that paragraph. Does each sentence contribute meaningfully to the point that you are trying to make?
  2. Read through each paragraph carefully before submitting your final work. Look for any words or phrases that don’t directly contribute to the meaning of your sentences. Don’t be afraid to remove these “filler” words that serve no purpose!
  3. Avoid long, convoluted sentences. If you see a sentence with multiple commas or semicolons it is a good sign that the sentence needs to be split or extraneous words need to be removed.
  4. While assembling your draft watch out for any sentences (or even paragraphs!) that re-state things that you have already mentioned. Don’t be afraid to remove anything that doesn’t contribute anything new to your story!

Make a cohesive story:

One of the biggest pitfalls encountered by students who are learning to write academically is submitting an assignment that contains all the necessary information but that information does not “flow” into a consistent narrative. Typically this mistake is a result of students writing their work as a “stream of consciousness” rather than following a specific structure when planning their assignment. While a paper written this way may contain all of the necessary data and analysis requested in the assessment outline, a dysfunctional layout may result in the desired message becoming muddled an the paper potentially receiving a lower grade.

Using “signposts”:

Generally, the reader of your report will need some guidance on what to expect from each statement that you make. The use of signposting words is able to guide your reader on what to expect from each sentence or paragraph and to point them towards important claims that you are trying to make. Furthermore, these words are useful in building an expectation of your stance on a particular topic.

Signposting makes use of particular phrases or linking words in order to connect your ideas together and to build a clear flow in the expression of your thoughts. If you are struggling to find appropriate linking words (or keep using the same ones!) consider looking at the table below for inspiration:

ROLE

EXAMPLE WORDS

Comparing similar things.

Similarly

Similar to

Likewise

Also

Equally

Just like

Just as

Correspondingly

Contrasting different things.

In contrast

However

Conversely

On the contrary

On the other hand

In spite of

While

Yet

Although

Showing the cause of something.

Because of

On account of

Since

Owing to

The reason for

Due to

Showing the effect of something.

As a result

Hence

Therefore

Thus

Consequently

For that reason

In view of this

So

Ordering or sequencing information.

Firstly, secondly, etc.

After that

Next

In addition

Furthermore

Subsequently

Finally

Adding more information.

In addition

As well as

Furthermore

Moreover

Equally

Likewise

Also

In the same way

Further to this

Building an idea or providing further examples or explanations.

For example

More to the point

To illustrate

For instance

Such as

In such cases

In other words

In should be noted

Similarly

Likewise

Thus

Moreover

Furthermore

Summarising or concluding.

In conclusion

In summary

In brief

In short

Ultimately

Evaluating or reflecting.

On balance

Overall

On reflection

Taking into account

You may also wish to use some broader statements as signposts to individual sections in your written work. For example you may lead the introduction of the aim of your project with: “The aim of this study was to…”. Just as you may begin your conclusion with “In conclusion…”.

Topic sentences:

Topic sentences maintain flow in your writing by improving the clarity of your individual paragraphs by identifying (and thereby limiting) the information that will be contained in each paragraph. The provision of this information allows the reader to quickly recognise the content of each segment of your writing and thus guides their progression through your assignment’s narrative.

Pronoun referencing:

When discussing an individual topic in a paragraph it can be very tempting to repeatedly name the topic being discussed. The issue with this is that it breaks down the cohesion of your work by making your written work sound awkward. Pronoun referencing uses pronouns (e.g. he, she, it, they, those, these, which) in order to replace the noun that you are discussing. By reducing the continuous repetition of this well-established topic you will improve the flow of information and the cohesion of your written work.

Reporting verbs:

Reporting verbs are often used in academic writing in order to identify how specific thoughts have been expressed by the writer. Usually these are used as a tool to demonstrate how ideas have been expressed in work that you are drawing information from and how this aligns (or in some cases opposes!) your own perspectives. For example, you may write:

“Smith et al. (1998) demonstrated that the migration pattern of red finches was directly influenced by the arrival of spring.”

Using sources:

Regardless of the discipline area you are writing for it is generally expected that you support your work with information gathered from external sources. This may be done via paraphrasing or quotation depending on the context. In order to avoid breaking the cohesiveness of your work it is critical that such sources serve a specific purpose in you work. They should either contribute to your argument by supporting your claims or may refute your findings and be offered to the reader as a basis for comparison. Remember, it is usually your job to be impartial in your statement and analysis of factual information. Naturally, this incorporation of external information into your work demands that you also reference it correctly.

Important Pro Tip: Many of the problems associated with developing cohesion in academic writing can be avoided by adequate planning during the early stages of your work and adherence to conventions in the construction of paragraphs.

Writing academically is a skill that requires practice in order to master. Contrary to common belief, this is not something that is necessarily easier for native speakers of English. While aspects of the language, such as grammar, are important – academic writing is a separate skill set that even native speakers need to practice extensively in order to be successful at. A big part of the problem is that many of us are instructed to be “creative” and “elaborate” in our use of language during school when academic writing typically employs very different conventions.

Some aspects of academic writing that are important to keep practicing include:

Precision:

Always make sure that you are using the appropriate terminology. Part of demonstrating academic capability is acquiring the necessary professional vocabulary. This simple use of technical/professional terminology is part of demonstrating to your lecturer (and your future employers!) your expertise in your area of study.

Concision:

Always try to communicate the maximum amount of information with the minimum number of words. While eloquent writing has its place, it is all too often confused with writing long, convoluted sentences. Here, again, using the correct terminology will help you reduce the number of words needed to describe complex themes.

Formality:

Academic writing, by its very nature, requires you to be impersonal in you writing style. This means that you must, almost exclusively, avoid personal or overly opinionated language. This particularly applies to the use of personal pronouns which refer to either the writer (“I’, “my”, “me” or “us”) or the reader (“you” or “your”). While it may sometimes seem to be necessary to use such pronouns, there is almost always a way to avoid them. For example, take the sentence:

“After 5 minutes we observed a colour change in the sample from yellow to blue.”

This sentence can easily be rephrased to avoid the use of the pronoun “we”.

“It was observed that the sample changed colour from yellow to blue after 5 minutes.”

The use of pronouns varies from somewhat between writing styles and it is important that you understand which are appropriate in your particular assessment. If you are unsure always make sure to ask your instructor!

Important Pro Tip: In instances where it is unavoidable it is always preferable to use the plural pronoun “we” rather than the singular “I”. This prevents you from focusing on yourself and your own opinions which may inappropriately guide the reader to reaching the same conclusion as yourself.

Additionally, avoid the use of colloquial language. The use of this kind of “spoken” language is not appropriate when communicating academically. Avoid the use of non-specific words. For example take the sentence:

“The build up of junk and other stuff has made the harbour pretty much useless.”

While this is the way that you may speak in every-day conversation, it is far to informal for academic writing. Consider rephrasing the sentence as:

“The accumulation of refuse and other detritus has resulted in limited access to the harbour.”

Impartiality:

While it is important that you are able to make an argument and present data and references to support your findings, it is equally important that you do not impose your views on the reader. In most cases it is expected that your written work presents your findings to the reader in a manner which allows them to make up their own mind about your research. The hope being that you have illustrated your point of view sufficient objectivity that the reader also finds themselves arriving at the same conclusion. To this end it is critical that you avoid overly subjective or bombastic language. Words such as “amazingly” or “incredibly” have no place in academic writing and only serve to negatively colour your written work with your own personal opinions of the significance of your findings.

Certainty:

Avoid being overly convinced of findings for which you have insufficient evidence. Avoid the use of the word “significant” unless you have actually done the analysis that demonstrates statistical significance in your data. Avoid language that signifies over-confidence in your findings, such as the word “certain”. Additionally, avoid using the word “exact” unless you are dealing with finite countable objects. For example: the amount of money in your bank account is an exactly quantifiable amount. The measurement of a distance with a ruler is not – it is an approximation whose accuracy is dependent upon the accuracy of your measuring equipment.

Tense:

Academic writing is generally conducted using the past tense. That is to say, it is inappropriate to phrase your statements in the present or future. The primary reason for this is that it is expected that you have conducted your research and come to your conclusions before putting together your academic article. Hence, all writing will need to be in the past tense. For example, it would generally be inappropriate to say:

“This study will show that global temperatures have increased by an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years.”

Instead it would be more proper to say:

“It has been observed that global temperatures have increased by an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years.”

There may be some exceptions to this stylistic rule, for example when writing an academic study proposal (such as for a PhD or Masters project) in which you may at times expect to write in future tense as the study has yet to be conducted.

Word Count:

Most academic writing comes with associated word counts that must be adhered to, either in individual sections or in the paper overall. While some instructors may be a little more lenient, be sure to stick closely to the word limits that have been set. You may have written the greatest conclusion of all time and it would be a shame if nobody were to read it because it falls outside the available word count of the paper!

Academic writing, whether used in the arts and social sciences or in healthcare, science and technology, is all about communication. A major aspect of studying a university degree is setting yourself apart from others in your chosen field of study. Indeed, studying at university serves to not only teach students about the facts of their field of study, but also develops students into functioning members of a professional global community. At the heart of this community is the need to communicate clearly and effectively.

While the fact that you will face assignments with specific due dates may make it seem like each of these is an event in and of itself, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, successful writing usually requires ongoing involvement in the development of your written work not simply thrashing out a 2,000 word essay 2 hours before it is due. This means that successful writing is all about planning. Only this way is one able to generate structured, logical and well-referenced work that is able to demonstrate an effective fulfilment of the learning outcomes.

Some people find writing very easy. Sadly, however, many of us find writing a challenging (if not daunting!) task. Additionally, not everybody has the same difficulties when it comes to writing. When browsing through this resource feel free to focus on the areas that you, or your teacher, feel that you are weakest. Some of the aspects of writing that are addressed here include:

  • Understanding expectations and interpreting topics
  • Developing and effective writing strategy
  • Structuring your written work correctly
  • Researching and formulating your “story” and providing evidence
  • Writing in an appropriate style
  • Reviewing and submitting your work

Should you still find yourself struggling with academic writing, or other aspects of your study, it is highly recommended that you approach your lecture, subject coordinator or the Academic Dean at Ngee Ann Academy to make an appointment. Don’t be shy!

Get started by selecting one of the options below…

  1. Getting Started
  2. Structure and Style