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Academic Writing Guide

OAC/library self-study
Create a weekly study timetable that includes your lectures, seminars and designated time for
reading and self-study as well as time for relaxation and outdoor activity. Build in to this timetable a
90-minute time slot in the Open Access Centre or the library. If you are not sure what you need to
work on, ask your writing teacher to advise you on areas of writing that you could focus on or make a
one-to-one appointment (see below).

Browse the books in the OAC and or the library. Find one that you think will be useful for you (or
that your teacher has advised you to look at). Identify one section or chapter to concentrate on and
study it for a fixed amount of time. Take a photocopy of the most useful parts of the book for your
own personal reference. Two or three days later, revise what you learned.

Here are some examples:

Find Appendix 1 in ‘Academic Writing for Graduate Students’ and complete the exercises on Articles
in Academic Writing.
Find the ‘Strategy Practice’ sections in all 7 units of Focus on Vocabulary. Complete one per week to
improve your dictionary skills in order to aid your recognition of word forms, to help fix grammatical
mistakes in your writing, to assist your pronunciation and stress and to provide synonyms.
Compare a Qualitative proposal and a Quantitative proposal on pages 88 and 97 of ‘Developing
Effective Research Proposals’.

ELMO has sections to help with writing skills. Go to or select ‘English Language
Materials Online’ from the ‘quick links’ menu on the Newcastle University internal home page. Click
on ‘Study’, then ‘Search’, then ‘Skill’, then ‘Writing’. There are five different aspects of writing you
can work on. Choose the skill area you are most interested in and work through the exercises.

For more information in ELMO visit-

External websites
There are a number of useful websites that can help you to develop your writing skills. Please note
that these web pages are not affiliated with Newcastle University.

Academic Phrasebank

The Academic Phrasebank is a general resource for academic writers. It aims to provide examples of
some of the phraseological basics of academic writing.

Advice on Academic Writing

This website attempts to answer the types of questions that university students ask about their
written assignments.

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Centre for Academic and Professional Literacies
An online resource primarily intended to advise, guide and provide support for students in the
realisation of their written work.

Compleat Lexical Tutor

Use this site to test your academic vocabulary levels and to get a computer profile of the vocabulary
you use in your writing.

English Centre, University of Hong Kong

This website has a range of academic vocabulary used for Business and Economics, Engineering, Law,
Social Work and Idiosyncratic English.

Centre for Independent Language Learning

A range of activities designed to help improve your English for Academic Purposes.

Citing Information Sources and Plagiarism

How to cite and reference your source material.

Effective Writing Center

This section deals with ‘Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns’ and is very useful at analysing the
various types of academic writing you may encounter, from research assignments to essay exams,.

Exercises for the Academic Word List

A website to help you expand your knowledge of the AWL which contains vocabulary frequently used
in academic texts.

Online Writing and Learning Link

Helpful website covering a wide variety of aspects of academic writing.

Online Writing Lab

The Online Writing Lab serves academic writers from around the world and has an excellent range of

A website about all aspects of dissertation writing with some very useful links.

Excellent online thesaurus and dictionary. You can also use Microsoft Word’s in built Thesaurus by
right clicking on any word in your document and selecting ‘Synonyms’.

Using English for Academic Purposes

Plenty of good advice on academic English.

Virtual Training Suite

Useful training for students, lecturers and researchers who want to improve their internet
information literacy and IT skills. Very good content as it is divided into sections covering different

Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students

Useful for sections on reports, including laboratory reports, design reports, progress reports and
theses and dissertations.

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Use computer assisted materials in the OAC
Make use of ‘Report Writer’ – an interactive tool designed to help you create logical and well-written
technical reports. You can find ‘Report Writer’ on the six PCs in Carrel A of the OAC – opposite the
reception desk and immediately to the left of the smart card entry barrier.
Make an appointment to see a one-to-one Advisor with any issues you have with your writing.

Some recommended books to help improve your writing skills are listed below. Many of these books
are accompanied by audio cassettes or CDs. All are available in either the Open Access Centre (OAC)
or the Robinson library (RL).

General Academic Writing:

 A Book on Writing (McCarter, 1997) [OAC & RL]

 Academic Writing: A Practical Guide for Students (2nd Edition) (Bailey, 2006) [OAC & RL]
 Academic Writing for Graduate Students (2nd Edition) (Swales and Feak, 2004) [OAC & RL]
 Academic Writing Course (3rd Edition) (Jordan, 1999) [OAC & RL]
 Advanced Writing Skills (Arnold and Harmer, 1991) [OAC]
 Academic Vocabulary in Use (McCarthy and O’Dell, 2008) [OAC]
 Building Academic Vocabulary (Zwier, 2002) [OAC]
 Effective Academic Writing 2: The Short Essay (Savage and Mayer, 2005) [OAC & RL]
 Focus on Vocabulary (Schmitt and Schmitt, 2005) [OAC]
 Introduction to Academic Writing (2nd Edition) (Oshima and Hogue, 1997) [OAC]
 Study Skills for Academic Writing (Trzeciak and Mackay, 1994) [OAC & RL]
 Study Tasks in English (Waters and Waters, 1995) [OAC & RL]
 Study Writing (2nd Edition) (Hamp-Lyons and Heasley, 2006) [OAC & RL]
 The Study Skills Handbook (3nd Edition) (Cottrell, 2008) [OAC & RL]
 Using Data (Williams 1996) [RL]
 Writing (White and McGovern, 1994) [OAC & RL]
 Writing Academic English (4th Edition) (Oshima and Hogue, 2006) [OAC]

Dissertation Writing:

 Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write, and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation. (Dunleavy,
2003) [RL]
 Developing Effective Research Proposals (2nd Edition) (Punch, 2006) [RL]
 Dissertation Handbook: A guide to research and writing (Willis 1983) [RL]
 Doing your Research Project (4 Edition) (Bell, 2005) [RL]
 English in Today’s Research World (Swales and Feak, 2000) [OAC & RL]
 How to Write a Successful Science Thesis (Russey, Ebel and Bliefert, 2006) [RL]
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 How to Write a Thesis (Murray, 2006) [RL]
 How to Write Dissertations and Project Reports (McMillan and Weyers 2007) [RL]
 Surviving your Dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process
(3rd Edition) (Rudestam, and Newton, 2007) [OAC & RL]
 The Dissertation Journey: A practical and comprehensive guide to planning,
writing, and defending your dissertation (Roberts, 2004) [RL]
 The Good Research Guide: For small-scale research projects
(3rd Edition) (Denscombe, 2007) [RL]
 Writing a Research Paper (Menasche, 1997) [OAC & RL]
 Writing Up Research: Experimental research report writing for
students of English (Weissberg and Buker, 1990) [OAC & RL]

Referencing and In-text Citations

Newcastle University generally uses the Harvard Referencing system. However, you need to check
with your school in case they use a different system. Information on referencing can also be found
on the university library website - click on ‘students’ and then ‘study skills’ and
then both ‘managing references’ and ‘references’. These sites will give you information and a list of
useful websites.

Other useful websites include:

EndNote is a bibliographic database software package which enables you to organise your list of
references and add citations to your word-processed documents and ensures you cite your
references in the correct style. The Robinson library holds open workshops
( click on ‘Workshops’) to help develop research and writing
skills. You can attend these for free.

Look at Past Dissertations/Theses

Have a look at past dissertations to find out what a successful dissertation/thesis, in your field of
research, looks like. Focus on the structure and organisation; see if the contents page logically shows
the structure. Is the author’s argument clear in the abstract and introduction? How does the writer
review the literature? How are the data, methodology and results presented and analysed? Look
also at the layout of the dissertation – headings, line spacing, margins etc. To access past
dissertations: log on to the library page and click on ‘Local Collections’, then click on ‘Theses’. You
can now look for a dissertation/thesis by either keyword, for example ‘global warming’ or an A-Z
search of either author or title. Once you have found the relevant dissertation(s) go to the Robinson
library and request the title(s) you wish to take out.

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Use the Academic Word List
Go to on ‘vocab profile’ and than VP English
v.29. Take the University Word List Test to check how many AWL items you know. Take the different
versions of the test on different days to obtain a more accurate result. If you score below 80% you
will need to work on your knowledge and use of the AWL. Even scores over 80% do not necessarily
indicate that you are regularly using academic words correctly, nor do they indicate that you can use
the words freely and quickly (as, for example, you might need to in an exam).

Exercises for the Academic Word List

Academic Vocabulary

This site allows you to target specific academic word list
vocabulary in texts which you supply to the website. Follow
the instructions by clicking on the “Learning” button.

Vocabulary in EAP

The Writing Development Centre

The Writing Development Centre offers advice, guidance and tuition for students who wish to
improve their writing skills for employment or study purposes. The service is suitable for native
English speaking students as well as those students whose first language is not English and who have
achieved level 3 (or 70+) in the writing section of the UELA. Students with level 1 and level 2 writing
scores in the UELA should attend In-sessional writing classes. However, the Writing Development
Centre does run some open lectures and workshops which students of any level may attend.

The Writing Development Centre is located in the Robinson Library. Entrance to the centre is to the
back of the Barn PC cluster on level 2 (main entrance level). The centre is open from 1:00 - 4.30pm
Monday to Thursday and 10am – 12 noon on Friday. Bookable sessions are 1:00 - 4:00pm Monday to
Thursday. There is also a limited drop in service 4:00 to 4:30pm Monday to Thursday and from
10:00am to 12:00 noon on Friday, however booking is advised.

Create a dissertation timetable

Once you know the submission date for your dissertation you need to draw up a timetable with clear
deadlines. Be realistic with this timetable and make sure you include time to relax and enjoy non-
studying activities. You need to stick to your timetable so do not set yourself unrealistic goals. If you
find in the first few weeks that you are not able to complete the work you have set yourself, and
have missed your deadlines, then change your plan to make it more achievable. It makes more sense
to set yourself targets that allow you to progress little by little – a step at a time. Do not for example
plan to write for a whole weekend and then end up achieving nothing as the task feels too daunting.
Plan to write a smaller amount regularly – every day if possible. Choose where to write carefully, the
Robinson library or a computer cluster may work better than at home with lots of different
background noise. You do not need to write the sections of your dissertation in order, for example it
actually makes more sense to write your introduction and abstract last so you can truly reflect the
content and structure of your dissertation. However, make sure you write up each section when it is
ready – do not leave everything in note form and try and write everything up in ‘one go’. When you
finish writing each day make sure you write some notes to remind yourself of what you want to write
next, this will make it easier to pick up where you left off when you start again the next day.

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