Writing for assignments

Academic writing style

Developing strong academic writing skills is indeed crucial for you as an university student. It requires understanding and adhering to specific conventions that set it apart from other forms of writing.

By following these conventions, you can effectively express your ideas and arguments in a clear and confident manner. Remember that developing your academic writing voice takes practice and patience. Academic writing is indeed a distinctive form of writing in the context of higher education, and it serves as a significant method of assessment in many academic disciplines. While academic writing styles may differ based on various factors such as subject, level of study, and assignment type, they do share some common features. Understanding these shared characteristics can help you develop effective academic writing skills. 

Start early, seek feedback, and be open to revising and refining your work. 

Importance of evaluating and fact-checking

In an information-rich society, it's vital to remember that not all information resources are equal!
When you are looking for information, you are a researcher. As a researcher, you must evaluate the information you find and decide whether the content is:
  • scholarly
  • correct
  • authoritative

Take a look at this LibGuide Importance of evaluating and fact checking information to find out more on how to successfully evaluate and fact-check the resources you find. 

Infographics: How to write...

Task words

Before you can answer an assignment question, you need to understand what it's asking you to do. An instruction word or task word basically tells you what to do in your assignment. Take a look at the table in the link below which gives you a list of words commonly used in assignments and explains what they mean so you know what to do in your assignment or exam.

The format and rules of your academic work will be based on your department or subject. Check your department's assignment guidelines or instructions/module handbook for further guidance when writing your assignment. 

Academic poster

Business report




Scientific report


The art of notetaking

Mastering the art of effective notetaking is a crucial skill to acquire during your university journey. It becomes imperative as you encounter copious amounts of new knowledge, necessitating the development of reliable methods for capturing and recalling information as needed. However, it's worth noting that notetaking is not just a mundane task; it serves as an integral part of the learning process itself, aiding in the digestion and comprehension of the information you encounter.

Taking notes has no absolute correct or incorrect approach.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to maintain concise and to-the-point notes. Attempting to transcribe every detail offers no advantage; instead, your notes should capture the key concepts and significant points you've recognised.

Notetaking app and equipment available to you at Aber

How to take effective notes

These two methods of notetaking serve different purposes.

Linear Notes

Linear notes, which most people are familiar with, involve writing information down on a page with headings and subheadings. Here are some tips to enhance the effectiveness of linear notetaking:

  • Use numerous headings for main ideas and concepts.
  • Employ subheadings to elaborate on points within those ideas.
  • Maintain one point per line.
  • Underline key terms.
  • Use numbering for organisation.
  • Use abbreviations and don't be concerned about using full sentences.
  • Leave generous space for additional details and readability.


Mind-maps are a single-page format suitable for illustrating structure and organising ideas. There are several advantages to using mind-maps:

  • They keep your notes concise and on a single page, preventing rambling.
  • Main points are instantly visible.
  • They facilitate grouping points together, aiding in essay organisation.
  • They visually indicate areas that require further research.

To create a mind-map:

  • Use a full sheet of paper, at least A4 size.
  • Place the subject matter in the centre of the page.
  • Extend one branch for each main point, radiating outward.
  • Begin with small points, as you may need more space than anticipated.
  • Use connecting spokes to indicate how points are related.
  • Ensure sufficient size to accommodate additional details.
  • Include smaller branches for elaboration and examples.
  • Provide concise summaries as reminders, reserving detailed information for footnotes.
  • Label each point with its source for reference.

Need to know more...

Library resources

Writing essays



Eight tips for good essay writing is a practical guide for essential advice on:

  • Answering the question
  • Planning before you write and planning while you read
  • A good introduction
  • The body of the essay
  • A good conclusion
  • Citations, quotations, references and bibliography (some information also appears in EAAP guide in the good academic practice page)
  • Writing in your own words (some information also appears in EAAP guide in the good academic practice page)
  • Effective layout, presentation and style

Aberystwyth University has a Writer in Residence from the Royal Literary Fund. The RLF Writing Fellow is available for individual appointments to discuss your writing.

LinkedIn Learning course (Please login with your AU email and password):

Need to know more...

Library resources

Writing business reports

Essays and reports: a comparative guide gives a simple structural overview of the differences between essays and reports.

It begins with a general Management and Business essay question and considers how that may be adapted for a report.

It includes some focusing questions on:

  • topic interests
  • information and opinion
  • controversy and critical opinion
  • narrowing the focus

It presents a sample structure for an essay and a report side by side.

NOTE: General advice on academic writing always needs to be individualised to the subject and structure you are working with. Always ask the following three questions of any advice you see or receive:

  • What can I use?
  • What do I need to adapt?
  • Is there anything I should reject? If rejecting advice, consider what you could replace it with, before dismissing the advice as not relevant to your context.

LinkedIn Learning course (Please login with your AU email and password):

Need to know more...

Library resources

Writing scientific reports

The way you write your report depends on your department or subject's rules. So, it's best to look at your department's guidelines or your assignment instructions first.

The summary below outlines the standard components of a scientific report:

  • Abstract:
    • The abstract is a short summary of your project.
    • Here, you should state your research questions and aims and provide a brief description of your methodology. It also includes an overview of your most significant findings. It is best to write this last after finalising the report.
  • Introduction:
    • This is where you set the scene for your report. The introduction should clearly articulate the purpose and aim (and, possibly, objectives) of the report, along with providing the background context for the report's topic and area of research.
    • A scientific report may have an hypothesis in addition or in stead of aims and objectives.
    • It may also provide any definitions or explanations for the terms used in the report or theoretical underpinnings of the research so that the reader has a clear understanding of what the research is based upon.
    • It may be useful to also indicate any limitations to the scope of the report and identify the parameters of the research.
  • Methods:
    • The methods section includes any information on the methods, tools and equipment used to get the data and evidence for your report.
    • You should justify your method (that is, explain why your method was chosen), acknowledge possible problems encountered during the research, and present the limitations of your methodology.
  • Results:
    • If you are required to have a separate results and discussion section, then the results section should only include a summary of the findings, rather than an analysis of them - leave the critical analysis of the results for the discussion section.
    • Presenting your results may take the form of graphs, tables, or any necessary diagrams of the gathered data. It is best to present your results in a logical order, making them as clear and understandable as possible through concise titles, brief summaries of the findings, and what the diagrams/charts/graphs or tables are showing to the reader.
  • Discussion:
    • This section is where the data gathered and your results are truly put to work.
    • It is the main body of your report in which you should critically analyse what the results mean in relation to the aims and objectives (and/or, in scientific writing, hypotheses) put forth at the beginning of the report.
    • You should follow a logical order, and can structure this section in sub-headings.
  • Conclusion:
    • The conclusion should not include any new material but instead show a summary of your main arguments and findings.
    • It is a chance to remind the reader of the key points within your report, the significance of the findings and the most central issues or arguments raised from the research.
    • The conclusion may also include recommendations for further research, or how the present research may be carried out more effectively in future.
  • References:
    • Similar to your essays, a report still requires a bibliography of all the published resources you have referenced within your report.
    • Check your module handbook for the referencing style you should use as there are different styles depending on your degree.

Need to know more...

Library resources

Planning and delivering presentations



Planning a presentation

The guide to Planning a presentation contains information on the following points:

  • Considering positive and negative aspects of presentations
  • Written and spoken style (avoid reading unless you have prepared a spoken manuscript)
  • Business and professional presentations: tell them, tell them, tell them
  • Rhetorical aspects of speaker and audience perceptions
  • Plan for a presentation: a practical checklist
  • Other things to consider
    • Focus: specialist focus from larger project, or general overview of whole project
    • Activity: types of activity or interaction (performance, demonstration, planned audience interaction)
    • Timing: plan your timing carefully and rehearse with a timer
    • Media: use of supporting media and whether it is the best way to deliver your message
  • Common problems with language and structure

Delivering a presentation

When all of your presentation plans are clear, make sure you set some time aside to rehearse your presentation. This is best done in a classroom if possible, so you can look at available facilities, furniture, use of computer and projector, body language and position of team members for group presentations. It is usually very clear when a presentation has been rehearsed and when it has not.

Seminar discussions

Planning and interacting in seminar discussions

Seminars are most often led by teaching staff. You may also need to organise discussions yourself or as a member of a student group. The guide provided here includes a way of observing how seminars work and how you may organise your own discussion for maximum participant engagement and interaction.

The guide includes:

  • Ways of looking at seminars: what a seminar is supposed to do
  • Balancing input with interaction to maximise discussion time
  • Activities for communication and engagement
  • Seminar structures and stages based on a premise of fact, feeling, opinion or action (or a combination)
    • Formal statement
    • Formal question
    • Exploration
    • Conclusion
  • Creating and facilitating a discussion
  • Referencing in seminar discussions and documents

LinkedIn Learning courses (Please login with your AU email and password):

Need to know more...

Library resources

Designing an effective academic poster

Posters as a form of academic communication

Various methods exist for conveying ideas and disseminating information. During your pursuit of a degree, you'll likely engage with a range of communication formats tailored to your specific field. Among these, the academic poster stands out as a valuable tool for sharing knowledge. 

An academic poster, much like other professional communication formats, adheres to a structured framework. It should encompass identifiable sections, including:

  1. Title
  2. Authors
  3. Introduction and background
  4. Main content, characterized by substantiated discussions backed by referenced evidence
  5. Summary
  6. Conclusions
  7. References


Images can enhance the visual appeal of your poster, but it's vital to remember that their inclusion should always serve a purpose in conveying information to the audience. Take care when selecting images, as those sourced from the internet may not necessarily be free from copyright restrictions. Utilizing reputable sources for copyright-free images is advisable. Pixabay and Unsplash are sources of copyright cleared images.


Just as with any academic work, proper acknowledgment and referencing are paramount when creating a poster. 

For guidance and inspiration, explore research posters displayed in your department's buildings and other relevant spaces. Additionally, seeking feedback from a faculty member with a draft version of your poster before its final submission can be immensely valuable.

Top tips!

  • Content Planning:
    • Identify main message and key points
    • Engage audience's attention
  • Visual Content Planning:
    • Choose text or graphics
    • Design layout with clear entry point and logical flow
    • Ensure audience understands how to read the poster
  • Creation:
    • Develop the poster, e.g., using PowerPoint 
  • Proofreading and Editing:
    • Review content for errors (spelling, grammar)
    • Verify referencing accuracy
    • Assess print quality and readability
  • Remember:
    • Maintain formality
    • Structure information
    • Include citations and references 

Need to know more...

Library resources

Developing your academic writing skills

Skills workshops

Browse and book your place on our range of skills workshops: 

Need to know more...

Library Resources

Resources to support understanding and production of academic writing. For all students, in all degree programmes.

1:1 support with academic writing

Royal Literary Fellow 

Book a session with our Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow, Alys Fowler. The Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow is a professional, published author whose role is to help you strengthen your writing. 

This is a free, confidential service to help you improve your writing skills. Students of any discipline, at any level of study (from 1st year to postgraduate), or staff, are welcome to book a session.

Book a session:

  • Mondays: 09:00 - 16:00
  • Tuesdays: 09:00 - 16:00
  • Sessions are for 50 minutes and will currently take place online (September to May only).
  • Contact Alys at:  alys.fowler@rlfeducation.org.uk 

Further information: Writing consultations (RLF)  : Student Learning Support , Aberystwyth University

Welsh language academic writing tutor

  • Dr. Tamsin Davies:
    • Skills tutor for Welsh-medium students and offers 1:1 academic support for students who use Welsh in the course of their academic lives.

    • Book an appointment with Tamsin: ted@aber.ac.uk

Ask the Elephant: at-a-glance guide to academic writing

Ask the Elephant is a new online resource developed by the UK’s leading charity for writers, the Royal Literary Fund (RLF). This new website is primarily aimed at university students and provides them with an accessible and creative new format that gives targeted responses to their questions about how to improve their academic writing alongside actual examples. Quick, clear answers to the most common concerns are bolstered by additional detail and links to other material for students who want to explore further.