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Session 4

Academic Writing 1 – Academic vocabulary

Welcome to our Academic Writing course! On these pages we'll bring you the essential knowledge and skills you need to be an effective writer in your study life. Over 10 units we'll show you how to write: effective paragraphs, assignments and exam papers; posts to online discussion groups, projects and presentations – and much more!

In this first session we look at getting the basics right and help you activate your academic vocabulary!

Sessions in this unit

Session 4 score

0 / 16

  • 0 / 4
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 5
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 7
    Activity 3

Activity 3

Answering the question properly

Even if you're familiar with the meanings of different question words, that's only half the challenge – you still have to actually answer the question!

Try the activity

To do

Read this assignment title from an English course. The topic of the assignment is 'text analysis'. Then take a look at the two 'mini-answers'. How can they be improved? You can check your ideas – in a quiz question – later on this page.

Assignment question
'Contrast the structure of a typical essay with that of a typical report.'

Mini-answer 1
Essays are generally divided into three main parts: the introduction, the body and the conclusion. By contrast, reports often have additional sections, such as an abstract and a methodology. The structure of an essay is rooted in its purpose, which is to put forward an argument coherently and convincingly. The purpose of a report, however, is slightly different: usually it is to survey research that has been done already, analyse it, and then give recommendations. The structure comes from presenting this sequence of tasks in a logical and recognisable way.

Mini-answer 2
In general, essays are divided into three parts: the introduction, the body and the conclusion. Every essay question is different, but learning general principles will help. A good idea is to restate the essay question in your introduction to help focus the reader’s mind. In the body you make your main argument: it makes up the longest of the three sections. The paragraphs within the body should be ordered logically to present your argument. Then comes the conclusion, where you draw the key elements together. To sum up, successful essays generally use a recognisable structure to help the reader to follow the argument. Reports are different, often including a methodology and an abstract.

Spelling academic words

7 Questions

How good is your spelling? Find out with this academic vocabulary spelling test

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Now you've had a good look at understanding written assignment types, defining question words and analysing example answers, let's review what we've learned so far:

  • Written assignments fall into a number of different categories – find out if you have to write an essay, report, literature review or something else.
  • Different types of assignments have different structures. An essay usually has an introduction, a body with an argument, a conclusion, and references.
  • The first step in writing a successful assignment is understanding what you have to write – check the meanings of question words in assignment titles.
  • When you know what you have to write, make sure you answer the question completely! Don't miss out anything important.
  • If in doubt - ask for help! Your tutors and fellow students can be a great source of support if you're lost or confused.

Find out more

Now you know about the structure of written assignments, it's time to practise the language that will stick your writing together: the 'glue' of academic writing – linking words and phrases. Click on 'Downloads' to get a free pdf with more activities to upgrade your academic writing. Visit the OU for more practice of essay and report writing – click on the links below for more.

Where next

Digital Literacy image link 4  GTD Academic Writing index link  OU AW image link 4

Session Vocabulary

  • Find out more about distance learning – visit our partner,The OU