Writing

Now that you've done your research and gathered all the information you need, it's time to write a response to the assignment question.

Here you'll find help with writing some of the most common assignment types. You can also find general writing help for things like structure, grammar, tone and vocabulary, as well as using sources.


Essays

For students in most disciplines, essays are one of the most common types of assessment. No matter what the essay question or topic is, and no matter how long or short it has to be, there are some basic things that all essays have in common: their purpose, structure and tone or register. These are things you can learn, and once you master them, you'll feel much more confident to tackle any essay that comes your way!

Purpose (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find an explanation of the purpose of an essay. PDF icon image 
Structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure your essay.

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Tone (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find a helpful guide to getting the tone of your essay right. PDF icon image
Essay drafting tool (opens in a new window) This handy interactive PDF will guide you through the stages of drafting your essay, section by section. PDF icon image

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Reports

In some disciplines you may be asked to write a report. You might need to write a report on information you have gathered on a particular topic, or on a practical industry experience you had, or on a research project you have done either on your own or as part of a group. You might also be asked to write it for a particular audience, e.g. a market report for a commercial client.

Reports are also very common in many professional areas, including business, management, accounting, engineering, information technology, education, health, and social sciences. So learning to write reports at university is a really important part of developing your skills for your future career.

In this section you'll find resources to help you understand the report genre in general terms. Help for more specific types of reports is available from your School and will be available here in the near future.

Purpose (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find an explanation of the purpose of a report. PDF icon image 
Structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure your report.

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Tone (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find a helpful guide to getting the tone of your report right. PDF icon image

Case studies

Case studies come up in most disciplines, but are particularly used for studying human behaviour (e.g. in Social Sciences & Psychology), human development (e.g. in Education), or professional situations (e.g. in Business; Nursing & Midwifery; Computing, Engineering & Mathematics).

Case studies get you to make the connections between the theory you're learning and a real world situation. In some cases, they allow you to see how a certain organisation puts theory into practice. Download our PDF resources below to help you get the purpose, structure, and tone of your case study right.

Purpose (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find an explanation of the purpose of a case study. PDF icon image  
Structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure your case study.

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Tone (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find a helpful guide to getting the tone of your case study right. PDF icon image

More information

  • UNSW's page on Writing the Case Study (opens in a new window)
  • Monash University's page Case study report (opens in a new window), which includes an example of a business-style problem-solving case study report with comments
  • Monash University's handout (PDF) on How to write the case study (opens in a new window), which focuses on problem-solving case studies

Reflective writing

It's important to state from the outset that there is no right or wrong way to reflect. Reflection is an internal process, and no one can tell you how to do it. We can, however, tell you a little about the purpose of reflection, and how to write reflectively in terms of both structure and tone.

If you're asked to submit a piece of reflective writing at university, make sure you meet all the requirements of the task. While there is no right or wrong way to reflect, there can be right or wrong ways to write about it!

Purpose (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find an explanation of the purpose of reflective writing. PDF icon image
Structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure your reflective writing.

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Tone (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find a helpful guide to getting the tone of your reflective writing right. PDF icon image
Activities to aid reflection (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find tips and activities to guide your own reflection. PDF icon image

Literature reviews & annotated bibliographies

Literature review purpose (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find an explanation of the purpose of a literature review. PDF icon image  
Literature review process (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn find out how to research and write your literature review.          

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Annotated bibliography (opens in a new window)In this PDF, you'll be guided through the process of writing an annotated bibliography and learn how it differs from a literature review.

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General writing help

Everyone has language skills. Maybe you can speak a language other than English. Maybe you're very good at arguing or debating. Maybe you're good at explaining things to others. Maybe you're good at being creative with language, such as rapping, or writing song lyrics, poems, or stories.

A lot of what we do with language every day is spoken. While speaking is important at university, most of your assignments will require writing, so developing your writing skills for the academic setting is essential. If you can get good at writing at university, you'll also be more attractive to future employers.

In the sections on Essays, Reports, Case studies, and Reflective writing, we've introduced the conventions for structuring and writing whole texts. In this section, you'll find PDF guides to help you with the smaller elements of texts: paragraphs, sentences, grammar, and vocabulary.

The University also offers free workshops on academic writing, referencing, and grammar. These are open to all students enrolled at Western Sydney University. You can find out more information on the Academic literacy and grammar workshops page (opens in a new window).

Paragraph structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure paragraphs in academic writing. PDF icon image 
Sentence structure (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to structure sentences in academic writing.

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Grammar (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to appropriately apply grammar in academic writing (including tense, subject-verb agreement, and articles). PDF icon image
Tone (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to choose the right tone for different kinds of academic writing. PDF icon image
Vocabulary (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll find tips for using appropriate vocabulary in academic writing. PDF icon image

More information

Try one of these apps to help you with your sentences and punctuation:

Clarity English (opens in a new window) offers interactive learning programs for reading, grammar and academic writing. You can find Clarity English under 'C' in the Library's eResources, and log in (opens in a new window) (instructions, PDF, 54 kb) using your Western ID.

Using sources

Other sections of this website contain information on types of sources and thinking critically about sources (see Researching and reading).

Once you've done your research, found your sources, and made some notes, how do you use all this in your essay or assignment? The main reason to use sources is to give evidence to support your claims.

When you use information from a source, you have three options for incorporating that information into your own writing. You can:

  1. Quote the material directly, with attribution;
  2. Summarise the material, with attribution; or
  3. Paraphrase the material, with attribution.

Note that attribution is non-negotiable. Any time you refer to an idea that is not your own, you must give credit to the source. See Referencing and citation (opens in a new window) for more information.

The use of the above three options can vary by topic and discipline. Science and related disciplines will usually prefer that you summarise or paraphrase rather than quote directly, while direct quotations are more appropriate in some Humanities subjects like literary studies.

Note that, however you choose to incorporate information from sources, you need to integrate it with your own writing by explaining its connection with the topic you are writing about. You can't just drop a quotation or a paraphrase into a paragraph and expect your reader to work out the connection between it and the rest of your writing.

Stuck on the right words to use to integrate evidence? See 'Expressions to introduce quotations' in our resource on Vocabulary (opens in a new window) (PDF, 88 kB).

Read on for more information about referencing, quoting, summarising, and paraphrasing.

Referencing and citation (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn the difference between a reference and a citation. PDF icon image 
Quoting (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to use quotes effectively in academic writing.

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Summarising (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to summarise effectively in academic writing. PDF icon image
Paraphrasing (opens in a new window) In this PDF you'll learn how to paraphrase effectively in academic writing.PDF icon image