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Work through this proforma step by step to develop your essay or report
STEP 1 Analysing the question
You cant answer a question if you do not understand all of its
Here you are clarifying the task. Gain a better understanding of
Reading carefully ensures that you answer the question.
what the question is asking.
A good interpretation helps you plan your answer.
At all points, consider how the topic fits into your unit.
It is important for you to realise that each question requires
some kind of analysis and interpretation, in order to determine
an appropriate way of responding to it.
Action Record
Write out the whole question, topic thesis..

If you do not have a question write a sentence to

explain what it is you need to do for the writing task.

Record defining words (the overall topic) , key words

or concepts eg social class, creative industries,
oligarchy, heroic tradition, pain management, imperial

Record directive words (what you have to do with the

topic (the task) these words often give you a clue to the
structure the essay should follow, e.g. if directive word is
compare then you present a comparison in your writing).
- words that give direction for approaching the essay
e.g. discuss, evaluate, compare, analyse, find causes,
contrast, investigate, categorise, identify, interpret,
describe, illustrate, differentiate, explain, criticise,
summarise, justify..

Record limiting words (set some scope or narrow the

area of focus)
words that limit your topic e.g. in the past 5 years, in
children, 2 theories

Record content words (these refine an aspect of the

task or directive word)

Restate your question, topic, thesis here in your own


The advantage of doing this is that you should now be very

clear about what it is you need to write about. If you cannot
explain this satisfactorily in your own words, seek some clarity
from your lecturer/tutor.

Say/Ask: I am not sure what this question is asking me to do.

Academic Writing Template 1

STEP 2 Brainstorm
Brainstorming and concept mapping are strategies used Here you consider:
to gather your thoughts from your existing knowledge of What do I know?
a topic. This information may come from readings, What do I need to find out?
lectures and tutorials.

Action Response
1.Give yourself a time limit
2.Remember that this is only the
beginning of your thinking, you will need to
Develop either a list OR a concept map of your thinking
add on to this list/map as your
understanding of the topic expands.
3. Ask: who, what, when, where, why, how
(5W + 1H)
Draw a Concept Map to record your thinking

Content words

Main theme or topic

Academic Writing Template 2

STEP 3 Develop Focus Questions To lead your research
Ask what do I need to know?
Example questions
Who is affected by this?
Academic literature?
Where is the (problem)?
Refer to your concept map
When (at what point) are .?
Why is this (issue) important?
Check you are on topic
How can this be addressed?
Do I need to know about?
Check unit objectives, assessment guidelines and marking criteria
What are the points of view of others?

Action Record
Based on what you have realised in your brainstorm
ask What, Why and How?

What do I need to know more about?

What research has been undertaken?

What topics/ theories have been covered?

Who is the writer/researcher?

Who has said what about this topic?

Eg Smith theory of.

What can I find to support my thinking?

Who agrees with my ideas/ opinions / thesis

Well-focused questions are precise.
Well-focused questions ask for useful information.
Well-focused questions can be answered with
meaningful information.
Well-focused questions encourage inquiry and
And of course, well-focused questions have to be
questions (not statements).

Academic Writing Template 3

STEP 4 Browse the Literature
Gather information that responds to your FOCUS
QUESTIONS. Remember to use your Unit readings, CMD and texts as
Ask a librarian for assistance with database searches if a starting point.
Go to the source for your information.
With your focus questions in mind:
look for key words/concepts
carry out combined searches
refer to general texts, specialized texts (relating to your field), journals, government publications and newspapers

No notes at this stage SKIM read no deep reading at this point

Think about the types of material you will be using:

Record those references that have potential Factual information; ideas, hypothesis; theories;
opinions; evidence; experience

So that you do not need to constantly update information for your final reference list, record it here as you go.

Title Author / Editor Year Publication Main Points (relevant to

Type topic)











You can add more as required

Academic Writing Template 4

STEP 5 Analyse the Literature
Does the literature match your information requirements?
New information may change your ideas about what you thought you needed.
You may need information and sources you did not expect or you may have too much information.
Use critical thinking strategies to evaluate sources. Ask the 5W & 1 H

Select sources according to their relationship to your focus questions

Photocopy or borrow publications Read in depth

Selectively underline or note key words, phrases or Use focus questions as headings
Determine the worthiness of the source of information.
Unless you can be sure that the information you are using is reliable, you should focus on using resources located from the
Library i.e. texts, journal articles from scholarly publications.
Using your Unit Outline and 2. Authenticity: What are the 4. Coverage : Is adequate
Marking Criteria evaluate the author(s) credentials? Was the detail provided? Is the
Sources and identify those most information published in a information too basic, too
useful and appropriate for your recognised (or peer- complex or relevant?
purposes reviewed/refereed) journal? 5. Currency : Was the item
published recently? Is the
Five points to consider when 3. Bias : Are the arguments data current? Was the web
evaluating a resource: presented fairly? Does the author page updated recently?
have an ulterior motive or are they
1.Accuracy : Can you expressing an opinion?
verify the factual information
provided? Is methodology stated?

Focus Question Reference Brief Notes

Academic Writing Template 5

STEP 6 Map the Structure
Identifying and developing clear structure before you start to write is vital for two reasons.
It enables;
1. you as the writer to keep track of your thoughts and present your ideas logically and coherently without
getting off the track and;
2. the person marking your work to follow your argument more easily.
Look at directive words for clue to structure, e.g compare, discuss etc

Planning your structure: Comparison

Some common structure formats Problem/solution

a) Decide on headings even though you may not use the heading in your final presentation

b) Decide on major topics/ themes (check back at your question analysis and brainstorm)

c) Identify what reference you WILL use (discard others)

d) Identify issues you need to follow up on eg clarify the expectations with your lecturer/tutor
(last chance before you start writing)

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Structure formats
Description structure



Main idea 1 Supporting detail A

Main idea 2 Supporting detail A
Main idea 3 Supporting detail A

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Comparison structure (tight)



Features to be Theory 1 Theory 2



Cause/Effect Structure


Cause Effect 1

Effect 2

Effect 3


Problem/Solution Structure


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Outline of problem

Present and discuss/compare solutions


Approximate allocation of words for introductions and conclusions

Approximate introduction/conclusion allocation
Number of words in assignment
1000 total word count 200
2000 total word count 300
3000 total word count 500
% of Total word count
Introduction 10% of word count
Body 80% of word count
Conclusion 10% or word count

Academic Writing Template 9

The Introduction

Focus attention
Focus on topic/clarify the topic
Define key words/concepts if
Provide an overview of the paper
Explain the purpose of the paper
Briefly outline the issues/theme
Restate the problem/question
1 or 2 paragraphs?

The Body

Topic sentence
Support with detail, examples,
Use a thread or through line (get the
flow happening)
- Link sentences
- Link paragraphs
- Link forwards
- Link backwards
Use signal words/signposts for the
Pick up (repeat) words
Use pronouns

The Conclusion
General comments relevant to the
No new information to be
Answer question/issues raised
Pick up threads and synthesise
Leave reader with a thought
Way forward?
Future research?

Academic Writing Template 10

STEP 7 Write a draft and Incubate
Start at the body & number the issues then conclusions and introductions
Easier to summarise and conclude once you have the body clearly structured.
Work out the order to introduce your ideas, using your Write your draft quickly it is only a draft. Write under
notes/headings and points each heading (you can remove it from your final draft
but it helps you focus as your write.
Dont worry about style, spelling, grammar or Follow your concept map
Relate all writing to the marking criteria consider the unit objectives

Allow your draft time to sit. Give yourself a break Ban perfectionism!
from the task (at least 24 hours) before your return to it
for the final step
Topic Sentence introduces key idea
Every paragraph requires a topic sentence to assert and control its main idea. Without a
topic sentence, your paragraphs will seem jumbled and your reader will be confused.
- Does the topic sentence declare a single point of my
- Does the topic sentence further my argument? (Ask
so what).
- Is the topic sentence relevant to my thesis? (it may be clear to you but what about your
- Is there a clear relationship between this topic sentence and the paragraph that came
Second and/or final before? (use transitional phrases - on the other hand, however, etc. to signify the change in
draft reasoning).
Check that you have - Where have I placed my topic sentence? (Mostly at the beginning of a paragraph. You
written effective might justify the topic sentence in the middle of the paragraph, for example, if you have
paragraphs information that needs to precede it. It could also go at the end of the paragraph, if you
want the reader to consider your line of reasoning before you declare your main point).
Subsequent sentences Supporting sentences present the relevant details that elaborate
the point of the topic sentence. They often give you 'how', 'why' and 'what' examples that
relate to the topic sentence. These examples will support or offer proof of the main idea
within the topic sentence. Each sentence adds relevant information to the topic sentence to
enable the point to be established clearly in the reader's mind.
Concluding sentence A concluding sentence rounds off or concludes the paragraph.
In many instances, the concluding sentence may also provide a bridge or pointer to the content of the
next paragraph. The concluding sentence rounds off the paragraph by drawing attention back to the
topic sentence as well as setting the scene for a shift to the next point.

STEP 8 Edit, Proofread, copy and Hand in!

Read for meaning Read aloud
Read for typos and spelling errors Correct
Read for grammar and punctuation errors Copy (paper, email to your ECU WebMail, save to
hard drive, save to disk)
Read backwards (helps identify words out of place) Hand in on time

Academic Writing Template 11

Editing Checklist
Have I answered the question or task as fully as Have I fully referenced my sources of information?
possible? Have I referenced all the words, ideas and
What is my thesis/ central proposition/ main information sources I have used in my
assertion? assignment?
Do I make a clear argument or take a Have I used a consistent referencing style?
position about the topic? Do I state that Is there a clear distinction between my
position in my introduction? thoughts and words and those of the author(s)
Does my introduction or opening paragraph I've read and cited?
prepare the reader for what follows? Are quotations properly introduced?
Is my essay clearly structured? Are they accurate?
Does my assignment have a clear Are they formatted correctly?
introduction, a body and a definite
Do the quotations add evidence or provide an
authoritative voice, or am I letting the author(s)
Does the assignment advance in logical speak for me? Would writing it in my own
stages? words be more effective?
Are the major points connected? Are the Have I remained within or exceeded the set word limit?
relationships between them expressed I don't have enough words:
clearly? Have I fully answered the question or task?
Do the major points all relate to the topic Do I need to read more? Should I include more
and contribute to answering the task or information or discussion?
Are my paragraphs clearly connected and coherent?
Have I provided enough evidence to support
my argument/s?
Does each paragraph begin with a topic I have too many words:
Have I included only relevant information?
Do the sentences flow smoothly and
logically from point to point?
Is there any unnecessary repetition in my
Does each sentence clearly follow on from
the one before?
Is my written expression as clear and concise
as possible, or is it too 'wordy'?
Does each paragraph state its case clearly Have I proof read and revised my assignment for
and completely, or should there be more errors?
evidence/ detail?
Have I checked my spelling? Have I read
Are there adequate transitions between through my assignment and not just relied on a
sentences and paragraphs? Are transitions computer spell checker?
varied or are they all the same kind?
Is all my bibliographical information correct?
Are all examples and quotes relevant to
and supportive of my answer?
Have I used correct punctuation? Have I
ended every sentence with a full stop?
Are facts and opinions supported with Is my assignment well presented?
examples or explanations where
Does the presentation follow any guidelines
set by my lecturer or school?
Is my written expression appropriate?
Have I used direct and clear language? Have I included a cover sheet? (assignment
cover sheets are available from your school
Have I explained my ideas clearly and office)
Have I made sure my assignment is legible? Is
Have I kept my audience in mind? Have I it typed or written neatly?
said all I need to say so that my reader can
understand, or am I assuming they will
Have I used double-line spacing?
'know what I mean'? Have I numbered pages and used wide
Have I written complete, grammatically margins?
correct sentences? Have I kept an extra copy?
In long sentences, have I separated related
ideas with commas or semicolons for
easier understanding? Accessed: 290306
Is my use of tenses correct?
Have I used non-discriminatory language?

Academic Writing Template 12

Academic Writing Template 13