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This can be a neglected part of the assignment writing process.

  • Allocate at least an hour (for an assignment of about 1 to 2,000 words).  It is possible to improve your marks significantly if you take time to proofread.
  • Before you proofread, put your assignment aside for at least half a day (don’t work on it at this time).  When you come to read it again, you will most likely look at it differently.  If at this point you notice a lack of clarity or you are unsure about what you have written, it is probably a good indication that you should make some changes.
  • While it can be helpful to get someone else’s opinion on your writing, it is really important that you learn to be independent as a writer. So before you involve anyone else, try this:
    • Read it to yourself to see if it flows, to see if the ideas are linked, and to see if it makes overall sense.
    • Read it aloud, focussing on punctuation, grammar, and word processing errors. Where you pause for a breath, you will most likely need a comma; a big breath or the end of an idea will most likely need a full stop!
  • If you want to get someone else’s opinion, read it aloud to them and get them to ask questions as you go.  Respond to their questions by being prepared to make changes not by defending what you have written!
  • Do use spell check, but be sure to choose the best option from the list of suggestions.

When editing, ask yourself whether your work:

  • Meets the style requirements of your school or faculty with regard to print size, font, spacing and specific referencing guidelines.
  • States exactly what you mean as simply as possible without being simplistic.
  • Uses longer as well as shorter sentences.Try to vary sentence length.
  • Is concise.  As a rule of thumb, if you read through your work and you can cut out a word without losing meaning, do so!
  • Uses the most accurate words rather than 'impressive' sounding words.

Consider the following hints:

  • The title should be on a separate page, not the first page of your writing.
  • When referring to a source, you usually use the author's surname and the date of publication; do not include the author’s first name or initial(s).
  • In most (not all) types of academic writing it is best to write in the active voice as often as possible, for example:  Jones (2008, p.47) argues that….. NOT it is argued that……..
  • Use strong verbs. Avoid weak verbs, for example ‘take’ is a weak verb.  It is preferable to choose a strong verb which clearly highlights your point.  The following verbs are much more specific (therefore stronger) than the word ‘take’:
    • Develop
    • Accept
    • Receive
    • Implement
    • Complete
  • Make sure that nouns and verbs agree in number. For example, research is singular, so we use is not are as the verb.
  • It is uncommon to use headings in a short (1 to 2,000 word) essay, although it is more common in longer papers.  Never use the heading “body”.
  • Include a thesis statement for most types of academic writing. The thesis statement represents what you think in response to the question.  Check that you have one. A thesis is not the same as an outline.  The outline states what you might discuss, while the thesis states the argument that you will present. An example outline is: issues to do with justice and implementation of the law will be explained and critiqued in this essay. An example thesis is: the argument that will be presented is that implementation of the law does not always result in the most just outcomes for victims, but this is necessary to ensure that the rights of perpetrators are not violated.