Essay & report writing skills

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Essay and report writing skills
Introduction
Most academic courses will require you to write assignments or reports, and this unit is designed to help you to develop the skills you need to write effectively for academic purposes. It contains clear instruction and a range of activities to help you to understand what is required, and to plan, structure and write your assignments or reports. Youwill also find out how to use feedback to develop your skills.

Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:
• understand what writing an assignment involves;
• identify their strength and weaknesses;
• consider the functions of essays and reports;
• develop writing skills, whatever the stage they have reached.

1 Good practice in writing

This unitis a general guide and will introduce you to the principles of good practice that can be applied to all writing. If you work on developing these, you will have strong basic (or ‘core’) skills to apply in any writing situation. For assistance with specific aspects of any course you are to study, always refer to any guidance notes or handbooks that have been provided.
This unit won't solve allyour difficulties immediately; developing your writing skills is an ongoing process, and one that involves frequent reflection on the way you tackle assignments. By the time you have come to the end of the unit, however, we hope that you will be able to break down the task of essay or report writing into separate elements, identify which of these elements you want to work on, and develop an actionplan to enable you to manage your own improvement.
How to use this unit
You can use this unit in a variety of ways. You can dip into it, choosing the sections that you feel are most relevant to your needs, or you can work through it from start to finish. However, we suggest that you don't use it in isolation but in conjunction with your current study, ideally while you are working on an assigmentor report. It is essentially a workbook, and includes a number of activities, which we hope you will do as you study your chosen course. There is also an action plan. You can only really improve through practice. Like swimming, no-one learns assignment writing by reading a book, although it may give useful advice on technique.

2 Identifying key concerns

2.1 Your feelings about writing[pic]Think for a moment about your reasons for studying this unit. Is it perhaps because you don't understand what is expected of you in your assignments, or that you aren't clear about how to improve? What are your feelings about your writing skills? What previous experience have you had (if any) of essay or report writing?

Activity 1

You might find it helpful to write down your thoughts atthis stage in your Learning Journal and keep them for future reference. You can look back on them at another time and see if they have changed in any way.
Reveal discussion

Discussion

Don't be despondent if some of your responses are negative. It's the aim of this unit to turn those negatives into positives. In a few months’ time, you should be able to look back on these initial responses andfeel that you have made progress.
Do any of the following relate to your own circumstances?
• It's a very long time since I've done anything like this. I've forgotten how to do it.
• I'm not familiar with the British educational system. What I was taught seems to be quite different from what is expected here.
• I feel I'm putting myself up just to be shot down. I'm really exposingmy weaknesses.
• I enjoy writing, but there seems to be a mystique to this kind of ‘academic’ writing that I can't fathom.
• I love writing essays but this course requires reports, and I feel frustrated because they constrain my style.
• I find that I write in one way for one tutor, and that's acceptable to her, but then the next tutor says I should do it differently. What is...
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