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Open University Start Writing Essays

Develop your writing

Your written assignments may include reports, short answers and essays, each with their own organisation and layout. You may also have to write an examination under timed conditions. The ability to write in clear, well-structured English can make a big difference to your assignment and exam marks.

For many subjects you will need to show that you can

  • structure an essay so that it has a clear beginning, middle and end (i.e. introduction, body and conclusion)
  • draw information and evidence from your course materials and other sources
  • write in your own words, using the vocabulary and expressions relevant to your subject
  • link your ideas in a logical way
  • produce sentences in grammatical English with accurate spelling so that your meaning is clear.

A checklist for academic writing

When you produce a piece of academic writing, it's helpful to think about 4 key areas:

  1. Use of source material - have you selected and evaluated the relevant information?
  2. Structure of the text - have you organised your response in an appropriate way?
  3. Academic writing style - have you used language that's appropriate to your audience and your assignment task?
  4. Grammar, spelling and punctuation - have you checked these to ensure that your work is well-presented?

These four areas can form the basis of a practical tool to help you develop your academic writing. It is a checklist that has been adapted from a framework called MASUS (Measuring Academic Skills of University Students) developed at the University of Sydney.

As you go through the rest of these pages, you will explore these four areas of the checklist in more detail. The actvity below, from the University of Southampton, gives you some ideas of what you need to think about when revising your writing.

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning.

Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 220,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas. The Open University is rated one of the best in the UK for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey. The OU is one of only four UK universities to have consistently achieved more than 90% in the survey’s history. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

The UK’s latest Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF 2014) places The Open University in the top third of UK higher education institutions by ‘research power’ ranking. 72% of OU research submitted was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 26.7 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 60 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

All Open University Science courses presented on FutureLearn are produced with the kind support of Dangoor Education.

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