Teesside University

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January 2016

School of Health & Social Care

Guidelines for Academic Writing and Presentation of

Assessed Written Work

The following guidelines are offered to help you develop your academic writing style and identify how you should present your academic work. The first section offers general principles that apply to academic essays and may be supplemented with individual module guidelines given to you by your module teacher. It consists of a list of things to do and things to avoid when constructing an academic piece of work. The second section identifies the minimum standard to be achieved when submitting assessed written assignments for modules in your programme. You may be given more detailed guidance for projects, dissertations or portfolios.

Section 1 – Academic Writing

Structure of an essay


• Include an introduction which:

o Briefly outlines the main issues to be addressed in the essay.

o Identifies how the essay has been structured to address these issues.

o Defines any key terms.

o Gives relevant background information.

• Logically structure the main body of the essay to address the assessment criteria.

• Make clear links between points as the essay develops.

• Present a balanced argument.

• Use sub headings only when asked for in a larger piece of work or a report.

• Include a conclusion to summarise what has been discussed in the text referring back to the introduction where appropriate.


• Starting the introduction with a direct quote.

• The use of headings and sub-headings in an essay.

• Including new material in the conclusion.

• Referencing arguments in the conclusion that have been previously debated.

Paragraph and Sentence Construction


• Use paragraphs to build up the logic of your points/discussion.

• Make sure each main point of your discussion consists of one or more paragraphs.

• Make each paragraph self contained with one idea being expressed – otherwise the reader tends to lose the point you are trying to make.

• Support the main sentence in each paragraph using other sentences that help explain or illustrate your point.

• Make it clear where one paragraph starts and the other ends - a double space is recommended (but avoid indenting the first line).

• Punctuate sentences and make sure that they contain an active verb. More information and support on the correct use of the English language can be found in the Key Skills On-Line Package in the Writing Skills Section (Use of English – What to consider - Starter Level).


• Long paragraphs – the emphasis can get lost.

• Very short or single sentence paragraphs – they make your essay disjointed.

• Long sentences – these also become confusing to the reader.

• Bullet points and numbered lists – these are not acceptable in an academic essay but may be appropriate in other forms of work.



• Use ‘I’ (the first person) when appropriate in portfolio work and reflective essays. If in doubt check with your module teacher, or any specific module guidelines.

• Consider the implications of any language used to avoid the risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding or offence. For further information on allowing for culture, gender and ethnicity see the Key Skills Online Package in the Writing Skills Section () (Use of English – What to consider - Developmental Level)

• Use abbreviations appropriately. Do not assume that even well used abbreviations are standard and have only one meaning, as terminology changes over time. You must always spell out terms in full the first time they are mentioned in the text and give the abbreviation in brackets. From then on, the abbreviation can be used.


• Overusing ‘I’ (the first person) as it leads you into being subjective. The aim in academic writing is usually to be as objective as possible in dealing with the issues under discussion.

• Overusing the third person e.g. “the author is in agreement”. This can sometimes become confusing. Ideally, use other forms of words, which avoid the use of ‘I’ or ‘the author’. An example is the use of ‘the role of the health professional will be discussed’ to replace ‘I will discuss the role of the health professional’. This allows you to distance yourself from the subject and creates a feeling of objectivity.

• The use of stereotypes as they introduce the danger of conveying hidden messages.

• Colloquialisms, such as ‘it was an uphill struggle’ or ‘this was a drop in the ocean’.

• ‘Slang’ expressions.

• Rhetorical questions.

• Unsupported assertions i.e. giving an opinion without supporting literature.

Proof Reading and Presentation


• Allow time for careful proof reading of a full draft of your work. This is essential to identify and rectify a range of errors and can have an enormous impact on the overall presentation of the work and ultimately the mark awarded.

• Reference your work in accordance with School of Health & Social Care Guidelines for Referencing.

• Present your work in accordance with the School of Health & Social Care Guidelines for Presentation of Assessed Work.

• Ask your module teacher to look at a small section of draft work to identify if your writing style is consistent with all of these Guidelines. Apart from your dissertation, your teacher will not be able to read and comment on extensive draft work.

For further information and assistance, please see:

Key Skills Online (Writing Skills)

Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook. (4th ed.) Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Learning Hub Website at Teesside University:

Section 2 – Guidelines for Presentation of Assessed Work

Assignment Format

Your assignment should consist of the following:

• If submitting a paper copy: an Assignment Front Sheet (available from the School of Health & Social Care).

• Title Page.

• Assignment.

• Reference List.

• Appendices (if applicable).

Title Page

This should contain the following information:

• Name of programme (and pathway if applicable).

• Your name, preferably in a larger font and highlighted (unless you are informed otherwise).

• Module title (exactly as identified in your module guide or specification).

• Module code (exactly as identified in your module guide or specification).

• Module leader or group tutor.

• The assignment title.

• The date of submission.

• The word count of your essay

The Assignment

This should be presented as follows:

• Text should be in a minimum of font size 12 in a ‘sans serif’ font such as Verdana or Tahoma. (this document is in Verdana size 12)

• Line spacing of 1.5 (one and a half) as a minimum.

• Margin sizes should be the default ones used in Microsoft Word (usually 2.54 cm left and right, 2.54cm top and bottom).

• A clear gap should be left between paragraphs to make it clear where they start and end.

• Each page should be numbered as a minimum standard. As you become more skilled in word processing, you are encouraged to include a header or footer that includes your name and the module code.

• All work must be proof read and spell checked to rectify spelling and typographical errors.

• You should use an appropriate academic writing style (see for further help).

• Paper copies should be clearly printed on single sided A4 white paper.

The Reference List

This should:

• Start on a new page entitled ‘Reference List’ rather than ‘Bibliography’.

• Not include a separate bibliography.

• Be presented with a clear gap between references.

• Be presented following the University standard style format. For guidance see References information on the Learning Hub site () .


These should be clearly numbered and appropriately referred to in your assignment and should not include information that is essential for the main body of the assignment. Appendices should not be used as a device for getting around the word limit.


Most text based assignments will have to be submitted electronically but if you need to submit a paper copy:

• If two copies are required they must be presented separately (i.e. not in the same folder).

• As a minimum requirement, all pages must be securely fastened together and placed in a clear plastic wallet.

• Alternatively, a lightweight folder can be used to present your work but the following must not be used:

o Folders that use a clear plastic wallet for each individual page of the assignment.

o Ring binders.

Word Limit

In your module guide you are informed of the maximum number of words for the piece of work e.g. Essay of no more than 4000 words. The word count refers to the essay and does not include the reference list or tables/graphs, or appendices. You start counting from Introduction and finish counting on the last word of the essay. The references cited in text are included in the word count. If you highlight your word document from the introduction to the final word then you should easily be able to discover your word count.

As a rough guide to help you stay within the word limit it is suggested that you operate on 250 words per page. We would expect to see 16 pages for a 4000 word essay, a 2000 word essay would have 8 pages. If you use this as a guide it will also help you to avoid bullet points and short paragraphs which detract from your argument/answer. Don’t think using a table will help you include more content. Tables and essay generally are incompatible!

If you exceed the word limit you will be penalised as your tutors will stop marking when you have reached the word limit. Remember that writing in excess of the word limit will result in your essay being partially marked and therefore the essence of your argument could be lost. Part of the assessed task is for you to complete the essay within the word limit. You are expected to have selected the material you think is most relevant to the set task. Your tutors do not want you to write everything you have read on the topic. They want to see how you have prioritised material for inclusion.

If you submit a piece of work below the word count then you may be penalising yourself as you may not have sufficient depth to your argument/answer. However, you will be considered to have passed if you have managed to address the identified assessment criteria at the appropriate academic level.


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