Writing Tips

Developing your academic writing is a process and a skill that develops as you progress through your degree. The following tips will assist you in refining your skills. Click on the buttons below to navigate to the relevant section.

Paraphrasing, and Quoting

Paraphrasing and quoting are essential to good writing and academic integrity. However, it can be difficult to rewrite information from your reading in your own words and often students prefer to quote. Despite this, it is better to paraphrase than to quote, as explaining in your own words shows that you understand the information whereas quoting only really show that you can copy and paste the information.

The APA Style blog provides this fantastic tutorial on effective paraphrasing. Please note that it is long but totally worth it!

What is a paraphrase?

A paraphrase is when you write information in your words, without changing the original meaning. It is a legitimate way to include the ideas of others when appropriately referenced. A paraphrase is usually about the same length as the original, but both the sentence structure and the vocabulary must be different from the original. The intended meaning should not be changed. It is not enough to do just one of these (i.e., structure or vocabulary); you need to change both to effectively paraphrase.

Consider this example: . Smith and Jones (2020, p, 23) state “Based on our findings we conclude that social support can help manage life stressors and negative emotional states”.

Changing the structure

Use the following steps to change the structure of a paragraph.

  • Read the original until a full understanding of the meaning is achieved.

  • Write down the main points or words but do not copy down entire sentences.

  • Without referring to the text and using the main points; write your paraphrase from memory.

  • Check what you have written against the original text. You should check that they are not the same, as well as checking that you have not omitted anything.

Changing the words

People's writing styles and vocabulary are individual and distinct. It is generally easy to tell when someone has copied directly from a textbook, as the language and the words used change from the writer's normal style and vocabulary. To paraphrase a text, follow these steps:

  • After changing the structure, circle the specialised words ( i.e., the words that the text is about). These will need to be included in your paraphrase, as without them, the meaning of the paraphrase could change.

  • Underline any keywords or phrases that can be changed.

  • Find other words and phrases that have similar meanings that can be used to replace the keywords. A thesaurus or dictionary is helpful or look for synonyms in your word processing software.

Grammar and sentence structure

Every sentence has a subject (the ‘doer’ of the verb) and a verb, and often a controlling idea (or object of the verb) - (e.g., Internet technology (subject) has changed (verb) the way businesses communicate (controlling idea).

There are no sentence fragments. A sentence fragment is a sentence that is missing either a subject or a verb – it doesn’t contain the information necessary to make sense on its own (e.g., ‘Changed the way businesses communicate.’).

There are no run-on sentences (i.e., two or more ideas expressed in one sentence without punctuation or connecting words). For example: Internet technology has changed the way businesses communicate it continues to change at an ever-increasing pace. This sentence can be corrected by adding a conjunction (i.e., and, or writing as two sentences.

Structuring paragraphs

It is important to have well- structured paragraphs in your essay.

Each paragraph contains one main idea, expressed in a topic sentence (usually the first sentence). The topic sentence should make the point discussed in the paragraph clear. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph expand on this topic sentence, giving evidence (with references to the sources) and/or examples. These sentences should address the point made in the topic sentence. If you find yourself introducing a new point, you probably need a new paragraph. The final sentence is linked back to the main idea in the topic sentence. The example below illustrates the structure of a paragraph.

Some students tend to use very brief paragraphs of just one or two sentences. However, paragraphs are usually around 6-8 sentences and a single sentence does not normally constitute a paragraph! If you find yourself writing in a series of brief paragraphs (of 1 or 2 sentences), this indicates that you are not developing your ideas or argument well enough and you are probably simply listing points rather than discussing and developing a coherent, analytical argument.

The following short video from our CSU Academic Skills team (4:37 mins) will provide you with some guidance on how to structure a paragraph correctly.

Linking Words and Phrases

To make your work more readable and meaningful, ideas and paragraphs must be linked. Linking words are essential in developing coherent, logical arguments and discussion in your essays. They show the relationships between the ideas and are the glue that holds your writing together. The table below provides an overview of commonly used linking words (see here for a more comprehensive list).

Writing an argument

Arguments are simply propositions that support your thesis statement and logically lead to your conclusion (i.e., final proposition). That is, an argument is a set of statements that all link together to support your position. We use arguments in everyday life to convince others to accept our view, in academic writing it serves the same purpose.

The propositions that arguments consist of are usually referred to as their premises, intermediate conclusions and final conclusions. The ability to deconstruct arguments in this manner assists students, not only to evaluate the arguments of others but also to construct their own robust, strongly supported arguments – the type of arguments required in essays, experimental reports and exam answers. In short, the ability to decompose arguments is a skill that should be developed.

Watch this short video by Charles Sturt's Academic Skills team (5.00 mins) to learn more about an argument and developing effective ones.

Reference list vs. bibliography

Demonstrating academic integrity throughout your work is essential. Every time you include the evidence that support your arguments; you must acknowledge the work of those who provide the information by mentioning their names whenever you refer to their work. This process is known as referencing. When writing for Psychology subjects a Reference List is included as opposed to a bibliography. The reference list contains only the sources that are cited in the essay/report whereas a bibliography contains all sources which contributed to your understanding of the essay topic, regardless of whether or not you cited them in the essay. Bibliographies are only included if it is specified in the assessment instructions.

The reference list, bibliography and the individual in-text references are formatted to the American Psychological Association style (APA 7th ed.).

There are three key resources you can use to learn how to cite in APA Style.

CSU APA 7th edition Referencing Summary developed by the Academic Skills team