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Some common problems – checklist

Checklist of common problems
Problem Comment
Too much description, not enough analysis
  • A common complaint of lecturers is that students in general tend to describe rather than analyse in their writing. It is usually not enough simply to outline what you have read. You need to evaluate the ideas, compare them with those of other writers, and examine issues and perspectives critically.
Poor structure What helps:

  • linking words
  • transition sentences
  • careful paragraphing
  • 'signpost' expressions
  • sub-headings
  • consistency between introductions and conclusions
Wrong register (language too informal)
  • Do not use contractions.
  • Use academic written, not spoken English.
  • Avoid slang or colloquial language and idiom.
Ineffective paraphrasing
  • Avoid 'patchwork paraphrasing'.
Too many quotes
  • Whilst it is important to refer to other writers in academic writing, it is also important not to rely too heavily on their words. Try to paraphrase much more than you quote.
Poor choice of quotes
  • Only use a direct quote if it is particularly well-expressed or the ideas are particularly significant. Appropriate quotes used sparingly can greatly improve your writing, but using too many quotes, particularly if they are not well chosen, will detract from your writing.
Insufficient or inadequate sources
  • Quantity of your references
  • Quality of your references
Incorrect referencing
  • Ensure you understand the style required for the particular assignment.
  • Failure to acknowledge the source of all ideas is a serious matter. Copying directly from another text without acknowledgement is even more serious.
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