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Academic writing: purpose & planning

Identifying purpose and reader

The first step to writing academically is to clearly define the purpose of the writing and the audience or reader. In general, most formal academic writing at university is set by, and written for, an academic tutor or assessor, and there should be clear criteria against which they will mark your work. You will need to spend some time and thought deciding how to tackle your assignments and what content and approach is going to be most appropriate; see our Interpreting your assignment (activity) for more details about how to do this.

If you are writing primarily for yourself, for example making notes to record or to make sense of something, then you can set your own criteria such as clarity, brevity, relevance. See our Note taking and note making tutorial (activity) for further help.


Once you have a clear idea of what is required of you for your assignment, you can start planning your research and gathering evidence, and then your response to the task. See Planning your assignment for advice on breaking down the different steps in this process.