An Academic Writing Module: Paragraphs

This tutorial contains interactive writing exercises for self-directed study that focus on the paragraph and includes work on important areas such as topic sentences, paragraph building, using sources and paragraph types

You Quote it, You Note it

Online tutorial on plagiarism that makes it very clear what it is, what the consequences can be and how it can be avoided.

Why and how to quote, summarise and paraphrase

Short online tutorial on the reasons for quoting, summarising and paraphrasing from the University of New South Wales. There's also a page on the language used to introduce quotes and paraphrases that also provides examples. And this page from the University of Toronto provides a hand list of verbs for referring to sources.

Academic listening

If you’re attending or preparing to attend an English-speaking university, or simply want to improve your listening skills, this series of BBC podcasts is for you. It’s about learning to listen, and listening to learn.

Academic English Reading and Writing

This link to the University of Comte website will take you to a wide range of academic writing related exercises.

Academic vocabulary

This University of Nottingham site describes itself as follows:

This site will help you expand your academic vocabulary using the Academic Word List (the AWL). All students, home students and overseas students, need to learn the technical vocabulary of their field. As learners of English preparing for academic study you also need to learn general academic vocabulary, words such as: feature, illustrate, regulate, strategy. This core academic vocabulary is used by writers in many different subject areas. Learning vocabulary from the AWL will help you improve your comprehension of academic texts. It will also help you write assignments in an academic style.

English for Academic Purposes

On these pages made available by Centre for Independent Language Learning (CILL) based in Hong Kong you can find a wide range of good quality resources to help with academic writing. It is worth exploring all the units on the page, but the following may be of particular interest:

Unit 2: Developing academic writing skills
Unit 4: Using sources in academic writing
Unit 5: Organising extended academic texts
Unit 6: Achieving an academic writing style

Also from the Centre for Independent Language Learning (CILL) are these academic vocabulary crosswords: Crossword one and Crossword two.

Citing sources

Follow this link and then click on "Citation" in the navigation bar on the left. As you will read on reaching this resource: "One of the most important aspects of academic writing is making use of the ideas of other people. This is important as you need to show that you have understood the materials that you have studied and that you can use their ideas and findings in your own way. In fact, this is an essential skill for every student." Use this well written resource to learn how to cite sources correctly, using referencing, paraphrasing, direct quotation, etc.

Style guide

This link to the Style guide page is full of useful reference tools to help with your academic writing. For example, there are guides on punctuation, on dealing with footnotes, bibliographies and much more!

10 Steps to Successful Academic writing

Here is a very detailed, very professional slideshow on research methods prepared by my very dear friend Alin Balian, who I had the great pleasure of meeting when we were both studying at Warwick University, and who is now based in Dubai and is the co-founder of the consultancy BOA Training & Consulting.

Introducing Quotations & Paraphrases

Writing an academic text very often involves referring to the ideas, writings and discoveries of experts on the subject. These contributions are always acknowledged by referencing, and there will be times when you introduce other people's views into your work and want to name them in the text. Naming other authors when you're introducing their views into your work can be done with quotations or paraphrases. This page provides examples and advice on how to do this.


The following activities are based on resources written by Purdue OWL, revised by Ryan Weber, and last edited by Dana Lynn Driscoll on December 14th 2006.


a) Consider the two versions of a text about a visit to Canada and Alaska:

Version 1
The Winslow family visited Canada and Alaska last summer to find some native American art. In Anchorage stores they found some excellent examples of soapstone carvings. But they couldn't find a dealer selling any of the woven wall hangings they wanted. They were very disappointed when they left Anchorage empty-handed.

Version 2
The Winslow family visited Canada and Alaska last summer to find some native American art, such as soapstone carvings and wall hangings. Anchorage stores had many soapstone items available. Still, they were disappointed to learn that wall hangings, which they had especially wanted, were difficult to find. Sadly, they left empty-handed.

b) Which version do you prefer? Why?

c) Now use what we have learnt from activity to revise the following text:

Many really good blues guitarists have all had the last name King. They have been named Freddie King and Albert King and B.B. King. The name King must make a bluesman a really good bluesman. The bluesmen named King have all been very talented and good guitar players. The claim that a name can make a guitarist good may not be that far fetched.

Create a skrbl pad (chat room) and work on the text together.


a) Too many sentences starting with the same word, especially "The," "It," "This," or "I," can result in prose that is tedious for readers, so changing opening words and phrases can be refreshing. Here is fairly standard sentence:
  • The biggest coincidence that day happened when David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.

And here are some possible alternative beginnings:
  • Coincidentally, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • In an amazing coincidence, David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
  • Sitting next to David at the Super Bowl was a tremendous coincidence.

Notice, however, that the emphasis and meaning of each version is slightly different. This means that in order to convey the same meaning and maintain the same impact you would need to revise the sentences before and/or after this one in the full text.

b) Here are eight more openings for possible alternative versions of the sentence. Work together and complete them.
  • But the biggest ...
  • When I sat down ...
  • By sheer ...
  • With over 50,000 fans at ...
  • What are the odds that ...
  • David and I, without any prior ...
  • At the crowded Super Bowl, packed with ...
  • Unbelievable, I know, ...


In academic writing it is common to make generalizations. It is often useful to support these generalizations with examples. The following texts all contain examples of this. Complete them by filling the gaps with suitable exemplification words or phrases.

Text 1
The quiet outpouring of lava is characteristic of basaltic lavas with about 50 per cent silica. The Hawaiian volcanoes (1) ……….. typical ……….. . On the island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa rises 13, 675 feet above sea level and 20 miles away is Kilauea 4,000 feet high.

Text 2
Though the authorities do not seem to have been aware of the scale and significance of capital flows within the sterling area, they were aware that the exchange controls in that area were not all that London hoped. (2) ………. , a major recipient of capital from the UK in this period, Australia, had notoriously "leaky" controls.

Text 3
Morgan was not interested in the terms for themselves but in the principles which they seemed to reveal when they were put together. (3) ………. , he would have been interested in the fact that the English word "uncle" can be used in speaking both of one's mother's brother and one's father's brother while in Swedish, (4) ………. , two different words are used.

Text 4
Understanding this religious social consciousness requires some grasp of the traditional Catholic teaching on the natural order and the good society, and how the nation is to respect the divine order established by God. (5) ………. can be taken from the recent contraception controversy which began in the 1960s.

Text 5
What socialism there has been among the catholic _ nationalist tradition has always tended to be allied to republicanism, especially in the period 1913 to 1930 (Rumpf and Hepburn 1977: 13). The trade union movement was (6) ………. .

To check your answers and see further examples language to perform this rhetorical function click here, then click on Functions (in red) in the left-hand side menu, and finally select Giving examples.

In academic writing it is especially important to be able to use a wide range of connecting words to link the information and ideas you wish to convey. The connections between these ideas can vary and so it is important to be able to express these differences by using appropriate linking words or phrases. This link is to a short test on this kind of language. As you do it make a note of any new connecting words and of any that you had problems with. Let me know of any problems areas so that we can work on these together.

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