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Essay and report writing skills
Essay and report writing skills

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3 The purpose of writing

Let's take a step back and think about why you are writing assignments. As with most tasks, if you have an understanding of why you are doing something and how it fits into the bigger picture, it is easier to define what is required of you and therefore to do a good job.

So, what do you see as the reasons for writing assignments? Here are some suggestions:

  • to meet the assessment requirements of my course;

  • to demonstrate my understanding of particular topics to my tutor;

  • to check that my writing is at the right level for my course.

Most students tend to view the writing process in these terms: that it provides evidence of their understanding and skills to whoever is marking their work. It is possible to engage with the course materials for a while without knowing whether or not you have really understood what the writer is conveying. If you have the opportunity to attend tutorials, you may be able to listen to what is going on without feeling you have to say very much. Then comes the crunch. An assignment is due, and you are forced to expose your thinking and understanding to someone else – and be awarded marks for it. For many students, anxiety about assessment can overshadow the enjoyment and personal growth that the writing process can offer.

But what if you change the focus? While formal assessment is obviously important, take a moment to ask yourself ‘What can I gain from the writing process?’

Activity 2

Would you agree with the following statements? An assignment:

  • (a) provides an opportunity for me to think about different viewpoints or perspectives;

  • (b) helps me to come to a better, personal understanding of important theories and concepts; to internalise knowledge and ideas, ‘making them my own’;

  • (c) builds on my ability to analyse and apply new ideas;

  • (d) allows me to obtain feedback from my tutor and advice on how to improve;

  • (e) helps pull the course together and enables me to check out my progress.


Assignments are not just about producing something to please your tutor and gaining good marks, nor about moving bits of course material around into a slightly different form. The process of writing is an integral part of your personal learning development, improving your skills and understanding of the subject area.