Academic Skills

Helping you get the most out of your studies


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As exam season rolls around, here are our top ten tips for improving your exam scores.

1. Attend revision sessions

Revision lectures and workshops are designed to help you focus on key semester one content. Your tutors will probably provide plenty of hints and nudges towards what areas to focus on for exam prep, so attendance should be on your priority list. (more…)

Choosing suitable reporting verbs when building your reasoned argument

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The University of Warwick has some great online resources on academic writing skills, including this very helpful table on how to select the most suitable reporting verbs (based on the strength of the writer's position) when quoting or paraphrasing sources.

The Use of Reporting Verbs in Academic Writing

Here's the link to their Academic skills pages: The University of Warwick


How to build your critical response using argument-counter argument

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Developing a critical response in your assignment involves carefully selecting and combining the voices of others to support your thesis ( your argument, position, or purpose) and drive it forward. These voices  may include academic argument, evidence, data, theories, examples, case studies and so on. Critical response, however, is also about evaluation of those selected voices, even when this could potentially undermine your thesis. However, the use of an argument-counter argument approach in your writing can help you to evaluate and strengthen your position at the same time. Here's how it works:

Stage 1:

First, you need to consider and predict some of the arguments that may be pitched against your thesis (position). You need to unpack them and show how and why this evidence may be flawed. You can then present your counter-arguments or counter-evidence, using your academic 'soldiers' to counter-attack and strengthen your thesis. Thus by predicting and counter-attacking your enemies' game plan with counter-evidence, you strengthen your own case.

Stage 2:

Some of these arguments of course, may be directed towards the views or evidence presented by your academic supporters. The most effective critical responses in academic writing take this into account, and involve the evaluation of not only the evidence and arguments presented by critics of your thesis, but also the evidence and arguments of your own supporters.  So, if you spot a weakness in the evidence presented by one of your ‘soldiers’, then it is important to acknowledge and address this without undermining your thesis. You can do this by finding further sources that answer or refute these criticisms and so continues to support and further strengthen your thesis.

Argument/counter-argument structure therefore  allows you to explore, analyse and evaluate all sides of the issues around your thesis. This approach also strengthens your argument as it shows that you have thought of every angle, whilst providing a compelling and convincing case.

The following diagram illustrates how argument-counter argument works in practice.

argument graphic 6


Understanding Instruction Words in Academic Essay Titles

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Instruction or command words indicate what your tutor would like you to do in your written assignment. It is vital that you understand exactly what these instruction words mean so that you can address all parts of the assignment question and provide a comprehensive and complete response.

Here is a list of some of the main instruction/command words most commonly used in essay questions (and examination questions as well), together with explanations. (more…)

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN for Academic Skills Courses

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Register Now for a place on one of our Academic Skills courses . We have a number of 10 week and 3 week courses available to help you improve your academic skills, from writing, to presentation skills to reading complex academic texts. The classes are FREE and open to all students, regardless of your level, discipline or first language.

You can see more information on our website  (

Registration via Moodle. (You will need to self-enroll)