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7 revision tips for university students

By | postgraduate advice, revision tips, Student advice, studying | No Comments

The United Kingdom, spring 2021.

Cafes and restaurants are open again, people are booking those long-awaited holidays, and exams are cancelled! Time to kick back and plan the best summer EVER, right?

No. Not for university students anyway.

Whilst GCSE and A-levels are cancelled (for this year), the higher education summer exam season is very much on. This means that undergraduates and postgraduates alike have a LOT of revision to get through before beach and BBQ season.

Revising effectively over the next few weeks will make all the difference to your final grades, and to your prospects in the competitive, post-pandemic job market.

So, in this month’s article, we share 7 of our top revision tips to help university students revise effectively (and make some time for self-care too).

  1. Study past papers

We’ll say it louder for the folk in the back…when it comes to exams, technique is crucial, even more so than knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you memorise the entire syllabus – if your exam technique is poor, your score will suffer.

So, as we enter exam season, your first step is to download and print every single past paper available, even if the syllabus has changed.

Completing past exam papers allows you to refine your exam technique and timing.  What’s more, by reviewing previous papers, you can get an idea of which questions come regularly, which means you can structure your revision plan to focus on key topics and revise more effectively.

For more detailed guidance on using past papers, see our study skills course – the link is at the end of this article.

  1. Eat well

Get your revision diet right, and your brain will receive all the nutrients it needs to help you revise  effectively, get it wrong, and your performance will suffer. The taditional reveision season diet of university students is caffeine, energy drinks, and processed foods. These may give you a quick energy burst, but they won’t help your cognitive functioning. There are plenty of guides to eating sensibly during revision season, but here are some key tips:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of plain water and eating fluid-rich foods such as soups, fruit, and vegetables
  • Minimise caffeine
  • Avoid cooking with salt as this will leave you more dehydrated
  • Choose nutritious foods that are easy to digest
  • Exercise portion control and don’t over-eat, because being too full brings on a state of extreme drowsiness that makes studying harder
  • Have plenty of healthy snacks available
  1. Get organised

Organisation is the key to effective revision, and the first thing you need is a revision plan. Revision timetables help you structure your workload and prioritise key topics, leaving you well-prepared for whatever the exam papers throw at you. It’s easy to become stressed and overwhelmed when you’re revising, but having a plan puts you in control of your learning. Learning to work in a disciplined, efficient way is a skill that will serve you well even beyond university, so think of planning as an investment in your future self.

  1. Identify your optimum study times

“One hour of 7pm is not the same as one hour of 7am”.

 – Dr Salah Sharief, Wordsmiths Director.


There will be times of day when you learn more effectively, and times when you don’t. Dr Sharief’s most productive study time is the early morning, whilst Liz, from our digital content team, is always more focussed in the evening. You’ll achieve far more if you study when your focus is highest, so identify when those times are, and plan your revision timetable accordingly.

  1. Take a break

Taking a break is important. Research suggests that employees in the workplace perform most effectively when they work for 50 minutes, then take a break of around 17 minutes. That’s true of university students too. So, split your revision into 50-minute sessions, taking a 15–20-minute break in between each session. You could use the break to practice a bit of self-care (such as meditating or having a long shower) or simply rest and refocus your brain for the next session.

  1. Get active

Fun fact: exercise helps you learn more effectively. That’s because the physiological effects of exercise can improve various cognitive functions, including such as memory and attention span.

The gyms are open again, but don’t worry if you’re not an exercise junkie – a gentle walk and some simple stretches will keep your brain primed for effective revision. You could even try doing a bit of cleaning (our Mothers made us write that). Leaning is a well-known work avoidance tactic – it’s no coincidence that student’s rooms are never tidier than when they have a deadline! We don’t mean a full spring-clean, even doing a bit of vacuuming will get you up and moving. Plus, if your workspace is clean and tidy, you’ll be more relaxed and less distracted, so you’ll learn more efficiently.

  1. Plan something nice

Much as it’s important to stay on-task with your learning, treating yourself matters too. So, practice self-care and plan a treat for yourself. You could meet a friend for lunch, book a hair or beauty treatment, or go get a takeout coffee (and maybe a cake, we’re not judging).

Planning a treat has two benefits: it lifts your spirits whilst also making it easier to stick to your study timetable. after all, it’s easier to say no to spontaneous invites if you’ve already got social plans booked for later in the week.

Looking for more in-depth advice on revision?

Wordsmiths has you covered. Our downloadable study skills manual – Mastering Study -was designed with university students in mind. It contains extensive advice on using past exam papers, refining your exam technique, and getting prepared for exam day itself. When it comes to exam technique, one size doesn’t fit all, so the manual includes differentiated exam guides for STEM and humanities students. What’s more, for those who also have end-of-term papers to submit, there’s a handy guide to essay writing.

Wordsmiths is a UK-based editing company that provides comprehensive academic proofreading and editing services. If you have end of year assignments or a dissertation to submit, why not let us help you? Our editorial team can refine your document and get it ready for submission, leaving you with more time to focus on the all-important revision. To book an editor, contact us on info@wordmsiths.org.uk.

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Remote Learning – 5 tips for University Students

By | Dissertations, postgraduate advice, Student advice | No Comments

Schools are back, exams are cancelled, and the UK government have a roadmap for exiting lockdown; everything is getting back to normal, isn’t it?

Well, yes, but not for everyone. The newly announced plans for re-opening education settings in England didn’t mention universities. So, although schoolchildren can return to the classroom on 8th March, university students will continue to learn remotely. What’s more, the university exam season is going ahead, and dissertation submission deadlines are looming too.

After months of isolation and remote learning, it’s natural for students to experience zoom-fatigue. The easing of restrictions means that the chance to resume your social life is tantalisingly close. which makes the prospect of more online learning even more onerous. However, these new freedoms come at a key point in the academic calendar, with dissertation deadlines and the university exam season fast approaching. The world may be re-opening, but the pressure for university students remains very much on. The work you do over the next few weeks will make all the difference to your final grades.

So how can you stay motivated for remote learning when the wolrd around you is reawakening? In this article, we discuss 5 ways to keep your studies on-track, whilst also making time for some self-care.

Clean and declutter.

It’s no coincidence that student’s rooms are never cleaner than when they have a deadline! Cleaning is well-known as a work-avoidance tactic, but a bit of cleaning and de-cluttering is no bad thing. We don’t mean re-paint the house and empty the attic but tidying your work area and giving it a thorough wipe-down can help you study. If your workspace is neat, clean, and comfortable, you’ll be more relaxed and less distracted, so you’ll learn more efficiently. Plus, you’ll feel as though you’ve achieved something, which can give you an important boost on those days where studying feels like an uphill struggle.

Write a study timetable and stick to it.

Study timetables are essential for any student. They help you keep track of deadlines, so you get work done in good time, and they allow you to plan your revision and make sure you’re well-prepared for whatever the test papers throw at you. Having a plan puts you in control of your learning and can be useful for those times when you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to do.

So, write a study timetable and stick to it, especially as your social calendar starts to fill up again (more of that later).

Identify your best learning time.


“One hour of 7pm is not the same as one hour of 7am”.

 – Dr Salah Sharief, Wordsmiths Director.


Those are wise words from our director (and no, he didn’t pay us to say that), but what do they mean? Quite simply, there will be times of day when you learn more effectively, and times when you don’t.

In Dr Sharief’s case, his most productive study time is the early morning, but that won’t be true for everyone. For example, our Creative Content Editor prefers to use mornings for physical and practical tasks (such as exercise and cleaning) before settling down to work in the afternoon when she’s more focussed. You will achieve far more if you study when your focus is highest, so identify when those times are, and plan your study timetable accordingly.

Stretch and move.

The lockdown has drastically increased the amount of time we spend staring at screens, and there are health costs to this shift. Extended periods spent staring at digital devices can cause eye problems, while a recent survey found that 89% of remote workers report musculoskeletal pain. If you spend a lot of time hunched over your laptop, it’s vital that you take regular movement breaks. Being active is important for learning too – research has shown that exercise can improve various cognitive functions such as memory and attention.

Now if you’re not an exercise junkie, don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you need to do vigorous exercise. A gentle walk and some simple stretches will help keep the aches and pains at bay, and keep your brain primed for effective studying.

Plan something nice.

With key deadlines and exams approaching, life can feel stressful for university students. That’s especially true if you’re spending most of the day stuck in your room alone. Much as it’s important to stay on-task with your learning, treating yourself matters too. So, plan something nice – meet a friend for a walk, go get a takeout coffee (and maybe a cake, we’re not judging). Planning a treat has the double benefit of lifting your spirits whilst also making it easier to stick to your study timetable -it’s easier to say no to spontaneous invites if you’ve already got social plans booked in.

Wordsmiths is a UK-based editing company that provides proofreading and copyediting services to publishers, media groups, and academic researchers. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive more of our studying and writing tips – you can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

How to write effectively (and 5 ways figurative language can help)

By | b2b, business advice, editing, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

You need to write effectively.

What do we mean by that?

Quite simply, effective writing is successful writing. It helps you achieve your goals. Whether you’re writing your thesis, pitching your first novel, or selling a product, your words need to captivate your reader and keep them engaged to the end. Otherwise, your message will be lost along with your audience. That’s where figurative language comes in. It brings colour to your writing, strengthens your argument, and paints unforgettable images in your reader’s mind. When used correctly, figurative language is memorable, persuasive, and impactful. It is the difference between telling a customer what they need, and persuading them to part with their cash.

For many of us, writing for an audience of some type is an everyday occurrence. Yet many people lack the confidence to use figurative language effectively in their writing. This month we delve into figurative language, defining it, giving examples, and exploring how it can help you to write effectively.

What is figurative language?

Figurative language uses words to create meanings and mental images that are more powerful than mere statements of fact. Figurative language is non-literal, so the words used have a different meaning to their everyday, literal definitions.

What does figurative language do?

It makes a piece of writing more interesting, dramatic, or memorable. It helps the writer to communicate their message as clearly as possible. Think of figurative language as the toolkit that writers use to build imagery – the pictures and sensations that a reader experiences in their mind. These pictures and sensations are the holy grail of effective writing. They tip the balance between stating your argument, and convincing your audience that you’re right. Figurative language achieves these effects in several ways:

  • Creating vivid images
  • Putting new or complex ideas into a familiar, understandable context
  • Giving words pace, musicality and rhythm.

Figurative language types

There are several types of figurative language available to writers – the following types are commonly used by writers to breathe life into their prose.

  • metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies one thing as another.

The agency was a colossus of the marketing industry.

  • simile compares two unalike objects introducing this comparison with connecting words such as “like” or “as”.

His eyes were as black as coal

  • Personification gives human qualities and forms to animals, inanimate objects, and ideas.

The shadows danced in the candlelight.

  • Hyperbole uses exaggeration intentionally to emphasise a point.

I’ve told you a thousand times!

  • Onomatopoeia is when a word or phrase mimics the sound of the object or action it refers to.

Crack of the whip

  • Alliteration layers sound upon the literal meaning of words to create an effect. It uses repeated sounds or letters to create imagery, mood, or emphasis.

The wild wind wailed a maudlin melody.

  • A Pun is a play on words. It uses the homonyms or different meanings of a word to create humour.

The past glared at the future perfect: it was a tense situation.

  • Idioms are non-literal phrases that are commonly used by speakers of the same language. Every language has its own unique idioms. The below phrase is a common English idiom which means that it is raining heavily.

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Using figurative language to write effectively

Knowing your similes from your idioms is all well and good, but it won’t help you pass your assignment or make that sale. You need to put your knowledge into practice. Here are five ways that you can use figurative language to produce high-impact writing that captivates your reader.


  1. Use sensory descriptions to immerse your reader

Your reader will be more engaged in your writing if you immerse them in your scenario. In other words, make them feel as though they are actually there with you. To do this, you’ll need to provide sensory descriptions – smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and textures. Figurative language offers a helping hand that makes your sensory descriptions more evocative. The below example uses alliteration and simile to describe the taste of a particular scotch whisky.

Talisker Skye has a smoky sweetness with maritime notes and a spicy edge,

rugged in beauty like a Hebridean island.

– Talisker Distillery, www.malts.com


  1. Persuade your audience

Whether you’re proposing a theory or selling a product, you need to persuade your reader that your ideas are right. Obviously, you’ll need to provide evidence to support your claims, but figurative language can make your argument more persuasive. The example below uses a metaphor that compares racism to a disease. Think about how the phrase makes you feel. It creates a feeling of disgust, of something being damaging, harmful and repellent. This emphasises how damaging racism can be, and the importance of eliminating it.

Racism is a disease that must be eradicated.

  1. Create emphasis and impact

Figurative language can be useful when you need to make an impact. It adds an extra layer of intensity to your statement. The sentence below is a commonly-used example of hyperbole that deliberately uses exaggeration to emphasise how hungry the person is. It is more effective than simply saying “I’m hungry”.

I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.


  1. Make your material relatable

There’s no doubt that some subjects lack popular appeal. Thankfully, figurative language invokes commonly-shared experiences to make even the driest material relatable. The following quote uses personification to describe the writing and editing process:

The goal of text generation is to throw confused, wide-eyed words on a page; the goal of text revision is to scrub the words clean so that they sound nice and can go out in public.

– Paul J. Silvia

Anyone who has bathed an unruly child can relate to the image that Paul J. Silvia creates. The description perfectly captures the process of writing and editing, even for an audience less familiar with the subject.


  1. Add clarity

We know that figurative language can help paint a picture in a reader’s mind, and sometimes that picture can help to add clarity to an idea or description. The example sentence uses a simile to compare the surface of a lake to a mirror, making it explicitly clear that the water is motionless.

The lake was perfectly still and smooth, like a mirror.


And finally…

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas about how to use figurative language in your writing. If you’re looking for more in-depth help and advice, contact Wordsmiths by email or WhatsApp. Our editing service can help bring your writing to life, keeping your readers engaged in your message. To find out more about our editing services, check out our website. You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook to get more tips on writing and editing. Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list to receive our latest news and blog first.

7 tips for completing a master’s application.

By | postgraduate advice, Student advice | No Comments

Completing your master’s application can be a daunting prospect. The application process is highly competitive, and you’ll need to sell yourself as the perfect candidate by showcasing your skills and experience. Having the right approach is crucial to a successful application – we’ve put together some tips to help you get started.

  1. Think carefully about your choice of course and university.

First choose your course. Decide whether you want to build on your undergraduate studies, or move into a new field. Next, find out which universities offer the best master’s courses in your chosen subject. You’ll need to consider whether their location will work with your other life commitments. If you need flexible/part time study options, check whether your chosen university offers these. Finally, think about whether you want to apply for several courses, or focus on just one.

  1. Consider your funding options.

Debt can be a major source of stress for postgraduate students, so consider how you’re going to fund your master’s studies. This includes your course fees and living expenses. It may be that you can save on travel and living costs by applying to a university that is closer to home. You may be eligible for financial assistance, so do some research to find out what loans and grants are available.

  1. Check the application requirements.

Check the application requirements for the course carefully – do you have the required grades and experience? If your grades are on the threshold, contact the university and ask if they will consider you. Don’t waste your precious time on an application that will be rejected immediately.

  1. Start your master’s application early.

Getting a head start has several advantages. For instance, some universities will stop accepting new applications once they have received sufficient interest in a course. If you haven’t completed your undergraduate degree yet, don’t panic. You can contact your university to get a predicted grade, and include this in your application. If you’re an international student, check whether you need to have an offer in place before applying for a visa. This is important, as any delay with your visa could prevent you from taking up your place on a course. Lastly, starting your application early means that you can beat the rush, and take your time to write your personal statement carefully.

  1. Make sure you have all the necessary information and documentation.

Most universities will ask you to provide academic transcripts, examples of your work, an up-to-date CV, two (or more) references, and the all-important personal statement. Some courses may also require you to submit a portfolio or a research proposal. Check the individual requirements for the course that you’re applying for.

  1. Think about your references

Academic staff expect to be named as referees, but it’s still good practice to ask your referee before naming them. Remember, academic staff get swamped with reference requests over the summer; starting your master’s application early gives them more time. It’s best to choose a referee who actually knows you and your work – don’t just go for the most senior/qualified individual. If you graduated a while ago and you’ve been working, you’ll need to provide a reference from your employer.

  1. Write an effective personal statement

The personal statement is the section of the master’s application where you need to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. It’s also the part that many people find hardest. Here are some ways to make sure that your personal statement stands out from the crowd.

Most master’s courses set a word limit for personal statements. Find out what the limit for your course is, and stick to it. It also helps to plan your personal statement before writing it. Careful planning will prevent you from repeating information, and make sure that you don’t miss out any important details.

Make sure your personal statement has a clear structure – introduction, body, and conclusion. Your introduction should be snappy and enthusiastic; your conclusion should be short, simple, and demonstrate how will be an asset to the university. In the body, explain how your qualities, skills, and experience make you the perfect candidate for the course. Many universities prefer well-rounded candidates, so don’t forget to mention your extra-curricular interests. Lastly, highlight your career goals, and explain how gaining a place on the course will help you to reach them.

Style is important. When you write, use a good standard of formal English, and employ any technical terms correctly. You should speak with certainty, avoiding vague phrases such as “I feel”. To improve the readability of your statement, use clear, short sentences – don’t showboat with overly-complicated phrases.

Last but not least, proofread your statement. Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation can be annoying to the reader. They will also leave admissions tutors with a poor impression of your ability to communicate in writing.

And finally…

If you need help with your master’s degree application, contact us today. Wordsmiths can proofread, edit, and paraphrase any of your application documents. To find out more, email us, chat direct via our website, or message us on Facebook and Instagram. Next month’s blog post will feature an in-depth discussion on writing personal statements for postgraduate applications. So, stay tuned, and subscribe to our emails to receive our latest posts.

How do I choose an editor (and what does an editor do?)

By | Deadlines, editing, Student advice | No Comments

Choosing an editor can be tricky. After all, you’re trusting them with your words and your hard-earned cash. You may be wondering if you even need an editor. People often ask us about what editors do, and how to choose one. So we want to answer those questions, and offer an insight into Wordsmiths’ editing service through the eyes of our customers.

Who uses your editing service?

In short, anyone who produces written content – from authors and charitable organisations, to students and website owners.

Why do your customers need an editor?

Some of our customers struggle with their word count or their deadlines.

“I had put so much work into my essay, but it was way over the word limit, and when I got ill, I knew I wouldn’t be able to edit it before the deadline. I was devastated because I’d worked so hard.” – Nadia, undergraduate law student.

“I had spent so much time on the designing of the book and the illustrations that I was in a rush to publish it. Customers were waiting eagerly to have the book.” – Shereen, author.

We also work with students who aren’t native English speakers. They are experts in their field, but their written English doesn’t always reflect their knowledge and expertise.

“I studied English for many years before I came here but when I write it is sometimes hard to explain my ideas in the best way. I wanted my research proposal to use the correct language” – Michael, postgraduate engineering student.

Our customers may need work on their writing style to make their content more effective. An external editor offers objectivity: writing is a creative process and it’s easier to edit effectively when you aren’t emotionally attached to the content.

“Our website looked great, the information was all there. But it didn’t really highlight our business philosophy and unique selling points. We needed a fresh set of eyes to re-vamp the written sections.” – Yusuf, small business owner.

What does an editor do?

Our editors comb through every aspect of written content. They consider overall structure, paragraph structure, content, clarity, style, and the use of citations.

Editors make improvements by:

  • Cutting out clutter.
  • Restructuring sentences and paragraphs.
  • Making words and sentences clearer, more precise, and more effective.
  • Proofreading to eliminate misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation.

“The editor improved the language of my proposal, suggesting better words and phrases.” – Michael.

How do I choose an editor?

You understand what an editor does: now you need to find one. Here are some things to consider when choosing an editing service:

  • Website: A good editing service will have a professional-looking, well-written website. It should provide clear information on services and pricing, and give contact details.

“I didn’t know what editorial services other authors had used, so I did an online search and the one that caught my attention was Wordsmiths.” – Shereen.

  • Recommendations: There is no better endorsement than that of a satisfied customer. In fact, most of our first-time clients come to us via recommendations from previous customers.

“My colleague had used Wordsmiths and his experiences were very positive.” – Michael.

  • Customer service: A good editor will respond to your messages promptly. Communication matters – good editors are polite, approachable and professional, and happy to answer your questions fully.

“I got a fast response from Wordsmiths’ director. He was friendly, but thorough, and really took the time to understand what we needed. Once we placed our order, the work was returned to us on time, and we were really happy with it.” – Yusuf.

  • Transparency: Trustworthy editors will be happy to provide samples of their work. They should offer a free quote, making it clear what the quote includes (and what it doesn’t).

“We discussed my needs in detail via email, including my deadline. I got a free quote and I was happy with it.” – Nadia.

  • Qualifications and experience: The editor should be able to meet your individual needs, especially if your material covers a specialist subject, or has specific style requirements. After all, any competent editor can proofread, but not every editor has the skillset to edit a thesis on biotechnology. That’s why all Wordsmiths editors are graduates from UK universities. They have extensive knowledge and professional experience in fields such as law, healthcare, and finance. We allocate cases according to their specialism.

“Wordsmiths asked for details regarding my book content, and because it was an Islamic book, they directed me to a Muslim editor who worked on it.” – Shereen.

“In part of my essay I had used the wrong legal term. Because my editor was a law graduate, she noticed the mistake straight away…she didn’t just correct the problem, she explained it, and provided links to resources that helped me to better understand the terms” – Nadia.

How does your editing service benefit customers?

Editing helps clients to achieve their goals. Above all, we want to make our clients’ lives easier, allowing them to enjoy the success they deserve.

“Basically, the editing made us sound better!! The editing helped us to highlight our business philosophy and business identity which is a big part of what attracts our customers. I wasn’t sure if hiring an editor was worth the expense, but I now I know that the style of the words is just as important as the visuals.” – Yusuf.

“The editor asked questions about my proposal…I added new evidence and explained my method in more detail. My plan was much stronger.” – Michael.

“My essay got 65%…I just wouldn’t have been able to meet my deadline without hiring an editor. It removed all the stress I was feeling.” – Nadia.

How can I find out more?

If you want to know more about our editing services, or you have a specific piece of work that you’d like us to take a look at, we’re ready to help! You can contact us by email, chat direct via our website, or get in touch on our social media accounts at Facebook and Instagram.


How to write a disseratation

How to write a dissertation (and why it’s different from an essay)

By | Dissertations, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

How can you write a dissertation? If you’ve written plenty of essays, and done well, it’s tempting to approach your dissertation in much the same way. This is a common mistake among students, both undergrad and postgrad.

An essay is much shorter than a dissertation (around 2,000-5,000 words rather than 20,000). But dissertations are much more than simply long essays. Dissertations require a deeper level of understanding and original thought backed up by thorough evidence.


Planning is vital to learning how to write a successful dissertation. Some people find this comes naturally, others are more of the ‘sit down and write and see what comes of it’ school of thought. If you’re of the latter type, you’ll need to adjust your approach. Winging it might work for an essay of 2,000 words, but for a dissertation, you’ll quickly struggle if you don’t have a plan.

With an essay, you might be able to have a very simple plan – introduction, discussion, conclusion. With a dissertation, you’ll need to set out chapters and sub-sections too. You might choose to adjust these as you write but having them set out before you start to write gives your work vital purpose.

It’s important that the structure of your dissertation shows that you’ve carried out thorough research, you’ve thought through all aspects of the subject fully, and you’ve come up with an insightful conclusion that makes a contribution to the body of research in your subject. You should also be able to show that you recognise the limitations of your own work.

This means that you should consider a structure something like this:

Introduction – this should be a clear definition of your project; a demonstration that you have knowledge of other research in the area.

The research – you’ll need to set out the research you’ve done and describe any problems you had as well as the solutions you found.

The argument – this is where you begin to draw conclusions from the research. Break it down into subsections that each have their own focus. This is the part of the dissertation that it’s tempting to pack out with filler, but don’t. Every paragraph, and every sentence, should have a purpose.

The conclusion – you’ll need to summarise your findings and discuss what needs to be done next. If you plan to go on to a PhD, this can be an opportunity to set out an idea for your thesis.

Your writing style

Writing style is important. Writing habits that might just grate a little in a 2,000 word essay can become decidedly irritating to your tutor over the course of 10-20,000 words. It’s important to remember that good writing is not necessarily complex writing. Good writing achieves its purpose. A dissertation’s purpose is to put across a clear, focussed, persuasive argument, backed up by evidence.

Some general style principles to think about:

  • Short sentences are very often better sentences. While it’s good to vary the length to some degree, you should generally be looking to keep your sentences at 25 words or fewer. Stick to ‘one thought per sentence’ and you’ll find that this tends to happen automatically.
  • Each new point needs a new paragraph. If you’re changing subject, you need a new sub-section with its own headline.
  • Use plain English, while demonstrating your knowledge of relevant terms. Don’t use obscure words simply because you believe they’ll sound impressive. Simpler is nearly always better. At the same time, it’s important that you can show you understand the language of your subject and use whatever technical terms others writing in your field do.

Your argument

You need to take a strong, unambiguous position, backed up by your own research. It may help to imagine that you are not writing a dissertation, but an academic book. You’d only write a book that you believed in. Make sure you believe in your own argument when you write your dissertation.

Also anticipate counter-arguments. What do you think others would say? How can you counter their objections? Anticipating counter arguments demonstrates that you’ve looked at your subject from multiple standpoints and developed a really thorough understanding of it.

Need some more help with writing your dissertation? If you’ve got the basics right, our editors can help with the finishing touches.






Seven tips for studying during Ramadan

By | Student advice | No Comments

If you have exams and essay deadlines during Ramadan, you might be worried that studying while fasting will affect your performance. Don’t panic – we have some handy tips to help you adapt and re-structure your routine so you can study and fast successfully

1) Change your diet and routine BEFORE Ramadan starts

Effective preparation is the key to studying during Ramadan – you need to make changes before the holy month starts. Begin by reducing what you eat between dawn and sunset so that your body gradually adjusts to fasting. Cut down on tea, coffee, and sugar too, as you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness, anxiety, irritability, and poor concentration. These symptoms can last for over a week, affecting your ability to study while fasting, so it’s better to work through them before Ramadan starts. Finally, do a practice fast, so you can identify the times of day when you feel most alert and most tired. This will help you to plan your studies more effectively

2) Stay cool and conserve your energy levels

Warm weather increases the risk of mild dehydration, leading to headaches and tiredness. So chose cool, shaded areas to study in. Taking a cool bath will also help to bring your body temperature down. Avoid excessive physical activity, social events, and busy areas as these will sap your energy, making it harder for you to study while fasting. If possible, take a nap a couple of hours before sunset when your energy levels are at their lowest ebb.

3) Study when your energy levels are at their highest

Your energy levels will be highest after you eat and sleep, so these are the best times to study during Ramadan. Set a study plan that fits with your life. If you don’t have work or college in the day, you might find it easier to begin studying after Iftar and work through the night, maybe doing a short session after Suhoor before you go to sleep. If your responsibilities mean that you can’t stay up all night, you can still study after Iftar before going to sleep. You can then work a little when you wake up, and study after Suhoor until you need to leave the house. Getting your study time in early means that you can rest guilt-free later in the day when you start to feel tired.

4) Avoid temptations and distractions

Avoid studying or arranging to meet people in crowded places and settings that serve food. A group revision session in a crowded café won’t be a productive way to study during Ramadan. If you do have an unavoidable study or social commitment, try and pick a location that has as few distractions as possible.

5) Study for short periods and take regular breaks

Split your study into 20 minute periods, taking a short break in between each one. This is the most productive way to study even when you aren’t fasting. You could use your breaks to read, relax or complete some other jobs on your to-do list.

6) Set a study plan and stick to it

Set out a work plan for studying during Ramadan, so that you can work in an organised, efficient way and achieve your study goals. Complete any written work first, then do your reading tasks, as reading requires more concentration.

7) Eat and drink sensibly

During Iftar and Suhoor, drink plenty of plain water and eat fluid-rich foods such as soups, fruit and vegetables so you start the following day well-hydrated. Avoid caffeine and salt – these will make you more dehydrated. Choose nutritious foods that are easy to digest, and DON’T OVEREAT. It may be tempting to stuff yourself when you feel hungry, but this is the most counter-productive thing you can do. Over-eating will send you into a “food coma” – a state of extreme drowsiness. In fact, studying while fasting is easier than studying when you are too full.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Writing in a Week…and Smash That Deadline

By | Deadlines, Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

You’ve got a deadline next week. Maybe you’ve written nothing, or maybe you’ve written plenty, but you know it’s not good enough. How can you improve your writing before that deadline hits?

Tempting as it is to pretend it’s not happening, the deadline’s not going anywhere. If you’ve got all the ideas and the arguments in your head, but know you need some help to put them into engaging, grammatically sound words, read on. Here are 5 ways to improve your writing quickly and make sure you ace that essay even when you’re short on time.

Keep a journal to improve your writing every day

Writing a journal is a fantastic way to improve your writing. Because you’re writing about your own life, writer’s block tends not to hit. Every evening, sit down for 15 minutes (or longer!) and write freely about the events of your day. Even if all you did was watch Netflix, write about it.

The idea is to get some words on the page, without pressure. This helps you improve your writing by getting you in a writing habit, giving you an easy way to analyse your work. Don’t worry about grammar or style while you’re writing, but when you’re done, look over your work and see how it could be improved. If there are particular things you know you struggle with, keep an eye out for them. You could also check your writing against your university’s style guide to see how it measures up.

It’s worth staying in the journal-writing habit even after your deadline’s passed, as it’s a great way to improve your writing, year after year.

Improve your writing by being leaner…learn the art of cutting down

When you’re struggling to make a word count, it’s tempting to add in lots of filler words just to make your essay longer. Don’t do this. Good writing is about saying what you need to without using unnecessary words. Take a look at your last essay and see where you have could cut words without losing meaning.

Cutting words out that you don’t need actually helps convey more meaning, as the extra words tend to get in the way of your argument. It’s one of the easiest ways there is to improve your writing. Phrases like ‘on the other hand’ and ‘in addition’ are usually unnecessary, so take them out. In academic writing (and writing in general), adjectives and adverbs aren’t often needed. To improve your writing, take them all out, and then work through, one by one, to see which (if any) you want to put back.

Critique with a friend to improve your writing, and theirs

Good writers know how to take and give constructive criticism. Improve your writing by finding a friend you trust and spend some time together critiquing each other’s work. You don’t need to get bogged down in technical grammar points – look instead at whether your friend understands the arguments you’re making and whether they think the work flows well.

They don’t have to be studying the same subject as you – in some ways, it might be better if they aren’t. If someone with no knowledge of your subject can understand your writing, it’s probably pretty good.

Set yourself a creative challenge to improve your essay writing

Improve your writing by making writing fun. Indulge in a bit of creative writing of some kind – whether a short story, or poetry, or creative non-fiction. If you’re stuck for ideas, you could be inspired by a novel you love, or scan the news websites for an interesting story that could be rewritten as fiction. Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. Don’t spend time analysing it – just enjoy playing around with words and building your confidence to improve your writing.

Improve your writing by learning to proofread

Writing is only half the battle. Learning how to proofread effectively is the other half of the work you’ll need to do to improve your writing. Many students forget to build in time for proofreading and hand in essays full of errors as a result. This makes you look careless and could lose you marks.

Don’t allow this to happen. If you’re not a confident proofreader, either see if you can find a friend to help or think about using our proofreading service. But, however you do it, make sure it happens if you really want to improve your writing.




7 Ways to Improve Your Essay Writing

By | Student advice, Writing tips | No Comments

Every student needs good essay writing skills. Essays are your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, passion, and skill to your tutors.

Turning out several thousand well-crafted words on a regular basis isn’t easy, especially if you feel you’re not a natural writer. But here’s the thing: people who appear to be ‘natural’ writers rarely are. The difference between them and you is simply that they’ve spent time learning about language and essay-writing.

Doesn’t sound appealing? Remember: whatever career you end up in, you’ll use the essay writing skills you develop now, even if you never write another university essay. Essay writing isn’t just about ticking boxes to get a grade. It’s about being able to research well, draw conclusions, and communicate them to your audience. Those are skills you’ll need in pretty much any professional career.

Don’t Skimp on Essay Writing Research

Students often have a tendency to think of the essay writing as the main event, and the research as just a little bit of prep. Don’t do this. Your research should take up much more time than writing, so put plenty of time for it in your diary.

You’ll find that writing is far easier if you read widely and gain a thorough understanding of your subject before you start. It’s also obvious to your tutors who knows their stuff and who’s trying to wing it.

Have a Clear Goal

When you write an essay, you’re answering a question. Before you write anything else, write your answer to the question being posed in a sentence or two. Use as few words as possible.

This might be difficult – but it’s important. If you can’t do it, you need to spend more time clarifying your thoughts (and answering the question) before you go any further.

Make a Plan

Don’t just start writing. Make a detailed outline plan of your essay, including the introduction, main body, and the conclusion. The main body is where you present your arguments, using the evidence you’ve found during your research. It should lead naturally to the conclusion. The conclusion should never be a surprise. If it is, you need to go back and re-plan.

Read for Pleasure

Good writers read. And they don’t just read the things they have to read. As well as academic books and articles related to your essay, read newspapers, novels, poetry, and texts from other subjects. Reading anything and everything you can will mean you absorb knowledge about style, improve your vocabulary, and understand more about language and the way it works.

Build Your Language Skills

This is particularly important if you’re not a native English speaker. Even if you are, there is always room to improve. Better vocabulary means you have more words in your arsenal to get your point across. Better grammar knowledge means being able to get your point across more clearly.

If you’re following point 4 and reading lots, you’ll find that your knowledge improves naturally, but there’s a lot you can do to help it along even further. As you read, look up any words you’re not sure of. Notice how other writers use grammar and again, look up anything you’re unsure of.

Invest in a good quality paper dictionary and thesaurus, or an online subscription rather than relying on free online resources. Free resources can be useful, but they simply won’t give you the depth of knowledge you need to really improve.

Think About Tone of Voice

The way you write is just as vital to communication as the words you use. Think about how you’d speak to your tutor if you were trying to explain something and try and use similar language as you write.

Academic writing usually needs to be relatively formal but should not be overly complicated or fussy. Use clear, plain English and avoid using more words than you need to (even if you’re trying to get your essay up to a certain word count!).

Use the active rather than the passive voice. So, use ‘the government passed the law’ not ‘the law was passed by the government’.

Write with Confidence

The point of an essay is to answer a question. So, answer it. Be very clear about what you’re saying. If you’re not, your writing will inevitably become fuzzy and hard to understand and it’ll be obvious you don’t really believe your own answer.

Most tutors want to see an essay that provides a clear answer, even if they disagree it. They’d rather that than an essay that is closer to their own opinion that fails to answer the question being asked.