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Transkills: supporting transition to University


Due to its importance in academic writing, supervisors and examiners commonly comment on structural issues in their feedback. However, this feedback may vary in the way it is expressed, because of the abstract and hard-to-define nature of structure. Typical supervisor comments indicative of a problem with structure might include:

  • "your writing doesn't flow"
  • "the argument isn't clear"
  • "this is repetitive"
  • "jumps around - ideas are not linked"
  • "difficult to follow"

If you get feedback like this, some thought needs to be given as to where in the process of writing an essay you need to direct your efforts. Structure feeds into the whole process of writing an essay, and it helps to identify the point at which your approach is not as structured as it could be. As the author, you are perhaps in the best position to know this, as your reader only sees the end result of your work.

Diagnostic question

Which statement best describes your approach to planning and writing?

A: I don’t plan my essays; it feels like a waste of time. I’d rather get on with the writing. I think better when I’m writing - how can I know what I’m going to say in advance?

B: I try to plan my essays - that’s what you’re supposed to do, but maybe I’m not going about it the right way. It doesn’t seem to help me produce better essays. I’m not sure what they mean when they say my ideas don’t “flow”.

C: I do plan my essays! It really helps me to work my ideas out, and I really don’t know why I keep getting feedback about my structure.

Once you have selected the statement that best describes you, click here to see relevant guidance about improving the structure of your essays.

The following pages give you more advice:

Finding a clear direction

Effective planning

Communicating structure effectively