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skills development

Writing is not a single skill. In fact, writing requires a complex performance of many skills to succeed. For example, a good academic paper requires you to:

  • Plan and organise your thoughts (outlines, mindmaps)
  • Use a library or website to search for resources
  • Choose the best sources to focus on
  • Understand where to find the most important information from the sources you use 
  • Keep track of that information to use as evidence
  • Understand your own opinions and those of others in the field 
  • Convey your ideas in a logical and coherent order
  • Cite and reference information where necessary to attribute ideas to particular sources
  • Format the text according to disciplinary conventions, such as using Overleaf for scientific writing and publishing

Have a look at the factsheets in the "related resources" box on this page.


Image used: shutterstock_319861256. Image edited by Southampton University library.

Related resources:

Source evaluation table (PDF): Helps to organise your thoughts and your research before you start writing.

Using Sources Effectively (PDF): Guidance on summarizing, paraphrasing and quoting in your writing. 

Note making (PDF): Making the most of your notes is a way of improving the focus and clarity of your writing.

Annotated bibliography (PDF): This is a great way of engaging with sources in a critical way during the research phase.

Freewriting (PDF): Try this excercise as a way of changing chaotic and disorganised thoughts into new and clear ideas.

Outlining (PDF): Helps you to structure your assignment and retain your focus throughout the process of writing.

Refining thesis statements (PDF): Refine your thesis statement to maintain focus and clarity in your writing.

Reverse outlining (PDF): Get to grips with the structure and focus of your paper by reverse outlining.

Introductions (PDF): A quick look at how to write and structure an effective introduction.

Paraphrasing (PDF): Avoid plagiarism by learning how to paraphrase in a clear and accurate manner.

Planning and preparing to write assignments (PDF): University of Nottingham. Covers the various skills involved in writing an essay, and has a useful list of essay terms as well!

Proofreading (PDF): Learn how to edit and proofread your own work before submission.


Proofreading: the basics This Panopto recording of a Library Skills for Success workshop explains the differences between editing and proofreading. It covers practical tips for proofreading your written work to picking up errors in spelling, formatting, punctuation etc. 

How to use sources in your academic writing Dr Paul Pen provides advice on how to use sources effectively in your academic writing via Youtube channel: Psychology of Effective Studying

Academic Writing Resources – University of Coventry. Succinct guides about the writing process.

Understanding Feedback - looks at receiving and interpreting feedback. Taken from the University of Southampton Library's  'Getting started' guide. 

The Writing Process – Purdue Online Writing Lab. Various guides to help with the skills involved in writing an essay from start to finish.

Writing Handouts - University of North Carolina. Covers lots of skills (with videos!). 

Using Overleaf - Overleaf is an online LaTeX editor, designed to make the process of writing (including inserting citations, graphs, tables etc.), editing and producing papers quicker and easier. For more, see the Library's guidance on Overleaf and the University of Southampton on Overleaf webpage

Log in to Skills for Study and download the following titles:

Critical Analytical Thinking--A checklist


Making Your Notes Useful and Memorable


Editing checklist


Checking Your Paragraphs