The Writing Process

Writing for university assessments - like any other skill - is something you can develop. You just need to learn what is required and try to avoid some common mistakes.
Student with laptop sitting on a colourful chair

Common mistake 1: All you have to do is write

Really? Unfortunately there’s a lot more involved.

Writing is a process with several stages as you can see below (see more in our other ‘Writing’ guides).


Common mistake 2: Write down everything you know on the subject

Think again! Carefully read and analyse the assignment you have been set. Make sure that you do what you have been asked to do.

Check that you are not missing out any steps in the process that may help you write successful assignments.

Get more detail and helpful tips on each individual stage in our Writing 1, 2 and 3 guides.

Student reading a book and drinking coffee

Tips for generating thinking and ideas

  • Ask yourself questions. What do I already know? What don’t I know? What do I need to find out? Am I trying to explain something or to convince my reader? What am I trying to convince them of?
  • Talk, tell (or imagine telling) someone what you are trying to ‘answer’ in your piece of writing.
  • ‘Rapid’ or ‘free’ writing. Write as fast as you can for 6 minutes without stopping.
  • Try a Mind Map (visit ‘Get Ready’ on myNapier for more ideas)
  • Key words & phrases. Write down anything that comes to mind in random order

Tips for focussing and for structuring your writing:

  • Condense your essay/argument/whatever you are writing about into one sentence. 
  • Try planning your writing using, for example, diagrams, pictures, mind map again, lists or a contents page?
  • Write again for 15-20 minutes straight through, off the top of your head. Again, don’t waste time thinking about the ‘right’ word! This is only for you, not a reader. Editing comes later!

Tips on revision and editing:

  • Give yourself a break before re-reading, or ask a friend.
  • Before you change anything, print out and read straight through from start to finish without stopping. Does it say what you mean it to say? Is it in a logical, coherent order?
  • Will more information help readers to follow your line of thought/argument, or complicate it? Perhaps less words will make it clearer? Try writing more concisely, or more ‘to the point’.
  • Is there enough relevant content, background information and evidence?
  • Edit in chunks: sections first; then paragraphs; then sentences; then choice of words; then punctuation; then spelling.
  • Read out loud to hear if it sounds ‘right’.
  • Let it rest before checking everything again and again, and again!