A Guide to Reading and Writing at University



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University of Cape Town

At University you will be expected to write well thought out texts (or written assignments). The goal of writing is to communicate ideas clearly and concisely. Right from the beginning, the reader should have a good understanding of what your text is about and why you are writing it. They should be able to see the central idea (or argument) of your text (assignment) and be able to identify the main ideas or points in your argument. Therefore, your text needs to have a clear structure from the beginning to the end with a strong introduction, a well-structured body (with paragraphs) and a clear conclusion. The ideas in your assignment should flow logically from one to the next and support your central argument. At university you will also be expected to integrate the thoughts and ideas of other authors in your texts (assignments). It is therefore important to know how to select, read and understand different kinds of academic texts (e.g. journal articles and textbooks). It is also important to know how to integrate the ideas of other authors in your text. The first two chapters of this workbook look at these key issues. The chapters that follow look at how to achieve clarity in your writing and begin by looking at how to plan your assignments (chapter 3) and how to develop a strong argument (chapter 4). Following this, chapter 5 discusses how to write strong introductions and conclusions, while chapter 6 looks at how to structure the body of your assignments and improve the flow of ideas within your text. The final chapter in this workbook (chapter 7) looks at how you can make your thoughts (or opinions) clear to the reader as you write texts.