Can you be original in your university writing

University teachers sometimes seem to be asking for two contradictory things in their students' assignments. They say that they want to know what you are thinking, and, at the same time, insist that you make use of what academic writers have said. What they really mean is: first you have to get into our way of looking at things and then you can begin to say it in your own way. This is not such a contradiction as it sounds, because, of course, all our ideas have 'come' from somewhere else. At university much of your 'experience' and knowledge come from reading what other people have said. As we have stressed in previous chapters, what is important is that you are able to make your own use of your sources when you re-form them for your own purposes for writing. So, although it is true that when you write for university you have to draw on what others have said, this does not necessarily mean that you have to give up your own ideas, but you do have to clarify what you think and present this in a way that does not solely depend on your own personal experience. Personal and individual viewpoints may well be relevant but they have to be set in a context. This may mean that you have to distance yourself from your personal perspective and see it in a wider framework. We have explored how there can be very different ways of examining topics from different subject and discipline perspectives, and you have to make sure that you can take account of this when you are writing different assignments, often for different tutors. In the end, it may be true that writing for university can mean that there is a contradiction between your wish to have your say and the requirements of the subject you are writing. If you really want to write directly about your own experiences and ideas, you may have to do it in other ways. Experienced writers write in different ways at different times. On the other hand, it can be possible to find ways of relating the 'personal' and the 'academic'. Sometimes students come to study a particular subject precisely because they want to get a new perspective on what they have experienced, and such study can be very satisfying for them. As we explore in the readings below, there are various ways of writing yourself into your academic assignment.

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