Exploring different kinds of writing

Case study: one student's experience • Report writing • Dissertations and projects • Electronic writing • Using the Internet as a resource for writing • Evaluating web resources • Visual and written texts

I have never written a report before.

I never really know who I am writing for.

I never know how to use something I've got from the Internet.

Up to this point we have been talking mostly about essay writing. This is because essays still tend to be the most common kind of assignments that students are set in higher education. It is also the type of writing that students seem to find particularly difficult and ask the most questions about. However, as we have said already, essays are not the only kind of writing that you will come across during your studies. In this chapter we will try to help you to recognize and address the different kinds of writing that you will be doing, including writing online.

The variety of writing that you will do at university depends very much on your course of study. In the past, when students undertook 'traditional' degrees, they often followed a single subject of study - for example, psychology. This meant that they were able to build upon the writing they did in their first year and perfect this during their second and third years as an undergraduate. It was also the case that many students, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, only ever wrote essays. They never had to do any other types of writing, such as report writing. However, today's students often take interdisciplinary modules which draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives. In these circumstances it is much more difficult to work out what is required for your written work. Additionally, increasing numbers of students now follow vocational and professional courses - for example, nursing, business studies, tourism and leisure.

So, to summarize, there are a number of reasons why you might find yourself being asked to do different types of writing:

• Modular degree structures involving courses not necessarily building one upon the other.

• Interdisciplinary modules (e.g. childhood studies, sports sciences).

• Increasing opportunities for professional and vocational courses.

• The use of different kinds of assessment from the traditional essay (e.g. report writing, summaries, project reports).

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