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Academic Writing and Referencing for your Social Work Degree

Academic Writing and Referencing for your Social Work Degree

Jane Bottomley | Steven Pryjmachuk | Patricia Cartney


Additional Information

Book Details


If you are embarking on a university social work degree the books in this series will help you acquire and develop the knowledge, skills and strategies you need to achieve your goals. They provide support in all areas important for university study, including institutional and disciplinary policy and practice, self-management, and research and communication. Tasks and activities are designed to foster aspects of learning which are valued in higher education, including learner autonomy and critical thinking, and to guide you towards reflective practice in your study and work life.


Academic Writing and Referencing for your Social Work Degree provides you with a sound knowledge and understanding of:

  • what constitutes good academic writing in social work
  • a range of strategies for writing successful essays and reports
  • the importance of clarity and coherence in your writing about education
  • how to improve your academic style, grammar and punctuation, and formatting and presentation
  • referencing conventions in the field of social work, and of how to avoid plagiarism.


...One of the strengths of Academic Writing and Referencing is the focus on criticality, and developing an argument in academic essays. This can be challenging for inexperienced writers at degree level, but criticality and rhetorical writing is very important as social work students move into practice....

Lucy Rai

Pat Cartney is Head of Social Work in the School of Health Sciences Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Her teaching  and research interests focus on exploring how people learn best about professional practice and how they become knowledgeable and skilled social work practitioners.

Jane Bottomley is a Senior Language Tutor at the University of Manchester and a Senior Fellow of the British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes (BALEAP).She has been involved in the development of a number of content-based academic study skills courses at the University of Manchester and has published widely in this field. 

Steven Pryjmachuk is Professor of Mental Health Nursing Education in the School of Health Science's Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work at the University of Manchester and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His teaching, clinical and research work has centred largely on supporting and facilitating individuals – be they students, patients or colleagues – to develop, learn or care independently. In December 2014, Steven was elected as vice Chair (2015-16) and Chair (2017-18) of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, an organisation representing 65 Higher Education Institutions providing education and research on mental health nursing.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Cover Cover 1
Half-title i
Series information ii
Title page iii
Copyright information iv
Table of contents v
Acknowledgements vi
Meet the series editor and authors vii
Introduction viii
Chapter 1 Academic writing: text, process and criticality 1
Academic writing at university: a new start? 1
Academic writing for social work undergraduates 3
The writing process 4
Approaching a writing assignment 5
Analysing a writing assignment 6
Discussion: unpacking essay titles and questions 7
Planning 7
Reading and information gathering 8
Writing essentials 11
Writing critically 11
Stance 11
Argument 12
Nuance 12
Expressing stance 13
Discussion: writing critically 14
Discussion: summarising your argument 17
The importance of evidence 17
Writing essays 19
Essay structure 19
Introduction (the ‘beginning’) 19
Main body of the text (the ‘middle’) 19
Summary and/or conclusion (the ‘end’) 20
Reflective essays 20
Discussion: reflective writing 26
Writing in exams 27
Discussion: answering exam questions 28
Writing short reflections for journals or portfolios 24
Writing dissertations 28
References 30
Chapter 2 Coherent texts and arguments 32
Planning for coherence 32
Editing and redrafting for coherence 36
The truth about writing! 36
Putting yourself in the reader’s shoes 37
Writing essay introductions and conclusions 38
Cohesion and paragraph structure 40
General and specific information 42
Old and new information 43
Referring back in the text: repetition, variation and pronoun use 44
Linking ideas 48
Discussion: developing a coherent argument 54
Paragraph 1 54
Paragraph 2 54
Paragraph 3 54
Paragraph 4 55
Developing a coherent argument and expressing criticality 52
The language of criticality 56
References 59
Chapter 3 Referring to sources 60
Terminology 60
Why should I reference? 61
How should I reference? 61
The Harvard system 61
The Vancouver system 62
Referencing styles 62
Using the Harvard system 63
In-text conventions in the Harvard system 63
Multiple references 63
Direct quotations 63
The use of ‘et al’ 64
Compiling your final list of references in the Harvard system 64
Referencing books 65
Referencing chapters in edited books 65
Referencing journal articles 66
Theses and dissertations 67
Conference proceedings 67
Newspapers and magazines 67
Organisational or ‘corporate’ authors 67
Common problems in referencing 68
‘Anonymous’ authors 68
Authors with multiple outputs in the same year 68
Secondary citations 69
Electronic sources of information 69
Variations in referencing 70
Discussion: critical use of sources 75
Using sources critically 72
Academic malpractice 78
Chapter 4 Language in use 81
Academic style 81
Clarity 82
Discussion: clarity 82
Strategies for achieving clarity 83
Formality 85
Strategies for making your writing more formal 89
Grammar, spelling and punctuation 91
Common areas of difficulty in grammar and spelling 92
Quantifiers 92
Grammatical agreement 92
Commonly confused words 93
Common areas of difficulty in punctuation 95
The apostrophe 95
Hyphens 96
Brackets 96
Punctuation and sentence structure 96
Full stops 96
Commas 97
Colons 99
Semi-colons 99
Focus on fragments and run-on sentences 100
Focus on ‘hanging participles’ 101
Focus on relative clauses 101
Refining grammar and punctuation 102
Parallel structures 103
Chapter 5 Preparing your work for submission 107
Are you ready to submit your work? 107
Have you done what you were asked to do? 107
Have you stuck to the word count? 108
Are you clear about the submission process? 108
Editing and proofreading your final text 109
Editing your final text 109
Systematic treatment of names and titles 109
Systems for highlighting language 110
Discussion: systems for highlighting language 111
Proofreading 111
Proofreading practice 112
Task 112
Formatting 113
Line spacing 113
Discussion: line spacing 114
Paragraph formatting 115
Discussion: paragraph formatting 116
Formatting tables and diagrams 116
Presentation 117
What should my essay look like? 117
1) It should have a title page 117
2) The word count should be written on the document 119
3) Your pages should be numbered 119
4) It should be written using an appropriate font 119
5) The font size should be readable and appropriate 119
6) It should look professional 119
7) It should follow printing guidelines 119
Finding advice and support 120
Appendix 1: English language references 122
Dictionaries 122
Grammar books 122
Other resources 123
Appendix 2: Grammatical terminology 124
Appendix 3: Key phrases in assignments 127
Appendix 4: Academic levels at university 129
Answer key 130
Chapter 1 130
Reflective essays, Task (pages 23–24) 130
Chapter 2 130
Organisational frameworks, Task (pages 33–36) 130
General and specific information, Task (page 43) 131
Old and new information, Task (page 44) 131
Noun or pronoun?, Task (pages 45–46) 131
Notes 132
Referring back in the text to summarise and comment, Task (pages 47–48) 132
Linking ideas, Task (pages 51–52) 132
Chapter 3 133
Referencing errors, Task (pages 71–72) 133
Focus, Task (pages 76–78) 135
Chapter 4 135
Being concise, Task (page 84) 135
Notes 135
Being precise, Task (pages 84–85) 136
Identifying inappropriate language, Task (pages 88–89) 136
Identifying formal language, Task (page 89) 136
Improving style, Task (page 91) 136
Commonly confused words, Task (page 94) 137
Variation in comma use, Task (page 99) 137
Grammar and punctuation, Task (page 102) 137
Parallel structures, Task (page 104) 138
Chapter 5 138
Proofreading practice, Task (pages 112–13) 138
Index 140