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Written styles:
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Distinguishing between different written styles

If you have used your reading list and library catalogue effectively, you should now have a mix of journal articles, books, reports and websites from which to write your essay. The chances are some sources will be useful for the introduction, others for the various sections within your essay and still more for the discussion and conclusions. So the next thing you need to do is to review your sources, deciding which ones are useful for your essay and how you might use them.

Different Types of Writing

The first thing to realise is that not all of the literature you will have read is of the same calibre. Different types of information will be communicated in different formats. So this is your first clue to the purpose to which you can turn your reading. The table below shows some of the variations in four different types of publication:

Type of PublicationSpeed of PublicationProsPotential DrawbacksAudience
Academic Journal Relatively rapid Up to date; hot off the press, cutting edge Generally untested; results could be overturned next month Professional
Book Slow Data usually covered in great detail; all aspects explored in depth. Nothing overlooked Could be out of date Professional / general reader
Website Rapid Could contain unpublished, novel insights or data May be bogus; flawed or misleading Highly variable
Newspaper Rapid Accessible, easy to understand May oversimplify arguments, or neglect conflicting data General public

It can be a useful idea when first planning your essay or report to loosely divide up your reading or notes into these broad categories.

In reality, most assignments you are likely to get at university will require you to work with a variety of publication types. How you use them is up to you, but here are some examples of how different types of publication can be used in an essay:

As with all academic writing, you should always use more than one source and acknowledge any sources you use to develop your ideas. Use your department's preferred referencing system in the text and provide a full bibliography at the end of the work.