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Academic English Skills

Resources to Assist with Improving Academic English and Study Skills


Email Ettiquette




  • Don't use an unprofessional email address
  • Start with a new e-mail
  • Include an appropriate subject heading​
  • Write a salutation​
  • Write well!
  • Provide context and background information​
  • Write a clear and concise message​
  • Sign your name​
  • Proofread the e-mail​
  • Allow adequate time for a reply


Transitions are words or phrases used to link ideas and strengthen the cohesiveness of your writing. They help establish clear connections; ensure that paragraphs flow togethers smoothly, making them easier to read; and help the reader progress from one significant idea to the next.

Different transitions do different things. Here is a list of transitions, categorised based on function, to help you choose alternatives if you find yourself consistently using the same linking words or phrases.

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To indicate sequence

First, second, third, etc.

Firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.

Followed by







Followed by



To demonstrate similarity / compare







In addition




Similar to

In comparison to

To demonstrate difference / contrast




In contrast

On the other hand

On the contrary

A different view is

Differing from





To add additional information or another idea


In addition




To illustrate an example

For example

For instance

To illustrate

As an example

In the case of



In this case

Such as


To demonstrate

To indicate cause and effect


As a consequence

As a result

Because of


Due to




For this reason

To conclude

In summary

In conclusion

To summarise

To conclude






As a result


Sample Dialog!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Earum, inventore!


Punctuation refers to the system of marks or symbols used in writing to separate sentences and their elements, clarifying meaning and showing a reader how a sentence should be read. The correct use of punctuation is a key skill in any form of writing. 

Understanding and correctly using punctuation will help you to communicate and express your ideas, and arguments, more clearly and effectively.

The Basics of Punctuation

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Full stop (.)

A full stop marks the end of a sentence.

Comma (,)

A comma plays an important role in longer sentences, separating information into readable chunks.

  1. Separate items in a list
    • Please include your name, student ID, nationality and degree.
  2. Separate transition words or an introductory phrase in the sentence
    • Since its establishment, TOP has focused on providing quality higher education.
    • However, it can be argued that the advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages.
  3. Separate non-essential information (information that could be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning or grammatical structure of the sentence)
    • Our specialist areas, such as Moot Court and computer rooms, will provide the context for learning specialist skills.
    • In 2015 TOP made history when the New South Wales Legal Profession Admission board, in consultation with the Law Admissions Consultative Committee of the Law Council of Australia, officially approved TOP as an accredited provider of legal education
Question mark (?)

A question mark is used at the end of any sentence that is a question.

  • Have all students submitted the required forms?
Colon (:)

A colon is used to:

  1. Indicate that a list is about to follow.
    • The Academic English Support program includes a number of services: workshops, consultations, informal meet-ups, and online resources.
  2. Separate independent clauses when the second clause explains or illustrates the first.
    • I have very little time to perfect my English: my new job starts in two weeks.
Semi-colon (;)

A semi-colon is used to:

  1. Join two complete sentences that are closely linked.
    • Assertive behaviour concerns being able to express feelings, wants and desires appropriately; passive behaviour means complying with the wishes of others.
  2. Separate chunks in a sentence that already uses commas.
    • The conference was attended by professors from Sydney, Australia; London, UK; France, Paris; Beijing, China; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Note: Semi-colons are one of the most difficult punctuation marks to use accurately. If in doubt, it is best to write the material in separate sentences.

Apostrophe (‘)

The apostrophe is used for:

  1. Contractions – putting two words together to create a shortened word. The apostrophe indicates something (a letter) has been left out.
    • Don’t (do not)
    • It’ll (it will)
    • Hasn’t (has not)
  2. Possession or ownership.
    • Singular (ownership by one individual) - the apostrophe goes between the noun and the ‘s’
      • Einstein’s theory of evolution
      • Australia’s population is growing.
    • Plural (ownership by multiple people or things) - the apostrophe goes at the end of the word, after the ‘s’ (note: for plurals that end in a letter other than an ‘s’, e.g. alumni, add an apostrophe and an ‘s’
      • Excessive lawyers’ fees
      • The alumni’s fundraising event
Hyphen (-)

A hyphen is used to link words that would not normally be seen together to create a compound noun,

  • Stonier’s post-industrial economy is a service economy.
  • Voters are fed up with this do-nothing congress.
Quotation (or Speech) marks (“…”)

Quotation marks are used to quote someone else’s words verbatim (word-for-word).

  • In the words of Charles Darwin, “A man who dares to waste one hour time has not discovered the value of life”.
Paratheses (or Brackets)

Parentheses are used to:

  1. Include extra or nonessential information in a sentence.
    • The strategy (or strategies) chosen to meet the objectives may need to change as the intervention continues.
  2. In citation systems, such as Harvard Referencing, to include in-text references.
    • Rickets (2002) claims that …
    • It can be argued that … (Rickets 2002).
Ellipses (…)

An ellipses is a set of three full stops, used to indicate material that has been omitted fro a quotation. When quoting directly from a source, it is sometimes necessary to leave out words or lines if the information is not relevant or the quote is too long.

  • “…the laws of the universe will appear less complex…”
Exclamation mark (!)

An exclamation mark is used at the end of a sentence to indicate a strong feeling within a sentence, such as fear, anger, alarm or love. Exclamation marks should be used sparingly, and are not often used in academic writing.

  • Help! Stop! Wait!

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarising

Quoting Paraphrasing Summarising

 Must match source verbatim (word for word)

 Appears between quotation marks ("...")

 Only to be used if the original meaning will be lost if written using your own words

 Must give attribution to original source and author (including page number)

 Paraphrasing is putting another person's words into your own

 Simplifies original source of information

 Does not match original source word for word

 Changes the words, but keeps the original meaning

 Must give attribution to original source

 Simplifies and shortens main ideas of original source

 Does not match original source word for word

 Presents a general overview

 Must give attribution to original source

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How to QUOTE

Quoting should be done sparingly - you must have a good reason to use a direct quotation! Direct quotes should support your own ideas, and not replace them. For example, make a point in your own words, then use a direct quote from a credible source as evidence to support what you have said. 

SHORT QUOTATIONS appear as a continuation within the main paragraph and often work well integrated into a sentence.


Social mechanisms are important in instances of scarcity as ‘[m]aking the best use of scarce resources will … involve forming agreements with others’ (Ricketts 2002, p. 4). 

LONGER QUOTATIONS (more than 3 lines of text) should start on a new line and be indented.


Researchers have examined the role of social mechanisms in instances of scarcity:

As part of a community of individuals, however, individuals …usually find that their best strategy is not to cut themselves off from all communication with their fellows, but rather co-ordinate their activity with that of other people. Making the best use of scarce resources will therefore involve forming agreements with others, and economics then becomes the study of the social mechanisms which facilitate such agreements (Ricketts 2002, p. 4).


Paraphrasing involves saying the same thing as the original source, but in different words, using a different sentence structure.

 What to avoid:

  • Do not just replace words with synonyms
  • Do not simply reorder the sentences
  • Do not simply remove or add words or phrases
  • Do not use some new phrasing but keep much of the original phrasing
  • Do not forget to cite your source

 What to do:

  • Make sure you fully understand the information you would like to paraphrase
  • Break up and combine ideas
  • Expand on or shorten some ideas
  • Use common language (words that do not have a likely synonym and must be used to describe a topic)
  • Maintain the idea of the original passage as truly as possible

Original Text

In order to communicate effectively with other people, one must have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment. On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.

Nickerson, R. S. (1999) How we know-and sometimes misjudge-what others know: Imputing one's own knowledge to others. Psychological Bulletin, 125 (6): p. 737.

 Unacceptable Paraphrase

To effectively communicate, it is necessary to have a reasonably accurate idea of what is known or not known that is relevant to the communication. Assuming people have knowledge that they do not have can cause miscommunication and sometimes embarrassment. However, an important rule of conversation is that people do not generally convey information that they assume of thers already have.

 Acceptable Paraphrase

Nickerson (1999) suggests that effective communication depends on a generally accurate knowledge of what the audience knows. If a speaker assumes too much knowledge about the subject, the audience will either misunderstand or be confused; however, assuming too little knowledge among those in the audience may cause them to feel patronised.


The amount of detail included in a summary depends on the length of the original text and how much information you need/would like to provide. 

What to do:

  • Highlight the main points in the text
  • Make notes of the main points, omitting examples
  • Rewrite the main points in your own words
Attributing the work of authors using introductory phrases

Every time you use the ideas of another person, you much acknowledge the original source by referencing. There will also be times when you would like to name the author directly within the main text. To do this, you can use one of the following introductory phrases:

According to X... X states that... X argues that... X claims that... X notes that...
As X observes... X proposes... X concludes that... X maintains that... X contends that...
As X states... X comments that... X asserts that... X agrees that... X reports...

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