Signposts in academic writing

Signposts in academic writing are as important as grammar and vocabulary! In western academic writing the reader is guided carefully through an argument. Nothing is a surprise when you are reading an academic text! International students who are writing at university need to be aware of signposts. Probably most students know examples of major signposts like this list that I’ve take from Newcastle University’s page:

  • The aim of this study is to ….
  • The purpose of this thesis is to….
  • This essay argues that ….
  • The main questions addressed in this paper are ….
  • This essay critically examines….
  • The above discussion raises some interesting questions.
  • This paper begins by …. It will then go on to …. Finally, ….
  • This chapter reviews the literature ….
  • In conclusion, ….

This is a good list to be going on with, but just reading a list isn’t enough. If you really are going to understand how to use a variety of signposts meaningfully you need to work through paragraphs carefully, understanding them, thinking about them, and trying to make them better using signposts and getting some feedback on your efforts. Thankfully there’s a really good website where you can do just this which comes to us from TKK in Finland and you can find the exercises here.