SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Writing Well

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1
Reading and writing are the foundation of our work in university and tools with which to navigate life. This module will develop your abilities as a careful reader and a convincing writer. We will examine a variety of short texts, on a theme of the tutor’s choosing, to acquire a body of knowledge on which to build during the term. We will also use them, together with a guide to style, to discuss what it means to write well. Our focus, though, will be on practice. Weekly exercises and assignments will help you develop the skills and discipline you need to produce well-crafted essays and persuasive arguments. These will culminate in a final project of your own choosing on the theme of the course. The emphasis throughout will be on writing as a process, providing you with the skills and confidence you will need to succeed both while you are at SOAS and after you graduate.


  • Students  enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

  1. Identify and evaluate argument and the use of evidence in academic and other writing.
  2. Construct convincing arguments, combining critical insight and a command of relevant evidence.
  3. Demonstrate a command of grammar and style appropriate to writing at the undergraduate level.
  4. Design and research a short piece of academic writing.
  5. Present work effectively, in different written formats and in oral presentations.
  6. Provide constructive feedback on the work of colleagues, in person and in writing
  7. Revise their work effectively and efficiently, on the basis of self-evaluation and critical feedback.

Scope and syllabus

1. Introduction
2. What is good writing?
3. Making an argument
4. Revising your work
5. Finding a topic
6. Reviewing the literature
7. Gathering your evidence
8. First drafts
9. Presenting your work
10. Responding to criticism

Method of assessment

  • Peer review of two draft essays (FE3) by classmates of 2 x 500 words - worth 10%
  • Assigned essay on theme of course of 800 words - worth 20%
  • Peer review of 2 x draft essay 2 of 2 x 500 words - worth 10%
  • Researched essay on theme of course of 1,500 words - worth 40%
  • Presentation of draft research essay - worth 10%
  • Seminar participation - worth 10%

Suggested reading

Core reading is restricted to texts on writing:

Students to buy:

  • S. Pinker. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. 2014 (required).
  • Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. 1994 (recommended).

Additional (used as extracts for class discussion in class or by instructors in preparing the class):

  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. “They Say / I Say”: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 2014.
  • Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj. The Elements of Teaching Writing. 2003.
  • Keith Hjortshoj. The Transition to College Writing. 2009.
  • William Zinsser. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition. 2012.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules