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Engineering Library: Academic writing and referencing

Information about the Department of Engineering Library, including information for researchers

Image: laptop screenAcademic Writing and Referencing

The purpose of academic writing for engineers is to convey information clearly and succinctly. Your writing, whether a technical report, conference paper or journal article, should consider the intended audience, use clear language, have a logical structure, and attribute ideas accurately.

This page includes training and resources to support your academic writing and referencing.

Academic Writing: Online Training

The Engineering Library team offer support and training on academic writing skills, so feel free to contact us if you have any questions. If you want to book a one-to-one session for personalised support, please use our Booking Form.

You can download slides from our Writing Skills and Writing for Reports training sessions by clicking the links below:

writing skills title slide

Activities: Getting Started with Writing

  • To get started with writing try Free Writing. Write constantly for 5 minutes without stopping or editing on whatever topic you want to. No one will see this writing, you don't need to correct mistakes and the topic can be any of your choosing. The idea is to keep writing for the whole time period.
  • Create an outline structure for your next piece of written work. Can you add bullet points of the type of content you want to put in each section?
  • Review feedback from other assessed work to see if there are areas you can improve.
  • Look at the interactive tutorial on report writing from University of Manchester.
  • Make time to write. You could use the Pomodoro technique to set time aside for writing.
  • Don't forget to proofread, checking for flow, clarity and accuracy. This interactive tutorial from the University of Manchester takes you through those three steps

CUED Guide to Report Writing

To support undergraduates with their technical writing there is the CUED Guide to Report Writing available in Moodle. The guide provides practical advice on all aspects of technical report writing throughout the Engineering Tripos / Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET). 

You may also find the article "How to Write a Paper" by Mike Ashby useful.

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct

Academic misconduct is defined as gaining or attempting to gain, or helping others to gain or attempt to gain, an unfair academic advantage in formal University assessment, or any activity likely to undermine the integrity essential to scholarship and research. even where this intentional or not. This includes plagiarism - using someone else’s ideas, words, data, or other material produced by them without acknowledgement and self-plagiarism - using your own ideas, words, data or other material produced by them and submitted for formal assessment at this University or another institution, or for publication elsewhere, without acknowledgement, unless expressly permitted by the assessment. Plagiarism is both poor scholarship and a breach of academic integrity.

Examples of plagiarism include:

Copying (using another person's language and/or ideas as if they are a candidate's own), by:

  • quoting verbatim another person's work without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • paraphrasing another person's work by changing some of the words, or the order of the words, without due acknowledgement of the source;
  • using ideas taken from someone else without reference to the originator;
  • cutting and pasting from the Internet to make a pastiche of online sources;
  • submitting someone else's work as part of a candidate's own without identifying clearly who did the work. For example, buying or commissioning work via professional agencies such as 'essay banks' or 'paper mills', or not attributing research contributed by others to a joint project.

If you would like guidance on any aspect of plagiarism or referencing, please ask a member of the Library team.

The University of Cambridge website has specific information on Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct.

You can also access detailed guidance on the Plagiarism LibGuide.



The Department of Engineering doesn't stipulate which referencing style should be used. For more guidance, see the University's guide to common referencing conventions and the Open UP Study Skills e-book The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism.

Other sources of advice include:

You can watch a short video on two popular Reference Managers, Mendeley and Zotero, by clicking the link below (opens in YouTube):

reference managers video

Academic Writing resources

In addition to the Engineering Department Guide to Report Writing, there are several further resources you may find useful:

There are a number of online writing resources provided by the University of Cambridge Language Centre.

The Researcher Development Programme have a useful Online learrning resource including writing skills.

Manchester's Academic Phrasebank gives you a range of alternative ways of expressing your ideas. You can approach it by the part of the  Sections include being critical, giving examples, comparing and contrasting, writing conclusions and signaling transition between topics.

Support is also available from the Centre for Languages and Intercultural Communication.

Machine Design have 6 Tips for Technical Writing.

Temporary access has been granted to McGraw Hill Study Skills Collection

Further Reading

The books below are all good places to begin further reading about how to effectively use academic writing to communicate your research, work and ideas. 

Reference managers

You can use reference managers to help keep track of what you've found in your literature search, what you've read and what you want to cite or quote in your writing.

Managing your references from the beginning of your project will help ensure that you can easily and correctly cite any ideas you got from another source, reducing the risk that you'll accidentally plagiarize another author.

There are many ways of doing this, but here are a few we can help you set up:

Register Your Completion

To register your completion of this online training, please go to the booking page below and click "book a place" (Raven login required):