If you are studying in a British university you will be required to do a large amount of writing, whatever your subject. Some people distinguish between "essays" and "reports", and you may also know some other names for written assignments. However, sometimes the same name is used for very different types of assignment, and different names are used for very similar types of assignment.

Some of these assignments are more common in some disciplines than in others. For example, in business Case Studies are very common, in law Problem Questions are very common, while in history and philosophy Essays are very common.

Three thousand examples of proficient British university assignments from more than 30 disciplines, such as business, engineering, law, biology, sociology and history have been collected. These form the BAWE corpus. By analysing these assignments 13 basic Genre Families of student writing can be identified and each one has been given a specific name.

The 13 Genre Families are:

Here is some more information about the background to identifying these Genre Families.

Note that the names that have been given to these assignment families have very specific meanings on this site, but you will probably find that your lecturers and your fellow students use these names much more loosely – they may for example call most written assignments "essays", and they may use the terms "essay" and "report"  interchangeably.

Try this Task to check that you understand about the BAWE project.


Task 1

Choose the correct answers for these questions about the project.



I am from Yemen ,i want to develop my self in writing.Can you tell me What the basic rules for writing.I want to write my work reports in English.

Best Regards

Hello mosheersaad,

This is a question which we are asked quite regularly, and my advice is always the same.  First of all, a lot depends upon what kind of writing you want to do, for what purpose you are writing and who the recipient is.  Different kinds of writing require different different language and different ways of organising the text, so take a look at as many different texts as you can.  In general, to improve your writing it's important to read and write as much as you can, so keep an eye out for good examples of letters, articles and so on.  Using the internet to read magazines and newspapers, and other text-types from online media, is a good idea.

If possible, you should get feedback from a teacher or knowledgeable friend on your writing. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to give users individualised feedback on their writing, but you can still use LearnEnglish to do some work on your own.  You can respond to other users in the comment sections to carry on a written conversation, just as I am responding to you now. Good writers learn from reading other writers' texts, so you could learn a lot about writing from reading the content on the site. The Magazine might be a good place to start if this interests you. You can also of course carry on written conversations there in the comments.  On the other hand, if you are interested in academic writing, then our Writing for a Purpose section might be what you are looking for.

Whatever you do, try to spend at least 15 minutes several days per week reading and/or writing. When you have doubts, ask a friend or teacher, or you're also welcome to ask us periodically here by using the comments sections on each page, and we'll be happy to try to answer your questions.

Best wishes and good luck,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, my name is Bikash, i have one question for you when we write a latter in ielts do i need to write a date as well if i need where should i write ? i hope you will give me suggestion.

Hi Bikash,

It's not necessary to write the date or your address on the letter in the exam.  I think you might find the British Council's Take IELTS site useful - it has answers to many such questions, as well as practice tests and exercises.  For example, on this page you can find a sample writing paper, and on this page you can see model answers.  As you can, the model answers do not have the date or an address, but do have appropriate salutations ('Dear...').

I hope that answers your question.

Best wishes and good luck in the test!



The LearnEnglish Team

could you please answer my question?
I don't know how start writing for purpose lessons
after click introduction I don't know where should I go
there is no specified steps for writing
I want to improve my academic writing. I want to complete PhD in History
please tell me what should I do how can I benefit from writing for purpose lessons

Hello hayaalqasem,

If you look on any of the pages in the Writing for a Purpose section you'll see a set of links at the top of the page on the right:

  • Introduction
  • Primary Purposes
  • Genre Families
  • Your Writing Task
  • Disciplines
  • Resources
  • About Us


You can use these links to guide you through the material, working through them in order and doing each part of each section before moving on to the next.

I hope that is helpful.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi , How can I do writing texts?

Hello Kyawt
Before you start writing, the first step is to ask yourself 'why do I want to write?' and 'who am I writing for'? Writing is an act of communication, so you have to have something to communicate, and someone to communicate it to!
The Writing for a Purpose materials will be useful to you if you have to write in English at university. The materials are designed to help you think about the reasons lecturers set written assignments, and what knowledge and skills they expect you to demonstrate through your writing.

Hello Peter ! i have some questions would to ask you , now i studying at the university of Economics and Finance and must of subjects we also learning rule English , but my English still poor about Grammar , special contact with English , my teacher need me do assignment of wrote my background , about my weakness and strong , How to get achieve on the future ? my teacher need wrote all of this until 10 page , but don`t how can i do that ? please give some advice to me .

Hello Lingya, 

I understand that you have to write some thing about yourself and your background, and I imagine that your teacher is keen to see what kind of English you have, what you can say well or less well and so on, as well as to get to know you a little.  Imagine someone was writing something similar to you, and think of all the things you would be interested in finding out.  Make a list on a page and that will give you a good starting point.  Once you have this list of things to include you can start to plan the organisation of the assignment.  Put the points into groups such as 'my family', 'education', 'free time' and so on - this will give you an overall structure.

When you write, try to make the organisation clear.  As the assignment is a personal one, it should be fine to use the first person ('I'), and to use topic sentences at the start of new paragraphs ('Next I would like to tell you a little bit about my family').  Try to link your points using linkers to show contrast, cause and so on (you can see some examples here), and remember that you can include examples and anecdotes to illustrate your points.

In an assignment like this you can use a range of tenses: present perfect to talk about your life up to now, past forms to talk about finished states and actions in the past, present forms to talk about your current activities and future forms to talk about plans and ambitions.  For example:

  • I’ve lived in... for... years
  • I’m married to... I have... children
  • I can... well
  • I'm not very good at...
  • I would love to learn to...
  • In my life I’ve often...
  • I like ...ing
  • In my free time I like ...ing
  • This summer I'm planning to...
  • I'm going to...
  • One day I hope I will be able to...

I hope that helps you.  Remember, your teacher probably wants to see the real you, in terms of getting to know you and in terms of seeing how good your English is, so be honest and the assignment will be most useful for the teacher.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team